On the afternoon of 4 October 1883, a curious, elegantly dressed crowd pressed into the Gare de Strasbourg, now the Gare de l’Est. Political figures, journalists and writers had gathered to see the inauguration of a revolutionary new train composed of sleeping cars and dining cars—the Train Express d’Orient, renamed the Orient Express a few years later.
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For the first time, a train for Constantinople would travel night and day across Europe to Bucharest. Passengers took another train to Bulgaria, then boarded a ship that took them to the Black Sea and the Bosporus. When direct travel by train began in 1889, Constantinople became the final destination for the Orient Express—a synonym for luxury and romance.
Known as “the King of Trains and the Train of Kings,” the Orient Express paired innovation with elegance. Its cabins featured the most modern amenities of their day—central heating, hot water and gas lighting.
Their many luxuries included an upholstered interior, where passengers found impeccably dressed beds and robes sporting the company crest. Only the finest materials were used: silk sheets, marble bath fixtures, crystal goblets and silver cutlery. During the day, twenty cabins were converted into a lounge.
The glamour and rich history of the Orient Express has frequently lent itself to the plot of books and films and as the subject of television documentaries.