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In 1271, when he was just 17 years old, Marco Polo left Venice, Italy for one of the most important adventures in history. He traveled with his father and uncle. They were merchants and had just returned from a trip to the East. With Marco, they traveled to China hoping to again return to Venice with more goods from China to sell.
It took the Polos four years to walk across mountains and deserts to reach China. Their trip took so long that Marco Polo did not return to Venice until he was 41 years old. Marco Polo did keep a journal and told many stories of his travels. 200 years after his return to Venice, Marco Polo's journal was published.
The Polos traveled through the Middle East,India,Asia,and China.His journal and his stories told about the wonders he had seen in the Middle and Far East. He told about China's coal, or "black stones" that the Chinese burned for heat and for cooking fires. Some of his stories tell about what is today the city of Beijing, China. He also told about the Great Kublai Khan, the great ruler of China.
The stories of Marco Polo inspired more European traders to travel by land to Asia. Traders from Western Europe traded grain, cloth, salt, beer, wine, pottery, and bales of woolen and linen cloth for Middle Eastern and Asian goods.
The Italian cities of Venice and Genoa were city states located on the Mediterranean Sea.Their ships could sail along the Mediterranean coast to the Near East. Because they were in such a good location, the two cities controlled trade with the Middle East.
Because the Italian city states of Venice and Genoa had become so wealthy, Portugal and Spain became very interested in finding an all-water route to Asia, They hoped such a route would help them become rich on trade with Asia.