Local Adventures
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All aboard the Orient Express!

Some months ago, I went to the Train World museum in Brussels to see the temporary “Orient Express” exhibition, which presented the history of this famous train and even showcased parts of it. I have always been fascinated by trains and this exhibit seemed like a perfect way to go on a local adventure and learn new things.

Even if you don’t know much about the Orient Express, I am pretty sure that you will have heard of it and that it certainly evokes some idea of luxury and intrigue. You might have heard of or read the Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, or seen one of the movie adaptations, and maybe you also know that it was sometimes referred to as the “spies” train. Let’s embark on a short journey through the history of this famous train.

A history of the Orient Express:

Inside the train’s restaurant

Surprisingly enough, it all started in Belgium in the late 1860s. At the time, Europe already had its railway system but it was uncomfortable and dirty, and didn’t really allow for a pleasant travel experience. At the same time, travelling was getting more and more popular – among the richest families of course – and many luxurious hotels started popping up here and there.

During a visit in the US, Georges Nagelmackers, the son of a Belgian banker, got fascinated by the long-distance and “hotel-like” sleeper trains that he saw there, so he decided to bring this idea to Europe – and to improve it. With the help of the train-loving king of Belgium and its diplomatic ties, he got all the support he needed to create and operate a railroad that went, without stopping, from Paris to Istanbul: the Orient Express.

Vintage posters for the Orient Express

Silk bedsheets, luxurious suites, comfortable seats and the most sophisticated food could be found on board. You can then imagine that not everyone could afford to buy a ticket, so only the richest and most important members of the high society could use it: European kings, Russian tsars, famous singers like Josephine Baker and even international spies, like Mata Hari.

With this in mind, it is no wonder that the Orient Express inspired so many spy movies and books, and that so many people are still fascinated by it. Imagine all the things that have happened on board!

The exhibition:

The beautiful Schaerbeek’s train station where the Train World museum is located

Now that you understand why I was quite excited to learn more about this train, let’s talk a bit about the exhibition. It was located in a beautiful train station, and the visitors had to go through a series of different gigantic rooms to see old posters, actual train carriages, smaller replicas, documents from that time, etc.

I found that it was really interesting and interactive, and that they did a great job at maintaining the visitors’ interest throughout the exhibit with interesting documents, some sort of holograms and reconstructions of offices or carriages. It was also possible to go inside some carriages of the Orient Express and witness how magnificent everything was inside the train. It was really like walking back in time!

Some carriages were decorated to show why people were taking the train: this is obviously for a summer holiday!

I think that what I loved the most was definitely this: seeing all the objects, decors and everyday things of that time and obviously going inside the carriages to see how fantastic a ride on the Orient Express must have been.

Next step: taking a nice and luxurious overnight train, indulging in some fancy meal at the train restaurant (five-star chefs only please) and maybe helping to solve a murder or some sort of mystery on board – without being the victim obviously!

Would you hop on the Orient Express if you could?


My latest local adventures in Belgium:

The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, Belgium
Celebrating spring: the Floralia Brussels flower show
The Ninglinspo hike in the Belgian Ardennes
Lanterna Magica: an enchanted evening walk
This entry was posted in: Local Adventures

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Hey, I'm Juliette! I'm starting this blog to keep a record of and share my adventures. I love everything sweet, sunny days, fluffy kittens and people who smile. When I don't work I like to discover new places and try to learn languages. I hope you will find something that you like in here! ☼

25 Comments

    • How amazing! I have the Transberian in my bucket list but after this exhibit I also wanted to add the Orient Express! Thanks for dropping by!

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  1. The Orient Express certainly was one of the most well-known train services in the world. If you’ve ever watched Casino Royale, there is a scene aboard a train where James Bond meets Vesper Lynd and the two talk about an assignment they have to do. I like to imagine conversations like this also happened on many of the Orient Express’ journeys during its heyday. So fascinating!

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    • Absolutely! And I also loved the vintage feel that it had – I’m pretty sure it is not the same now! Yes I remember that scene in Casino Royale and as a matter of fact a lot of spies and “VIPs” rode on the Orient Express so for sure these types of conversations took place! Thanks for dropping by!

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  2. What a fascinating museum exhibition! Especially if one isn’t able to afford (money or time-wise) the actual Orient Express trip, checking out what it would be at the museum does the trick! I think it’d be a really neat, once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip to take the Orient Express…one of these days!

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    • Oh yes, I would love to go on a very long train journey one day, there is something very soothing about them and I always feel like time goes by so much slower (which I really need at the moment ahah)! Thanks for reading!

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  3. Although I don’t like the idea of spending too much time in transport, the Orient Express is fascinating for its role in launching the world of travel we like to live in. In Canada there is still the long train ride from Winnipeg to Churchill that I dream of doing one day.

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    • Exactly! I personally don’t mind spending a long time in transport – if it’s a train. All other means of transport should be as short as possible in my opinion ahah but something about trains is really soothing and relaxing! The ride from Winnipeg to Churchill sounds fantastic! My dream would be to ride the Transiberian from one part of Russia to the other!

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    • Same! I love traveling by train too, so it’s really something I’d like to try (also the destinations are not that bad ahah)! Thanks for reading!

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  4. Wow, what an amazing exhibition to visit, Juliette! I first heard of the train while reading Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery, Murder on the Orient Express and ever since then I wanted to go for a ride in one to indulge in slow-moving, on-the-ground transport with luxury train travel. If I had time and money, I most likely choose a journey across the Great White North from Toronto to Vancouver all while staying warm in my train cabin. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    • Wow, a journey from Toronto to Vancouver on a train seems fantastic! My personal dream trip would be the Transiberian – with stops along the way! Thanks for dropping by!

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    • What a fantastic idea Lashaan! There are probably escape rooms/escape games about it – or at least I hope so, it makes such a perfect crime scene! 😛 Thanks for droppin gby!

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    • Me too! There is something truly fascinating about trains in my opinion – but I have yet to read Christie’s novel! Thanks for droppign by!

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    • It really was! I didn’t know much about it before either, but it was really interesting to learn how this way of traveling shaped the world we know today!

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    • It was really a fun exhibit for sure! I’m not sure it’s still on now, but I imagine they will probably make it again as it seems it was a huge hit! Thanks for reading!

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