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on a snowy Marco Polo

Marco Polo is one of  the most well-known  heroic travelers and traders
around the world.  In my paper I will discuss with you Marco Polos
life, his travels, and his visit to China to see the great Khan.
Marco Polo was born in c.1254 in Venice.  He was a Venetian explorer
and merchant whose account of his travels in Asia was the primary source
for the European image of the Far East until the late 19th century.
Marco's father, Niccol, and his uncle Maffeo had traveled to China
(1260-69) as merchants.  When they left (1271) Venice to return to
China, they were accompanied by 17-year-old Marco and two priests.
Early Life
Despite his enduring fame, very little was known about the personal
life of Marco Polo.  It is known that he was born into a leading
Venetian family of merchants.  He also lived during a propitious time in
world history, when the height of Venices influence as a city-state
coincided with the greatest extent of Mongol conquest of Asia(Li Man Kin
9).  Ruled by Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire stretched all the way from
China to Russia and the Levant.  The Mongol hordes also threatened other
parts of Europe, particularly Poland and Hungary, inspiring fear
everywhere by their bloodthirsty advances.  Yet the ruthless methods
brought a measure of stability to the lands they controlled, opening up
trade routes such as the famous Silk Road.  Eventually ,the Mongols
discovered that it was more profitable to collect tribute from people
than to kill them
outright, and this policy too stimulated trade(Hull 23).
Into this favorable atmosphere a number of European traders ventured,
including the family of Marco Polo.  The Polos had long-established ties
in the Levant and around the Black Sea: for example, they owned property
in Constantinople, and Marcos uncle, for whom he was named, had a home
in Sudak in the Crimea(Rugoff 8).  From Sudak, around 1260, another
uncle, Maffeo, and Marcos father, Niccol, made a trading visit into
Mongol territory, the land of the Golden Horde(Russia), ruled by Berke
Khan.  While they were there, a war broke out between Berke and the
Cowan of Levant , blocking their return home.  Thus Niccol and Maffeo
traveled deeper into mongol territory, moving southeast to Bukhara,
which was ruled by a third Cowan.  While waiting there, they met an
emissary traveling farther eastward who invited them to accompany him to
the court of the great Cowan, Kublai, in Cathay(modern China).  In
Cathay, Kublai Khan gave the Polos a friendly reception,  appointed them
his emissaries to the pope, and ensured their safe travel back to
Europe(Steffof 10).  They were to return to Cathay with one hundred
learned men who could instruct the Mongols in the Christian religion and
the liberal arts.
In 1269, Niccol and Maffeo Polo arrived back in Venice, where Niccol
found out his wife had died while he was gone(Rugoff 5).  Their son,
Marco, who was only about fifteen years old, had been only six or
younger when his father left home:thus; Marco was reared primarily by
his mother and the extended Polo family-and the streets of Venice.
After his mothers death, Marco had probably begun to think of himself
as something of a orphan(Rugoff 6).  Then his father and uncle suddenly
reappeared, as if from the dead, after nine years of traveling in
far-off, romantic lands.  These experiences were the formative
influences on young Marco, and one can see their effects mirrored in his
character: a combination of sensitivity and toughness, independence and
loyalty, motivated by an eagerness for adventure, a love of stories, and
a desire to please or impress(Li Man Kin 10).
Lifes Work
In 1268, Pope Clement IV died, and a two- or three-year delay while
another pope was being elected gave young Marco time to mature and to
absorb the tales of his father and uncle.  Marco was seventeen years old
when he, his father and uncle finally set out for the court of Kublai
Khan(Stefoff 13).  They were accompanied not by one hundred wise men but
by two Dominican friars, and the two good friars turned back at the
first sign of adversity, another local war in the Levant.  Aside from
the popes messages, the only spiritual gift Europe was able to furnish
the great Kublai Khan was oil from the lamp burning at Jesus Christs
supposed tomb in Jerusalem.  Yet, in a sense, young Marco, the only new
person in the Polos party, was himself a fitting representative of the
spirit of European civilization on the eve of the Renaissance, and the
lack of one hundred learned Europeans guaranteed ... more

on a snowy

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Ecuador

Ecuador
is a developing country. Travelers to the capital city of Quito may require some
time to adjust to the altitude (close to 10,000 feet), which can adversely
affect blood pressure, digestion and energy level. Tourist facilities are
adequate, but vary in quality. Introduction Epithet after epithet was found too
weak to convey to those who have not visited the intertropical regions, the
sensations of delight which the mind experiences.--- Charles Darwin If an
argumentative group of travelers sat down to design a shared destination, they
would be hard put to come up with a place that would best Ecuador. Packed like a
knee-cap between Peru and Colombia, Ecuador contains within its borders an
improbable variety of landscape and culture. For the mountaineer, it is bisected
by an epic stretch of the northern Andes. For the jungle explorer, there is a
biological mother lode within the Amazonian Oriente. The sea-minded are rewarded
with miles of Pacific coastline, to say nothing of the living wonders of the
Galapagos Islands. Not only are these regions highly defined, but excluding
Galapagos they are also wonderfully contiguous. The entire country is about the
size of Washington state, and it is home to some of the world's most
extraordinary national parks. In a matter of two hundred miles, the traveler can
penetrate all of the mainland's defining regions--the coastal lowlands in the
West, the volcanic central highlands, and the rainforests of the East, or
Oriente. Ecuador's climate is equally generous to the traveler. Embracing the
Pacific, Ecuador rests squarely on the equator (hence its name). Here, seasons
are defined more by rainfall than temperature. A warm rainy season lasts from
January to April, and May through December is characterized by a cooler, drier
period that is ideally timed for a summer trip. History & Culture Ecuador's
culture and history mirrors the diversity of its landscape. Like much of South
America, Ecuadorian culture blends the influences of Spanish colonialism with
the resilient traditions of pre-Columbian peoples. Archaeologists trace the
first inhabitants as far back as 10,000 BC, when hunters and gatherers
established settlements on the southern coast and in the central highlands. By
3,200 BC three distinct agricultural-based civilizations had emerged, producing
some of the hemisphere's oldest known pottery. They developed trade routes with
nearby Peru, Brazil, and Amazonian tribes. Culture continued to thrive and
diversify, and by 500 BC large cities had been established along the coast.
Their inhabitants had sophisticated metalworking and navigational skills and
they traded with Mexico's Maya. In 1460 AD, when the Inca ruler Tupac-Yupanqui
invaded from the south, three major tribes in Ecuador were powerful enough to
give him a fight: the Canari, the Quitu, and the Caras. The Inca were a dynamic,
rapidly advancing society. They originated in a pocket of Peru, but established
a vast empire within a century. It dominated Peru and extended as far as Bolivia
and central Chile. The Inca constructed massive, monumental cities. To
communicate across their empire they laid wide, stone-paved highways thousands
of kilometers long and sent chains of messengers along them. These mailmen
passed each other records of the empire's status, which were coded in system of
knots along a rope. A winded runner could even rest in the shade of trees
planted along both sides of the road. Remarkably, the Canari, Quitu, and Caras
were able to hold back Tupac-Yupanqui, though they proved less successful
against his son, Huayna Capac. After conquering Ecuador, Huayna Capac
indoctrinated the tribes to Quechua, the language of the Incas, which is still
widely spoken in Ecuador. In celebration of his victory, Huayna Capac ordered a
great city to be built at Tomebamba, near Cuenca. Its size and influence rivaled
the capital of Cuzco in Peru--a rivalry that would mature with posterity. When
he died in 1526, Huayna Capac divided the empire between his two sons, Atahualpa
and Huascar. Atahualpa ruled the northern reaches from Tombebamba, while Huascar
held court over the south from Cuzco. The split inheritance was an
unconventional and fateful move, as the first Spaniards arrived in the same
year. On the eve of Pizarro's expedition into the empire, the brothers entered
into a civil war for complete control. Francisco Pizarro landed in Ecuador in
1532, accompanied by 180 fully armed men and an equally strong lust for gold.
Several years earlier, Pizarro had made a peaceful visit to the coast, where he
heard rumors of inland cities of incredible wealth. This time, he intended to
conquer the Incas just as Hernando Cortez had crushed Mexico's Aztecs--and he
couldn't have picked a better time. ... more

on a snowy

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