It’s not exactly the Orient Express in terms of luxury, but the scenery is first class. The foreground is a field of corn, performing its annual miracle of turning sunshine into gold. The background is full of foreboding, with the setting sun trying to prise open the storm clouds that seem to be travelling slightly faster than the train. Yet it is a lot closer to the Orient Express than you might think, because I am aboard the Balkan Express – following part of the classic route between Paris and Constantinople (now Istanbul).
Here’s the idea. This summer, the UK voted to revert to the 20th century, choosing fragmentation over unity. One immediate effect was to punish the pound, taking us back to the time in the mid-Eighties when a coffee in the sun on the terrace in a European city seemed to cost half a day’s pay.
So I decided to make a journey through the part of Europe where you can experience what trans-Continental travel was like before the Schengen agreement on open borders, be..