Thursday 14th August – The smell of incense in the air was strong

Born in Korčula I’m sure Marco Polo was not the only famous guy to have been born here but he is well represented. Believe it or not tho, some people have never heard of Marco Polo. I’m not going to say who, but here’s a quick résumé of what I learnt from the museum.

Born in Korčula he lived here eating figs and running the cobbled streets with his friends. His Father was a trader and so traveled back and forth. When Marco was 17 and after his Mother died, his Father decided it was time to take him with him and they left in 1275. They are on their way to meet with Kubla Khan and the journey is not an easy one, as they pass thru the desert of ‘inevitable death’ and the ‘Mother of all deserts’ thru the Gobi. Marco Polo writes later you can hear screaming in the winds from those who have died attempting to cross. It is known many go in and never get out. It takes them 30 days and they lose just a couple in their party.

Before long they are with Kubla Khan who is impressed with their travel story. The Emperor has a great court with many beautiful buildings clad in silver and gold, with high walls to protect them. The great hall has seating for 6000. Kubla Kahn asks for Marco to sit at his table and tell him stories of what he knows of the courts and trade. Taxes on spices which some like pepper are worth more than gold. . Grain storage. Writers and poets. Pleased with Marcos reports he asks him to be his personal counsellor. To travel from East to west and look me after his administration while Marcos’ Father and uncle continue to trade. Marco remains doing this job for nine years but by then he wants to return home. They want to see the Adriatic again.

Khan was almost 80 by now and they begged but he refused. Marco Polo was too important to him by now. As fate would have it the Persian rulers wife died, who was Kahn’s niece and a young 17 year old Princess Cocachinia was chosen. They were to go Persia and Kahn was asked to take her. Marco Polo looked upon her beauty and was in love but once caught by the Nanny kissing, any chance meetings soon ended. The Princess was duly delivered and in 1295 he returned to Venice.

The trip home found them captured by storms and Pirates who held the island to ransom after having robbed it. Marco Polo now 44 yrs old made ready with his fleet and men to defend their island and in 1298 battle started. However ships were burnt, Marco Polo surrenders and is taken captive. He is treated with great respect and he is asked to tell of meeting Kubla Kahn. He is thrown into jail but treated well as stories of his greatness is told. A Frenchman wrote the story for him and it was called Emilion after he dictated the story of his travels daily. Rustichello the author only believed half of what Marco told him. Paper money. Large baths. Virgins were no good, it was a better honour to choose a wife who had had many men. (I didn’t make that up, promise). Black powder for guns. Travel to far flung places like India or Madagascar. Turkey and China. He bought new foods to their midst such as Spaghetti and Ice cream.

Marco Polo was Married with 3 daughters and died 1324 in Venice where he was buried.
This was pretty much as I remembered from school study, though I’m not sure I knew or understood his strong connection to Kubla Khan. I remember picture books and it certainly was just as I imagined with the narrow ally ways for streets no more than a metre or two apart. Some places with a strong Venetian influence in the building. Like this window.

I loved exploring Korčula and could have stayed longer here!

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