By F.H. Ginel
Brussels, Jan 15 (EFE).- The Orient Express, the lavish European train that inspired the British crime author Agatha Christie, is now on display in Brussels.
The exhibit, held at the Belgian national railway’s Train World museum until April 17, features two authentic carriages from the interwar period that visitors can board.
The first of them, a bar car, plunges visitors into a recreation of how passengers would have enjoyed their time on the mythical train nearly 100 years ago. The atmospheric carriage includes a vintage typewriter, poker cards and a guide to Constantinople among other relics.
“In the bar car you can see luxury in the armchairs and small tables,” Thierry Denuit, head of Train World told Efe.
“The idea was really that the passengers, like in a bar, could go have a drink, sit down and talk with their friends,” Denuit who is also in charge of the company’s historical heritage added.
The second carriage is an intimate restaurant car where the tables rub shoulders, enough for two complete strangers to start a conversation.
“And so many times we witnessed people who met on the Orient Express without knowing each other before and who (…) ended up getting to know each other very well by the end of the trip,” Denuit continued.
The Orient Express owes its fame to British author Agatha Christie:
“It is thanks to her that a whole series of artists emerged who spoke of this train and who made generations and generations of people dream,” he explained.
The renowned writer traveled by train on several occasions before writing Murder on the Orient Express (1934), one of her most well know works which is also featured in the exhibit.
The display pays homage to the creator of the train, Georges Nagelmackers and founder of the International Sleeping Car Company, as well as to the artisans in charge of the interior decore.
The original route of the Orient Express departed from Paris and crossed Europe before reaching Constantinople, now Istanbul (Turkey).
“Constantinople was really the dream of many Europeans. We were right in an era of orientalism and we dreamed of the hammam, of the harem, of that culture that we did not know, but that seemed so rich to us,” he said.
“And so, everyone wanted to go to the Ottoman Empire. Everyone wanted to go see Constantinople,” he added.
Unfortunately, many railway lines were wrecked during World War II and the arrival of new means of transport such as cars marked the beginning of the decline of luxury train travel.
The legendary train route is still operating, albeit only for slow, short-distance private journeys, mostly between Paris and Venice.
“The Orient Express that made us dream was born at the end of the 19th century and died with the outbreak of war,” Denuit concluded. EFE