Sunday, 12 June 2011

A moon in New Zealand

The post's title actually means "a month in New Zealand". Forgive me the rather poor pun, unfortunately it doesn't work as well in English as it does in Czech (měsíc na Zélandu). Anyway, you've probably guessed why I chose it. Yes, it's been exactly a month since I landed on kiwi soil and it's the second time I see the object on the title photo (you guys in the northern hemisphere notice anything unusual?).

Titles and puns apart, today was the perfect day for celebrating my "monthlyversary". Not only was it my day off, but it was also warm and sunny, ideal for wandering around the countryside and taking photos. Indeed, I took plenty of them, probably causing a few bewildered looks on the locals' faces in the process (unless they're used to tourist weirdos standing on the roofs of their cars and pointing cameras to sheep and vineyards...).

I also went to the Farmers' market in Blenheim, a cozy event consisting of ten stands with local food products and a live band (also local, I presume). From where I see it, the Sunday market must be the pinnacle of Blenheim's social life...

Click for some new vineyard shots.
There isn't much else to say, since I've shared my impressions of the country in previous posts and spent plenty of words on my current assignment as a pruner. Allow me to just briefly (and repeatedly) praise New Zealand's climate: during the monthly stay I've had lots of sunshine and less than a week's bad weather. We can dream about such an autumn/early winter in most parts of Europe.

Speaking of Europe, perhaps a few economical insights may interest you. Fuel is a lot cheaper here, both for cars and for people. Petrol, diesel and beer are almost half-price compared to the UK. Beer is not that much cheaper, but it still costs considerably less than in Australia or in the UK (10 NZD for a 1L jug, just about £5 or 5.50€). And no, local beer isn't pisswasser, as some people may think, it's actually quite good. If you had me choose between an English pint and a Kiwi one, I'd go for the latter with no hesitation.

Food, on the other hand, isn't cheap at all (but it's soooo good). Certain things cost exactly the same as in the UK (which in fact means they're more expensive, considering NZ salaries), while for other stuff you have to reach a lot deeper in your wallet. The best example is chicken: breasts come at 25$/£13 a kilo, while in the UK you get them for 8 pounds. Eggs, bread, cheese, apples, doughnuts... all these things are more expensive. I'm no economist, but perhaps it's because everything's produced locally and there's no cheap import like in the EU.

Quality, on the other hand, is undeniably better than in some parts of Europe. Even the cheapest option here is often better than a "higher quality product" in England. For instance, budget Tesco carrots are totally tasteless. Budget carrots from a NZ supermarket taste good.

In any case, what's important for me is that you can still buy a decent beef steak for a reasonable price and that the quality is absolutely great. Again I have to use the UK as a comparison and again the UK gets the worse part of the deal. British meat is absolute shit and British supermarkets like Tesco make a great job at turning people into vegetarians. Last time I bought a seemingly fresh steak at Tesco, it smelled and tasted so foul that I wouldn't have been able to eat it without drowning it in spices. When you look at a piece of meat in a British supermarket, you take it for granted that despite the nice reddish colour on the top side, the bottom side will be full of purple stains and you'll have to check very carefully whether it's just coaugulated blood or if the product has already gone bad. And beware of discounts! Discounted meat is guaranteed to be inedible (I learned the hard way, by food poisoning). In New Zealand you needn't worry about anything. I did buy a half-kilo beef steak that was on special and I did worry when I was opening the package, but to my utter surprise, the meat had the same colour on both sides, it didn't smell like a corpse the gravedigger forgot to bury, and it tasted good! Hm, I really crave a juicy steak now... catch ya later.

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