The disOrient Express, Expressed

There are a number of deployments of the title of “The Disorient Express“, dozens actually, including a book, an episode of a cartoon, a bumper sticker manufacturer, a board game, and an episode of Desperate Housewives. Few of which seem to have anything whatsoever to do with trains, and none of them with real ones.  18 American shekels a year, just for a domain name and subsequent mapping onto wordpress, has always seemed like complete a waste of money, but I am tempted as no configuration of this has been taken.

The art department have been hard at work on the t-shirt design and have completed the following masterpiece. You’ll be able to place your order for this ideal Christmas present at Sumo Sam’s in a few weeks.

Note to steam aficianados: I tried, and failed miserably, to produce a more ethnically consistent locomotive to the one shown here that we will have to now run with.

The original idea, as you would see if you were daft enough to read all the way down this already epic blog on the subject, was to go from London to Istanbul and back, via just about everywhere. Hence the catchy alternative name for the project.  Unfortunately, you cant currently get down to the Bosporus at the moment. This isn’t because the Turks have thrown the towel in on maintaining a railway, far from it.  They are busy connecting Asia with the European railway network. And good for them. Alas, things aren’t going as well to the north, and west, of Turkey. The Greek railway system is all but bankrupt and the chances are that they simply wont have any railway at all before long. They have in any case cancelled all international trains, including both the Friendship Express to Istanbul, and also the Balkan Express north to Belgrade via Skopje.

The sad news just in this week is that Croatia, whose territory forms an integral part of what was once Yugoslavia, has unilaterally all but abolished international rail travel in the region.  As such, Bosnia is now cut off from the rest of the continent’s rail network. Services from Budapest and Belgrade to Sarajevo via Croatia have, at least provisionally, been removed from next year’s timetable. There has been a substantial outcry over this, see here Croatian Railways: Reconsider planned cuts to international passenger rail services. Our friends at the Serbian Railways office for international passenger services are currently negotiating with their neighbours to re-instate the Belgrade to Sarajevo day train, which we are intending to take. They are hopeful of resolving the dispute. The GCERC steering committee send all parties their best wishes and sincerely hope sense and goodwill prevail. If they fail, then there’s going to be yet another break in the already intermittent thick black line in the Balkan region on the map below, and we’ll be doing that section on a bus. At least our two other Croat border crossing services are currently still scheduled to be running. The Sarajevo to Ploce service, one of the jewels of Balkan rail travel, still survives, at least during the summer. And our service north to Ljubljana is also still operating. We can also thank the railway timetabling Gods of Zagreb that the sleeper from Split to the capital has been left unharmed, or so we believe.

Two bus journeys in the south, and a plane ride in the north, constitute the gaps in the railway route so far. Let’s hope that’s the way it stays.


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