Canada's pavilion at Expo 2000 is drawing crowds and kudos. Second largest of the 180 national buildings on the site (after the German pavilion), it was also the first to be finished.

While Expo 2000 itself got off to a slow start in terms of attendance, Canada's showplace has been attracting up to 14 per cent of all fair visitors, according to Robert Blair, the pavilion's commissioner general. It drew in about 11,000 people a day in the early weeks, with figures rising significantly last week.

RTL, the top-rated television station in Germany, called Canada's pavilion "a must see." And a visitor survey conducted for Die Welt, a German national newspaper, rated the Canadian pavilion third in terms of information and fifth for entertainment.

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A total of 2.3 million people, about 90 per cent of them from Germany, visited the fair in June, but that was far below the 4.6 million originally predicted. Expo 2000 has also been plagued with snafus at its entrance gates, where automatic ticket readers are rejecting about 10 per cent of all pre-purchased tickets. Extra staff have been put in place to cancel those tickets manually. Officials expect attendance to rise with the start of school vacations.

Canada's participation follows a long-standing tradition of involvement in world's fairs. The United States, by contrast, is not taking part this time.

World Expositions have a tradition extending back to the first one in London in 1851. The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Habitat and IMAX technology are part of the legacy. This time the contribution to humanity will be in a more esoteric, but no less important, form. Electronic forums, linking experts from around the world, will delve into such issues as the role of the village in the 21st century, the impact of health on human development and responsible governance in a global society.

The Canadian pavilion, at 7,500 square metres, harmonizes with the overall theme of the fair: Humankind-Nature-Technology. Its 19-metre-tall illuminated maple leaf has become a fair landmark.

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Visitors start out by walking "across" Canada on a huge radar satellite map embedded in the floor. Then they begin their exploration by stepping onto a virtual river. Four hundred monitors project images of moving water through heavy ice-like glass blocks embedded in the floor. Frozen at first in winter, it soon melts into spring then summer and autumn. It flows and meanders through images of Canadians at work and mirrors our reality in very human terms. Images of flowers and grassy river banks line the flow and change with the season. These are the hidden eddies, the real Canada, of people and places and incredible beauty all linked by water. The art on the walls and often in the river, is that of our heritage: Emily Carr, the Group of Seven, Riopelle, Borduas, Napachee Pootoogook and Kenojuak Ashevak.

Suddenly the scene changes dramatically to full-on high tech. In the multi-sensory, 360-degree theatre-in-the-round, 500 seated visitors at a time are enveloped in the presentation called Stewards of the Land. Film footage is projected through streams of water jetting from a central fountain and onto a circular overhead screen and eight screens around the perimeter. Music, light and the scents of nature cascade over the audience for 10 minutes. A standing ovation usually follows each display.

In the words of Deputy Commissioner Carmen Sylvain: "When visitors exit our pavilion they will realize that Canada has re-invented multimedia."

In the free-flow area of independent exhibits called Connecting with the Future, a Haida totem pole forms the central focus. There's an interactive Cyber Lounge that connects visitors with various professionals in Canada. This portion of the pavilion showcases innovations ranging from tele-medicine using video-conferencing to a fully functional wastewater re-use system.

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Visitors can also travel into the silence and smells of the northern woods or explore the scope of life in the circumpolar region.

The pavilion's Gun Sculpture by Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal, sponsored by the Millennium Bureau, is garnering great attention. It is a courageous statement in support of global peace, made more powerful by its location in Hanover, a city that was 85 per cent destroyed in the Second World War.

Made from 7,000 de-activated mortar shells, land mines, bullets and handguns from Nicaragua, Jamaica, South Korea, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and of course, Canada, it forces people to stare violence in the face. Visitors record their reactions on a blackboard that is photographed and erased hourly.

Expo 2000 is changing forever the face of Hanover. The city of approximately 1.2 million is located in Lower Saxony, a north central region of Germany, with a landscape of moors and countryside rolling towards the sea. It's a city of pedestrian malls, cafés, markets and copious amounts of great beer. This spring it was hard to find a street or train station not under some sort of construction. Expo 2000 even got its own special railway terminal. Expo 2000 runs until Oct. 31. The Web site is . Information on accommodations, including bed and breakfasts, can be found on the Hanover Web site at . Canada 3000 (with charter flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax to various German cities) is the official Canadian airline of Expo 2000. The Web site for the German rail network, Deutsche Bahn (DB), is . For information on Germany, see or contact the German National Tourism Office at (416) 968 1570. Food writer Anita Stewart lives in Elora, Ont. She designed the hospitality menus for the Canadian pavilion on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.