In the Footsteps of Marco Polo: A Companion to the Public Television Series

Denis Belliveau, Author, Francis O'Donnell, Author . Rowman & Littlefield $29.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-7425-5683-6

The harrowing route of Marco Polo's 13th-century trek from Venice to ancient Cathay over the traditional Silk Road to Kublai Khan's territories consumed 24 years of the famous explorer's life. Award-winning photographer Belliveau and sculptor/lecturer O'Donnell, a former marine, spent two years retracing the journey,, to “[t]raverse the world's largest land mass and back, climb its highest mountains, cross its most desolate deserts and seas.” The curious, intrepid risk-takers forgo air travel to recreate the 25,000-mile experience, facing rolls of red tape, internecine politics, horrendous climates, language barriers, civil war and border authorities while traveling through what is now Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Tibet, China and Mongolia, among others. The authors have a remarkable ability to form relationships in varied cultures, as with a group of rough Afghan soldiers: “All had in common... losses so terrible that we had stopped asking questions about families.” Fascinatingly, many of the customs, locales and physical landscapes are identical, 700 years later, to Polo's descriptions. Alongside Belliveau and O'Donnell's enthusiastic narrative are marvelous full-color photos that bring the travelogue to vivid life. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
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