In the slowest express of the world

The railroad line in the highlands of Sri Lanka is still a breathtaking experience today. Not because the express covers the distance particularly quickly. On the contrary, the view is so beautiful that it can’t go slow enough. On the distance of 65 km we are on the road for 3.5 hours.

Im Hochland Sri Lankas sind die besten Teeplantagen nur von der Eisenbahntrasse aus zu sehen / © Foto: Georg Berg
In the highlands of Sri Lanka, the best tea plantations can only be seen from the railroad line / © Photo: Georg Berg

In 1876 the railroad line was built by the British colonial power to transport goods cheaply from the highlands to the port city of Colombo. Tea, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg were the valuable goods for which the effort was worthwhile. Narrow curves and numerous tunnels had to be constructed to cope with the enormous gradients through the rugged mountains. The railroad line is a remnant from the time when tea was an important colonial commodity for the British. Today, from the railroad line, one can see the best growing areas of the former colonial goods and immerse oneself in colonial history.

Den Wagen für die erste Klasse erkennt man an der Beschriftung Observation Saloon / © Foto: Georg Berg
The first class carriage can be recognized by the inscription Observation Saloon / © Photo: Georg Berg

If you absolutely want a cushioned seat, reserve one in first class. However, the best view is at the doors of the simpler categories, which remain open during the ride.

Der langsamste Express der Welt fährt durch Sri Lanka. Die offene Tür bietet während der Fahrt eine Fülle von Fotomotiven / © Foto: Georg Berg
The slowest express in the world travels through Sri Lanka. The open door offers plenty of photo opportunities during the ride / © Photo: Georg Berg

Most travelers only stow their luggage in one carriage. During the journey, they make a pilgrimage through all the carriages, get acquainted with the other passengers, and even the conductor is not averse to a chat.

Der Zugbegleiter sorgt dafür, dass das Ziel möglichst pünktlich erreicht wird / © Foto: Georg Berg
The conductor ensures that the destination is reached as punctually as possible / © Photo: Georg Berg
Ob auf den Stufen sitzend oder stehend, die Plätze an der Türen sind begehrt - auch unter den Einheimischen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Whether sitting on the steps or standing, the seats at the doors are coveted – even among the locals / © Photo: Georg Berg
Das Abteil ist Informationsbörse für Reiseerfahrungen aller Art / © Foto: Georg Berg
The compartment is an information exchange for travel experiences of all kinds / © Photo: Georg Berg
Während der Zugfahrt vertraut Georg Berg einem Mitreisenden seine Kamera an und lässt sich von ihm fotografieren / © Foto: Georg Berg
During the train ride, Georg Berg entrusts his camera to a fellow passenger and lets him take his picture / © Photo: Georg Berg
Volleyball ist Nationalsport in Sri Lanka. Überall gibt es Spielfelder, die gut genutzt werden / © Foto: Georg Berg
Volleyball is the national sport in Sri Lanka. Everywhere there are playing fields, which are well used / © Photo: Georg Berg
Verwirrung am Bahnsteig von Ella in Sri Lanka, als der Zug am falschen Gleis angekommen ist. Da war die Weiche wohl nicht richtig gestellt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Confusion on the platform of Ella in Sri Lanka when the train arrived at the wrong track. The switch was probably not set correctly / © Photo: Georg Berg

The journey ends unscheduled on the siding. But that doesn’t matter, because everyone knows each other from the long trip and there are plenty of helping hands. Finally, everyone is standing on the platform of Ella with their luggage.

International

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The research trip was supported by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Tourism

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