The murder of the Orient Express

A day when the ether is humming with forwards about the Turkish ancestry of the American citizen who is to be the British prime minister, overseeing its exit from Europe, seems appropriate to dust off memories about how London and Istanbul were connected through Europe. In October 1883 Wagon-Lits (Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits) created a train which ran from London to Istanbul through Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, and Varna. The names enchanted me when, as a child, I heard my grand-aunt talk about her travel on this train. I looked at atlases and decided that I would change trains in Istanbul, and come home through Teheran, Kabul, Lahore, and Delhi.

Unfortunately, economics and international politics closed off this route by the time I was old enough to have a shot at doing it. The Istanbul service was closed in 1977. But when I lived in Europe, there was still a truncated service from Paris Gare de l’Est to Vienna Westbahnhof, with a through coach to Budapest and Bucharest. This was eventually discontinued in 2009. There was also a service which ran from Paris, via Lausanne, Milan (through the Simplon tunnel), Venice, Belgrade, and Sofia, to Istanbul which was also called the Orient Express (it was on this that the famous fictional murder happened). There are also various modern nostalgia services which come and go (talking of Michelangelo?).

So this whole thing about the Orient Express had dropped out of my mind until I passed Istanbul’s Sirkeci railway station and a bulb lit up in my mind. This was the building designed by August Jasmund which served for nearly a century as a terminus of the Orient Express (featured photo). I had very little time that day, so I just took a couple of shots to record the place, and promised myself that I would come back later to see it.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. I would have loved to have taken the ‘old route’ of the Orient Express…just imagine the people you’d meet! “Let us go then, you and I”…and we will travel! (I love T.S.Eliot) πŸ™‚


  2. As someone who loves train travel, but also likes to step off and explore a small town for a few days, I don’t mind at all that I have to piece together this journey from several trains now.
    I will still call it the Orient Express, even though it won’t be an express journey at all.

    And continuing by train to India, what a dream!
    Ever since my incarceration there, I am a bit wary of traveling through Iran, so maybe I have to take the route through Russia, China and Nepal, once China will have drilled a tunnel through the Himalayas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know someone who bicycled from Lhasa to Delhi. You could take the trans-Siberian to Vladivostok, then a train to Ulanbaatar, and from there another train to Beijing, from Beijing to Lhasa, and then bicycle to Delhi.

      You can see I’ve given this some thought πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: