The Milan Expo is an $800 million extravaganza hosting around 130 pavilions meant to showcase the country’s technology advances and the steps it has taken to help solve the problem of sustainability and feeding the world. I was left awed and underwhelmed various times throughout the day. In quite a few places I found it hard to see how the country’s pavilion related to the theme. Though, if I was to be completely honest, most people don’t go for the technology. They go for the food.
I tackled the Expo in one day with a set of five must visit places and left the rest up to randomization. If you have just one day to explore the Expo, I don’t recommend this method because I missed some amazing pavilions, including Japan, Russia and Austria.
I traveled to 14 countries in under 8 hours. Here’s a list of the pavilions that oohed me and those that were let downs and made me say aww.
The doors open and you are handed a free Biscoff cookie. As you nibble on the delicious snack, you follow the smell of chocolate up a ramp. At the top are chocolatiers creating chocolate masterpieces like a chocolate bust of Julius Caesar.
The Belgium chocolate is reasonably priced and made for a great bus-ride-back snack. As you continue around the ramp, you find yourself under the chocolate shop and staring at weird wheels of plants and fish tanks.
These aquaponics, an innovative ecosystem combining plants and fish, is just one of the farming systems on display in Belgium.
2. Switzerland Already down to the third story (out of four), the Switzerland towers showcase the greediness of people and the effects of greed on limited resources. While inside, looking up you can see the elevator platform for the upper story. I felt a sense of amazement at how much of the resources were already used. I learned this was because people were taking 10 plus items from each tower when they came through becuase the goods are free. The coffee, apple, and water (where you get a free cup) are about to lose another story. The salt tower on the other hand is shrinking slower.
Outside of the towers, Switzerland has three other exhibits, my favorite being the water-themed exhibition by the cantons of Graubünden, Ticino, Uri and Valais. (It had amazing photographs.)
3. Tree of Life
I saw the performance during the day. With its water works, catchy songs and colorful special effects it was an attention grabbing performance. Or, it would have been if I hadn’t been able to grab one of the spinning top chairs that surround the tree. Those required my full focus and were so much fun!
Catching glimpses of the show while spinning, I think, is the perfect way to enjoy the show. Though I’m sure at night when everything is lit up it may be even prettier. Add the world spinning as you enjoy the night show from the spinning top chair and it would be a party.
Out of all the pavilions I explored, I could actually see the theme prominently displayed throughout the entire Germany exhibit. One could easily spend hours inside because it was so interactive from digitized shopping market to bee themed games.
Like a playground, everything was touchable in the exhibit as the process from the sources of food to consumption. I consumed flour and barley in the form of a German pretzel and beer.
Also worth mentioning are the mini pancakes from the Netherlands.
The sweet combination of fluffy pancakes, Nutella and powdered sugar coated my taste buds and left me wanting more of the child-like snack. While the child-like atmosphere of the Netherlands was refreshing, I was let down by the child-sized Ferris wheel and funhouse mirror maze.
Brazil also would have made it on my list if I could have done the net at night. In the daylight you cannot get the full experience of the ambient lighting that is triggered by sensors.
I heard the sounds, got a laugh out of watching others fall and about had a heart attack when a dad carried his one year old across the net, but I was missing the lights.
Not impressed. The line took so long I was able to watch an older woman, an extremely slow eater, eat a 3-dip gelato cone from start to finish. After the long wait I was let down by the lack of interaction or even interestingness of the exhibit. Also, if you get there in time to view the show in the Harmony exhibit, DON’T! Days later I’m still not sure what the point of the video was and believe me I’ve been trying to figure it out.
Small and foodless this pavilion was a disappointment. Plus, there was no Irish culture performance going on, which is what I was looking forward to. I looked for a schedule of performances times but couldn’t find one.
If you are just trying to see as many countries as possible, especially one’s you didn’t even know existed, I recommend Belarus. All it really is a large turning wheel meant to be a personification of human thought. It takes a total of five minutes to walk through the center of the exhibit. Though, if you dance to the catchy beats coming from Malaysia, it takes more like eight minutes.
Dodge the upstairs restaurant because they don’t have what I consider Mexican food. There were no burritos, tacos or tamales on the menu instead it had things like octopus and steaks. Instead, grab some tacos from their bar, it is right behind the Mexico sign, but be warned I found them to be crazy spicy! Thank goodness for the Corona I’d bought earlier. The exhibit itself was focused more on looking, not touching. As you follow the ramps you’ll see a show of products that Mexico has given to the world.
Biggest aww: Tomato gelato. I learned quickly just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Tomatoes were not meant to be frozen. They were giving free samples and I have a hard time turning down free stuff. That might now have changed because the gelato tasted like frozen ketchup. Not a good taste to end the evening on.
Belgium: chocolate and beer- 9 euros
Germany: beer and pretzel-7.50 euros
Mexico: tacos and Corona- 10 euros
Netherlands: mini pancakes- 5 euros