Until I took my 11 year-old twin girls to see the newest exhibit at Fernbank, they thought Marco Polo was only a game played at the swimming pool! After a brief introduction and timeline of the explorer, we saw items from 13th century Venice, the epicenter of all European trade and the city where the 17 year-old Marco began his trip with his father and uncle.
We followed his route along the Silk Road through Armenia and Persia with displays of maps, artwork and traditional clothing. Our journey continued across Central Asia to the life-sized Mongolian ger, a portable structure in which the nomadic peoples of that time lived. Once inside the circular tent, one of my daughters asked, “Where did they sleep? Where was their kitchen?” She couldn’t believe that an entire family could live in such a small space!
The route then took us to the lush, green mountains of Cathay (now China) as we viewed exquisite silks, brocades and ceramics from Kublai Khan’s Mongol Empire. The exhibit culminates with a golden statue of Marco Polo and replicas of ships used at that time.
Kids will love entering the ger, or yurt, and seeing the small furniture, elaborate rugs and open space for the fire pit. Parents will love the printed guide for children to take through the exhibit and look for various objects along the way. This “scavenger hunt” kept my children’s interest and attention, as well as the “Where’s Marco?” maps showing where we were along the route.
The exhibit is open through Jan. 5.
– Rebecca R. Leffler