Contemporary followers of Marco Polo



In 1993, Denis Bellivo, a wedding photographer, and Francis O'Donnell, a former Marine, decided to repeat the route of the most famous travel writer in history. They crossed the Eurasian continent, constantly documenting their experience and comparing it with travel notes Marco Polo, written 700 years ago. Later they wrote a book "In the footsteps of Marco Polo."

Starting from the same house where Polo once lived, Bellino and O'Donnell traveled by jeep, boat, camels, horses and on foot to eventually reach their final destination in China, where they were met by an angry mob. In total, they crossed 25,000 miles.

Despite the many advantages that modern travelers have, Bellivo and O'Donnell had to face many problems that were completely alien to Marco Polo. He crossed the Eurasian continent with a sign that proclaimed him "a guest of the emperor." This emperor, Kublai-Khan, controlled almost all the lands that Polo was passing through. Therefore, the Italian was guaranteed a safe journey.

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After hundreds of years, two Americans, repeating the route of Marco Polo, had to wade through war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan. There, Bellivo and O'Donnell were captured during a shootout. Although eventually the men agreed on their release, after that they also fell into a sandstorm in the Taklamakan Desert.

Any of these events would be a good reason for canceling the entire trip. But instead, Bellivo and O'Donnell agreed that "in all circumstances, no matter what, we will return to the United States only in two cases - either dead or successful."

It was a good idea, because it helped them not surrender during numerous detentions and interrogations by the KGB. After all, two Americans who crossed East Afghanistan by landmark on video mules loaded with video equipment looked obviously suspicious.

However, it was worth it. After all, Bellivo and O'Donnell captured Afghanistan in the period between the brutal war with the Soviet Union and the troubled board of the Taliban, which was still ahead. In this respect, they both achieved exactly what Marco Polo received: unique information about the country, far from safe and unsafe (especially recently), and shared this information with all of us.

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