Which are the famous marketplaces of Lucknow

reportIndia: The King of the Rails

Already in the early morning it is as hot as an oven at Lucknow train station. And incredibly chaotic. Crowds of porters maneuver battered suitcases and jute sacks through the crowd. Every minute, commuters and travelers pour out of completely overcrowded wagons. In between, stray dogs and holy cows, barefoot priests, blind beggars and hawkers who sell paan bread and samosa dumplings scurry around.

The trains of the Indian Railways are usually not a flagship for comfortable travel. The more than 65,000 kilometers long rail network has its advantages: You can reach even the most remote places on the huge subcontinent cheaply, reliably and usually safely. The Maharajas ’Express, on the other hand, which rolls into platform 5 in the middle of rush hour in the metropolis of Lucknow, offers something completely different: Half locomotive, half time machine, the bright red luxury train transports its guests back to the splendid world of the Maharajas, the former grand princes. And drives them to the most magnificent destinations in the country. Between the two world wars, the Indian rulers flaunted their wealth, jewels and custom-made Rolls-Royce bodies.

They developed a particular ambition with their project to build a palace on wheels. Several problems could be solved with it: The starving subjects kept themselves afloat by working on the railroad construction, while one could inspect one's own territories in a befitting atmosphere. But the noble procession was best suited to impress other princes. What sometimes escalated into a bizarre arms race: Billiard tables, libraries and music rooms including grand pianos were part of the standard equipment. Fans that cooled large blocks of ice were the ultimate in air conditioning. The Nizam of Hyderabad, once one of the richest men in the world, even had his car gilded and decorated with ivory. And the Maharaja of Baroda trundled through the country on a specially erected throne in the procession. In the Maharajas ’Express, which has been on the tracks since 2010, solvent guests can now relive the decadence of yesteryear. Five different routes are available for luxury sightseeing by train. The feel-good program begins at check-in.

At Safdarjung train station in Delhi, where we started our journey five days ago, the passengers are sprinkled with rose petals by beautiful women in brightly colored saris before liveried bellboys lead them over a red carpet to their compartments. In the 14 wagons of the rolling luxury hotel there are 43 suites - the presidential suite even includes a bathtub -, two restaurants as well as a bar, boutique and a club room with fine leather armchairs. Soft light ensures a correspondingly dignified atmosphere, television, telephone and internet in the cabins for contemporary comfort.