Marco Polo is probably one of the most legendary travellers in the history of the Silk Road. What the Venetian merchant described of his journey along the Silk Road to China in the 13th century was considered fiction by many of his contemporaries. In fact, even from today’s perspective, many of the things that Polo described as his own experiences in his book ‘Describing the World’ seem highly questionable
Nevertheless, in his stories he followed the Silk Road, visited the most important cities of the time, crossed the 5000 m high mountain passes of the Pamir, crossed the Taklamakan until he reached the court of the Mongolian ruler Kublai Kahns. These events, some of them very impressive, have already served many an adventurer as a model for his own daring expeditions along what was once the most important trade route between Asia and Europe.
The Swede Sven Hedin is certainly one of the most famous travellers and researchers of all time. In several expeditions he roamed Central Asia along the Silk Road, explored the Taklamakan desert and the mountain ranges of the Pamirs, crossed the unknown and by him first named massif of the Transhimalaya eight times, tried his hand as a mountaineer and explored Tibet, which is forbidden for foreigners.
He immersed himself deeply in the cultures of the individual regions, kept a meticulous diary and developed as an excellent draughtsman. Although he already carried cameras with him on his expeditions, he published only handmade sketches in his books. His books belong to the classics of adventure literature.
In 1933, the overland route from Europe to India was covered by motorbike for the first time.
The Tyrolean Max Reisch and his co-pilot Herbert Tichy – later known as the Tibet researcher and first climber of Cho Oyu – were the first to travel on a Puch 250 from Europe to Asia by motorbike.
Puch 250ccm, 6 PS, built 1930 – Photo: A. C. Kranzmayr, Steyr
During their 13,000 km journey, the two adventurers crossed the most dangerous regions of Asia and the Orient with 70 kg of luggage – without any support or security from third parties.
The route ran from VIENNA via Istanbul to Aleppo – on to Baghdad – Tehran – Quetta – Lahore – Delhi and on to Bombay. The return journey to Vienna was by ship via Trieste. Max Reisch documented the journey with a 16mm film camera and later used the film material for lectures and presentations. For him, this trip was the successful start of a series of further adventures in Asia and Africa.