My traveling buddy, Connor, and I took a private transfer to Šiauliai to see the Hill of Crosses on day 3 in Lithuania. The Hill of Crosses is a small hill 12km north of Siauliai about 2 and a half hours by car from Vilnius and worth every second of the travel time. It is a must see. Even Pope John Paul II thought so. The words spoken by Pope John Paul II when he visited are inscribed on a stone placed there – “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.”
It is believed the first planting of the crosses started back in or around 1831 when Lithuanians planted them to represent the lives lost by Lithuanian freedom fighters as, during the uprising against the Russians, the families could not locate the bodies of their perished rebels. The crosses were meant to be symbolic and a tribute to them and a place they could pray for liberty and peace. Interestingly, in 1961, the Soviets occupied Lithuania again and made it their mission to destroy this sacred tribute by burning all wooden crosses, bulldozing the hill and burying any other crosses found there. The Soviets did this at least three times but that didn’t stop the Lithuanians. The crosses kept reappearing despite the Soviets efforts. As of today, they believe there is well over 100,000 crosses planted there. In fact, that number is from 10 years ago and I expect there are many more. We planted our own on this sacred ground with a message of gratitude written on it – “Thank you God for all our blessings.”. .