Marco Polo is one of the most interesting characters in all of history, and it’s not because he was blindfolded and looking for someone in a swimming pool. The travels that he had to the Far East are some of the most fascinating examples of individual adventurism that the world has ever encountered. Here are a few interesting facts about this great explorer that you might not already know.
1. He Wasn’t the First
A common misconception about Marco Polo is that he was the first European to travel and explore Asia. He was definitely not the first. A Franciscan monk reached China nearly 50 years before Marco Polo made his adventures. Emissaries from the Catholic Church would also follow before Marco Polo ever got started with his first footsteps.
2. His Dad Was Gone a Long Time
Marco Polo was born in the year 1254. His father and his uncle ended up leaving on a trading excursion to Asia a few months before he was born. His dad didn’t return to the Venice home until the year 1269. This meant that Marco Polo was 15 years old when he finally got the chance to meet his father. Even though there was basically a stranger, Marco Polo joined him when they left on another trading trip in the year 1271. Although the trip was initially planned to be a short-term endeavor, Marco Polo and his father ended up traveling together for over 20 years.
3. They Were Mythical
There were a number of interesting animals the Marco Polo encountered during his travels in Asia. When he was imprisoned, he thoroughly documented all of his encounters with these familiar animals. Many of them were described in mythical ways, but the reality was that they were just monkeys, crocodiles, and elephants. Still… A crocodile does sound better as a giant sharp clod serpent that could swallow a man whole. He was also one of the first Europeans to see the rhinoceros. Maybe he saw the rhino in the light of a rainbow because he thought it was unicorn.
4. A Dollar Bill For You
Marco Polo did not introduce pasta to Italy. It makes for a great story, but it isn’t true. What Marco Polo did introduced to Italy was the concept of paper money. He encountered the paper money while traveling in Asia, especially in China, and the trend began to catch on when he finally returned from his journey. That wasn’t the only outstanding new technology that Marco Polo brought back with him. Polo also described the use of coal and may have even introduced the idea of wearing eyeglasses to his home country. Because of Marco Polo, we also know about how the Mongol post system worked – is actually quite similar to the American Pony Express.
5. A Lesson in Sewing
When returning home, the Turkish government decided to rob the Polo family of over 4,000 gold coins. Maybe they called it taxation. To make sure that they were able to return wealthy, rumor has it that they were able to conceal most of the gems and coins that they were bringing home with them into the linings of their coats. Who needs 4,000 gold coins anyway?