Today, I’m proud to volunteer myself to be your tourist guide. One of the mysterious places that you probably don’t know about Lithuanian is the Hill of Crosses. Your journey to Lithuania won’t worth you money, if you don’t have your eyes set on this miraculous yet interesting sight to spot.

This amazing tourist spot is found in Lithuania. It is the Lithuanian national pilgrimage centre called Hill of Crosses, Kryziu Kalnas, and is located 12 km northward of the small industrial city of Siauliai (pronounced shoo-lay). Just outside of Siauliai, one can see Lithuania’s most well-known, unique and expensive monument standing proudly upon a small hill with bulk of crosses featuring Christian devotion and identity. Here, you won’t find any churches or Christianity symbolizations as in other holy places around the world.

Getting to the Hill of Crosses is simple. A trip by local bus will take you 3 hours to get to Klaipeda, Palanga, and Kaunas, and then a further 30 minutes to reach the turnoff to the hill. Remember to ask for the “Kryziu kalnas” (Hill of the Crosses) stop on the A12 highway. Once you get off, you’ll see a sign (on your side if you’re coming from Riga or points north; but across the A12 if you’re coming from Siauliai) reads “Kryziu kalnas 2” which points down a road. Walk further down the road and you’ll see the hill on your right-hand side.

It’s approximately the same amount of time from Riga. Generally, busses and trains to Vilnius will take about 4.5 hours. Before taking the bus, bear in mind that you should flag it to stop. Buses between Riga and Siauliai will stop as the same place as the local buses. It’s not advisable to take a train as it’s less frequent and cost more. Taking a taxi will be the best option to get you there as Lithuanian buses are not always punctual but it will cost you 25 LT.

If your trip includes both Lithuanian and Latvia, then Siauliai will be the most convenient place for you to request to stop. No matter you’re heading south or north, there’s always a good connection for a bus or a rail in any city of the northern Lithuanian, Samogitia. Make sure you book ahead if you wish to stay longer in Siauliai. Cheapest accommodations are always limited, and occupied if you’re not booking in advance.

The city of Siauliai, Lithuanian’s fourth largest city, was discovered in 1236 but during the 14th century, it was conquered by Teutonic Knights. Only until the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has symbolized as a place for a peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression. Before returning to Lithuanian in 1918, it was incorporated as part of USSR in 1795. It was recorded that by 1895, there were approximately 150 large crosses upon the Hill of Crosses, and the number increased to 200 in 1914, and about 400 large crosses were placed among thousands of smaller crosses by 1940.

The origins of the Hill of Crosses are still uncertain. The information for this site is very scarce, particularly when one could hardly explain why the crosses are placed here and what has caused it to become a worship place. This hill accumulates hundreds and even thousands of crosses. The Hill of Crosses, as its name suggests, is not likely a cemetery. Instead, it is claimed as a memorial to Lithuanian national identity.

Lithuania is the Europe’s last country to convert to Christianity and has long maintained its tradition of cross-carving since 1389. The expression of the suffering image has been well-documented in the Christianity history. Christ cut the wood as his cross with a motif to express both his hope and sorrow, and because of this reason, the cross-carving itself has a particularly common motif to express both hope and sorrow. The tradition of placing crosses, according to some-written journals began in 1850 as a signification of Lithuanian defiance of foreign invaders. The local believes that one who left crosses on the hill will have good luck in life.

Presently, when you visit this place, you could see a variety of crosses appearing in various forms in all sizes. Not only the crosses are amazingly appeared in their number, but also they can range from 3 meters tall to the countless tiny examples hanging profusely upon the largest crosses. By the end of Soviet occupation in 1991, the hill had approximately 40,000 crosses, and this number has doubled in the intervening years and will constantly to increase daily.

The crosses were beautifully carved out of wood or sculpted from metal. Spending few hours upon this sacred hill will have you experienced an extraordinary crosses brought by Christian pilgrims from all around the world.

From these photos, you can see pictures of Jesus and the saints. Apart from this Christianity signs, you can also see photographs of Lithuanian patriots decorate the larger crosses. When the wind is blowing through the forest of crosses, the hanging rosaries produce a uniquely beautiful music.

Crosses and signs, poles, Chapel (Roman Catholic chapel), sculpture, crucifixion, icons, paintings on the theme of sacred history are striking in a big number – ten thousands of them!

The city of Siauliai suffered great damage when Soviet Russia retook it at the end of the World War II. Before Lithuania’s independence in 1991, Siauliai was part of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR. During the reign of the USSR, the Soviet authorities reacted harshly to this expression of both Christianity and nationalism by constantly removing Christian crosses left on the hill by Lithuanians. They had even attempted to destroy the Christian monument with the bulldozers. In the history, the hill had leveled for three times, during 1961, 1973 and 1975, and within these periods, the crosses were burned or turned into scrap metal. This area was left as a dumpsite covering with sewage and solid waste. Even so, local inhabitants and pilgrims from all over Lithuania have brought with them the crosses and other Christianity signs to replace the removed Christianity items upon this sacred hill. Since then, the Hill of Crosses has become a well-known place of pilgrimage, and in 1985, it was left in peace. Its reputation spread over very quickly until it has become a famous spot for many thousands of pilgrims from all around the world to visit each year. In autumn 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, and a year later, he sent a cross to the hill. On September 2006, a cross of Pope Benedict XVI was placed here.

Visually, the Hill of Crosses appears as a densely packed forest as you approach it along the turn-off from the A12 highway. Remember to allow yourself immersing with unusually scene for an hour or more while appreciating its diversity of the Christianity rich contents. Your eyes will move wildly among a range of crosses, from cheap plastic versions sold by the vendors at the site to any full-sized traditional carved crosses (one of which was erected by Pope John II himself). Here, you can buy your own cross or leave it upon the hill if you desire.

Legend had it said that in one terrible stormy night, the lightning striking through the church and the hurricane scooping up the sand with its powerful arms and the sand was brought up to the night sky. By the moment of the midnight approaching, one unknown ghost appeared on top of the Hill of Crosses.

Another legend said that there was a deep hole on top of the Hill of Crosses. One farmer with two children came approaching the top of this site. While their mother was praying, one of the children fell into the hole. The frightened mother ran as quickly as she could to the nearest village to seek for help. People quickly threw the rope into the hole in the hope to drag the child up. The rescued child was found to have unhurt but his neck was shining with golden crosses.

The Virgin was said to appear upon the Hill of Crosses and remarked, “The cross – a symbol of resistance. Keep this symbol, and place it upon the hill. And I’ll be your patroness of the LORD.” When she finished saying this, she disappeared abruptly. No one has ever seen her again since then.

Whether you are religious or not, the amazing sight upon the Hill of Crosses will leave you in awe. Besides an excellent place for you to buy souvenirs, a visit to this site is worth you a penny. Therefore, I’d strongly recommend you to visit the Hill of Crosses if your trip is between Lithuania and Latvia.

That’s all about the trip to the Hill of Crosses. I’ll meet you and see you again as a tourist guide in the next trip! Happy travelling!

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