Rediscovering the Beauty of Eastern European Railways

After a four-year intermission, Belmond’s Eastern and Oriental Express is back, with new itineraries in Southeast Asia. But what do you need to know about chugging across the continent on this renowned luxury train?

The book begins with ‘Under Russian Protection,’ where eight authors explore the organizational, ideological, and—to some extent—technological issues of East European railways.

What to Expect

The Eastern Express is one of the most popular train journeys in Turkey and has become famous worldwide due to social media. As a result, the journey has received a lot of attention from travelers, photographers, and train enthusiasts. Those who are planning to travel on this route should know a few things before booking their tickets. First of all, they should know the ticket prices and types of carriages. Ticket prices vary according to the type of carriage, and the more expensive ones are usually the sleeper cars.

Those who are interested in taking this journey should also know that it is best to book tickets at least 30 days before the departure date. This is because this top-rated train tour has a high demand, and tickets sell out quickly. It is also important to keep in mind that the train only leaves once a day, so you should be ready to wake up early and go to the station as soon as it opens.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the train will stop at many cities on its way to Kars. These include Kirikkale, Kayseri, Sivas, and Erzincan. This makes the train trip an even more interesting experience. The staff on board the Eastern Express is exceptional and they treat the journey as something special.

In terms of the layout, the PKP Eastern Express is a bit different from its Western European counterparts. Unlike the German ICE or French TGV, which are built with long straight lines, Eastern European railways have more complicated routes. This is due to the fact that most of these countries have a lot of mountainous terrain, and they are therefore not as easy to traverse as their Western European counterparts.

In this regard, the new PKP network has been designed to simplify connections between the main cities of each country. This means that Berlin-Dresden will be a full high-speed line, while onward routes to Prague, Brno, Olomouc, and Ostrava are streamlined through upgrades of existing lines. Furthermore, the network aims to connect the main cities of the Visegrad Group, which are the densest in Eastern Europe and closest to preexisting Western European networks.

The Trains

When boarding Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express train you will step back in time. Following a four-year pandemic-related hiatus, the luxury train is finally back on the tracks. It will launch two new journeys early next year. The iconic train is an invitation to a journey of wonder, embracing the essence of Turkiye’s diverse landscapes on an unforgettable slow train journey.

A whirlwind tour of the region’s grand history and inspiring opulence awaits. From the awe-inspiring ruins of the ancient city of Ani to the picturesque sunsets that hide behind royal towns and rice plantations, the beauty of this region will take your breath away.

In this book, scholars from different countries and backgrounds explore the fascinating world of Eastern European railways in their own particular contexts. Divided into four sections, the essays touch upon a wide range of themes. Some, like the one by Ihor Zhaloba, delve into the use of railways as an instrument for implementing national ambitions – domination for some and sovereignty for others (e.g. the case of Yugoslavia).

Other authors, like Ivan Jakubec, examine the organizational and technological issues that faced railways under communist rule. Whether dealing with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, or the Soviet Union, these articles are characterized by their critical and analytical approach.

The second section of the book, entitled Under Russian Protection, provides an overview of the state of Eastern Europe’s railway system in the aftermath of the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Including essays by both historians and railway company representatives, this section explores the economic and political aspects of the situation.

During this section, the Eastern Express will stop in several cities, including Yeralti Carsisi, the underground bazaar in Erzincan that specializes in copperware. Then, the train will cross into Kazakhstan. This is the first stop in this part of the trip that does not require a visa. At this point, travelers can finally stretch their legs and shop around. Vendors throng the platforms, offering beer, cigarettes, pickled cucumbers, toilet paper, and local SIM cards for mobile phones. Many passengers stage improvised concerts.

The Journey

For rail enthusiasts, train travel is about more than just getting from one destination to the next. It’s also about the experience of being surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of a country. It’s about discovering the history, culture and allure that is unique to each region of Europe. And there are few journeys that rival the splendour of Eastern European trains.

As you make your way through the countryside of Central and Eastern Europe, you will pass through 254 tunnels and more than 435 bridges, including Kolasin – the highest railway bridge in the world! The spectacular mountains and scenery will only enhance the beauty of this remarkable journey.

Once you board the iconic Eastern Express from Ankara, you’ll be transported to a land of extraordinary contrasts. This epic trip, which traverses more than 1,310 kilometres, will offer you a glimpse into Turkiye’s diverse landscapes as they transform into extraordinary winter wonderlands.

The Eastern Express has a reputation for being slower, dirtier and bumpier than its Western counterparts, but it is well worth the ride! Luckily, you’ll have a lot of time to relax and take in the sights, sounds and scents of each new city as you drift along at a leisurely pace.

There are many benefits to travelling by train in Eastern Europe – the tickets are cheaper than those in Western Europe, you don’t have to worry about making reservations and the trains are super-slow and comfy. In addition, most train trips in Eastern Europe are relatively safe as long as you exercise a little common sense and follow some basic rules of safety (keep your luggage within sight at all times, be wary of overly-friendly locals and don’t wear anything that looks expensive).

When the train arrives in Moscow, Umed’s eyes light up. Although he is sad to be leaving Tajikistan, he is excited for his new adventure in Russia. He is confident that he will find a job in Moscow and will be able to provide for his family. After all, he has been working in Russia since he was 12. The train station comes to life as vendors descend on the platform and start peddling pickled cucumbers, boiled eggs, beer, toilet paper and local SIM cards for mobile phones.

The Final Words

In the final words that the survivors shared with their family and friends, they spoke of love for their children and spouses, their sorrow for the victims, and their gratitude for the lives they had lived. Collected in this volume, these statements give human form to an all-but invisible strand of the catastrophe that was Sept. 11 – the deaths in the upper floors of the north and south towers, where no rescue workers reached. Their last words offer not only a broad and chilling view of the devastated zones, but also the only window onto acts of bravery, decency, and grace at a brutal time.

Featuring a full complement of locomotives, passenger cars and freight wagons, Eastern Express II is an accurate and detailed model of the Russian class U-20, which was in service on both European and Trans-Siberian routes. Unlike Eastern Express’ earlier model of this vehicle, the kit features the later sloped armor turret (known as the “conical” turret by the Russians). The new version also includes a separate set of windows and a new roof panel for the driver’s compartment.

The model is easy to build, with exploded diagrams and Russian to English translations on the instruction sheet. The paint instructions are a little sparse, with no clue as to color schemes beyond the five vehicles included on the decal sheet. Decals include a Finnish unit, with a swastika that seems to have been designed to circumvent the Council of Europe ban on the symbol (it’s actually two seemingly disjointed halves that can be connected on both sides of the turret), a Soviet Protective Green unit with red stars, and one named “SOLDAT” and emblazoned with circle and square tactical markings.

Want to experience Eastern Europe on a train vacation? Browse our list of rail journeys to find the perfect tour for you. From Vienna’s magnificent Hofburg Palace to Prague’s fairytale castle district, our itineraries will leave you in awe of this beautiful region. Start planning your trip today!

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