The Hill of Crosses
It is said that this saddle bag hill 12 kilometres outside of Siauliai was once a pagan alter. How this remote location, far from anything, came to be a holy place is unknown, but the legend describes it as such.
Many centuries later – at some time around the 1830’s – it became the home to a cross or two. Over time the crosses have multiplied and today the saddle bag hill hosts hundreds of thousands of mainly wooden crosses placed there by pilgrims and a large part by especially Polish and German tourists.
The crosses are mostly wooden and unfortunately many of them are identical and have their origin in the souvenir shops at the entrance. But others are of a more personal character. It is particularly fascinating to search through the forest of souvenir crosses and discover those crosses which truly light up and show that they were planted there for a reason and by someone who really cared and believed.
And the Lithuanians care and believe. This is a centre for the Lithuanian national feeling and for their spite against Soviet rule. Here they fought a battle against oppression. Here they defeated the atheistic rule of the Soviet Union. Three times did the Soviets bulldoze the crosses of the saddle bag hill. Three times did Lithuanians, in the darkness of night, raise new crosses. The will of the Lithuanian people is shown in this place and in their pride in it.
And for that reason – if for none other – a visit to the saddle bag hill with the thousands of crosses is worth the trouble to get there.
Leaving, however, one does have a distinct feeling that one has seen quite enough crosses to last a life time.
For pathetic Danes
Pathetic Danes, who have been away from home for too long, might find joy in the street scene of Titzes Gatve in Siauliai. As a busy main street and a part of the A12 highway from Riga to Kaliningrad this street also hosts a lot of bus lines.
The buses of Siauliai are, in difference to the buses of most other cities that I have ever visited, not painted in a specific colour or branded with the name of the local bus company. They are second hand buses and a large part of them are brought over from Denmark. For this reason, Danes might find themselves entering a yellow bus similar to those of Copenhagen on which is written in Danish things such as “kort og billetter” (cards and tickets).
As a pathetic Dane with a camera one might find, therefore, that most of ones pictures from Siauliai are of yellow buses. The citizens of Siauliai do tend to shake their heads at these pathetic Danes as they take a stand next to any given bus stop in order to get a picture of their beloved buses. They might not find the same nostalgia in a yellow bus.
This particular and pathetic Dane can only be happy that the buses that she used as a child have seen a new and exciting chapter of their life in this north-western corner of Lithuania.
Pathetic Norwegians going to Lithuania might be interested in knowing that some of the Vilnius city buses are originally from Norway, which is evident when the buses sometimes display “Ej i trafik” (Not in traffic), even though they are on route.