(Warning: Post Contains Creepy Content)
Is it a palace? As I approach the entrance of the cemetery, lit by bright afternoon sun, I am surprised by the magnificent building. I feel as if I am entering a fancy park, rather than a place where countless bodies are buried.
I am still breathing (somehow) and typing, but mostly different things than blog posts. I accumulated a lot of material over the 3 months absence, and I am starting with the most urgent one:
only 11 days left until EXPO Milan 2015 ends.
If you plan to attend, first of all, let me warn you that the content below the cut might be a spoiler for you as it shows a lot of photos from the pavilions. On the other hand, those who cannot visit EXPO – feel free to skip all of the last-minute advice and go straight for the list and photos.
Without further ado, this is my personal ranking of the top 8 Pavilions:
1 – 2) Japan & Korea
- Showcase both national cuisine and global food issues and how they (can) contribute to alleviate them
- Good balance between amount of information conveyed and multimedia use
- Include a short WOW show
3 – 4) Kazakhstan & UAE
-- Showcase both national asects and global food issues and how they (can) contribute to alleviate them
- Both have really cool movies
- In summer, Kazakhstan had very good queue management with continuous dance and singing performances and cooling fans
5) Fab Food
- (located along Cardo, on the left side if you walk from the central cross with the Tree of Life behind your back)
- Learn about the food industry while playing retro arcade games
- Based on what I saw very much under the radar and might not have horrible queues
6) European Union
- EU is very proactive in terms of food and agriculture regulation and sustainability promotion, but it is normally really bad at conveying it to the citizens. The exhibition is actually the most citizen-friendly way to learn about what are all the laws really good for.
- Features a super cool animation that is nominated for film festival award
- Very engaging real-life show + movie interaction showcasing Israel’s contribution to agricultural development in areas with lack of water.
8) Pavilion Zero
- It is the UN pavilion
- It shows a very strong, visual message about topics such as food prices and food waste
+ Buy your lunch at the
COOP Supermarket of the Future
+ Go watch the Tree of Life at night
This list is definitely subjective – but I have visited every single pavilion at the EXPO and I dare say I have a good knowledge of the EXPO theme. First, the list only includes pavilions that are relevant to the topic of EXPO – food security, sustainability, food-related issues, contribution of the countries to improving the world food system etc. Pavilions acting as tourism ads or simply showcasing national food, even if they were beautiful and popular, couldn’t make it here, because in my opinion the EXPO should have been an opportunity to bring to the attention of global public the giant issues food & agriculture have today, but also show best practices from all over the world to help solve them.
Second, I did not include very content-heavy pavilions either (e.g. Germany, Holland, France) even though they fit the theme perfectly. I think those are amazing for people who are really interested in the topic, maybe even have some background knowledge and have a lot of time. But if you go to EXPO as a regular person, spending most likely just one day there, I don’t think they are the best choice. The pavilions I listed above have one more thing in common (on top of being relevant) – they are all very engaging, have strong visuals, clear message, WOW factors that will rejuvenate you after 3 h in a queue and they will let you leave with an inspirational feeling. And I think ultimately, experiencing a strong message will make you more inspired to get involved than being flooded with facts.
As of last Friday, my parents who went as regular visitors claim that they only managed to visit 4 pavilions despite having a thorough briefing by me about everything. Queues were everywhere, too. As EXPO nears its end, it will most likely become even worse. Supposedly work days are even worse than weekends, but either way, bring a fully charged smartphone, headphones, extra battery or charger, water bottles and snacks (hopefully these will pass through security) to survive hours-long queuing. In summer, the longest queues were for Palazzo Italia (extremely overrated and disappointing based on my experience and my Italian colleagues) and Japan – often 4 hours long.
Buy tickets in advance, arrive one hour before opening time to queue up at the entrance nearest to your must-visit pavilion and then run the moment security opens. Still, you will not be the first in queue – because obviously the employees at EXPO working afternoon shifts will come earlier than you can enter to avoid queues. Before you get mad, most of them (us) are volunteers and thus enjoy this small privilege in exchange for tirelessly assisting visitors for free. So you should merely be prepared for having to wait even if you are the first visitor to enter the area. As for food, I personally think the restaurants at EXPO are overpriced and have long queues too, so I would just get a couple cheap sandwiches/chocolate bars/fruits at COOP. Future supermarket experience at suburb prices. You can eat as you wait in queues. As there is good wifi connection, it is useful to have fully charged phone/tab to kill time. I also suggest not wasting day time by going to see the Tree of Life show – the tree will be there after pavilions already close and I think it is way prettier at night, too. If you need to cross from one end of EXPO to the other, consider taking the EXPO mini bus.
What to bring
For entrance, be prepared for airport-level security. So no knives, liquids might depend on your luck. I suggest bringing an empty water bottle that you ca refill from the free water fountains. Dry food should hopefully be fine. Most queues are outside, so raincoat or umbrella is handy. Comfortable shoes are a must because you will walk and stand a lot. A lot of pavilions tried to make their content selfie-friendly, so a camera phone or a proper camera might be something you would regret not bringing. There are ATMs but I would bring some cash just in case – though the pavilion souvenir shops are really overpriced and especially in Asian pavilions, they are either selling stuff you can buy for 50% less in your neighborhood Asian supermarket, or weird stuff I have never seen on shelves in actual stores there (esp. Korea).