If you had any doubt that the real New Zealand is exactly how it was portrayed on Flight of the Conchords, let this actual passport stamp (via @MichaelTritter) reading “Welcome to Middle-Earth” forever banish that doubt. This in addition to the Hobbit-themed “Air Middle Earth” safety video from Air New Zealand, the Wellington airport’s giant Gollum sculpture, the Hobbit-themed currency, etc. etc. etc. Might as well change the Prime Minister’s name to Bilbo Baggins, to commemorate New Zealand’s status as the world’s most far-flung Lord of the Rings gift shop. And it’s all heating up heading into tomorrow’s premiere of The Hobbit: Part One of Three, Where People Just Sort of Walk Around for a While. (AKA “An Unexpected Journey”).
Wellington, where director Peter Jackson and much of the post production is based, has renamed itself “the Middle of Middle Earth”, as fans held costume parties and city workers prepared to lay 500 m (550 yards) of red carpet.
“It’s been a 10-year wait for these movies, New Zealand is Tolkien’s spiritual home, so there’s no way we’re going to miss out,” said office worker Alan Craig, a self-confessed Lord of the Rings “nut”. [Yahoo]
Ahh, yes, Tolkien’s spiritual home that he never set foot in. Not to be confused, of course, with Tolkien’s actual home, England.
In any case, if you’re planning to travel to New Zealand for The Hobbit premiere, before you go, please review our CIA Fact Sheet: New Zealand that we’ve put together.
- The Prime Minister of New Zealand is chosen once a year at the country’s fall hayride, traditionally held behind Toby Smith-Goodwin’s pumpkin patch, and decided by a sack race.
- The legislative branch consists of 10 “Exalted Ewes,” one representing each farm, who introduce bills by loudly clacking together a pair of decorative bull’s hooves called “clackies.” A Ewe can veto a bill after it’s been clackied, but only if he can chug the cider boot before the bill’s author can run around the speaker’s recliner three times. If the Ewe circles the recliner thrice before the cider has been chugged, the bill is clackied into law. “Gazzay!” The Ewes shout, throwing their stocking caps into the air, as is traditional.
- New Zealand’s largest export, behind wool and Lord of the Rings memorabilia, is garden gnomes, the manufacture of which is tightly controlled by the country’s most powerful union, the Gnome Painters Local 427. The GPL is controlled by its charismatic leader, Jim “One-Ear” Nelson (lost it in a shearing accident), who’s so influential in Kiwi politics that he’s often referred to as “The Ewe-maker.”
- Television came to New Zealand in 1987, but there’s only one public access channel that mostly shows arts and crafts shows during the three hours a day most people have electricity.
- Olive Garden became the first restaurant chain to test the New Zealand market in 2006, but after a brief exotic-food craze, it was eventually rejected as being too zesty for local palates.
- Popular forms of entertainment include cup-stacking, origami, and cricket.
- New Zealand has one bus traversing the length of the two major islands, which is famously driven by Blanche Peterson, who loves to discuss the weather and has been known to sing Christmas carols at any time of year.