Written by Sandor, HU
The night was dragging on very slowly in the prison cell, after the day’s interrogation Marco Polo couldn’t sleep. „To accuse me that I made up everything about that wonderful country, China, about the people there, the richness of the land, their likable and useful products, the colourful charade of their clothes, the nicely shaped roofs of the pagodas! How can one make up things like that? Where would those pictures come to one’s head with all the details? Was it worth to withstand the storm of the seas, endless journeys through deserts, attacks of marauders, difficulties and after all of that to get only dishonourable doubts about my words instead of appreciation of my deeds?”
Later, he even didn’t notice, his eyes closed, and a dream immediately grabbed him away. There was everything in full lights when he stepped out to the streets of Venice. Big crowds of people everywhere, whirling around in carnival mood, the gondolier were singing joyfully, so Marco Polo’s dress didn’t’ invite any attention.
MARCO POLO, he noticed his name in a fancy travel shop window: at the posters there big crowds of European and Chinese people walked on the Great Wall. „My God, how is it possible? On the Great Wall? A trip to China under my name? He took his time to browse about all the travelling possibilities: to the gardens of Hangzhou and Suzhou, the skyscrapers in Shanghai. On the pictures smiling Chinese crowds encircled foreign children, European tourists with their T-shirts inscribed in Italian, French, German, Hungarian and English, were buying souvenirs at crowded street markets.
Pressing himself to the wall he gave way to a Chinese tourist group walking by chit-chatting joyfully. „What happened? Did we move to China and them to us?” He realized that a nice smell was reaching his nostrils, his mouth moistened, while he remembered the delicious meals what had been served during his stay in the Chengde summer residence of the Emperor. Going around the next corner he indeed noticed a small restaurant, under the pompous name „Imperial Delicacies” with Chinese employees, red lanterns, carved dragons inside of it. „Do you realize who I am?” The stunned waiters looked at him flabbergasted when he told his name. „And I am even acquainted with your Emperor.” The Chinese waiters met this declaration with a big laugh, they friendly pushed his shoulder, than forced him to sit down and served him a big bowl of hot and sour soup. During his walk he discovered many Chinese goods in the numerous small shops. At the same time he could see many glossy advertisements, shot in Beijing, Guangzhou, Xian or at many other locations in China showing European cars, computers, refrigerators, cognacs or the offers from different air companies.
It was the first time for him to see airplanes, cars, or the Shanghai magnetic railway on those glossy photos, and although he didn’t understand anything about them he realized that with the help of those miraculous machines the people can get everywhere very fast. „Distance, glass marble of the skies, you will achieve in all your ways”. He read the words of a Hungarian poet in a bookshop window. It is not necessary any more to travel half a year with caravans on the Silk Road it seemed to him very obvious. And what if he would take a trip to China again in one of those flying machines? If only he had money, he would not hesitate a moment! What can one do, without money one couldn’t get far in his days, and this is not different in that new world.
On the wall of an old, but nicely reconstructed building he could see a shiny copper table: Chinese language courses for beginners and advanced learners. Marco Polo entered the building through its ancient door and he found himself in a big hall. There were sitting about fifty people, old, mid-aged and young, following with attention the explanations of the Chinese teacher. The teacher addressed herself to the stranger. Ni hao! Marco Polo understood the greeting and he returned it in Chinese.
The key was turning loudly in the lock, the door opened with a noise; the prison guard came in stamping on the ground heavily. Marco Polo looked up yet half asleep at the unfriendly appearance, he was squeezing his eyes, for a moment he didn’t realize where he was. „Oh, that was only a dream.”
The prison guard took him out from the cell, and groaned on him roughly. Go! You better pretend to be alive!
„So I saw a dream. But what a dream! Better to name it not a dream, but a journey to the future, which was never done by anyone before me. And yes, I indeed saw China, bowed my head in front of The Emperor. I created the possibility of future trade between my homeland and China, that far away empire. And I could see in my dream that in the future wonderful things will happen, we Europeans and the Chinese will travel to each other easily. As the mutual trade and knowledge about each other will grow, the mutual respect and understanding will expand as well.”
Marco Polo straightened himself, he felt growing determination inside himself, and a faint smile appeared in the corners of his mouth as he listened to the hard voice of the investigator.
Accused Marco Polo, you are facing serious accusations. In case of an honest confession, revealing your lies, you still can turn around your fate. So what will it be, accused? Will you withdraw your statements about that alleged journey to that so called China?
The traveller stood erect and looked straight into the eyes of the investigator: I shall not withdraw anything from what I said. Everything had happened exactly in the way as I recounted them for you. I shall not change even a word in my confession. Europe and China will meet in the future.