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Travellers of Old Times

It was during Ghengis Khan’s reign, and the empire that followed under his children, that Western travellers made some of their first discoveries of the far east. These were men, who, according to Europeans, had ventured beyond the known world. The most famous of these was Marco Polo. After travelling across central Asia into China he returned with fantastical stories about how silk was made, the strange paper money that the Chinese used, and an almost mythical dynasty run by mounted warriors. All of this was almost beyond belief to Europeans at the time. Although Marco Polo was the most known of these travellers, there were two others who preceded him. Jon of Plano Carpini, and Friar William of Rubruck. set out in the 13th century on separate missions to Mongolia hoping to discover willing Christian converts and carrying messages from their European leaders. There were rumours in Europe that these mounted warriors might even be Christians who would join an alliance with the Europeans against the world of Islam. Both Jon and William set off in caravans of horses, camels, and carts. They were immersed in the world of nomads and constantly overwhelmed by the rigours of their travels. In their written accounts they describe scorching deserts, deathly cold winters, impossibly high mountains, the realities of nomadic life, and the attitude of the Khan leadership. In fact they even met Ghengis Khan’s son, who was ruling from Qaraqroum in Mongolia at the time. Tim’s route at times will be along very similar paths as all three of these men. By making reference to what they encountered it will enrich Tim’s experience and enable him to better understand what has changed in the last 700-800 years.