Thank you, Lithuanians, for this Hill Of Crosses which testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of this land.
– Pope John Paul II, 1993
The Hill of Crosses is located near the town of Šiauliai between Vilnius and Riga. It started simply with locals putting up crosses in remembrance of victims of war and occupation, especially for those whose bodies were never found. Torn down and built up again and again in its history, it is the persistant symbol of both Lithuanian faith and resistance.
A fair amount of research is needed to get to the Hill of Crosses. I went from Vilnius which required me to take a train to Šiauliai (50% off with ISIC student card), then walk to the bus station, catch the bus to Joniškis, ask the driver to drop me off at Domantai village and walk the remaining 2km on a rural road leading towards the site. For the journey back, I asked the lady at the tourist information to call a taxi for me to get back to Šiauliai. I had jotted down the word train station in my notebook to show it to the cab driver, because well…just don’t expect anyone to speak English.
The site itself is impressive and a tiny bit eerie, I mean, look at it. Crosses over crosses over crosses. And it is constantly growing because tourists bring in more and more of them. You can see all sorts of different statues and crosses put up by people and groups from all over the world. The creepiest installments were the hidden speakers that played prayers on repeat but really make you jump because you just don’t expect them to be there… The atmosphere there is just out of this world and it was definitely worth the visit, despite the hassle to get there.