New Zealand is the first country during my journey, where I fully ignored the name of the Capital city. Thanks to Michi and the Lonely Planet I am now in the know: It’s Wellington. This gem of a city boasts having a stunning harbour and being surrounded by hills. Truly, it feels a bit like famous San Francisco, in terms of narrow, steep streets winding up and down numerous hills.
Stretching a bit the imagination, I would say that it’s a bit feeling like back home in downtown Berne (which is the Capital city of Switzerland – should you be as ignorant as I am). In fact, parts of New Zealand started to look like back home to me. And since the “Kiwi” city names sometimes are hard to remember, I just call them by their Swiss lookalikes: This is how Wellington became Berne – for obvious reasons. Michi is a bit bored by that, but he plays along and patiently nods whenever I am referring to “Berne” (meaning Wellington).
Upon arrival in Wellington, we just had time to put our backpacks in the hostel and head down to the marina to watch the fireworks celebrating the Guy Fawkes day with thousands of other spectators.
The event was a nice welcome and the cheering mood of the crowds added to the general warm hospitality of the New Zealanders. However, the local weather was very cool, the added strong winds reminded us of the “wind chill factor“. Thus, we didn’t stay too long in the city and made an fast return back to the hostel that night.
Consequently, we went up very early next morning, being greeted by a beautiful blue sky and ice cold winds. First on our list was the ride on the cable car from downtown Wellington to the botanical gardens sloping the hills overlooking Wellington. The top station also features a museum – but we were too early for a visit and therefore were walking downhill towards the government building area through beautiful beds of flowers and trees.
Politics came for free – at least the tour through the New Zealand parliament and other government buildings. Therefore, Michi and I decided to show interest in this matter. To be honest, our intention was to get inside in a warm area for an hour or so. But the tour turned out to be truly entertaining and the guide was both informative and funny.
Although, we (and the government employees) went through some unannounced fire-drills (where we had to leave the building and wait in a safe, but chilly area outside before continuing the tour), there was enough time to learn about the particularities of the New Zealand democratic system.
The various government buildings are quite impressive – especially the “Beehive” which was a controversial building project. Rumour has it (according to the tour guide), that the building inherited the name from the shape of the building – not from the speed of politicians working inside. Other fun facts were the Queen’s throne in one of the rooms. There is a small hall way behind the door and politicians are supposed to change place in the room through it. This is to show respect for the Queen and the nation of New Zealand. Any politician who would cross the room in front of her would be expelled from parliament and be fined – for treason.
Later the same day, we walked up the Mount Victoria lookout which features also shooting locations of the famous “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy. Contrary to watching the films, I did not fall asleep watching these sights. On the way back down to the city, we witnessed a strange disorderly chaos in the residential streets. They were full of blue buckets. As we found out later, these are recycling bins who were put back by the rubbish truck people after having been emptied.
Unfortunately, we had to leave Wellington next day since we wanted to move on to the south island. We booked the “Interislander” ferry from where we enjoyed the scenic views over Wellington’s residential areas upon departure. The trip between the north and the south island through the Cook Strait on the ferry lasts for about three hours. The weather was definitely less cold there. Probably because there was less windy than in Wellington, where the winds from the Cook Strait seem to catch.