ORIENT EXPRESS (continued)

All had a high old time,for the Lucullan meals were worthy of the surroundings. Nothing like this had ever been seen before on such a lengthy journey. Traveling through the so different countries of Europe in the luxurious ambiance of the Orient Express would compel feelings of fascination and distance.

The appointments of the sleepers, with soft wall-to-wall carpeting and plush upholstery, with running water, flush toilets, and crisp white linen on the beds, were more appreciated after Ruse’, from where the passengers jolted in 4-wheeled carriages, while meals became picnics of inedible tough fowls and weird Turkish pastries.

In the autumn of 1883 bandits on the line from Ruse ‘ to Varna had set fire to the station of Vetova just before the train arrived.

In the late summer of 1891 the greek robber-chief Athanasos attacked the Orient-Express. His gang derailed the train in Thracia , kidnapped the staff and passengers and set them free not before a high ransom was paid.

Vienna was still not connected to Constantinople. On September 3rd 1884 the Belgrade-Nis railway began operations and in 1885 the Grand Express de l’ Orient initiated service from Budapest to Belgrade and Nis once a week.
From Nis to Sofia and to Tatar Pazadjik Wagons-Lits organised a frightful horse diligence. The ferocious horseman named Brankovitsch, well able to withstand any bandit assaults, thought nothing of starting at three in the morning.
The roadside halts were extremely unpleasant and the food revolting. Instead of being carried, the passengers had to push  the coach through the mud in wet weather.
This went on for three years, partly because of the terrain, but mainly because the Russians were in no hurry to see the Bulgarians complete the line.
The guide-book painted a rosy picture, prompting a critic to remark that it only followed the route one way, since no one had ever returned by this road .
Passengers preferred to return by ship to Varna !

Nagelmackers sent off Viscount de Richemont to obtain King Ferdinand’s approval for railway operations in Bulgaria. Etiquette was strict, uniform imperative, but De Richemont, because of the privations of Brankovits’ coach, lacked it and appeared before the Majesty dressed as a captain of His own police.”What a ridiculous country”, said the King as he signed the contract. De Richemont was rewarded with the management of Wagons-Lits in Spain.

Wagons-Lits first ran through to Constantinople on June 1st 1889. The eastern terminus was the Sirkeci Terminal by the Golden Horn.


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