Everyone loves a train journey, but the longest railway journey in the world might just be the most unromantic one, too.
It would be snide to call it the Plastic Tat Track, but the new route connecting eastern China with Spain is hardly a civilisation-changing Silk Road.
A freight train bringing 82 containers of Christmas decorations and plastic trinkets to Madrid from the city of Yiwu, famed for its booming â€œsmall commodities marketâ€, has belatedly returned home at the weekend with an appetising cargo of jamÃ³n, olive oil and red wine for Chinaâ€™s chorizo-munching classes.
The 8,077-mile, 21-day route across Kazakhstan and through Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France comfortably outstrips the Trans-Siberian railway â€“ which connects Moscow to Vladivostok on Russiaâ€™s east coast â€“ and is a striking example of Chinaâ€™s grand vision for global railways.
There are already two regular direct freight trains to Germany, the experimental Yiwu-Madrid route is planned to run twice a month and China is reportedly building or planning high-speed rail links in at least 20 countries.