Siauliai - Hill of Crosses

Trip Start Mar 14, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Lithuania  ,
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

We are pushing our Russian Visa to the limits. We started out with only 25 days, we are already 6 days into and we haven't even reached Russia. But there is so much to see and do. So bugger it. Somehow in one day we are going to see the Hill of Crosses and then make it up to Riga, with no information on any transport. Now this is travelling.

With our new Irish friend we made our way to the station, secured tickets (even with our unbelievably poor pronunciation of Siauliai) and sat back for our two and a half hour train ride north.

Outside the city of Siauliai is one of Lithuania's most remarkable places, Hill of Crosses.

Upon arriving in Siauliai we locked up our luggage in the station and started our search for the Tourist Information office (one of the more stupider ideas we have had), this proved to be quiet a challenge. We had gone up and down, sideways, back and forth and spent an hour searching only to realise it had been right next to us the whole time. We enquired about bus tickets to the Hill of Crosses and to Riga.

We departed to the bus station to purchase our tickets. First ticket, to Riga. There was only the 17.00 available. “Great we'll take it.” Next, Hill of Crosses.

We boarded our bus to the Hill (watch out for the Grannies they LOVE to push in front of tourist, I think they make a game of it). Our next problem was, where do we get off? As the Hill of Crosses in the middle of no where.

After about 20 minutes Stephen asked the little old lady next to him, Okay well he point to the name on a piece of paper, where we get off. From what we understand she told us next stop. We then walked up a deserted road for 2km in slippery icy conditions to soon find the little hillock. From a distance the Hill of Crosses seems very small and unimpressive. But as you approach it soon appears as if the crosses grow out of the hillock itself. Spreading forth in organic form.

Hill of Crosses is actually not one but two hillocks, blanketed by thousands of crosses. In 1961 the Russian Soviets ordered the Hill of Crosses to be destroyed, but the Lithuania's ever persistent continued to plant new ones on the hill. The Soviets put soldiers and barbed wire to prevent the new growth of crosses, but each night people crept past to plant yet more, risking their lives and freedom to express their national and spiritual beliefs.

Standing on the hill alone, with the breeze tinkling through the crosses is an unforgettable experience. Who knows why this strange place was chosen but it is well worth it to see.

We headed back to town to wait for our bus to Riga.

(Oh if you are ever making this trip yourself. When you come out of the train station head left along the main road. After about 10 minutes on you right, down a side street, you will see the large bus station/shopping centre. You can leave your bags here and get all the bus information to both the Hill of Crosses and to Riga, without having to waste an hour heading into the centre of town for the tourist info.)
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