EuroTrippin’: Milan (Part 6) – World Expo IV

We last left off this story with me deciding that going down each pavilion at the Milan Expo one-by-one was not effective and that I just needed to target specific buildings from now on, but you already knew that since you read these posts in order, right?

I skipped over Moldova, Lithuania, Belarus, Malaysia, Thailand, and Uruguay and wound up at the CHINA pavilion. I never actually got to go to the China pavilion in Shanghai, so I lined up and hoped that it wouldn’t take too long to get inside.

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The pavilion was really cool and did commit to the food theme pretty well. There were exhibits showcasing different kinds of teas and Chinese characters for words and phrases such as “animal husbandry”, “fishery”, and “crop cultivation”. There were also these clay sculptures that started out sweet with a little boy playing with some ducks and then depicted the process that eventually led to a family eating said ducks.

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The real highlight of the pavilion was the “Land of Hope”, which was made up of 20,000 artificial wheat straws with LED optical fibers that lit up to create a really impressive light show that basically turned the area into a giant field, among other landscapes.

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There was, of course, a Chinese restaurant at the back of the building, but I skipped that to continue checking out more pavilions.

POLAND, like many other pavilions, randomly had a garden of trees and shrubs to walk through, which eventually led to an area where you could learn about Polish film and textiles or try your hand at basket-making. The only food-related thing that I remember from this pavilion was a small town and train set made almost entirely out of Wedel chocolate.

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I went to NETHERLANDS pavilion next and this one was a lot different from the other country ones that I visited. Rather than having one big building, it consisted of a couple smaller eateries and tents that I think was supposed to resemble a carnival or fair. There was even a mirror maze. I didn’t spend too much time here.

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The pavilion that belonged to FRANCE was nearby, so I got in a line that snaked through a garden made up of fruits and vegetables that are actually grown within the country. There were blackcurrants, sugar beets, apples, cabbages, and more. There were even signs letting you know what region the particular crop could be found in. The inside was pretty cool and was decorated with a lot of pans and wine bottles. It also appeared to be very pro-GMO as there were several signs talking about how genetic selection was for the benefit of mankind and nature.

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From France, I crossed several other country pavilions to reach RUSSIA, which had this large reflective surface towering above the entrance. This pavilion was really interesting and it covered the use of Russian land, particularly to grow wheat, and then delved into both the past and future of Russian progress in food. One area paid tribute to Russian scientists N.I. Vavilov, who bred plants and founded the world’s largest collection of cultivated plant seeds, and Dmitiri Mendeleev, who is most famous for creating the periodic table of elements. There was a room for cooking demos, but I didn’t end up waiting around for a show to start.

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Instead of going to a pavilion I hadn’t been to before, I actually returned to the UNITED STATES pavilion to check out The Great American Foodscape, a “show” that I missed out on when I visited the night before since that area was already closed off to visitors. The Great American Foodscape was essentially a series of animated and live action short videos highlighting different aspects of American food culture, including tradition, artisans, BBQ, Thanksgiving, farm to table, and food-to-go. You had to walk through a hallway from one video screen to the next, timed perfectly to allow each group to shift over to the next video once the previous one had ended. At the end of the hallway was a room where you could see differences in the food produced and the dishes made in different regions around the United States.

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The expo site was going to close in a few hours, so I decided to just go big and choose between checking out Germany or Japan. Both had huge lines, but I believe Japan had already stretched to a three hour wait, while Germany still was in the 90 minute to two hours range. As much as I wanted to see what Japan did (I didn’t even go to the Japan pavilion when I went to the 2010 Expo in Shanghai), I chose Germany since I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t have to rush around the building once I got in.

The line was incredibly long and it was sporadically raining, but it was completely worth it and GERMANY was the best pavilion that I visited during the trip. In fact, Germany’s pavilion was chosen as the best pavilion by Exhibitor magazine and the gold winner of the BIE award for theme development (over 2000 meters). Prior to entering, we were each handed these “seed boards” (which also won Exhibitor magazine’s award for best activity/interactive feature) and were told that we would be able to use them in a variety of ways once we got inside.

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To use the seed boards, you just needed to open it up in a certain area and then bend or turn it in different ways to control what was projected on the pad. Some areas played videos about specific pavilion ambassadors, like Benjamin Adrion, the founder of “Viva con Agua”, or Eckart Brandt, an apple farmer. Another cool area allowed you to put giant versions of different crops on a scale and then use your seed board to learn more about the crop production in Germany. Did you know that every German eats 20.6 kilograms of tomatoes each year? One area even let you put the seed board on replicas of various vegetables, causing them to play out a beat.

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I just loved how interactive this whole pavilion was. There were umbrellas that could be twisted to see the change in climate over the years and several different games to engage people. There was even a show at the end of the pavilion where everyone used the seed boards in various ways (from tapping it to strumming the ridges) to play along. It was just so cool and, for that brief moment in time, it actually also fostered a sense of community between everyone in that room.

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Outside, there was an EDM dance party, because why not?

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I left the pavilion pretty happy and started to head back to the subway station when I noticed the Tree of Life lit up. The TREE OF LIFE is a manmade-structure that probably was one of the core symbols of the expo and stood 37 meters tall, surrounded by a small lake. This was my only opportunity left to take pictures of the tree lit up at night because I was planning on only visiting the expo for a couple hours in the morning on the next day since my flight out of Milan was in the evening. I walked over there, took a couple pictures, and noticed a countdown on an electronic sign nearby.

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Apparently, this timer was counting down to a show that I think happened every hour and there were a lot of people already waiting for it to begin. I found a spot to stand and once the countdown ended, the tree started to change colors and sparkle as music played and the fountains shot up. It was a pretty incredible sight and I hope that the city keeps the Tree of Life as a remnant of the expo, similar to how the Space Needle and the Eiffel Tower still stand in Seattle and Paris, respectively.

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When the show ended, I followed the crowd to the exit. I didn’t have time to pack up my things when I got back to my hostel since everyone was sleeping and the room was already dark, so I just quickly knocked out on my bunk.

Next Post: EuroTrippin’: Milan (Part 7) – World Expo V

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