After an eventful night and saying goodbye to Teresa and Vivian early this morning, we packed our bags and planned for our most ambitious day yet: Take an international bus from Riga, Latvia to Siauliai, Lithuania to visit the Hill Of Crosses, before heading onwards by train to Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius by nightfall.
Leaving the hostel at 11:45am, we walked about 10 minutes south from old city to Riga’s bus station for a 12:15pm Ollex Express Bus to Siauliai.
We arrived at around 2:45pm into Siauliai‘s bus station, which is conveniently attached to a high-end mall.
After orienting ourselves with the bus schedule, storing our left luggage for a cheap 0.60 euros at the bus station, and getting some food at the mall, we got on the public bus on Platform #12 (0.86 euros fare). We traveled about 12km north of Siauliai for about 15-20 minutes, before getting off at Domentai.
From there we walked another 15 minutes towards the Hill Of Crosses.
After 15 minutes of walking down a dirt path, we finally came upon an incredible, awe-inspiring sight.
For the many of you unfamiliar with what this place is, the Hill Of Crosses is a pilgrimage site in Northern Lithuania famous for Lithuanians leaving crosses on a hill since the 1800s. Despite multiple attempts by the Soviet empire and other powers trying to bulldoze the site, Lithuanians have risked their life and limb to continuing the practice and going as far as planting the crosses in the cover of darkness as a demonstration of “peaceful rebellion.”
The Hill Of Crosses remains to this day a beautiful testament of the will and faith of the Lithuanian people for their beliefs. The exact number of crosses is unknown, but it has been estimated that there have been about 100,000+ crosses placed on this hill.
Follow the path of crosses until you arrive upon the main, central clearing at the foot of the hill:
From there you can walk up the stairs and lose yourself among a forest of crosses.
There are multiple paths around and through the sides of the hill you can take, all eventually leading back to the top.
A few panoramas of the hill:
You can either easily spend more than an hour here and not want to leave, or see everything in under 30 minutes.
Some crosses are not even planted into the ground, but simply placed in a pile of other crosses:
After about 45 minutes there, we all elected to take a cab back to Siauliai instead of waiting another hour to take the return bus back. A one way journey by cab should cost about 20 euros.
Seeing that we had already taken buses, cars, ships, ferries, and flights on this trip, the last mode of transportation left to experience was a train. So instead of taking an evening bus back to Vilnius, we picked up our bags at the left luggage station in the bus terminal and walked about 8 minutes towards the train station northwest of the city.
Lithuania has a funny system of not allowing tickets to be pre-purchased/reserved outside the country, so unlike the overnight buses and cruise ships we’ve been taking the past 2 weeks, we had to buy our train tickets on the spot (for those of you running large groups like us can rest easy, however, that it is very rare for these train tickets to get sold out).
Unlike the bus terminal, the train station is spartan with not much availability for anything but a waiting area.
We then got on the 6:15pm train for Vilnius.
… and we arrived into Vilnius at 8:30pm.
From the train station we walked about 9 minutes towards Vilnius’ Old Town, coming upon the Gate of Dawn:
Our hostel, Hostelgate, is located only a few steps from the Gate of Dawn inside Old Town. We checked in quickly, and then went out exploring the neighborhood at night.
After a decent dinner at Atelier Grill, we turned in for an early night.
– At time of posting in Siauliai, it was 57.2 °F – Humidity: 82% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear