As Marco Polo (1254-1324) returned home across the Indian Ocean, after years in the service of Genghis Khan, he picked up a fabulous array of stories from sailors and merchants, about the peoples of the region, some reliable, some wholly implausible, but all fascinating. "Great Journeys" allows readers to travel both around the planet and back through the centuries - but also back into ideas and worlds frightening, ruthless and cruel in different ways from our own. Few reading experiences can begin to match that of engaging with writers who saw astounding things: great civilisations, walls of ice, violent and implacable jungles, deserts and mountains, and multitudes of birds and flowers new to science. Reading these books is to see the world afresh, to rediscover a time when many cultures were quite strange to each other, where legends and stories were treated as facts and in which so much was still to be discovered.
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Marco Polo (1254-1324), a Venetian merchant, spent many years in the service of Kubilai Khan and in his journeys to and from the Khan's court and around the Mongol Empire picked up immense amounts of direct and indirect knowledge about Asia. After his return to Europe he became involved in fighting between Venice and Genoa, was made a prisoner-of-war and in prison met Rustichello da Pisa, who wrote down the story of Polo's adventures.
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