In order to see a couple of important pilgrimage sites in northern Lithuania, I rented a car with a Romanian guy I met in Klaipeda.
The first place we visited was Žemaičių Kalvarija, which is a small town in northwest Lithuania. It is known as a major site for Catholic pilgrimage. Every July the town hosts a large Church festival which brings many pilgrims from near and far. The church boasts a sculpture of crucified Jesus and picture of St. Maria, which was brought here in the middle of 17th century from Rome, and the picture is considered to be saintly. I have to admit the church was nice to see, but I would not go out of my way to come here. I bet the festival is a sight to behold though.
Luckily, it was on the way to the Hill of Crosses, which is a pilgrimage site outside the city of Šiauliai. Here pilgrims, and others, place crosses of different sizes on a hill. The precise origin of this practice is uncertain, but it is believed that the first crosses were placed on the former Domantai hill fort after the 1831 Uprising. The exact number of crosses is unknown, but estimates put it at over 100,000.
When I read about the Hill of Crosses I thought it sounded cool, but I was not prepared for what I saw. I guess I was expecting three crosses on a large hill, like the image of Jesus and the thieves. When I arrived I was quite underwhelmed by the hill. It was more of a 30 foot hill bump on the landscape. That is ok because I was OVERwhelmed by the crosses. They were everywhere on this hill and there were paths this way and that through the crosses. Some of the crosses were 20 feet tall while others were 5 inches tall and stuck to the larger ones. Everywhere there were piles of smaller crosses making small hills on the main hill. The 100,000 has to be an estimate because there is absolutely no way anyone would be able to count them all. Well worth visiting even if you have to go out of your way to see the Hill of Crosses.