Marco Polo Museum Exhibition Scene: Beginning of the dream
The ship is rolling on the waves of the Adriatic, ready to set off. The isle of Korčula is clearly visible in front of her, its streets, its church towers, houses. Marco Polo, his father Nicholas, and his uncle Matthew are on board. Marco Polo is looking at Korčula, his home town. Memories burst like a volcano, he can recall the streets, the houses and squares. Well does Marco listen to his father and uncle’s words and the waves around the vessel, just a second and off they go, leaving Korčula behind. Korčula, how much he loves that town!
He was born there, used to run to and fro, to ‘fight’ with peers, to bathe in the sea, to play with ships. After his mother’s death he was left with uncle Marco who took him to Venice. It was the first farewell to the homeland, everything he loved stayed in Korčula; the house, his friends, his mother’s grave. For years to come his heart wept over them and over his father who traded in distant lands. He remembered the seagulls flying high in the sky, he wanted to join them, not knowing which direction to take. But he knows now, and he’ll fly with this ship!
Suddenly, like in a dream, his father got back from long voyages in 1269, impressing Venice with Kublai Khan’s letter addressed to the Pope and their house was full of jewels, pearls, gold, diamonds, spices, all the immeasurable wealth that dazzled everyone. Two years later his father decided it was time for them to go to China again, to visit the Khan and resume lucrative trade in spices, diamonds and jewels. On this voyage they cast anchor for a while in Korčula because Marco Polo wanted to see his home town where he started toddling. Then he would part for unknown lands.
A voice screams, his father and uncle lean over the deck, the anchor is pulled up with a lot of noise, the masts touch the sky, sailors run across the deck. The foam splashes, the flags stream. A wild singing is heard, seeing off is coming to an end. And then there is a sudden order: ‘ The wind is gaining power, unfurl the sails!’ Then the wind catches the sails and the vessel starts roaring magnificently cutting the Adriatic waves. Korčula is vanishing in the mist and the ship is sailing faster and faster towards the Otranto Strait and further on eastward to the ports of Acra and Layasa.
Nicholas and Matthew Polo explained to Marco the significance of spices, especially the pepper which substitutes gold coins, as well as the importance of saffron, clove, ginger and cinnamon. Pepper is presented to newly wedded couples or to kings! A ship with 5 000 baskets of pepper, at a price of 50 to 90 ducats each could bring a huge profit, about € 100,000 in today’s money. Before the long journey the Polos stopped at Acra, the last stronghold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Surrounded by the Knights Templars, Teutons and Jesuits, they waited for the election of the new pope. Theobald Visconti, the representative of Acra, was elected new pope. He took the name Gregory X. and proclaimed Nicholas, Matthew and Marco Polo envoys of the Holy See at Kublai Khan. Keeping the pontifical message in their hands they headed east for China. The adventure that was to last for 24 years was just starting
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