The Orient Express glided into Istanbul on Tuesday after a long absence, seek-ing to recapture the elegance, romance and mystique that made it the "train of kings" more than 100 years ago.

At the end of a five-day journey retracing the original 1883 trip from Paris, the train snaked around Byzantine city walls, below the former sultan's palace of Topkapi and into a station specially built for it in the 19th century.The original train ground to a shabby halt in 1977, a victim of the Cold War and regional instability. Its new incarnation marked a bid by the current owners to restore its former glory.

"The 1883 excursion is legendary. It was the first train trip across Europe to the mysterious Orient," said David Williams, commercial director of the company operating the train, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

An Ottoman military band greeted it in Sirkeci - a station built for the original elite crowd of diplomats and socialites, attracted by Istanbul's spice markets, minarets and Byzantine ruins in the twilight of the sultan's empire.

The bustling station, adorned with bunting and flowers, is now more accustomed to weary backpackers and commuters. Locals looked on bewildered as the well-heeled visitors, mostly American, were greeted by waiters dressed in fez and longcoat.