Saturday, June 27, 2015

EXPO Milano 2015!

It was finally the big day: EXPO Milano 2015! We headed to Milan, Italy’s sweet looking Central Station bright and early.

The EXPO’s theme was "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life." which was lucky because we like to eat. There were several pavilions sponsored by the EXPO itself and some by companies, but the vast majority were sponsored by countries. Countries who wanted to pay could have a massive building but many of the smaller countries like Haiti or San Marino had much smaller one room things that were gathered in clusters. There was so much to see!

We had done our research ahead of time to make best use of our limited time and energy, and had a short list of the countries that had the most notable pavilions. The countries unfortunately didn’t seem to be in any real order, so we had to check the map incessantly to figure out where to go. Brazil was on our list and was close by so we headed on over. The line was pretty nasty and it was smack in the sun. The main walkway was mercifully covered but the individual countries usually weren’t. I balked. I thought maybe if we headed to the opposite end of the grounds then there’d be shorter lines because it was farther from the entrance. Makes sense right?

Today was Kazakhstan day at the EXPO so there was a lot of hoopla by their pavilion. Looked like some sort of dignitaries from there were visiting. 

We went into Lindt's little pavilion. Lydia was mad when there were no free samples.

We popped into the US which had no line at all and looked around. There was a cool video speech about the EXPO from President Obama which I thought was fun. At this point I’d been out of the US for a month so it was actually kind of nice to get a shot of freedom before continuing.

We visited Vietnam which was also respectable but didn’t have any crazy show or anything so there wasn’t a line.

Egypt was pretty amusing especially as we had just been there in real life. I had more interest in the pavilions of countries that I hadn’t been to yet, which made me think about the sustainability of my goal to see every country. Once I’ve been everywhere will I even want to go to world’s fairs? Of course! What a stupid idea, inner self.

We stumbled upon the World Expo Museum Pavilion and I may be a nerd but I liked that a lot. They had the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889 where the Eiffel Tower was unveiled and the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 where the Ferris Wheel made its debut (and which was featured in the book Devil in the White City which is friggin awesome). They showed St. Louis’ own Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 which I’ve been learning a lot about here and there.

Flag of Chicago, Illinois.svg
Fun Chicago Fact Alert: One of the stars on Chicago's municipal flag symbolizes the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and another star symbolizes the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933. Chicago is serious about its world's fairs.

Lydia was a good sport and watched the little video about Aichi, Japan’s 2005 expo that I attended back in the day. Plus Japan in Italian is Giappone which is hilarious. I unfortunately must say that I think the Aichi fair was better. They had some pretty mind blowing stuff there. In particular I remember going to a thing where you put your head into this box with a scanner in it that took a 3D picture of your face. Then you watched this cool CGI movie where your face is pretty believably on one of the characters. I remember being kind of freaked out by my dude speaking Japanese so well. Anyway, it was cool. Reminiscence completed.

They gave us these free fans which I appreciated because it was friggin hot out.

We decided it was time to make a stand and get in a darn line at the Vanke Pavilion that looked kinda cool on the outside. After waiting in the brutal heat though the presentation inside needed to be glorious, which it was not. To be fair it was kinda cool though. It was like a mashup of clips showing the bustle of Chinese city life juxtaposed with the sereneness of a family sharing a meal. Poetic. After such a solid performance at Milan EXPO 2015 I can tell you that Vanke truly is a company that does something somewhere.

But poetry don’t pay the bills people. We wanted robots and we wanted them now. We headed to a pavilion that was actually sponsored by the supermarket that saved us in Switzerland: Coop. This was billed as the supermarket of the future, and was pretty damn cool. The produce section had these screens everywhere and when you motioned your hand over the oranges the screen would show all sorts of information about them like origin and nutritional information. I could see an Xbox One behind the shiny glass so I’d say that’s what was powering the motion detection.

The most fun thing in the store was also the most ridiculous: these awesome robot arms were whipping around but their job was putting one or two apples into these little boxes. Apples work just fine outside of boxes but it was still fun watching them do their job.

Not only was this Coop awesome, but it was still a functioning store, and the prices were normal! They had bottles of San Pellegrino for like 50 cents! We came back to this place like 5 times.

In a nearby building they continued the theme with a kitchen of the future! I think you were supposed to tell your fridge what recipe you wanted to cook and your fridge would know what food you had and it would just order the rest for you. Presumably the fridge would ask why I don’t eat more vegetables.

Now only idiots would actually go to the store in future, so lastly I tried on this virtual reality headset and pretend ordered some groceries. It was funny because it wasn’t even a virtual store setting but like a farm with video game cows and chickens walking around. Future!

How much is this cow I'm holding?!

The UK's pavilion had something to do with bees.

Lydia was excited about the nutella area.

They had a cool thing where you could print a custom label for your nutella and they even had Lydia's name! She was happy.

I want to say this was.. Poland? It was a presentation on how all museums should be from now on, with cool little infographs popping up next to the respective artifact.

I don't remember what this was but it was good.

We took a nice long break in the shade before continuing. Fun can be hard work.

At this point the lines seemed to be dying down so we hit some of the more popular countries. South Korea was one of my favorites.

It took the whole "food technology" theme seriously which I appreciated. This is supposed to represent how we are all fatties.

At the same time many people are hungry. Also their trees are all exploded.

There was a pretty cool little presentation with robot arms (yay) that whipped these two tv screens around and pretty much presented kimchi as the solution to the world's problems. I like kimchi so that's fine by me.

We made our way back to the beginning where we skipped out on the Brazil pavilion. This time the line was way shorter which made me feel better about my strategizing.

Angola's pavilion was surprisingly awesome. I want to say they were the only sub-Saharan country present.

Angola was highlighting the roles of women in their country which was admirable but a few times ended up being hilarious. This lady's little intro read "woman chess player". I tried to describe to Lydia the rules of woman chess but she wouldn't listen.

I'm pretty sure it was in the Dutch area but there was a little cafe where the seats were in a damn Ferris wheel. Best idea ever?

We bumped into more dignitaries who of course had to block everything off.

I was surprised to see Vatican City with a pavilion.

They were giving away free magnets with Papa Francesco on them. Yoink!

Switzerland had some sort of a thing where there were towers of resources like apples that people could take for free but there was only so much for the whole fair and once it was gone it was gone. It was supposed to teach people about caring for resources or sharing. Something silly like that.

Instead we taught this fondue how to get eaten. Boom!

A big thing that we were excited about later in the day was the Cirque du Soleil show ALLAVITA! that was created just for the EXPO. We may have bought the cheapest tickets available but we still had pretty decent seats. Cirque shows are usually pretty easy to understand the plot (when there is one) but I must admit I was completely lost. There was this evil looking guy in one scene, and another scene had a giant plant monster thing that was controlled by puppeteers. I don't know what I was watching but it was pretty cool.

After the show the pavilions had transformed into their nighttime themes with lots of cool lights. It was bittersweet because everything now looked really cool but most of it was closed. We strolled a bit to give the show crowds time to go home then we followed suit.

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