So, let me preface this by stating that I hate waiting in line. Any trace of a queue is enough to make me turn around in the opposite direction. If I’m at the store and notice a line at the register, I proceed with making a purchase only when necessary–and quite begrudgingly, I might add–otherwise I just stop shopping completely. If I have to wait for an elevator, I’ll take the stairs up even if the total wait time and elevator ride is less than the time it takes to climb simply because I just don’t want to wait. So needless to say, every time I passed the Kazakhstan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 and saw a long line, I said, “oh hell no” and moved on. Well one morning, I arrived shortly after the 10am opening and lo and behold, Kazakhstan was line-free so I made a beeline for the entrance, eager to see what all the waiting was for. And I was glad I did because I wound up loving the Kazakhstan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 as much as I loved Russia’s.
The Kazakhstan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 is a progressive experience that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, so the one drawback (in addition to some waiting along the way) is that you can’t really go through it on your own time. The pavilion’s theme, “Land of Opportunities” lays the foundation for Expo 2017 “Future Energy”, being held in Kazakhstan, the 9th largest country in the world. The Pavilion motto “such a large country, of which we know so little,” couldn’t be more fitting. I was Kazakhstani clueless and the Pavilion blew me away….everything about it was just so cool.
The Kazakhstan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 begins with some waiting. Once the room is at capacity, the visit kicks off with an enchanting overview of the country’s historical milestones. As the story is narrated, a lady uses her fingers to draw out the narrative on a sandy surface and this visual component is projected onto the screen. From there, you proceed to the first floor exhibit area via an escalator ride that recalls Disney World’s Haunted Mansion. Backlit pictures of various people and scenes from Kazakhstan’s agricultural life deck the walls, some are actually videos that “talk” to passers-by, sharing fun facts and trivia about Kazakhstan in both English and Italian.
The interactive exhibition room awaiting you on the first floor is, in a word, stunning. It focuses on Kazakhstan’s agriculture, ecology, aquaculture and curiosities. The country’s various soils are viewable under magnifying glasses, you push buttons on the wall to see different grains and seeds emerge, sturgeon swim in a pool and more. Along the way, you learn all sorts of fun facts, such as how tulips originated in the Kazakhstan Steppe long before they were brought to Europe and how bees thrive in Kazakhstan while the western world is concerned about their extinction. I even tasted fermented mare’s milk, a traditional Kazakhstani beverage. If only we could have sampled some caviar. I’m kidding. Well, sort of…
Once you have made your way through the exhibition room, you wait behind a velvet rope of sorts before being led into another room for some more waiting. However, this wait takes place among a light display that brings Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, to life, complete with dangling iPads that offer virtual-reality like, 360-degree views of the city.
Finally, you enter a simulated theater for a 3D film that lets you experience Kazakhstan’s different terrains, ecosystems and environments. To be honest, I had never really said to myself, “I just have to go to Kazakhstan” but I left the Kazakhstan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 knowing that I need to go there.
If you’re visiting Expo Milano 2015, don’t miss the Kazakhstan Pavilion.
Text & Photo: Jackie DeGiorgio