Every five years there is an Expo, which means a country takes it upon itself to attract visitors from all over the world to an exhibition.
This year it is Milan, Italy and the theme is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life'.
Now from a country like Italy you immediately think of delicious meals, pasta, pizza and wine, famous for their deliciousness all over the world.
It's not about that though, not really, of course there is a lot of tempting food available and elegant wine displays but the message is another one. It's all about harmony and balance, feeding the world without harming the environment, making sure that nutritious food is available to all, the impact of farming methods, the importance of farming methods through the ages and onward into the future.
The first pavilion we visited was Oman. You walk through looking at a typical Oman kitchen, a typical Oman family meal and ingredients used in Oman cuisine, then you are shown how they fish, harness water, farm, breed animals, grow crops. Their theme was the importance of water, our most precious commodity. In Oman they harness every drop of water they can, every drop from a monsoon is precious.
So that was my first impression of the Expo, yes food is important but water is even more so.
The Expo is about 1.5kms long and so you have to pace yourself and have a rough idea of what you want to see before you start.
Some of the Pavilions had long queues, very long queues, especially Germany, Israel, Japan and the Emirates.
The next expo will be in Dubai in 2020 so many people were curious to have a preview.
There wasn't a queue for Oman, but it was very interesting and beautifully presented and moving. At the end of it you felt very fond of the people that live there.
After visiting Oman we went to Turkey and drank very strong Turkish coffee and ate Turkish Delight. There wasn't a queue there either and it was a calm relaxing oasis with a lovely Ottoman fountain surrounded by comfortable seating.
Turkey's theme was growing food for the future.
Just walking along the central walkway of the Expo is like seeing the whole world as you admire all the fascinating structures of the pavilions, lots of wood for the Estonians, an inviting display of caviar and vodka for Russia and a line up of Russian dolls and bears.
The queue for the host country Italy was far too long for us but we enjoyed walking round the area and admiring the Tree of Life which is lit up with a sound and light display, magic shows and music.
Being Italy pride of place was given to wine production and again being Italy the Wine Pavilion was elegant and sumptuous. Ceilings were painted with replicas of Leonardo da Vinci's vineyards, beautiful displays of wine bottles in different booths to represent each Italian region, wine bottles full of coloured liquids to show the shades of the rich hues, the yellows, the pinks and the reds.
There had been a lot of hype about the British pavilion which is built like a beehive and tells you all about the vital importance of bees to the survival of mankind. You walk through a specially planted meadow full of clover and dandelions and all the things that bees like then you enter the hive and watch films showing bees making honeycomb. There was no queue for the United Kingdom pavilion, it was beautiful designed, easy to follow and understand, quick, essential and to the point. Well worth a visit.
As the sun went down and the new moon appeared in the Botticelli sky the Expo turned on its' magic. People started to look for places to eat, of which there were plenty and for all tastes. Lights came on in the trees, orchestras struck up romantic Italian melodies from a bygone more gentle era, there was clinking of glasses, soft laughter and quiet conversation.
After a lot of dithering because of the ample choice we chose Spaghetti with anchovies and tomatoes from Friuli Venezia Giulia and a piadine from Emilia Romagna. It was all prepared in front of you and absolutely delicious.
For many of us our family meal is the highlight of the day, a chance to heal the wounds of the day or share the funny moments, raise a smile, have a laugh, comfort and reassure each other. This is the moment to be grateful to all those people who spend their time producing our food, growing crops, breeding life stock, growing fruit
and vegetables and bringing it to our tables.
Every country in the world must surely enjoy and need these moments when they sit down together and share a meal.
The Expo came to life in the evening, with the lights and the pink sky and the moon.
You can go there for the evening for 5 euros.
We moved towards the Padiglione Zero, Pavilion zero, this is where you learn what it's all about.
First of all you enter a library, wooden shelves, stairs and books, this is knowledge, this is what we need to survive, knowledge about the earth, the crops and the seasons, preserving food, avoiding waste and keeping the world a healthy place.
Then there is a film to watch telling you about food through the ages, from pre historic times on, next models of animals and live stock and then the water wheel, the mill wheel and then a model of the agricultural revolution, following food from the country to the city.
Actually I was a bit tired by this time so I might not be totally accurate, but lastly there was a three dimensional film showing the areas of the world that have achieved a perfect balance between food production and the environment. Amazing, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, from grape vines in the lava of Lanzarote, to hazelnuts grown in Italy, cocoa in Ghana and sugar beet in.. somewhere.
So there it was for me, the Expo, the whole world in a day. What we eat, how we produce it and how we cook it and preserve it, something that we are all doing all the time.
There were so many countries there, many familiar like Germany and France, some I hadn't heard of like Timor Est. It was only much later when I was thinking back on what I'd seen that I couldn't remember seeing Australia or New Zealand.
|The colours of wine, from red to yellow|
|The United Kingdom's beehive|
|Baci, chocolate kisses from Italy|
|Statues are never far away in Italy|
|The colours of wine from yellow to red|
|The wheel, one of the inventions that started it all|