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In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, Harry Rutstein

An intrepid American trio in search of the exotic regions and cultures of Marco Polo's thirteenth-century world set out to record afresh Polo's journey, a trip that the young Marco took with his father and uncle beginning in 1271.  An account of Marco's travels through the Middle and Far East created quite a sensation when handwritten copies of it appeared;  indeed, the author was ridiculed and accused of telling "millions" of tales.  It was only in later centuries that The Travels (or Description of the World, as the book is also called) was recognized as the first factual account of the East.

Through the centuries students of history and all those with a passion for travel and adventure have read Marco Polo's words with fascination. The authors of this book found it so inspiring that they could not resist the temptation to trace the Venetian's steps as far as they could go;  no modern-day traveler had duplicated the journey successfully, but they were determined to try.  Beginning in Venice, Harry Rutstein, Joanne Kroll, and Richard Rutstein (Harry's nineteen-year-old son, equal in age to Marco when he first set off on his historic journey) crossed the Mediterranean to reach Athens, then went on to Acre, which for three thousand years has been a port, today known as Haifa, in Israel.  In Jerusalem they visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, from which the Kublai Khan had requested the merchants of Venice to bring him holy chrism oil.  Then they traveled to Turkey, where they crossed the desolate Anatolian plateau, past Mount Ararat, and south through Iran to the Persian Gulf.  The group then traversed the great deserts of Iran to Afghanistan, across one thousand miles of the Hindu Kush.  Present-day politics obliged them to end their journey at "the back door of Cathay." More recent political events, however, now preclude travel to many of the other lands that are intrinsic to Marco's story and through which the authors were able to journey safely.

The sights that this trio encountered - landscapes and structures centuries old, hardly altered since Polo knew them - and the people they met are captured in Rutstein's photographs.  Everything they experienced is recorded in their diary, into which they have also woven selections from Polo's own book, thus offering the reader two views, seven centuries apart.  Text and photographs vivify an ancient trip through ancient lands, a journey that will appeal to all adventurers in quest of an uncommon experience.

This book is available from:

The Marco Polo Foundation Inc.,
716 Industry Drive,
Seattle WA 98188, USA
Telephone: 206-574-0900

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