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Here, on the morning of 7 September 1298, the Genoese and Venetian fleets confronted each other in the Battle of Curzola (as Korčula was then known). Commanding one of the Venetian ships was Marco Polo, back from his wanderings. The Venetians were confident of their ships and their mariners, but that day it was the Genoese who were victorious. Marco Polo was taken away in chains, and from a jail in Genoa began to write of his 24 years on the road.

Coming around the headland, I can see the last of Croatia’s islands to the south: the whaleback of Mljet, and Lastovo, almost swamped by the sunset. Beyond them is open sea and a flat horizon. This evening it is harder to imagine the horror of a 13thcentury sea battle, the timber-clash and slaughter, than the young Marco, 27 years earlier, filled with the fear and curiosity that begins all great journeys, sailing off between these islands for the Far East.

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The article ‘Sailing in Croatia’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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