Italy - Milan Worlds Fair

by Kimp 20. October 2015 09:08

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Travel in Italy

Rule #1: Never ask an Italian for direction's in Italy.

Rule #2: Rule #1 probably applies outside of Italy as well.

Italian's provide the world's best service. They focus and pride themselves on hosting people and functions. Yet they give directions that would confuse a person who knows exactly where it is. I would rather be lost, then try to figure them out. They point in a direction that you can't really travel, but provides more than one option, and their distance judgement is very general and generally way off.

They will use terms like, "It's just ten minutes.". Yea, maybe ten minutes if you are ridding a bike at full speed, you know all of the short cuts and don't have to stop for any traffic.

Here is an example:

Ask the hotel concierge. Oh, it's easy, just 2 kilometer's (about 1 mile) away. You got out here (he is pointing between two door's, the side door and the main door on different side of the building), turn left, go down a little way's, turn right and it's 10 minutes walk from there. You will see it on the last turn.

This is one of the closest hotels to the Expo grounds, certainly these are good directions. I am confident that they are fully prepared for that question. If it were the least bit difficult, they would have prepared a map, to hand out.

Go outside of the hotel, get confused after only 5 minutes. Ma'am, would you happen to know how to get to the Expo. Surely she sees that I am on foot. Sure, it's right there. She is pointing directly at a building. I go around the building and there's a river on the other side. It looks like it might be over the water, but the only bridge in sight, in either direction, looks like a bridge for an Autobahn (Interstate highway). No clue how to get over there on foot.

Sir could you tell me how to cross that river. Sure, as he points in about three different direction's and say's; it's easy, only 10 minutes. After I walked away, I'm replaying the directions in my head and wondering; Was the first direction he pointed the general direction ? Or was he using his hands to trace the route while he was talking? Or does he maybe just talk with his hands and the motions are meaningless? Three dead end's, lots of confusion, back tracking twice, one miracle turn onto a road that happened to go around a bend where I could finally see the crossing, and 60 minutes later I am about to cross the bridge. 15 minutes after crossing the bridge I am finally there. Sure enough, it was just on the other side.

On my way back I take the shortest route and it's still 45 minutes walk at a decent pace, and requires 4 turns.

Getting Smarter
I get back to the hotel and I decide to sign up for the shuttle service the next day. It is by reservation only. A small fee, but I was told by the young women as the reception desk that they drop me off right in front. She made it sound like it was perfect. So I quickly signed up. Surely this is the best option.

Turns out the close entrance that I went in the day before was only for Taxi's and tour buses and probably required a permit that had to be paid for. The Hotel didn't purchase a permit for that entrance, because they decided it was better to take people to the extremely crowded main entrance and drop them off in a free area a 5 minute walk away.

The drive was 30 minutes, cause their were a bunch of one way streets and a bunch of traffic. The hotel crammed many people into the shuttle. It was hot, smelled, and very uncomfortable. Not to mention that the lack of leg room was killing my knee. Turns out the main entrance is a very long walk from the actual expo grounds. No good area to put a huge parking lot close, so they put it far away and built a 3 kilometer (1.6 mile) elevated walkway to the grounds. This walk was probably about as long as the walk from the hotel to the back gate, only jam packed full of people. It was covered on all four sides and felt claustrophobic as well.

Graduating to Wizardry

The third day, I decided the walk from the hotel to back gate was definitely the best option, other then a cab with the proper permit. I didn't want to take the chance on hiring a cab that was going to take me to the front gate inside of the back gate.

One day I'll adhere to both rule 1 and 2.


The idea for world's fairs comes from the French tradition of having national exhibitions.

They became truly national during the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800's to early 1900's, when countries were interested in showcasing their industrial products, to promote world trade, and use of their products. 

Two of the big ones in that era were: 

The Paris Expo of 1889 which proved that steel could be used to build very large structures, like the Eiffel Tower.

The Chicago Expo of 1893 that introduced electricity to the masses and the world's first Ferris Wheel (nearly 300 ft tall and each car held 60 people). This also promoted entertainment with a separate section that was an amusement park.

The 1940 New York World's fair changed the theme from industry focused to showcasing different cultures. For me, this era would have been the best.

The 1988 Exposition in Brisbane Australia, changed the focus, to nation's showcasing their national images.

China first entered when they hosted the 2010 Expo, and their first exhibit outside of Asia was at the Milan Expo 2015.

Today, Expo's are hosted about every 3 years, and they usually run from May till October, when held in the Northern Hemisphere.

Milan Expo 2015

The theme for this years expo was "Feeding the World". 

This was a great one to go to. Being that the focus was on food, many countries brought their local talent to the table. Lots of great tasting, truly authentic food in many pavilion's. At the bottom of the culinary scale where several counties, who in my opinion, didn't quite understand the theme. Many where in the middle area, kind of good but nothing special. At the top end of the scale was Slovakia. Oh man, they brought the finest chef in the world. After eating in their restaurant, I didn't even want to eat anywhere else. That chef cooked heavy meats that most wouldn't even touch, and he did an exemplary job. This wasn't the type of meal that one eats while sipping a fine wine. This is the type that goes perfectly with cold beer, and being one of the countries who invented beer, they knew just what kind to serve with it.The quality and attention to detail was immaculate.

The main food court area, hosted by Italy, was called "Eataly". What a great play on words. Eataly is also the name of a company, so maybe they sponsored it, not really sure. 

The United States pavilion was in in the middle tier. They kind of got the theme, but really didn't put enough thought nor preparation into it. The first thing that upset me was that the architect disgraced the American Flag on the main facade, by changing the stars into a Plate with a fork and knife beside it. There are some things that are always "out of bounds", and to me, this is one of them. At the time I was there, I was recovering from a very serious knee injury and the US pavilion's main display was on the second floor. There was a running escalator that exited on the second floor, but the staff would not let me use it. There was also a working elevator, with the same result. The only entrance they would let me take, were the stairs, which on the entrance side were at a nice and gentle slope, which wasn't too bad. The exit side,however, was very steep and I was struggling the whole way down. They are lucky that there wasn't a medial emergency on those stairs.

Once I got to the display floor, it was a huge disappointment. They tried to use modern interactive technology to show how growing some agricultural items, are needed, to produce other agricultural items. Such as growing feed in one area, is then shipped and feed to cows to make beef. I can picture 10 mindless executives sitting around a conference room table, watching one brilliant sales dude demonstrate this, and imagine that they probably thought this was a great idea. The problem was, in production, there were so many people crowded around the technology, just messing with it, that it was impossible to grasp the educational concept of anything. To me it looked more like forty 3-year old's, all scribbling on the same canvas, at the same time.

At the bottom of he USA pavilion was a theater with a cartoon clip that may have done a good job at promoting the theme, but I skipped that because the line was very long and it looked to commercial from the outside. I was skeptical, that it was going to be more about entertainment then education.

For the most part, wealthy countries all had creative pavilions that came close to hitting the mark, exhibiting either what they currently contribute to world agriculture or what they envision for the future. I didn't have any problems using the elevators at any other pavilions. Yes sir, I can see you aren't walking to well, do you need any help in the elevator?

Before I attended I was excited to see what some of the middle African countries were going to offer. One of them was the Democratic Republic of the Condo. A very rough country, but there is a lot of agricultural potential there and I was hoping they were going to bring something exciting the table. They didn't even show up. They had one of the cheapest pavilion's, basically a small room in a building shared between many countries. Their door was closed.  Many other African countries were in the same area, and they exhibited some of their products, a little of their culture, and had someone available to answer questions. Cuba had a similar pavilion space and they brought a lot of liquor products and exhibited a party like atmosphere. Not much in it, but I kind of found myself favoring the happy atmosphere.

Someone (probably large companies) sponsored several college professor's, who gave educational exhibits. I went to an English speaking one about caffeine, and an Italian speaking one that was about the coca bean and making of chocolate products. These were more just to sit down for a while, but I found them educational as well. Italy did a great job of provided lots of comfortable seating. Have no clue who the designers of their seating were, but everybody could use them. These were very comfortable large seats, strategically placed and used by a lot of people.  

I was at this Expo in mid May, about two weeks after it started. At that time, probably 30% of the pavilions were still being worked on. Either not open at all, or only sections of them were open. The saddest was Nepal. Their pavilion looked beautiful on the outside, but it was closed due to the Kathmandu earthquake. There was a box for donations and many people were donating. That was a solemn and humbling experience.   Every time I here Kathmandu, I think of the powerful Bob Seger song Katmandu, where he talks about just getting away for a while and going there. in the 60's it was thought of as a gateway, where people go to get away from western culture, find themselves, and start a new beginning.

The country that completely knocked it out of the beauty park was Iran. Beautiful display of their multitude of agriculture products and they brought some of their awesome old school Persian culture with them. Persian music really has a lot of emotion in it. I've heard many tales of the hippy days when hippies would hitch hike across Europe, crossing Turkey, Iran, India and ending up in Kathmandu Nepal, which was at the far end of the Hippy trail. How great would it be, if that were still possible. Iran is a hidden treasure, yearning to be once again peaceful, and open for the whole world to enjoy.

Australia had the exhibit that nailed the theme perfectly. They focused on preservation and the best use of Oxygen and Water. The two elements, besides the sun that all agriculture needs.

Germany had the most artistic architectural design that hit the mark. It was called the field of ideas. They were promoting future ideas and brought the shapes of the outdoors to architecture. The USA did a good job of showing vertical gardens that might be used one day. Their pavilion had large vertical panels that moved as the sun does. They could be planted, maintained and harvested without a lot of machinery. The panel movement, also let natural light into the building. Not the most aesthetically pleasing, but actually functional. Several pavilion's had agriculture on their outsides, but it was dark on the inside and was more for appearances then function.

China created their first exhibit outside of Asia. Very beautiful from the exterior, and their interior display was OK, but not nearly as nice as I was expecting. They missed the mark, by going more for technology, then agriculture. Ok entertainment value, but not much educational value.

This was a nice experience and I had a good time, but probably will not go to another one, unless it close. Too many different things going on all at once, it was too crowded and the lines were too long for what I was waiting in line for.

Cirque Du Soleil had an outdoor show nightly show at the Expo, that I had tickets to. But my knee was not in the best of shape at that time. It was a long walk to get there from outside of the Expo grounds. I spent all morning and some of the afternoon walking the large expo grounds, went back to my hotel for a nap, planning to return in the evening for the show, but decided it was too far to walk back to see the show, so I skipped it.     

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9/8/2016 9:05:24 PM #

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