Lithuania: the “Kryžių kalnas” 30.12.2018

Listed as one of the creepiest places on earth, the Hill of Crosses (Kryžių kalnas), is situated about 10 km north of Šiauliai in Lithuania. Why creepy? Well it will not take you a long time to realise; myriads of crosses of all sorts, sizes and carvings, planted into the ground in no particular logic or order, accompanied by hundreds of prayer beads and numerous Madonnas – a scene which confuses, gives one the creeps, startles in its awkwardness and exaggeration. However one can’t help but admire the energy of the devotion and ritual in this rather eccentric act of worship via the sacred symbol-both pagan and Christian. Crosses first appeared on the hill in the 14th century. They multiplied as symbols of suffering and faith during the anti-tsaritst uprisings. The area was bulldozed by the Red Army in 1961 (this act was considered an offense by the Russian regime) and then razed in 1972 by the Soviet occupation again, but every time the area was destroyed, the number of crosses multiplied anew overnight, reaching the 40,000 in 1990 (year of Lithuanian Independence). The number has multiplied another ten times today, covering an expanse of about 4,700 sq. metres. The hill has come to signify not only a place of religious faith but also national pride and identity.

What about Lithuania itself? Once you visit, you can’t stop wondering why this country has not been praised as one of the top European travel destinations yet! Vilnius is is stunning in its beauty, order and class. People are genuinely kind and elegant but not pretentious; architecture is wonderful; cafes and restaurants for all tastes are everywhere; the market is vibrant. Even smaller cities (like Kaunas) appear as miniatures of Vilnius in its perfection – eager to embrace the visitor from the first moment. Lithuania is a country of dignity, respect, a role model that has a lot to teach to a Europe which today seems to be seriously in quest of culture, identity and all the long-ago-perished good things.

Source: Lonely Planet, Eastern Europe.

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