Saturday, 21 December 2019

Alone at Christmas? Worried? Don't be, here are some handy hints to help you enjoy the day

 This is a post from Christmas 2017. I thought it would be timely to repost it.

Meanwhile, I wish all my wonderful readers a very happy Christmas and a fantastic 2020..can you believe it? 2020!

Christmas is a day for families and friends to be together so being alone on the day can be crushing. It doesn't matter why you are alone, it could be that you are traveling, or your children all live overseas, or you have recently lost your partner. Whatever the reason the key to enjoying the day is to plan ahead to make it fun and less lonely.  Here are a few ideas I have gathered together.  I hope they help.

My Christmas Wreath
1. Book yourself on a bus tour, a train trip or a cruise, depending on your finances.  Ensure it includes Christmas Day.  There will be a real spirit of camaraderie among your fellow travelers and you may even find it is one of your best Christmases ever.

2. Check into a hotel or even a back packers which is offering a Christmas dinner and enjoy the company of fellow diners.

3. Volunteer to assist at one of the many charity Christmas dinners which you will find in most towns and cities.  Christmas is a time of giving so giving your time will be satisfying and fitting.

4. Invite your neighbours, even those you don't know and especially those alone, in for a drink before they head off to their celebrations.  One of them might even invite you to theirs. If having people in is not your thing perhaps you could call on them with small gifts and your Christmas wishes.

5. Visit a loved one's grave.   In New Zealand cemeteries are cheerful, happy places on Christmas day with groups of family and friends visiting and all willing to chat.  It sounds morbid but it isn't.  I do this every year and the spirit of happiness and goodwill there is quite uplifting.

6. Even if you are not religious, go to church.  Enjoy the Christmas carols, the joy of Christmas and the feeling of community.

7. Go for a walk and wish every one you meet "Happy Christmas".  You are bound to get merry greetings back and may even enjoy some conversations.

8. Relish being alone.  Eat what you want, listen to music you like, become absorbed in a TV movie, light candles, decorate the house. If this sounds lonely just visualise how fraught a big and noisy Christmas can be, especially when that difficult uncle turns up!

9. Spend the day planning something really special to look forward to.  It is  easy to become so lost in planning something on the internet that suddenly the day has slipped by.

10. Remember Christmas is just one day and tomorrow is another day.  The key is to plan ahead and to get out there.  Don't sit at home by yourself feeling miserable.

Please feel free to add your ideas in the Comments section.  

 And have the best, happiest, most wonderful Christmas!

St Heliers Bay, my local beach.  Because they always bloom at Christmas time
Pohutukawa are known as the New Zealand Christmas tree

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Diocletian's Palace, Split, Croatia

You simply cannot go to Brac without visiting Diocletian's Palace in Split, it's a must see, which is why, early one morning, we boarded the ferry for the mainland to do just that.

How Diocletian's Palace looked originally. Right on the sea front with a sea entry
The palace was built for the emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century taking 10 years to complete. Interestingly Diocletian abdicated in 305AD but continued to live in the palace until his death in 311AD.  To call it a palace is a bit misleading, it is actually a walled city covering 38,700 square metres, or half of the old town of Split. Originally half palace and half garrison it was built from the pure white stone from the island of Brac, and marble from Italy and Greece. It also boasted 12 sphinxes from Egypt.  Today it is a living and breathing enclosed town where 3000 people live, its tiny narrow streets and alleys housing numerous restaurants, bars and shops. UNESCO world heritage listed it as the best preserved and most complete remains of a Roman Palace in the world. It is a fascinating place where washing hangs out from windows above ancient streets and old women sit at windows looking down on the crowds of tourists thronging the alley ways. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine life as it was there in ancient times.

Below: Ancient housing still lived in and, right, quaint narrow streets lined with shops

Original pillars and frieze, St Domnius
Right: The underground craft market

We started our tour by entering at the lowest level of the palace, wandering through the bustling craft
market before climbing the stairs to emerge at the square fronting St Domnius Cathedral.  This tiny but incredibly ornate cathedral was originally Diocletian's mausoleum.  St Domnius, the patron saint of Split, was martyred during Diocletian's  persecution of Christians. It is a delicious irony that the Christians gained control of the site, destroying Diocletian's tomb and converting his mausoleum into a cathedral named to honour one of his victims. Consecrated in the 7th century it is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the world. It is a feast for the eyes with so many original Roman features, including  carvings of the emperor and his wife in a high frieze, competing with the voluptuous iconography and ornamentation of early Christianity. On leaving the cathedral the large carved wooden doors (1220AD)   depicting 28 scenes from the life of Christ are well worth a look. Below the cathedral is the crypt, or burial chamber, now the Chapel of St Lucy.  It is eerily quiet and deliciously cool.

A riot of gold and silver in St Domnius Cathedral, flanked by Roman pillars
Nearby is the baptistery, originally the temple of Jupiter. Reliefs featuring various Roman gods decorate the entrance and an Egyptian sphinx stands guard. Sadly it was defaced, literally, by early Christians who saw it as a pagan idol. The most impressive feature of the Baptistery is the original, ornately carved, barrel vaulted ceiling. Dating from the early 300sAD it is still in perfect condition.  A statue of St John the Baptist now stands where the statue of Jupiter once stood.

The barrel vaulted ceiling in the Baptistry

Ancient buildings and alley ways

Diocletian's Palace is an awesome place. It is incredible how much of the original palace remains and in such amazing condition.  I love the fact that it is a busy, bustling walled town where people get on with their lives rather than simply a tourist attraction or museum piece. I doubt that anything built in the 21st century would last as long.

When it was time for refreshments we were spoilt for choice since  there are many places to eat or buy take away lunches within the palace walls.  We settled on filled rolls which we ate on a grassy bank outside the Golden Gate, after doing the traditional thing of rubbing the toe on the statue of Gregory of Nin for luck.

Above: Gregory of Nin
Left: On the Split waterfront

We strolled the ancient streets some more, stopping for a while to listen to a glorious male choir singing traditional Croatian songs, and somewhat loath to leave, before heading out through a gate into a medieval square and then along the modern sea front. Numerous little cafes and restaurants line the waterfront where tourists were enjoying long lunches over glasses of wine  while misting machines sprayed fine droplets of water overhead to keep them cool. Then it was onto the ferry and back to Brac to the peace and tranquility of "our" island. What an interesting, educational, and  enjoyable day it had been.