How To Travel To Famous Hill Of Crosses
Hill of Crosses
Hill of Crosses is mentioned between top 10 or even top 5 things to see in Lithuania. It's just unique, like nothing else.
The hill, not high at all, not as high, as you maybe expected, in the middle of flat fields, full of crosses of all sizes and all matherials, from made by child‘s hand to few meters high stone monuments.
How it started and why people use to leave crosses here – the precise origin of the practice of leaving crosses on the hill is uncertain. This is an expression of a spontaneous religiousness of Lithuanian people
It is believed that the first crosses were placed on the Jurgaičiai hill after the 1831 Uprising against tsarist infringement.
During the Soviet era, the pilgrimage to the Hill of Crosses served as an expression of silent resistance. The Soviets few times removed crosses placed on the hill. Three times, during 1961, 1973 and 1975, the hill was leveled, the wooden crosses were burned others were turned into scrap metal, and the area was covered with waste and sewage. Each time, more crosses reappeared, and the Hill of Crosses' spiritual symbolism grew more meaningful. Local inhabitants and pilgrims from all over Lithuania rapidly replaced crosses upon the sacred hill. In 1985, the Hill of Crosses was finally left in peace.
After the political change in 1988 the status of the Hill of Crosses changed completely – it became both a Lithuanian and a world phenomenon.
In 1991, with the advent of Lithuanian independence, the Hill of Crosses became a national symbol of the fight for independence. At that time, an estimated 35,000 crosses were already laid, varying in size from a few centimetres to 4 meters.
On September 7, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice
In 1994 during his visit to a Franciscan monastery of the mount of Verna (Italy), the Pope John Paul II encouraged the brothers to build a monastery by the Hill of Crosses. It is built 300 meters away from the Hill. It serves as a novitiate of the Lithuanian Franciscan province of St. Casimir, but the monastery is also open to the pilgrims who look for silence and peace.
How to travel to Hill of Crosses
Beeing worldwide famous, Hill of Crosses is still relatively difficult to reach, and I have seen wrong marks on the maps in some websites as well as questions in many international forums – how to travel to Hill of Crosses?
The Hill of Crosses is situated in northern Lithuania, close to the border with Latvia, near the road A12 (E77). If you travel Baltic states, it could be the last stop of Lithuania, before going to Latvia, or first stop in Lithuania, if you are coming from Latvia.
The nearest city is Šiauliai, reachable by bus or by train from Vilnius, Lithuanian capital.
From Šiauliai look for the bus to Joniškis – there are about one each hour. If you have to ask people, it‘s useful to know, how to pronounce Joniškis - not like the name John, nor Juan, even it is related to that name, but we, Lithuanians, pronounce it differently: Yonishkis.
It‘s also good idea to write down on the piece of paper the Lithuanian name of Hill of Crosses: KRYŽIŲ KALNAS. Most young people in Lithuania speak English, but most bus drivers don‘t. If you have KRYŽIŲ KALNAS written, you may just show people, where do you need to go, because if you try to pronounce it, I don‘t promiss you would do well enough from the first try for people to understand you.
So from Šiauliai take a bus, direction to Joniškis. You have to leave the bus at the stop Domantai, but just by yourself you will not know when is the right stop. Bus driver simply must know, that you are going to Hill of Crosses to tell you when to leave the bus.
Good news, if they see a foregner in the bus, their first guess would be that your destination is Hill of Crosses. If you have a question, how they reqognise a foreigner, I don‘t have an answer for that, but most likely they will.
Leaving a bus, you have to walk by foot about 1 kilometre. It‘s not tricky, here you will not get lost. You may take pictures of storks while walking.
Recently near the Hill of Crosses also is touristic information.
Coming from Latvia, from Riga take a bus to Šiauliai. If your backpack is not too heavy for walking by foot few kilometers, leave the bus before Šiauliai. There is not official bus stop at Domantai for international buses, so you have to ask driver to stop for you. The note KRYŽIŲ KALNAS would help again.
Don‘t get disapointed. It‘s not a mountain. It;s not a monument. It‘s simply little hill with plenty of crosses,, each of them contains hopes, fears and tears.
Hill of Crosses in Lithuania
About 1 kilometer from the road A12(E77) - just take the country road with trees along it. You may take pictures of storks while walking