Friday, April 29, 2016

Day 1: The Start of the GR 20!

September 11: The night at the train station was uneventful. By around 5:30 in the morning, passengers started showing up--somewhat to my surprise. My train wasn't supposed to leave until about 10:00 and I hadn't realized that there would be earlier trains to who knows where. With the arrival of others, trying to sleep behind the back of the station became an effort in futility and I got up.

The church tower in Calenzana, where we started our hike of the GR 20!

Eventually, I went into the train station now that it was opened and purchased a ticket to Calvi, then killed time mostly reading my Kindle until the train finally arrived and jumped on, quickly grabbing a window seat so I could watch the scenery go by. It would be my first good look at Corsica!

Nearby three hours later, I arrived in Calvi at 12:47 in the afternoon, right on time. I hoped Karolina would be waiting at the train station for me because if she wasn't there, I wasn't sure where to look for her or how I might contact her, and even before the train stopped I saw her through my window watching the train pass by. Yes! That was easy! No messing around all afternoon trying to find each other!

I got off the train and reunited for our next big trip. The big news she wanted to share with me was that she had just had two wisdom teeth removed a few days earlier and that she was taking antibiotics for it and her mouth hurt, so I was under strict orders not to make her laugh. It hurt to laugh.

"What?!" I exclaimed. I didn't mind her having her wisdom teeth recently removed--although I was surprised she had scheduled it so close to the trip. "I can't make you laugh? That's like asking me to leave behind a vital body part! Making you laugh is my only skill! You can't take that away from me! It's not fair!"

She cracked a small smile, although clearly she was struggling not to. "Don't make me laugh!"

She told me that there was some sort of unexpected dental issue--the nitty gritty details I didn't get--and the wisdom teeth extraction was a very last-minute thing, and she was afraid that it would derail her GR 20 hike. She didn't tell me about it ahead of time because she didn't want me worrying about it if it turned out she could make it anyhow. She got official approval from her dentist to hike the GR 20, but to get off the trail and get treatment immediately if it became infected or any other problem developed.

There was a certain irony in it for me. I had had two wisdom teeth extracted about two weeks before I started my PCT thru-hike. At least I got mine done a couple of weeks earlier, although I could still clearly feel the two gaping holes in my gums where the teeth once belonged. It wasn't fully healed when I started my hike, so we spent a little time comparing notes on our wisdom teeth extractions.

But we had a trail to hike!

Karolina had done some research beforehand and figured out that we could take a bus to Calenzana (and the start of the GR 20) or a taxi. The taxi was more expensive (although we'd be able to split the cost two ways which helps), but it was faster and there was no waiting involved. Given that it was already early in the afternoon, we decided on the taxi. We needed to get some miles in today and the day was already getting late!

Before we left town, we hit a small grocery store to buy a few odds and ends. I got a sandwich, a banana and a Coke for a quick lunch, and we picked up denatured alcohol for our cooking needs.

Then jumped in a taxi and headed to Calenzana. I let Karolina do all the talking. She might not be fluent in French, but she certainly had no trouble talking to people in French either. Very useful! =)

Karolina and I navigate through the streets of Calenzana.

We were dropped off at a large church, took a few starting photos, then followed GR 20 signs through the streets of Calenzana a short ways until the trail left town and started a steady climb upwards into the rugged mountains.

And we caught up on our adventures in Corsica to date. I told her about my late arrival at the airport and the lack of information desk clerks that spoke English, and my night at the slightly sketchy train station. She told me of her night at a campground just at the edge of Calvi, practically a stone's throw from the Mediterranean.

We couldn't have been hiking for more than a half hour when a few sprinkles started to fall. Just the lightest of sprinkles, but it was enough that Karolina stopped to pull out her pack's rain cover. Except.... it didn't fit with her sleeping pad under it, and she started walking up the trail just carrying her pad. It looked awkward, though, and when the rain didn't materialize, she put away the rain cover.

I carried two pedometers, and lent Karolina one of them so she could track her own steps on the trail. Not 15 minutes went by, however, when she put her hand in her pocket to pull it out and found nothing but a hole her pocket.

"You lost the pedometer in a mere 15 minutes?!" I said, surprised. "I carried it 2,200 miles on the Appalachian Trail, 800 miles on the Arizona Trail, the Tour Mont Blanc.... and you lost it in fifteen minutes?!"

At the edge of Calenzana, leaving town!

It was actually kind of funny. Knowing it had been lost so recently, though, I went back down the trail to look for it. It couldn't have gone far! I never did find it, though, and eventually gave up and returned to where Karolina was waiting.

Our first major obstacle on the trail, however, was cattle. There were a couple of large ones laying down right on the trail. I have rule about animals on the trail: Anything bigger than me always get the right-of-way. Karolina and I picked our way through the brush, well away from the cattle on the trail where we found... more cattle. Argh!

Karolina was forbidden to talk to the cattle--in any language. She tried that once on the Camino and the cow freaked out and tried to attack us. Fortunately, there was a fence in the way and the attack didn't succeed, but ever since, she'd been forbidden to talk to cattle. These weren't the Spanish-speaking cattle of Spain, but best not to take any chances! We continued on....

The views grew progressively better the higher the trail climbed. Behind us we could see the Mediterranean Sea spread out across the horizon, and Calvi along the coast, and even the church tower of Calenzana where we started our hike. Ahead, the mountains grew larger and rockier. Beautiful, but difficult. 

Looking back, you could see the sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea and even the church tower where we started in Calenzana.

And then, Karolina found a pine cone. I didn't think much one way or another about it, but Karolina was absolutely entranced by it. It was huge! Or so she thought. I considered a pretty average pine cone, but apparently by Polish standards, it was stunningly large. She decided she wanted to keep one for herself to take home, which she added to the back of her pack and started calling Wilson in honor of the volleyball from Castaway. Our hiking tribe of two just because a hiking tribe of three. =)

Dusk quickly approached, and it was time to start thinking about setting up camp. We didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of reaching the first refuge on the trail, still miles away. Technically, the only legal campsites along this trail are near the refuges, but we had started far too late in the day to reach it. We would have to set up camp before then, and hopefully not get busted. Looking out our guidebooks and topo maps, we decided to stop on a small ridge known as Bocca a u Saltu. I decided to cowboy camp, but quickly threw my tarp over me like a blanket when condensation started forming. Karolina set up her tent and dived inside soon after sunset.

I didn't cook any dinner, but only because I didn't have enough water. We weren't camped near any and I hadn't carried enough to our campsite. I'd be eating dry snacks for dinner instead.

Karolina couldn't fit her sleeping pad under her pack cover, so she started carrying it for awhile. That's not a good long-term solution, however!

Meet Wilson, the third member of our group! =)

Karolina's a tree hugger! We were both very impressed with the sheer size of this tree. Neither of us had any idea that such massive trees grew in Corsica!
Our first major obstacle along the trail.... Mooo! Krowa!
That's Calvi along the coast, where Karolina spent the previous night and were I met her at the train station.
As dusk approached, it became imperative that we find a place to camp!
The sunset was shaping up to be a beautiful one! =)
Sunset. (That's Karolina's tent in the foreground.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Day 0: The Infamous GR 20

September 10: Two of my three major European adventures had been checked off my to do list. Tour Mont Blanc--check! World's Fair--check! GR 20--time to get that checked too.

The GR 20, for those of you not familiar with it, is a rugged 190 kilometer (about 120 mile) trail along the backbone of Corsica. Corsica is part of France--not just an island owned by France, but an actual region of France like Hawaii is to the United States. So French is the primary language that everyone uses, although there is a Corsican language used locally as well.

I had to get the Air-Parade gummies at the Milan airport, not just because I wanted gummies for the trail, but also because I knew Amanda would want to see them too. (However, it was a rather heavy gift to carry over 100 miles across Corsica, so I took photos for her to enjoy instead.)

The island is among one of the largest found in the Mediterranean Sea, near the northern coast of Italy. It's close proximity and historical ties to the region, the island still has many cultural elements of Italy. The Corsican language, so I've heard, is closely related to Italian.

About two-thirds of the island is composed of mountains along a largely north-south chain of ridges cutting the island in half, and the GR 20 follows this chain of mountains. There are many GR routes throughout Europe, and the GR 20 is considered by many to be the most difficult of them all.

Open your mouth, and the planes just fly right into the hanger! =)

Which, in fact, is part of the reason I was going to do this trail at all. I'd never heard of the trail before my former hiking buddy, Karolina, emailed me about it. I'd been planning to hike the Tour Mont Blanc and hit the nearby World's Fair at the same time, and she emailed a reply saying something to the effect of, "Well, if you're already in the area, would you be interested in doing the GR 20 together?"

You might remember Karolina from our hike along the West Highland Way in Scotland. She's from Poland, but currently working in the Netherlands.

I'd never heard of the GR 20 before, but she explained that it was considered the most difficult of the GR routes and she wasn't sure if she could do it, or even if she should do it by herself. And apparently, she doesn't know many crazy-hiking people who'd hike something as rugged as the GR 20. And since I was going to be "in the area" already anyhow, maybe I'd be interested?

She suggested that she could be more than just a drag on the hike, however, also telling me that she did speak French and could be my translator. She'd deal with the French. My job--if I chose to accept it--was to use my vast backpacking experience to make sure she didn't get herself killed, lost or injured. =)

Injuries and even deaths, as I'd later learn, aren't exactly uncommon along this trail--a fact I'll get into more detail later. My guidebook even warned that someone usually gets themselves killed along the trail pretty much every year, so Karolina's concerns weren't exaggerated or unreasonable.

So I Googled a little about the trail and the photos were spectacular! Yes! I emailed her, I think I could do that. =)

Also at the Milan airport, I knew Amanda would be interested in these Kinder eggs with Airbus planes inside! But I didn't buy them since they aren't practical for the trail. Too easily crushed.

Corsica, being an island, limited my transportation options. Taking a bus or hitchhiking were out. I was limited to boats and airplanes. Boats were slow, though, and Milan--in case you didn't realize--wasn't even near the Mediterranean. So I booked a flight from Milan to Bastia (the second largest city in Corsica), which included a six-hour layover in Barcelona.

Before I left Milan, I walked to a DHL office where I inquired about sending my laptop and other unnecessary gear home. I had a guidebook on the GR 20 which suggested that it was possible to get food in huts and shelters along the route, but those huts and shelters typically closed for the season around mid-September. And it was getting pretty close to mid-September. I figured I'd have to carry all of the food I'd need for the trip on my back, with a single resupply point in the middle of the trail when it went through the town of Vizzavona. I'd need to carry a good 10 days of food on my back. That's a heck of a lot of food. And heavy! I couldn't also go around carrying a laptop like I did with the Tour Mont Blanc.

Since I was shipping my laptop home, I also threw in my guidebook for the Tour Mont Blanc (didn't need THAT anymore!) and one of my two GR 20 guidebooks (Karolina and I compared notes about which guidebooks we got and my English-language one was the same one she had. I figured we didn't need two of the same guidebooks between us. I kept the guidebook in French with the better maps, though.) And I threw in a few miscellaneous items that I didn't really need to carry anymore like the passport for stamping in at all of the pavilions at the World's Fair. I unloaded a good five pounds of weight from my pack by mailing that stuff to myself back in the United States. =) ("Put it on the slow boat from China!" I told the man at the front counter. "None of this has to get there fast!")

A lego model of the Milan cathedral at the Milan airport. I think they did a pretty good job of it!

I also dropped by the grocery store, unsure if I'd have a chance to go grocery shopping in Corsica before starting the hike. I picked up nearly 20 pounds of food, and I was definitely feeling the weight of it.

I checked out of the hostel, then took the subway into downtown Milan where I transferred to the Malpensa Express train to the Malpensa airport. The Malpensa airport had some wonderful junk food options including gummies in the shape of airplanes, blocks of salami, and other foods I hadn't been able to find at the grocery store, so I bought even more food here. Maybe five pounds more of food.

My flight from Milan to Barcelona was uneventful, and I had an epic six hours to kill at the airport. I was already familiar with this airport since I had switched planes here on my way to the Tour Mont Blanc a little over two weeks earlier. I spent a lot of time reading my Kindle and less time browsing around the shops.

The flight to Bastia, Corsica, was delayed two hours--but that wasn't a big concern for me since I had an even more-epic layover of 13 hours in Bastia before I could catch a train to Calvi. A two-hour delay here wasn't going to cause me any issues.

My flight arrived in Corsica at 11:15 PM. It was dark out, obviously, so I couldn't see much of the countryside while flying in. The airport was relatively small--especially compared to the massive structures I usually fly through like Milan or Barcelona.

Karolina, I knew, should have arrived at the Calvi airport earlier in the day. Calvi was near the start of the GR 20 and the ideal airport to have flown into, but I skipped it because the cost to fly there from Milan was over $600. By comparison, flying into Bastia from Milan was about $150. But it meant I still had to get to Calvi, and since my smartphone didn't work in Europe, I had no way to contact Karolina to find out if she made it okay or to let her know that I'd made it to Corsica.

I went to the information desk to ask about transportation to Calvi. As far as I could tell from my online searches before I had arrived, the next public transit option would be via train that would leave Bastia at 9:30 the next morning, but if there was a faster way to get to Calvi, I wanted on. (I knew I could have taken a taxi, but that probably would have cost as much as I saved by flying into Bastia in the first place!) Were there any buses or some other train I didn't know about that could get me into Calvi sooner?

There were two people working the information desk, and I asked about the transportation options to Calvi. And it turned out, neither of them spoke English. Seriously? I was astonished. Not to sound like an "ugly American," but this was an international airport with flights coming in from all over Europe--and they couldn't hire just one person who spoke English for an information desk--the international language of travel--at a friggin' international airport? #*^(% French. I expect not to find English-language speakers in the countryside, or small restaurants off the tourist beat--but I do expect to find them manning information desks at international airports! What the hell is wrong with them?

So I tried to explain with maps and charades where I was trying to get (Calvi) and the quickest way to get there. They gave me a sheet of paper with the train schedule, which seemed to confirm what I already suspected. The incident wasn't a total waste, however, since I also picked up a map of the entire island of Corsica which was nice to have. =)

You might remember Karolina from our hike along the West Highland Way. (Spoiler alert: Neither of us will be wearing a fake kilt while hiking the GR 20!)

I thought about what I wanted to do next. Sleep at the airport, or the train station? It was already so late at night, I didn't like the idea of wasting money on a hotel for a few hours just to wake up and go to the train station first thing in the morning. I decided to go to the train station. I wasn't feeling especially sleepy at the moment, and it doesn't hurt to show up for my train ten hours early.

Outside, there were a few taxis and I asked the drivers, who were loitering outside of their cars talking to each other, if any of them knew English. One of them did--or rather, he knew a little English--enough to help ease the communication barrier. =) I told him I wanted to go to the train station. He seemed perplexed by that, telling me that there were no more trains tonight, and I tried to explain that I wanted to take the first one in the morning but I'd just spend the night at the train station. He seemed to think this was a stupid idea and suggested a hotel, but I was adamant about the train station and that's where he took me. =)

The train station was a small, deserted building. I paid the fare--which was surprisingly expensive for the short distance we traveled. Something like 30 euros, although the exact number I forgot. But I had pulled out a couple of hundred euros from an ATM in Milan so I was well covered on that count.

The taxi drove off, and I walked around the building. I had expected to be dropped off in the middle of downtown Bastia or something, but I felt like I was at the edge of a town, in an industrial area, at a remote and deserted location where horror stories happen. There were a few small lights on at the train station, but it looked like a dump in the bad part of town. Maybe it was the darkness and my mind playing tricks on me, though. Although there was some graffiti, the area didn't seem completely overrun with it.

It wouldn't be until the next morning when I finally figured out that I had not been dropped off in downtown Bastia, but rather at the Casamozza train station which actually was the closest one to the airport.

I was a bit surprised and slightly disturbed when I noticed one of the parking spaces in front of the train station that looked like a car had blown up or caught fire. The car was no longer there, but severe scorch marks marred the spot. What the hell had happened there?

By this point, I was having second thought about spending the night here, but there was nothing I could do about that now. My taxi had left and I had no phone to call for a new one, and no idea what direction I'd walk if I wanted to go somewhere else.

I went to the back of the station next to the railroad tracks and set up camp--hidden from any passing vehicles that might drive by during the night. The air was warm and pleasant, and I slid into my sleeping bag and tried to make the best of it.

For those of you who've been reading my blog a long time, you might also remember Karolina's first appearance in my blog from 2012 when I first met her while hiking the Camino de Santiago.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Around the World in a Single Day! Okay, two days....

September 8-9: This post will mostly be just about the pictures because I really don't have many stories to tell about my visit to the "Milan Expo," or as I usually called it, the World's Fair. I woke up early to get in line before it even opened for the day--the better to get ahead of the crowds that would likely be there. The motto for the event was "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life," so you'll find a lot of references to food, sustainability, and so forth. I looked up some statistics about the expo to dazzle you with:

It opened on May 1, 2015 and ran through October 31, 2015. It covered 200 hectares (490 acres), and had 22,200,000 visitors during that time. Some 145 countries participated in the expo, along with "17 companies" and "21 businesses."

There were three different entrances to the expo. The entrance I arrived at was actually a good ten minute walk away from this entrance, but it passed above and around this entrance on a pedestrian-only footbridge giving me this 'birds-eye' view of this other entrance just as the gates were opening for the morning. What a crowd! I had already passed through security and was "technically" in the expo already from where I took this photo. I have no doubt the other two entrances were just as packed with people. (But I would have been near the front of the pack at my entrance due to my early arrival.)

There are a few different types of expos. This was a "universal expo," sometimes called a "registered" or "major" exhibition--which is one of the "big ones." They happen every five years, and participants generally build their own pavilions and therefore are the most extravagant and expensive expos. If you're interested, the next one of these will be in Dubai in 2020.

There's also the "international/specialized expo", sometimes called a "recognized" or "minor" exhibition--which fall between the universal expos, and organizers must build the pavilions for the participating countries free of rent, charges, taxes and expenses. They are also defined limits to how large these events can be--limits that apply to each pavilion as well as the entire event. If you're interested in that, the next one of these will be in Kazakhstan in 2017.

And then there are "auxiliary expositions" such a the horticultural expositions in which participants present gardens and garden pavilions. The next one of these will be held in Turkey and you can mark your calendars for... TWO DAYS AGO! Yes, that's right!!! The horticultural exposition in Antalya, Turkey, is happening RIGHT NOW! You have until October 30th if you want to go. =)

I wasn't going to settle on a "minor" expo or "auxiliary" expo, though. Nope, I wanted the real deal, and Milan, Italy 2015 is where I ended up. =)

Pavilion Zero was kind of an introduction to the motto of the event: "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life" rather than for a specific country. I really liked this wall, though. It looked a lot what I'd imagine a library in a Harry Potter story would look like. =)

So anyhow.... I took the subway to the expo, arriving about a half hour before the gates were expected to open which put me squared near the front of the line. Throughout the day, I spent most of my time waiting in various lines to get into the various country's pavilions. It's like being at Disneyland on a busy day where most of your time is spent simply standing in lines. And the rides aren't even as fun, but only because there were no rides.

They did sell "passports" for five euros or something (I forget the exact price now, and I didn't think to write it down), which you could get stamped at each country's pavilion. Stamps?! How could I say no?! So I charged through the place looking to get my passport stamped in as many countries as I could. Sometimes I went to pavilions only because they had a short line (or none at all--Zimbabwe, I love you, even if nobody else did!) and knew I could get in and get their stamp quickly. =)

I ended up going to the expo for two days. The first day, I stayed pretty much from opening until closing. I'd already purchased a two-day ticket and decided to go first thing in the morning the second day to hit a few of the most popular pavilions when the lines were still short after giving up on them later in the day after their lines became ridiculously long. I did that, then left after lines started getting longer and there really wasn't anything left I wanted to see anyhow. I'm merging all of my photos from both days into this one post, though.

And the rest of my adventures.... I'll share as photos and videos. =)

The roof area of Pavilion Zero.
Brazil was a popular pavilion because it had this net for people to walk around and jump on. =)

Good morning, Vietnam!!!!!

The expo was largely arranged along one massively long corridor with the pavilions on both sides. The flags of each country's pavilion hung along the side of the corridor helping to identify their locations. (This photo was taken pretty early in the morning and it's not actually all that crowded. YET!)

China pavilion

Food float! (In keeping with the event's motto.)

The Poland pavilion. (I know you wanted to see these, Karolina!)
You can't see it well in this photo, but at the top of the staircase is "welcome" in three different languages. All of the pavilions tended to have text in three different languages. 1) Italian, because we were in Italy. 2) English, because that's the international language that people who didn't know Italian were most likely to know. And 3) The local language of whatever pavilion you were in. (In this case, Polish.) Of course, if the pavilion was Italy or an English-speaking country, they didn't need this third option since options 1 and 2 covered it already. =)

A train set made entirely of chocolate! (Also in the Polish pavilion.)

My favorite part of the Polish pavilion was this live entertainment! =)

I don't remember which pavilion I took this photo (not Poland), but this was the "2060 cookbook" which a display describes as "The In Vitro Meat Cookbook provides a peek into the future. It was recipes containing 'in-vitro' (grown) meat. Wonderful illustrations show how laboratory-grown mean will look on your plate."

But it seemed very tongue-in-cheek. For instance, this is the "throat tickler". The text is hard to read, I know, so I'll quote the text here: "Wet, slippery, and wriggling, this curious 'creature' lives on the border between a sea anemone and a sex toy. The Throat Tickler beckons from your plate with come-hither motions, and slides its tentacles around your lips as you slurp it down.." Whaaattt?

It continues: "Because Throat Ticklers have no organs or nervous systems, they're not truly alive. Rather, their enticing movement is caused by sodium altering the voltage differentials across cell membranes, triggering the muscle tissue to contract. A pinch of salt will incite a sensual wave of the Throat Ticker's tentacles, as will any salty sauce. Never before has a tickle in your throat been such a hedonistic experience."


Another page of the cookbook, this one a recipe for the "In Virtro Aquarium."

"A must-have for corner offices and seafood restaurants, the In Vitro Aquarium combines the soothing qualities of a fish tank with easy access to sushi-grade meat. A glass-paneled bioreactor filled with a growth serum provides te habitat for dozens of strikingly colored in vitro 'species'. Electrical pulses force the cultured muscle tissue to contract, causing these semi-living creatures to swim gracefully through the tank.

"These 'species' aren't just lovely in a liquid medium, but make animated additions to teppanyaki grills outfitted with an electrical current. The lab-grown creatures skitter and slither across the electrified surface, cooking as they scoot along. Competitive diners may place bets on whose food will be the fastest."

I have to admit.... I kind of wanted a copy of this book! It's hilarious! =)


Inside France!

Of course, I had to get my "tampon" in France! =) I can't go to France without getting "tampons"! =)
I bought some food in France. I thought France was famous for good food? This looks kind of.... Well, it tasted all right, at least. =)

Mexico bar-coded all of their visitors.

But when I scanned it at a machine and it took a photo of it, I could download it from the Internet later. Woo-who! A photo of me in Mexico! =)

I think this was the Coke pavilion, where you could try different Coke products from around the world. (I never went in since it had a long line and I'd already done something like at in Atlanta years ago.)

Tree of Life was one of the centerpieces of the event. The fountains would dance to music and, at night, lots of colored lights would flash around the tree.

One of the daytime Tree of Life shows. (At least a short part of the show--I didn't record the whole thing.)

The US pavilion was kind of boring, really. I expected more from us! But the girl who stamped my passport turned out to be from Seattle so we chatted about Seattle for several minutes. My home... which I hadn't been to in over six months now!

The US pavilion did have this "vertical farm" on one side of the building which I think is a very interesting concept. It also had a section with a wood floor that was salvaged from the Coney Island boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy damaged it in 2012.

The view from the top of the US pavilion was among the best of the whole expo.

Looking down into that long corridor from the top of the US pavilion.

This "water curtain" was my favorite thing at the pavilion, though. (The words are backwards since it's meant to be viewed from the other side, but the light was bad and my camera couldn't get a good video of the effect from that side.)

The Turkey pavilion.

OMG--McDonalds had their own pavilion?! When did they become a country?!!!
The Russian pavilion was particularly large because it invaded the Ukrainian pavilion and annexed it. (Okay, bad joke, bad joke....)

But seriously, who wants to wait in line for a half hour to see RUSSIAN DIRT?!!!! WTF?! =) Oh, Russia, you could do so much better than that....

This was set up next to the McDonalds pavilion. (Okay, it wasn't, but it would have been awesome if it were. *nodding*)

Inside the Turkmenistan pavilion.

Japan pavilion

The Monaco pavilion was built out of shipping containers--which I rather liked! Kind of a strange construction medium, but it made the pavilion look like a giant lego toy!

Monaco included this jellyfish aquarium inside.

Or watch the jellyfish video I took! =)

I don't remember which pavilion I took this video, but I think I had moved on to something else after Monaco.
Croc and zebra burgers! Sign me UP! I've never had a zebra burger before! =) Well, I'd never had a croc burger before either, but I had tasted crocodile--just not in a burger.
Oooh.... I can go to Iran too? Well, that should be interesting! =)

Actually, it wasn't particularly interesting. But now I can tell people I've been to "Iran." ;o)

I also went to Cuba because hey, how often can an American say that?! Alas, there were no North Korean pavilions for me to visit, so I had to limit myself to South Korea.

The Ecuador pavilion had a beautiful exterior. Inside was so not worth the wait, however, and I'm not even going to show pictures because it was so lame!

An electronic bartender?!

A nighttime showing of the Tree of Life performance.

The next day, I hit the expo early again to get in a few more pavilions....

If I learned one thing about the Netherlands pavilion, it's that the Netherlands is one screwy country! =)
Switzerland, perhaps, had the most conceptually interesting pavilion. It consisted of several "silos," each one stored with a different resource: apples, salt, coffee, water and... I think there was a fifth one, but if there was, I've forgotten it. Anyhow, they stocked each silo with samples that visitors can take, and visitors can take as much or as little as they wanted, but when the silo ran out of food, that was it. It would never be restocked during the entire six months of the expo. It was to "simulate" the limited nature of earth's resources. These boxes contain packets of coffee.
This woman is explaining how the silo with apples is now empty. The floor to the silos move, so as the silo empties, the floors go lower and lower. The top floor had emptied in just 16 days. The next floor was empty after 30 days. The one after that in 36 days. There weren't any apples for us to take so presumably the bottom floor was empty too, but they hadn't updated the number of days for it to empty because it still has just a big ? in that space. (She also only spoke in Italian so I couldn't understand a word that she said. I could only read the English parts of the board.)

No apples, but plenty of salt still available!

I grabbed a cube of it, not really having any idea what I'd use it for. What do I need with a small box of salt? But it was free for the taking! I felt I had to do my part to waste Earth's resources. =)

The water silo, also, had run out of water....

The German pavilion had, in my opinion, the coolest technology that we could play with. While we were in line to get in, they'd ask us what language we spoke, and they gave us a piece of cardboard folded in half. I opened it to see.... nothing! It was blank! Except for a few small, faint dots around the edge of it.

They showed a video explaining how to use this blank piece of cardboard (in English, Italian and German). You hold it under a projector, which can detect it (and which language you speak, which is printed on the cardboard) and display images and videos on it--like this one. The projector will even follow the cardboard around if you move it in circles or something. And it's possible to "interact" with the image. By tilting it to the right, you turn to the "next" image/video. By tilting it to the left, you return to the "previous" image/video. It was immensely fascinating! One projector could handle up to three different cardboard pages simultaneously.

But maybe a video makes how it work more clear....

United Kingdom pavilion had a particularly odd look to it!

Directly underneath that strange lattice-like thing of the United Kingdom pavilion. (You can see people walking on the level inside of it.)

Malaysia pavilion (obviously)

If I remember correctly, I took this strange photo in the South Korean pavilion.

And that's all I've got to share about the World's Fair. I'm glad I went--once. =) If there was ever another one in Seattle or somewhere I was already planning to visit, I might drop in on them again, but I wouldn't make a point of flying halfway around the world just for one!