15.11.16

Lithuania: The Hill Of Crosses - Symbol Of Hope, Peace, Love And Sacrifice

October 2016


the Hill of Crosses in Siauliai (show-ley)

"So here, Hill Cross." Alex, our driver pointed the entrance gate with a thick Lithuanian accent as he turned off the car engine.

"How much time do I have here?" After travelled more than 150 km from Riga - Latvia to Siauliai - Lithuania via Rundale, we still have another 200 km to drive before reaching Vilnius. I was concerned about the time in order to arrived on time for a dining reservation.

"No worry! Take your time. I wait here." Alex gave me a big grin on his face.

"Ačiū (thanks), Alex! See you in a bit." Relieved that I would have an ample time to spend, I leaped out the mini coach before my Dad, Mom and sister. My heart was pounding with excitement. I wanted to visit the Hill of Crosses for a very long time after saw some pictures of it on internet.


the Hill of Crosses from afar

getting closer

finally, the Hill of Crosses and the cross from Pope John Paul II

As I walked closer and the detail of the crosses became clearer, I got goosebumps all over my body. Not because the temperature has dropped to only 2 degree Celsius but I was overwhelmed for being there at last. I reached the first cross which was given by Pope John Paul II and I looked around in awe. There's tons of crosses wherever I turn my head to. It was quiet because there's only a few people around. Thus the ambiance was rather eerie but not in a scary way. It just felt like stepping into a very foreign land with bizarre yet serene aura. I felt so moved that it brought a lump to my throat. I fixed some small crosses for my loved ones into the wet soil under the big statue of Jesus. As soon as I kneel down to pray, I was already sobbing uncontrollably. It felt like I could finally release all the burden that I've kept for myself. I was too exhausted carving a smile in front of people, pretending everything was alright when it was not.

These couple months had been really tough for me. Families and friends who are connected on Facebook or Path may have noticed that recently I posted some super sentimental status. I lost my bestest friend - Kenzo, one of my dogs who I had the strongest bond with in August. His sudden death and the thought that he was suffering during his last days really kills me. I was deeply saddened and fell into depression because I keep blaming myself. It was so bad that I could literally feel my heart shattered inside which hurts like hell. Never felt this way even when I broke up with my boyfriend(s). I thought I was going to lose my mind for crying too much and began self-destruct. Gosh! I can't even control my tears while typing it now. Perhaps it's better not talk about it any further, ya. I don't want to turn this post into a sentimental post and might ruin your mood today :)


an artsy and colourful cross


a beautiful rosary

It's hard to describe the feeling of being surrounded by thousands crosses and rosaries in any size, model, colour and variety I've ever imagined. It was mind blowing indeed! I was told that there's even a cross made from Lego bricks but I couldn't find it when I was there. I think it's quite impossible to find out the exact number of those crosses. Some says around hundred thousands and some says it up to millions. Apart from the information I read on internet, I also enjoyed to hear the story from some locals about this place. There's two versions of how it started in the first place.

According to the history, the first cross founded on the hill was back in 1800's. It was a symbol of Lithuanian defiances of foreign invaders. Apparently religion was forbidden back then, when Russians occupied Lithuania during the soviet period. As families couldn't locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses on the hill. The number of crosses had been increased and by the World War II there were more than 400 crosses on the hill. Sadly the Hill of Crossed had gone through some destruction by the Russian in 1961, 1973 and 1975. To stop people expressing their religion and nationalism, the hill was levelled and the crosses were burned. But it doesn't stop people to come and put their crosses here. Specially after the visit of Pope John Paul II in September 1993. The Hill of Crosses become very well known and every year it is visited by thousands of people all over the world. Pope John Paul II declared the hill as a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.


a walk through a forest of crosses


one of the prayers from Poland

Another version is, once upon a time there was a farmer who has a very ill daughter. He tried any methods and medicines to cure his daughter but her condition was getting worse each day. He was deeply saddened and felt hopeless. One night in his dream, he met a woman dressed in white. She told him to build a big wooden cross and place it on a hill across the country. The cross would be a sign of faith and love to God; and her daughter would be healed. With a slight of hope, he started building the cross and brought it all the way to Siaulai. He erect the cross on the hill and prayed for her daughter. Long story short he returned home and found her daughter was awake and had completely cured from her illness. The miracle story then spread throughout the country and people started to come to the hill and to put their crosses, praying for the cure of their loved ones.


memorial list of Lithuanians who died in Stutthoff concentration camp


...whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours...

statue of Virgin Mary carrying baby Jesus

some crosses and a rosary for my loved ones

Lithuania is the most Catholic of all the Baltic states and nowadays around 85% of the population are Roman Catholic. Thus this hill is considered a sacred place for the locals. To them a cross is a symbol of love. They believe that in our Saviour's sacrifice, love finds response in one's heart and hopes become stronger.

Before visiting the Hill of Crosses, visitors can purchase a simple wooden cross in one of the souvenir stalls next to the information office. Crosses are available in various size with the price started from 1 Euro.

Though I'm a catholic, I can easily say that I'm not really religious. Only God knows when was the last time I attended a Sunday mass at church. But it doesn't mean that I never pray, specially for my loved ones. I did brought a rosary from Indonesia but I also bought more crosses for praying
for my family, my friends and my dogs. Call me weird but I'm a kind of person who always pray for my furry friends. After all, my pets are my family too :)


some locals prayed together

the Hill of Crosses from the other end

Apart from the religion thingy, it's interesting to learn about the story behind the place. Also my mind was overwhelmed with the thought that each crosses symbolise a hope for someone out there, for many different reasons of what their wishes or prayers for. And there are millions of them in many languages from all over the world. It was almost dark when I walked slowly towards the parking lot. Half way through, I turned around and gave the last glance to the crosses from afar and whispered "May all their wishes come true."


The Hill of Crosses can be visited at anytime of a day, all year round. However, visitors are forbidden to light candles or to smoke in order to avoid a fire hazard. 

30.10.16

Travel Updates: The Baltics & Poland

October 2016


Helloooooo! A quick travel updates about the road trip around the Baltic countries and Poland with my family. It's my early birthday trip, lol! If you've been following my Instagram account then most probably you've seen my daily travel photo updates. Otherwise here's the recap of some places I've been to....


Estonia

Tallinn


Before the trip, I honestly had zero expectation about this small country. Visiting the Baltics is another trip which was decided impulsively. So all the preparation was kinda last minute thus I didn't really do the pre-trip research and planning. I didn't expect to be in love with this country but oddly I already felt like home on the very first moment I stepped my feet on their small yet cozy airport. Sometimes a city captures your heart in a way no other city has. For me, that city is Tallinn.


Latvia

House of the Blackheads

Sigulda

From Estonia, we move towards Latvia and made some stops in Sigulda, Riga (the capital city), Jurmala and Rundale. Overwhelmed by the amount of beautiful architecture that I've seen along the way and the friendliness of the local people in the Baltics. The temperature has dropped significantly with some days of wet snowing and strong winds. But I don't mind at all because I really love autumn with all those colourful golden foliages.


Lithuania

Hill of Crosses

Trakai Island Castle

The Hill of Crosses is my main reason of visiting the Baltics specially Lithuania. I'm not a really religious person. Only God knows when was the last time I attend a Sunday mass at church, lol! But couple years ago I found out about this place somewhere on internet and I just felt the urge to visit it one day. It's undoubtedly a mind-blowing place with some kind of magical aura. So happy to finally here :)


Poland

Gdansk

Malbork Castle
Krakow

Wieliczka Salt Mine

5 years ago when I was wandering around the Old Town of Krakow, I silently made a promise to myself that one day I would come back again. Though it was full of tourist, I still found Krakow very charming. And here I am now, reunited with the Dragon of Krakow. This time I spend a week in Poland and managed to visit some interesting places like Wieliczka Salt Mine, Malbork Castle, Gizycko and Gdansk.

This trip has been nothing short of amazing. In the other hand I can't wait to fly home and to hug all my kiddos. It's funny that when I was younger, I love travelling too much that I don't really miss home. But now after 12 dogs have come into my life, I can't travel more than 2 weeks without feeling terribly homesick. Well, travelling is still and will always be the greatest pleasure of my life but it feels warm inside to know that a dozen of beautiful souls will greet me with excitement when I get home. So grateful of my life and for being loved :)

I'll write more about all these beautiful places once I'm done with a huge pile of dirty laundry, ya. I don't enjoy unpacking my suitcase. Sometimes it takes more than a month to finally sort all the stuff out. Hahaha. Talk to you later! *kiss*


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