Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cartagena and 7th Wonders

This Christmas, after several years, we did manage to finally have a board game evening with some friends. This despite me feeling like crap since I did get the flu (and yes, we got offered to play also other evenings after Christmas, but the status of the whole family had degenerated into hospital mode).
Considering the health status my performance was dreadful ... (yes, I blame it on the fuzzy head to the fever/cold)

The first game we played was Cartagena. The game is pretty simple and there is a minimum of luck required in fetching the right cards to proceed. Then, yes, some good strategy (I lacked that totally, as always).
Each player has four pirates and they have to go through a path to reach a boat. The player whose pirates reach the boat first win.
The pirates move on the path (the board) by discarding cards: each card represents a symbol that is on the board and when one uses the card one moves on the board reaching out for its symbol. For fetching new cards, one has to move backward.
So, the whole game is about finding a good balance between moving forward and backward, obtaining proper cards. 

 The game doesn't last too long and can be played by maximum 5 players, so it is quite nice to play when one doesn't have too much time. Since also it is quite simple (at least, there are not five billion steps required to understand how to play) it is perfect when maybe one hasn't been playing a game for several years. Ok, yes, in my case that didn't help out...

7th Wonders is instead much more elaborated (so, let's not think of what I didn't do when we played it). So, of course, also more entertaining since one has to think about many more parameters than moving the pirates on the board.
Each player has one of the 7th wonders (I took Ephesus) that can be built in different steps. There are different ages one go through. Each age is basically a round of cards that get passed between the players at each turn. The complexity of the cards and the prerequisites to play them or use them is higher the later the age of the world is.
There are cards of different color and therefore different properties.
The different cards, the money, the building steps of the wonder provide points to the final countdown. At the end of the last age, all the points will then be calculated and then the winner will be announced.
7th Wonders
The game is very intriguing and in fact it is ranked quite high. When playing it resembled a lot of many different games that we have played. I thought of Dominion as well as Colosseum.
Pity though that we managed to play it just once, then it was definitely too late for two retired people as we have turned out.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I have been intended to write this post actually one year and few months ago, but for a series of circumstances, it simply never happened.

Last year, for about half a year, a quite big area of Milan has been transformed into a gigantic world exhibition about food sustainability. This has been a very big thing for Italy and in Italy. Every time we were there, there was no talk that didn't include the world "Expo" and everyone wanted to go and check it out.
At the end, we decided to peek a look as well. After all, we are both interested in both food and sustainability.
Living abroad, I was having the opportunity to actually get a quite decent discount on the tickets, but the procedure for getting it was a sphinx riddle.
Nevertheless, with only one kid, we took the train, we conveniently arrived at the station, got the ticket and entered this "city" in the city, crowded with people, in a very warm august.
The expo decumano crowded with people
In order to be able to visit it properly, I think one would have needed at least a month.
Almost every nation on Earth (except all the Nordic countries - so that noone in Sweden has a clue what this is about) had built up a gigantic pavilion or at least some form of exhibition space showing off.
I think it mostly became a showing off, not of food neither of sustainability. It was beautiful, interesting, that was the red thread around the whole place and for each country, but it seemed mostly like each pavilion was pushing for getting more tourists. But maybe that was the goal of it?
Big pavilion are sticking out at the horizon
We had no big preparation for the day, so we decided just based on pure inspiration where to head.
A copy of Milan's symbol: the golden virgin statue on top of the Dome
The great thing was that during the whole afternoon, considering how warmth it was, we had the opportunity to refill our water bottles thanks to free distribution machine. That was a blessing, but also took a lot of time since every station had often a little queue.
And talking of queue, depending of the pavilion, there were interesting queues to face.
We gave up (although by having a kid we had often faster routes) visiting few pavilions, including the most popular one of them all, the one of Japan.
We did visit few countries I don't even remember the name, some from the far east (maybe Polinesia?) some from the middle east.
We managed to go into the one from Marocco, Spain, European Union (which was actually the most educational, with a little movie with special effects), walk through the common thematic areas from the African countries... but for absorbing everything time was definitely not enough.

Pavilion Zero
Some of the pavilions were having impressive shapes and design. This is the one from Ungary.
The interior of the Ungarian pavilion

The effort put by each country could vary quite much (I guess budget made the difference), but everyone made surely an attempt to stick out.
Pavilion from USA
Are we really in Milan? Qatar's pavilion
I don't remember :-( Clearly something from East?

China, or part of its pavilion.
One of the hope I was personally having was that it would have been possible to taste more food.
In reality, this was very limited. In the different pavilions it was often possible to buy some product specific from the country, in some others it was possible to eat there. But both options were far from being cheap. 
We did buy some random food in one of the many stands from which one could try some extravagant fast food variation, but we were still hungry and had the need for a proper meal.
Tasting chocolate at the Lindt pavilion
At the Emilia Romagna section
Eating becoming quite an interesting project. Thank God we landed at Eataly which offered as many restaurants as italian regions, with specialities from each of them. Problem was that it was pretty crowded and the seating was not exactly optimal (and we had a stroller with a little boy in it).
Anyway, we managed to quickly eat a quite nice meal, for a decent price.
Choosing was though quite a problem. I could have been eating a dish from each region/restaurant!

The future supermarket?

A taste from the future
As the exhibition should be about food and sustainability, we got attracted by visiting a supermarket and other few interesting items that were spread a little bit everywhere.
The supermarket was quite interesting, but it didn't shock me that much. Although there was an attempt to bring up more organic food and to have some interesting display capability, I would have expected something even more futuristic than just a fancy screen?

An attempt to have a proper recycling system for such an event!
Algae Folly. New proteins?

Vertical farm
So, is the future going to be these modern nanotechnologies related way of cultivating some form of food, or are we, especially as Italians, going to stick with our traditions and our traditional food as the one presented at the Expo?
Who knows. I know though that the whole Expo is now quite a desert. And this is a pity considering the amount of infrastructure, how big the area is and what possibilities of learning and exploring there were. I would have made it quite a permanent fair, if it wouldn't be that expensive, I guess, to maintain each pavilion. 
Though, I guess the whole area right now is not there without any cost - although I know that there are plans for reusing part of it.
This summer we decided to pay a visit to it, since the Children's thematic park was still there.
The atmosphere was though completely different than the one from the year before. No more crowds, a form of desolation when looking at the whole Expo and a feeling of nostalgia all over.

Cascina Triulza

Observing the old Expo area from distance

Where is everyone?
The children's park was quite interesting and well done. Probably best to target kids in primary school, but still I think it was quite ok for Isabella to be there, although she didn't grasp so much of the messages that wanted to be passed over through the park.
It was a lot about nature, energy and environment.
One could smell different herbs, understand the richness of water, exchanging drawings with unknown kids by fishing them up from a pond, and finally observing how one creates energy when using bikes... among other things.

Bikes for energy!
As it happened the year before, we managed to miss just for a tiny bit the show of the Tree of Life, which will be the symbol of the Expo from the years to come.
This time though, we went close to it and I actually found it magnificent!

Observing the surroundings. The tree of life on the horizon.

The tree of life

Under the tree of life
The big pity of our second visit was that from the children's park to the tree, one needs to walk. A lot. With kids. Among ponds and sluices. In the heat, with mosquitoes, no shadow, no trees, no wind.
Let's say that there was plenty of whining and it was not the best part of the visit!

I'd hope, but here maybe I am just a dreamer, that the whole area won't be forgotten and small things, as the path I have just mentioned, improved, to keep the memory of what all of this was, especially for those that didn't even have a clue it existed (namely all the Nordics who missed the great Italian food culture concentrated in once place :-D).

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Visby and Almedalen

This summer, for a serie of circumstances, I ended up having the possibility to travel to Visby for going to Almedalen.
Almedalen is a political event that lasts about a week. All the politician and a lot of organizations meet up and there are a lot of events and seminars. During the years, this event has grown up in size and, as for every event in Visby, half of Stockholm is there.
Said this one has to know that I am completely disinterest in politics. I have no clue what goes on in my own country most of the times, and in Sweden, it is even less. I am quite detach, I do not know the people that run this place and surely, I wasn't burning to be in Almedalen for some special reason (or for meeting some local VIP).
However, I thought it could have been an interesting experience, and it was.
In the architects antrum...
One of the seminars
In the town center

Almedalen per se' didn't impress me. On the other hand, I was very puzzled of the importance given to an event where there is a large amount of noise produced by everyone. Who is there is mostly to talk and show off, not to listen. If you have a message, you can be there and splat it in everyone's face, but it is not said that somebody will actually understand it.
So, it is a bit of a waste of time. Except if your voice is big enough to actually be heard.

Visby on the other hand was very pitoresque. The historical centre is small, compact and it is lovely to just stroll around, although there was a lot of people (but I suspect that is almost inevitable the whole summer there).
Streets of Visby
Typical house in Visby. House painted with tar.
Details of the painting on the house
Streets of Visby

Nice corners
Interesting buildings
The wall is beautiful from every angle, but especially at sunset. The church ruins are fascinating.

Inside the ruins
A buildings meltpot
Beautiful church ruins

Basically, everything that is breathing medieval is very refreshing in a country where wherever you go the most ancient building is from the 1800 century and everything else has been burnt down, reutilized for building something else, or haven't existed at all.
Of course it is not Rome, but considering where one is, it is quite impressive that the core of the town is almost intact with old buildings.

View from the wall

Houses and wall

One of the towers

The wall at sunset

I had also the opportunity to peek a look outside the wall. Visby per se' loses then its touch as soon as one get far away from the center. It becomes a very conventional 70s shaped town.

Nothing extraordinary (except that there are two cranes here). But this picture became really good in my opinion!
Outside Visby the island have plenty of potential. The landscape can be very beautiful and dramatic, with high cliffs standing on water (pity that the weather was awful when I went to observe the panorama...), there are again ruins of quite big monasteries and finally, there are also small fishermans villages, small, intact in the atmosphere, typical with low buildings.

Talking of Roma. This is the ruins of the monastery in Roma

Roma monastery

Building annexes to Roma monastery
 If food though is a very important element for my trips, it was not the case for the rest of the people I was surrounded, so sadly, the food experience was quite boring. Not that I would think that during such week there is the possibility to eat in some nice place, with typical food, at a reasonable price, but we ended up eating a pizza, and of course, that I would have never chosen if I'd be on my own visiting there.
Hopefully, if there will ever be another trip, there will be then some chance to eat something typical! 

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