Al Andalus — an Andalusian palace on rails

It is called a palace on rails. This term seems most appropriate as the train was once used by the royal family. A sumptuous, luxurious and formidable manifestation of Art Noveau - this is the famous Andalusian express and actually culture train. The name itself is very deeply rooted in the local history. Al Andalus already existed more than one thousand years ago but it was not a train at that time. It was the Arabic name for the Iberian Peninsula used by the Muslim conquerors. Andalusia, the famous centre of flamenco, was the last Arabian bridgehead on the Old Continent.

 

The train embarked on its maiden journey in 1985. Everything worked fine for the first twenty years until the financial crisis in Spain. The train was saved by a private company that has striven to ensure that every customer is satisfied.

 

The southern region of Spain, with its main cities Seville and Cordoba, is full of colour, oleanders and blooming orange trees. Life is expressively vibrant. Elements of Eastern culture have always been inherent here: white houses with onion-shaped chimneys, mosaics and sultan palaces complete with fountains. From the elegant express train Al Andalus, Andalusia looks even more fabulous.

 

Al Andalus is one of the most luxurious and spacious tourist train sets in Europe. It travels 700 km in six days. The speed is not staggering but this is not the purpose. To increase travel comfort, the train stops in the night-time at railway stations so that everyone can sleep comfortably. In the morning, at breakfast time, it resumes the journey. In contrast to the Orient Express it offers not only a train journey but also sightseeing with a local guide and a dinner in a stylish restaurant.

 

The complete train consists of 15 carriages accommodating 64 guests only. This ensures the highest standards are maintained. One service person is assigned to every two passengers. In addition, more than half of the train is a living monument of the Belle Époque. The bar carriage, two restaurant carriages and one lounge carriage date back to 1928 and 1930.

 

The spacious magic-like interiors are filled with perfected genuine Art Noveau. This is where lunches and dinners of Andalusian specialities are served, where piano music is played and a recital given on stage every night, where newspapers can be read or where one can simply converse with other passengers, drinking a glass of sherry from Jerez or red wine from Rioja.

Similarly, five out of seven living carriages with individually air-conditioned compartments equipped with their own bathrooms have a century-long history. They were built in 1929 and were once used by the British royal family for travelling on holiday.

The train in Andalusia runs from March to October. The Iberia route from Madrid to Saragossa and back is also active in July.

During a six-day trip around Andalusia, it forms a loop beginning and ending in Seville. The journey starts with an opulent dinner at noon sharp. Afterwards, the train sets out on the route towards one of the oldest European cities - Cadiz and Jerez, famous for sherry and horse shows. Next, it arrives in the town of Rona, separated by the Baetic Ranges, with the El Tajo gorge cutting it in two parts, and Grenade where the focus of modern life, just as in bygone ages, is the Sultan’s palace - Alhambra, the most beautiful Arabian monument in Europe. Passing by villages with more than 70 million olive trees the train reaches Baeza and Úbeda - gems of the Renaissance from the UNESCO list. Finally, it arrives in Cordoba, famous for its more than 2000-year-old bridge, which in the Middle Ages was one of the largest cultural centres in the world. Apart from the trip around Andalusia, there are other options such as the route from Madrid to Saragossa available in July leading through Segovia, Avilla - with unconquerable fortifications and St. Therese monastery, the university city of Salamanca, Burgos and the Sierra de Atapuerca mountain range where one of the oldest traces of primitive man were discovered. Without any doubt another amenity is Pamplona and the walk on the route of the bulls during the Sanfermines fiesta. There are also some thematic trips such as: “Walking after St. Jacob” or “The Ribera del Duero-Rioja Wine Route”.

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© Całość praw autorskich - Antoni Bochen, Filip Wiśniewski