Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez toasts with journalists during the 63rd Inter American Press Association meeting in Cartagena, Colombia in March 2007. He returned Wednesday to his birthplace. ((William Fernando Martinez/ Associated Press))

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez returned Wednesday for the first time in a quarter-century to Aracataca, his birthplace and the town that inspired the fictional villageMacondo, immortalized in his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Hounded by autograph-seeking fans and photographers, Garcia Marquez travelled to the Colombia mountain town by train, part of a new passenger service intended to carry legions of literary pilgrims.

Staring out of a train window at the hubbub, Garcia Marquez said, "Look at this… and they say that I invented Macondo, that I invented magical realism."

One Hundred Years of Solitude, his best-known work, takes place in Macondo, a fictional hamlet of zinc-roofed homes and a snowcapped-mountain backdrop that closely resembles Aracataca.

Joining him on the trip from the Caribbean coastal city of Santa Marta wereabout 300 passengers, including his family members, entertainers and Colombia's culture minister.

Children ran to greet the train as it pulled into town, and others held banners and signs praising their native son.

Garcia Marquez and his wife Mercedes Barcha toured the town in a horse-drawn carriage, passing by the main library and the home where he was raised by his grandparents.

For his 80th birthday in March, Colombia's government pledged $500,000 to reconstruct the decrepit home, now a museum.

The Mexico City resident last visited his hometown in 1983, a year after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Like many Colombians, Garcia Marquez, 80, lives at a safe distance from the nation's four-decade armed conflict.

The famously irascible writer returns to Colombia only for a few weeks each year and almost always refuses interviews.

Last year, residents voted in a special referendum to change the town's name to Aracataca-Macondo, but the results were invalidated because of high absenteeism.

Garcia Marquez introduced the world to magical realism, in which fantastic events are made to appear ordinary, a literary style imitated by a generation of Latin American writers.