Lithuania – Trakai, Šiauliai (Hill of Crosses): 11 Dec 2017
I originally planned to spend 4 days in Lithuania, but our first day in Vilnius didn’t exactly wow us and we decided not to go on to nearby Kaunas, that we feared might be more of the same. So instead, we opted to spend our 2nd day in Lithuania visiting the must-see sights, before venturing out to the other Baltic states. It’s going to be a really ambitious plan so stay tuned 🙂
Our first stop was Trakai, where Trakai Castle (often seen as a symbol of Lithuania) resides. It’s really close to Vilnius (about 30+ mins or so, or 30km away).
The streets of Trakai were pretty much deserted. We were carrying our backpacks with us so we decided to drop it off at a supermarket, courtesy of a tip that I read online. Thankfully our small bags meant that they could fit into a small-ish locker.
After about a 30 mins brisk walk, we reach Trakai Castle. To be honest, it wasn’t particularly breathtaking (especially since we had seen many other castles), but I guess we had a bit of time for it, so why not, right?
After that, it’s a long walk back to the bus station. We were practically jogging at this point, as we didn’t want to miss our bus – we had to first take a bus back to Vilnius, and then take a bus to Šiauliai which was a couple of hours away.
Contact lenses vending machine.. haven’t seen that before.While waiting for our bus to Šiauliai, we popped into the supermarket at the bus station. There was a dizzying array of food and we didn’t exactly know what each one is, so we ended up just grabbing some random stuff.
Unfortunately though, we weren’t allowed to consume our food on the bus, so we kept it till we arrived at Šiauliai
We finally boarded our late morning bus to Šiauliai (pronounced as “show-lay”), and arrived almost 3 hours later (it’s a 220km drive away). When we got to Šiauliai, it was already getting dark even though it was only about 4pm. We quickly got to the tourist information centre, left our bags there and asked them to help us get a cab to the Hill of Crosses. We also got the cab to wait for us, as there was no public transport to the place (at least, at this time of the year), and the Hill of Crosses was 12km away from downtown.
The Hill of Crosses wasn’t as big as we thought, but the sheer number of crosses here (coupled with the dark, cold atmosphere with no other people) made it a rather eerie and surreal place to be in. It almost felt like a video game at times – that such a place couldn’t be real, and must have been planted by an over-zealous video game maker planting random crosses all around.
The history of this place is really interesting, but I won’t bore you with the details. To sum up, basically the place is a symbol of the Lithuanian’s resistance to the Soviet occupation – the crosses have been removed and replaced many, many times. The crosses aren’t necessarily meant to symbolize the passing of someone; they could be planted for perhaps no reason at all (yeah, you could build your own cross using two straws, and we saw quite a few of those – probably left by tourists).
To sum up, I was truly awed by the Hill of Crosses – it’s a really unique place that anyone coming to the Baltic states should make a detour to visit.
We got back to Šiauliai at about 5-ish pm – which left us a bit of time to do some sightseeing. We opted to visit the Ruta chocolate factory/museum. It was a pretty decent distraction I guess, while waiting for our bus at 7pm.
And that concludes our final day in Lithuania. It was just a short and sweet 2-day stay in this country, but we felt that we had enough. Onward to our next destination, Riga in Latvia!
This entry was posted in Europe, Honeymoon, Lithuania