Dunedin is a really nice city surrounded by lots of quiet beautiful beaches and villages

New Zealand is a land of great emptiness and not that many people – it is a little smaller than Finland geographically and population wise – 268 000 km² versus 338 000 km² and 4.7 million versus 5.5 million – but that is where the similarities cease. They have fine moderate weather all year with very little frost and snow, they have earthquakes, volcanos, mountains, huge areas of high dry hills, deep valleys and huge pastures for sheep (27 million), dairy cattle and deer.

New Zealand is made up or 2 big islands and thousands of smaller islands all surrounded by an aggressive sea. The big waves, much bigger than the ones we have in Finland, crash on the long stretches of sandy beaches or along the rocks and cliffs that hold the country together.

Māoris, the indigenous Polynesian people of of this country, are abundant, some 600 000, and have a proud distinctive culture. Traditional Māori culture has enjoyed a significant revival during the last 60 years and can be seen and felt throughout the whole country.

Ordinary folk live in small houses, really small homes… and some in container-like abode. There are very few apartment buildings outside the cities compared to Finland where most folk live in apartment buildings. “My home (or my box) is my castle” appears to be the common theme. Cities and towns are quite spread out over large areas as a result.

Foreigners have been coming here since the 17th century – mainly from Europe (Scotland and Germany) and now they have huge numbers of Asians queuing up to enter the country to study and live. Towns like Dunedin (pronounced “Duneedin”) were originally made up from Scots who came here to farm and mine gold and lignite. Their footprint is still clearly evident in street names and buildings.

Outside your correspondent’s AirB&B window on the hill is a fablulous view of the long sandy beach facing a long, long sea horizon, with hills covered with huge fields and forests stretching out as far as the eye can see. The temperature is 20C and the sky is blue. No wonder people come here in Europe’s winter…

Yes, Dunedin is a lovely city that is far more interesting than Queenstown or Wanaka, which have been turned into tourist traps. Here there are empty unspoilt sandy beaches hidden away behind thick forests full of unusual plants, bushes, and trees. `You can also find in the nearby area small villages that have not changed much from what they were 100 years ago – even the people living there are from another time…

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