Reading material for those who love the camping life

Text and photo: Magne Storlien
Motorhome and Caravan magazine, No. 6, 2015 December

Hill of Crosses in Lithuania: Kryziu Kalnas - cross for peace

On our journey northwards through Poland and into the Baltic states we drove back Kryziu Kalnas, or Hill of Crosses. It is located on a plain along the main road towards Latvia, just over a mil north of the city of Šiauliai, far north in Lithuania. The visit regretted we did not, for this was a slightly strange but incredibly powerful experience where we wandered among the tens of thousands of crosses in all sizes.

It is believed that it all began in connection with the uprising against the Russian rulers. The unrest began in Poland, but spread to Lithuania in 1831 and was followed up by a new rebellion in 1863. To begin with the Hill of Crosses used as a place for Lithuanians to pray for peace in their country, and for the loved ones they had lost during the Lithuanian war for independence. To begin with, there were few crosses, but around the year 1900 was about 150 cross.

Razed

Hill of Crosses regained a special meaning for Lithuanians in the years 1944 - 1990, since the country was occupied by the Soviet Union. Lithuanians began again to travel to Hill of Crosses and left cross as a symbol of tribute to its original heritage, religion and identity. It was a form of peaceable resistance against the Soviets. At least three times until 1975 was Hill of Crosses leveled by Russian bulldozers. When Lithuania was again a free country in 1991 was Hill of Crosses an important destination for not only Lithuanians, but for people from around the world. In 1993 visited Pope John Paul II Hill of Crosses and he stated that this was a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. It was set up a memorial stone after the Pope's visit with the following inscription: Thank you, Lithuanians, for this Hill of Crosses which bears witness to the nations of Europe and the world of faith to the people of this country.

Popular tourist destination and wedding space

In recent years, Hill of Crosses become more and more a tourist destination and the number of cross there is no longer anyone who can say with any certainty, but it is believed that the number has surpassed 100 000 by a wide margin. Coincidentally, we visited the place a Saturday and it was swarming with people and we observed no less than three bride follows. So this is obviously also become a popular place to get married. In the usual souvenirbodene could buy all sorts of souvenirs, but the sellers were not at all pushy and it created a special atmosphere. They also sold down to wood crosses in different sizes. We also bought and wrote a greeting to some loved ones who have passed away before we planted the cross among the thousands of others. It felt good and devoutly to have done it, but also a little strange. Later, when we again see Kryziu Kalnas in some context, we have this great memory to look back on - in addition to the unforgettable experience of a place that breathed by an incredibly calm and peace, the many tourists notwithstanding.

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