65 It’s a magical awakening: the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express takes the spectacular Gotthard Pass route, an astonishing com- bination of engineering master- pieces and breathtaking scenery. PIES used the Orient-Express as a secret weapon. A French Presi- dent tumbled from it. Hitler wanted it destroyed. The real-life, and fictional dramas of the Ori- ent-Express will transport you back in time. Tolstoy and Trot- sky, Marlene Dietrich, Lawrence of Arabia and the spy Mata Hari were all passengers. Ferdinand of Bulgaria, scared of assassins, was ob- served locking himself in the bathroom. Belgium’s King Leopold II rode the train to Istanbul after making elaborate arrangements to infiltrate a Turkish harem. The King of Bulgaria, an amateur engineer, insisted that he be allowed to drive the train through his coun- try, which he did at perilous speeds. Czar Nicholas II demanded that special cars be built for his visit to France, and some decades later the French President Paul Deschanel tumbled from one of these cars in the dead of night, an event that prompted such ridicule that eventually he resigned. Hitler tried, and failed, to have the Orient-Express destroyed. The truths of the Orient-Express are stranger even than the fiction: but Hercule Poirot solved his most fa- S Check availability and book:Call Member Services on 020 7399 2960