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A Jewish Childhood Blog - The Mystery of the Orient Express
Monday, 23 February 2015 19:33

When I was last in Paris, I saw an ad that told me, "The mystery of the Orient Express resurfaces at a Paris Museum”.

What has now reminded me of this wonderful tour of the Orient Express that I took this past summer is that so many people I know have recently mentioned train rides. It comes up in novels I am reading, and often, in a conversation with a friend.

As I walked up the steps to L'Institut de Monde Arabe, I heard the whistle blowing from the steam engine and saw people queuing up to pay and step into a world thought long forgotten. Yet the Orient Express is actually still in operation, from May through September to Venice and Vienna. I review the Dr. Who episode of Mummy on the Orient Express, all the while edging closer to the chance to actually step into a car.

This train is the one most steeped in mystery. Mata Hari, so many ‘romans’ (novels of mystery in French) novels written on and about this almost mythical figure. The first Orient Express originally operating from 1883–1914, then again 1919-1939, and after the war from 1945-1969, went from Istanbul through Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Strasbourg, and on to Paris and back again. The newer Arlberg-Orient Express ran from 1982-2005, running from Paris to Zurich, to Budapest.The Venice-Simplon Orient Express which also ran from 1982-2005 took travelers from London to Paris, through Lausanne and Milan, on to Venice.

Famous "personages" who traveled on the Orient Express included the Shah of Persia, Sigmund Freud, and Josephine Baker. Of course we think of Agatha Christie, and her book, which is set out on a table in one of the cars, along with her coat and hat. Or it could be a Graham Green tale.

"Il etait une fois l'Orient Express, Once upon a time on the Orient Express."

The exhibit was a collaboration done with the SNCF Train Company, planning to re-launch the Orient Express Line in stages over the next five years.

We start our trip at the ticket station. One car is an upscale restaurant for Yannick Allerno and a 1922 locomotive.

Cars on display were Flech D'or, 1929, and a sleeper car from 1949, and the train Poleu from 1929. Art nouveau splendor orchestrated by characters associated with the train. Josephine Baker and courtesan spy Mata Hari.

All is very cinematic and ends with a stage set for Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's French detective.

Mahogany to crystal details by Rene Lalique.

As I walked through the various cars, I couldn't help but see all of Christie's original novels or the headlines about the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.

I admit, I wouldn't mind traveling in such luxury and may just check out the possibility of such a trip from Paris to say, Venice.

One never knows. As my paternal grandfather always said, "Where there's life, there's hope.

Thanks for accompanying me on this journey and reading my Jewish Childhood Blog.