Day 7: Jess is a Wanderer visits the Hill of Crosses
What is the Hill of Crosses?
The Hill of Crosses is a sacred pilgrimage site for Christians from all over the world. People travel to the hill to leave crosses in honour or memory of their loved ones. Others leave statues, monuments or messages for those who have passed on to the ‘other side’. Over the years, more than 200,000 crosses have been piled up over the hill among Rosary beads, Jesus statues and other religious relics. At the top of the hill is a giant statue of Mary with some extremely eerie music playing. People walk around solemnly (and some) dressed in their Sunday best. There are even those that breakdown due to the overwhelming feeling of being at the site. The Pope visited in the 90s and drew a crowd of more than 100,000 to a mass which he led.
It is believed the first crosses were placed in 1831 when the Polish and Lithuanian people rebelled against their Russian rulers in a bloody battle. Many bodies of the fallen were never retrieved so crosses were laid here to give some closure to grieving relatives.
From 1944-1990, during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, the locals would leave crosses as a symbol of their loyalty to their own nation. It’s truly one of the most fascinating (and creepy) places I’ve visited. Would I go back? I’m not sure. Am I glad I went? Definitely.
How to Get There?
From Vilnius it is simple to take a train to Šiauliai. The journey is just under 2.5 hours and the best trains to take leave at 06:45 or 09:25. The trains return at for around €20 round trip. Once you arrive in Šiauliai, you can head left out of the station and take a bus to Domantai. This will be the Šiauliai – Joniškis service. The cost for a round trip is €1.48. Alternatively, it is a twelve km walk along flat ground. We opted to walk and thus only pay €0.74 for a one-way journey. Yes times really are that hard!
Once you get off the bus on the main road it’s a 2km walk to the main site. Entry is free and if you want to leave a cross in honour of someone or as a prayer, the prices start from €1. There is nowhere to eat lunch other than a vending machine selling over-priced crisps and sweets.
The return bus runs hourly: 2:10, 3:02, 4:08 etc. The train leaves at 5:27, 5:57 or 7:47.