If you had to describe your last train ride, ‘exciting’ would probably be the last word that came to your mind. For a long time now traveling by train has been anything but a special experience with simple train- and buffet cars and practically no service. But when you see pictures of the Orient Express or the itinerary of the new “Jewels of Persia” railway trip between Budapest and Tehran, you might wonder how would it feel to go on a luxurious trip with beautiful train cars, gourmet dinners on board, and a cosy cabin where you can rest during the night. Luckily, if you’re in Hungary, you can experience all this with the Nostalgia branch of Hungarian Railways. I asked Marcella Beke, Director of Sales about the trips and the amazing train cars that passengers can enjoy during these special journeys.
There have been many articles lately about the new “Jewels of Persia” train trip between Budapest and Tehran. What is the role of the Nostalgia branch of Hungarian Railways in this trip?
The “Jewels of Persia” is basically a cooperation between three parties: Golden Eagle, Danube Express, and the Nostalgia branch of Hungarian Railways. Our role is to provide the cars, including the sleeping-, the lounge-, and the restaurant cars, as well as the staff and the off-train programs during the trip. Furthermore, it is also our task to arrange the locomotives both in Hungary and abroad, to make sure that there is enough water on board, to take care of the permissions, etc.
Could you tell us more about the trip?
Passengers for the Eastbound trip in October are mostly from the UK and Australia. The price is between €10.000 pp and €25.000 pp. It’s like in a hotel, there are different categories with different prices. Departure will be on Wednesday, October 15th from the Royal Waiting Room at the Budapest Nyugati Railway Station. This waiting room was originally designed and built for Sissy, the famous Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Queen of Hungary. In Hungary, there will be two more stops: in Kecskemét and at the Lajosmizse Csárda. Then the trip will continue in Romania, in Bulgaria, and in Turkey through Anatolia. During the two weeks, passengers will spend all nights on the train, except for one night in Istanbul and another night in Tehran. At the end of the trip, the passengers will fly back to their home countries, while those who take part in the Westbound trip will board the train in Tehran and take the 15-day trip to Budapest.
What is the daily routine like during the trip?
Breakfast and dinner are always served on board (except for the two nights in Istanbul and Tehran). Depending on the schedule, passengers eat lunch either on-site or on the train. For each car, which means for 10 people, one steward is appointed, who is responsible for serving the morning tea/coffee as well as for making the beds while the passengers are at dinner. Also, the steward is available 24 hours. Since members of the staff spend a lot of time with the passengers, the selection process was highly competitive.
On what other trips can passengers enjoy the luxury of these cars?
The Danube Express organizes trips in Europe, where the Nostalgia branch of Hungarian Railways Nostalgia also provides the sleeping-, lounge-, and restaurant cars. Some of these trips also depart from Budapest, such as the three plus three-day-trip, where passengers travel to Istanbul by train, spend three more nights in the Turkish capital, and then fly back to Budapest.
The Nostalgia branch also organizes special train rides with unique locomotives and cars.
Yes, we organize several trips throughout the year with special cars and old locomotives with steam engine mostly to the Danube Bend and to Gödöllő. We also organize trips with so-called Experience trains to special gastronomy festivals and cultural destinations both in Hungary and abroad. One of our most special trips is called Candlelight Express with a gourmet dinner on board.
Besides the special cars, how are your trips different from the other train rides in Hungary?
We basically provide a completely different travel experience. From the moment the passengers arrive at the railway station, they are taken care of by our staff. After boarding, refreshments are served with some finger food and we also prepare some small surprises, such as games. During the trip, animators play with the children so that the parents can relax and enjoy the train ride. We always have a buffet car, where there is live music on the way back. On some of the train rides, we also provide beauty consulting sessions and massage. At the end of the trip, we say goodbye to our passengers with a small gift.
Furthermore, the Candlelight Express that I’ve already mentioned is a very special trip between Budapest and Gödöllő with a delicious dinner on board. The trip also features a special departure from the Royal Waiting room at the Budapest Nyugati Railway Station, an unforgettable train ride on the renovated 100-year-old teak wood restaurant car as well as music performance at the Royal Waiting Room in Gödöllő. (Ticket information and dates are on the bottom of the page.)
When did you start working here? Did you have any background in railways and trains?
I’ve been working here for four years now. First I was more involved with the technical aspects and I also helped organizing different events for children at the Hungarian Railway Museum. Before my job, I didn’t have any background in railways, but it grew on me very quickly. I really love my job because I always meet new people, and because everyday is different with different tasks and with new challenges. And of course, since I love traveling, I think this job is a perfect match for me.
What are your favorite places, restaurants in Budapest that you would also recommend to people visiting the city?
I would absolutely recommend the Rudas Thermal Bath, especially on Tuesdays because that’s the day for ladies only. There are usually also foreigners and everybody is very friendly. I really like Turkish culture and also that’s why Rudas is my favorite bath as its architecture is similar to that of the hamams. The other place that I would recommend is the Children’s Railway in Hűvösvölgy. I recently took my couchsurfing guest there and she absolutely loved it. As for eating out, I would recommend the Shiráz Restaurant, an Iranian restaurant on Ráday Street.
Did you like this article? Then check out our story on a luxury rail journey between Budapest and Venice and watch our video of the Royal Launch, attended by HRH Prince Michael of Kent.