Hidden Gems

Take inspiration from a great explorer with Croatia sailing holidays

By Jenny Wilson
on  August 21, 2016

With its long naval tradition and convenient location, it is no surprise that Croatia has garnered a reputation as a great sea-faring nation. Modern tourists can take advantage of this with Croatia sailing holidays; many generations previously, this pastime found favour with explorers. Amongst the most famous of these is the great Marco Polo, but what is the Croatia connection?

Sailing in Croatia - Explore the nation's naval past

Marco Polo was a Venetian explorer born sometime in 1254. Whilst many believe he was born in Venice, other suggested locations include Constantinople, now Istanbul, and the Croatian island of Korcula. This may not be as far-fetched as it sounds, as many islands in Croatia exhibit solid evidence of Venetian influence thanks to the influx of merchants that passed by on this trading route.

Marco’s family were certainly frequent passengers along the various routes as part of their family shipping business. It seems that young Marco joined the family firm and ventured all over the world in search of new opportunities and experiences.

On the island of Korcula is a house said to be where he was born, with a museum dedicated to his life and stunning views across the island. This claim is fiercely contested by the Italians, who naturally claim him as one of their own. What cannot be disputed is that Marco was captured during the Korcula naval war and thrown into a Genoese prison. Here he wrote a book about his travels to China, entitled Million. Far more well known, however, is the book he wrote in conjunction with his cellmate, the author Rustichello, which became known as The Travels of Marco Polo. This manuscript offered an insight into the previously unknown world of Asia and went on to inspire many other explorers, including Columbus.

Both the manuscript’s provenance and the claims in it are hard to verify; for example, whilst it mentions Chinese cultural elements such as paper money, charcoal and ceramic production, others such as the Great Wall of China are omitted. Whether Marco Polo really did have all these great adventures or simply relayed tales he had heard in the docks nearer to home, there is no denying the impact he had both on naval exploration and the humble island of Korcula.

See Croatia in a new light - Sailing into discovery

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