Here in an unseasonably chilly Happy Valley, this has been a week of fulfilling one’s national duty.
I am talking about visiting Expo 2015 — and seeing how the Swiss pavilion stacks up against the parade of great nations eager to showcase their wares a few kilometres outside of Milan.
(I also could throw in having painfully sat through the Eurovision semi-final yesterday to see our very own Happy Valley challenger belt out a ditty called “Time to Shine” — but let’s leave that for a future dispatch. Just to note that unlike the majestic Céline Dion, Switzerland’s 1988 Eurovision champ, we sadly will not see a Swiss act duking it out in this Saturday’s grand finale.)
For those of you thinking of making the trip to Expo 2015, the first thing to know is that it’s big. Really big. In fact, it’s huge. Feet hurting the next day huge. There are 145 countries represented, each with its own dedicated space.
The second thing to know is that this is perhaps one of the few places where smaller nations can outshine their more powerful neighbours. Prepare therefore to be floored by the likes of Turkmenistan (awesome exterior lighting worthy of Reno, plus lots of pictures inside of the Turkmen leader playing with puppies, riding horses, looking reflective, etc.), Belarus (it’s the one with the tractor parked out front, and interactive displays inside highlighting the nation’s latest tractor industry stats), and Moldova (a coolly minimalist cube from the outside, with one of the Expo’s best giveaways inside: a free high quality cardboard “CHEESE SCRATCHER”).
So how does plucky Switzerland – the first nation proudly to have signed up for the event — pan out?
After indulging in the culinary delights of the stunningly beautiful, but stunningly empty, Iranian pavilion, your loyal correspondent hightailed it to the Padiglione Svizzero. Once found (I admittedly walked right by twice without realizing it), I was pleased to follow the path up to a very functional, industrial-looking building.
Unlike the other pavilions which all appeared to have a single, controlled, entrance, it seems that the Swiss pavilion was purposefully meant to allow folks to enter without restriction, from multiple access points. (Has anyone told the UDC about this?) All a bit confusing for your correspondent, but luckily the smell of an extraordinarily ripe cheese fondue led me to the restaurant (run, it seems, by Palexpo), where I was able to catch my bearings — and see our best local delicacies featured on the menu, including “Fera fillets from Lake Geneva”, “Zurich-style veal strips”, and “Farmhouse salad with chicken”. Then: a quick glance at an exciting exposition about Basel, a walk through a few rooms featuring what was billed as a “fascinating journey from food to mind and emotions” (molto grazie for the sponsorship, Nestlé!), and a further meander through another exhibition relating to the Saint Gotthard-area cantons.
Belarus, Moldova…eat our dust!
You also might have heard that a key part of the Swiss site is the group of four towers crowning the pavilion. Each tower features a finite supply of a key Swiss commodity: apple rings, coffee, salt and water. Visitors can consume or take away however much they wish, as all of this is apparently meant to deliver a message on the scarcity of resources. And just to show that Switzerland has not missed the whole social media thing, you can partake in the excitement of seeing how quickly supplies dwindle from wherever you might be – as stocks are being tracked in real-time, online. Do however take note that – at least to this correspondent’s knowledge – unlike any other Expo pavilion, where once in, you can freely experience all there is to offer, in the Padiglione Svizzero you’ll need to line up patiently for a special ticket, at a pre-determined time-slot, to experience the towers yourself…vive l’exception suisse!
So, should you make it to the fair – enjoy. Your Happy Valley correspondent is looking forward to your own feedback.
By the Happy Valley Correspondent