In 1887, the first Orient Express train to Istanbul left Vienna. In fact, his very first journey on the legendary train was on October 4, 1883. A test train called the “Luxury Lightning Train” traveled the distance Paris – Vienna – Paris in early October 1882. The first menu on board included oysters, soup with Italian pasta, turbot with green sauce, hunter’s chicken, beef tenderloin with potatoes, green salad, chocolate pudding and other desserts.
The carriages are painted blue and gold, the train travels twice a week between Paris and Istanbul, passing through Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest. The train is not direct. It stops at Giurgievo (in Romania), crosses the Danube River via the Ruse ferry, and then another train runs the distance between Ruse and Varna, a port on the Bulgarian Black Sea. From there an Austrian steamer takes passengers to Istanbul. In 1885, the service became daily from Paris to Vienna and back.
In the summer of 1889, the railway line to the Turkish capital was completed and the train continued directly from Bucharest to Istanbul. It is a curious fact that in 1894 the company that created the train opened several luxury hotels for its passengers in Istanbul. One of these hotels is the Pera Palace Hotel in the Beyoglu district. The hotel has welcomed many famous guests, including high-ranking statesmen and artists, since 1892. Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, Kemal Atatürk, Alfred Hitchcock, Honore de Balzac, Mata Hari, Nikita Khrushchev, Queen Elizabeth II, are among the famous guests of the hotel.
After several route changes, two wars, and a decline in its prestige during the Cold War era, the train’s regular service to Istanbul and Athens was discontinued in 1977. The train ceased to serve a regular service, but still survives as a seasonal tourist attraction.
Photo by Juliia Abramova: