Prestige Continental Express is no ordinary railway company. Instead of simply taking passengers from A to B, it aims to give them a taste of the Golden Age of railways in the 1920s, when people liked to travel in comfort and style in elegant surroundings, and be thoroughly spoiled by attentive waiters, gourmet food and first class wines. Over the last few years it's acquired three wagons, now converted to the required standard with loving care and a keen eye for detail.
These carriages are real gems: the inlay work adorning the wall panels and the beautiful brocade of the seats were modelled on originals in the Musée de Chemin de Fer (railway museum) in Mulhouse. The Salon Bleu and the Rubis Noir, the two restaurant cars, have 48 seats each in two compartments with tables for two and four. All the food is freshly prepared on board and impeccably served. The third carriage is the Diamant bar, which even has a grand piano tucked in the corner – only a baby grand, true, but I really wondered how on earth they got it on the train.
Up to now these carriages could only be chartered for private parties, but now it has a programme of trips where it's possible to book single places. The first is a trip to the "Golden City of Prague" just in time for the pre-Christmas season of Advent, with a sightseeing programme and the chance of going to the opera, ballet or a classical music evening: dates are 29 November to 2 December. And next autumn, they'll be following in the tracks of the legendary Arlberg Orient Express from Basel/Zurich to Istanbul (13-24 September 2014).
Prestige is organizing these trips in collaboration with the exclusive Zurich-based Pullman Club, whose motto is "Travelling in Style". The idea is that the experience of travelling is the important thing, rather than arriving at the destination (though of course that is important too), so they aim to make the entire journey as comfortable, enjoyable and downright luxurious as they can. The Pullman Club organizes not only trains trips but also cruises, with overnight stops at four or five-star hotels and rich cultural programmes covering art, history and politics.