'Murder on the Orient Express' arrives at Istanbul's Sirkeci terminal

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Agatha Christie's spirit is alive and well in Turkey. 
Xinhua

Agatha Christie's spirit is alive and well in Turkey. Aficionados and movie buffs had the chance to see the latest adaption of the late author's classic thriller "Murder on the Orient Express" at a premiere at Istanbul's historic Sirkeci railway station where the famous train started its journey in the film.

A special screening was organized for a selected group of invitees Tuesday in the premises of the terminal located in the Asian side of Turkey's most populated city, connecting east and west, before the movie hit screens across the country on Friday.

The best-selling British author Agatha Christie's classic murder-mystery tale was adapted several times on the big and little screen since its first publication in 1934, the latest one being in 1974.

It tells the suspenseful and thrilling tale of thirteen strangers stranded on a lavish train, the Venice Simplon -Orient express connecting Gare de l'Est in Paris to Constantinople, Istanbul's former name, 3,000 km east.

In the latest remake, Belgian mustachioed detective Hercule Poirot solves yet another mystery crime committed in the luxury train. The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh who plays Poirot and stars Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and Willem Dafoe.

"It was something enchanting, like watching Verdi's Aida (opera) in the midst of the pyramids. It was like we were going to say farewell to legendary investigator Hercule Poirot from the waiting lounge of the terminal" where the screening was held, wrote journalist Sirzat Bilallar in her column in Gunaydin daily, one of the few dozens of lucky cinema enthusiasts present at the event.

An avid traveler, Christie was a regular on the Orient Express, which she called "the train of her dreams." And no wonder it was the perfect setting for her most famous tale of murder. During her lifetime Christie wrote no less than 66 novels, more than 150 short stories and some 20 plays.

Kerem Ayan, director of the International Istanbul Film Festival, said to journalists that "fans of Agatha Christie know very well that the Sirkeci terminus is the spot where the murder story takes off and it's also an iconic place. That's why we wanted to do the first screening here."

The famous train ran from Paris to exotic Istanbul between 1883 and 1977. It was launched by the hotel group Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-lits, and at its height, offered travelers the chance to journey across Europe and into Turkey's most famous city in style and comfort.

However, later on with the introduction of other fast passenger trains, the luxury service became a thing of the past until shorter trips but still high-end private trips were launched at the turn of the 21th century.

Istanbul has a special meaning and importance for the "Murder in the Orient Express." Christie wrote the first part of the novel in Aleppo, a Syrian town near the Turkish border and reputedly finished it at Istanbul's Pera Palace Hotel, built in 1892 for Orient Express travelers in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and which still majestically exists today, entirely renovated in 2010 to the 19th-century grandeur.

The crime novelist always stayed in Room 411 of the city's then first luxury hotel. Nowadays this room is known as The Agatha Christie Room and still has its original antique furniture.

The room is very popular with today's guests because of the mystery surrounding the novelist disappearance for 11 days in 1926 after an emotional crisis. Her car was found next to a lake, crashing into a tree with all of her belongings. It was believed that she had fallen into the nearby lake and died.

After fruitless research by the police, she was spotted in a hotel in Harrogate, England and claimed of having no memory of what had happened to her.

Pera Palace hotel today offers thriller lovers special packages including accommodations in The Agatha Christie Room, if you can afford it of course. Christie fans also can take the opportunity to dine next door to the hotel at the Orient Express Restaurant where photographs and other memorabilia can be viewed at different stages of her life.


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