Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hill of Crosses.

At the Hill of Crosses.   Photo taken by a very familiar face. :-)

Today, we got to go to a very special place, the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai, in northern Lithuania, Lithuania. The Hill of Crosses was not on the itinerary that Ieva had worked out for us.  I had originally thought that perhaps we could do a visit as a sided trip from Vilnius.  Then, I looked on the map and realized that Šiauliai is actually closer to Riga than it was to any of the other places we had been to in Lithuania so I set it aside for a side trip from Riga.


After a quick trip to the Riga Central Market to pick up some food for lunch, we hit the road.  It was about a 90 mile drive and remarkably, there were actually road signs pointing us to the site so we had absolutely no issues finding it.

Of course, I immediately recognized the sight of thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of crosses of all sizes sitting atop a small hillock, situated in the middle of a open, grassy area.

We pulled into the parking lot, paid our entry fee and headed on the path leading to the crosses.  We were crossing a wide open field.  It was a quite a long walk.  From a distance, you could appreciate the scale of the site.

On the walk to the crosses.

Hill of Crosses
Panoramic photo of the Hill of Crosses. Use the scroll bars to pan up and down to see the entire photo.



It's really not until I got up close to the hill that I could see the jumbled mass of crosses.  There is no organization to this.  Anyone can place a cross anywhere as long a you can find a spot.  The whole thing has pretty much evolved, organically, over time.  The sheer volume of crosses was mind boggling!





For some inexplicable reason, I almost felt like I was walking through a cemetery - taking soft steps and speaking in a whisper. The overcast skies added to the solemnity of the moment.  Actually, in a way I preferred that; a bright sun shiny day would somehow not have been befitting of the experience of being in this place.





There were a few statues on the hill as well, all draped with crosses.


A set of steps, dissected the hillock and took you to the top of the hill.  The video is a bit blurry but it gives a sense of what it was like to be walking up the steps, completely surrounded by crosses of all sizes and decoration.  I've never been in the midst of so many crosses, it felt a bit overwhelming.



I really appreciated the home made crosses - like the modest little one in the middle of the photo below.  They seemed much more heartfelt.



The mass of crosses extended beyond the hillock to the flat ground.

So many of the crosses were simple, unmarked wooden ones.

Rosary beads were hung among the crosses.

The most heart touching crosses were those that were inscribed with words, presumably prayers of some sort.  It was amazing to see how many different languages the messages were in, reflecting the fact that pilgrims come here from all around the world.




Someone said to me that some pilgrims return years after they put down a cross.  I don't know how they would ever find it again.








It wasn't hard to be overwhelmed by this place!  Although we had only come here to see the place, there were plenty of other people who had arrived with crosses in hand or were simply walking about, in deep prayer.


The entire time we were at the site, there was a constant trickle of people coming and going.  Today is Sunday and was close to noon so I presume many of the people here are church goes though I imagine this place sees many visitors every day - rain, snow, sleet or shine. 

When were ready to leave, we bumped into four very familiar faces on our way back to the entrance.  It was the three sisters whom we first met at the Hill of Witches on the Curonian Spit and then later at the Amber Museum in Palanga.  They were here with their trusty guide.

We all had a good chuckle when we saw each other.  This time, I had to take their photo!  When we were at the Hill of Witches, we had exchanged names but I am sad to say that by today, I had completely forgotten them. They were a lovely threesome though.  It was one of the sisters who took the photo that opens up this blog posting



For sure this was going to be the last time we would see them as they were continuing their visit in Lithuania and we were headed back to Riga.  We said one final "bon voyage" and went on our way.

Before leaving, Bro broke into his picnic lunch - the smoked flounder, Uzbek bread, and raspberries that he had bought at the Riga Central Market this morning.  He really enjoyed the flounder - ate the whole filet all by himself!  (I just had one bite.)


We spent more time driving than here at the Hill of Crosses but it was so worth it.  If we hadn't made it, I truly would have regretted it!

Goodbye Lithuania!