Labas! (Hello!) This Throwback Thursday we are going to talk about the southernmost Baltic state: the beautiful country of Lithuania! This may be a country you know little to nothing about, but by the end of this post I hope to perk up your interest in traveling there someday.
Lithuania is an amazing country filled with rich traditions, delicious food, and an intriguing history. When Andy and I traveled there a year ago, we did not really know what to expect. But we entrusted ourselves to two of the best tour guides around (one of my best friends who was studying in Klaipėda and her Lithuanian fiancé). It turned out to be one of our most precious gems while gallivanting around the world.
We started off in Vilnius and had the afternoon to explore the bustling city before venturing to Klaipėda. We took a bus from the airport to the train station. This turned out to be an adventure in itself. The bus was packed (think sardines) and the bus driver was not having a good day. We were trying our best to stand out of the way for people to come and go on the bus, but our backpacks were not so courteous. The bus sped down the street, rocking back and forth, while Andy and I really tried not to make a sandwich out of those around us… Sometimes we were not so lucky. You get the picture. It was not pretty.
When we finally arrived in downtown Vilnius, we walked around admiring the sights and sounds of the city. We went to Christmas markets, explored a few old buildings, and even hiked up to a couple of the highest points in Vilnius. After a few hours it was time to go, so we trekked back to the bus station and were on our way.
One of the most incredible sites we visited in Lithuania was the Hill of Crosses, just north of the city of Šiauliai in northern Lithuania. On this hill there are hundreds of thousands of crosses, crucifixes, statues, effigies, and rosaries placed by pilgrims throughout the generations. The exact origin of this practice of leaving the crosses is unknown, but it is said to be connected with the 1831 and 1863 uprisings against the Russians. Families were not able to locate the bodies of their perished loved ones and began to put up the symbolic crosses. Over the years it has been used as a place for Lithuania to pray for peace for their country and for the ones that they had lost during times of war. Though it has been destroyed several times, Lithuanians have continued to travel to the hill and leave their tributes to “demonstrate their allegience to their original identity, religion and heritage.” The Hill of Crosses, in the words of John Paul II, “testifies to the nations of Europe and to the whole world the faith of the people of this land.” It is a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.*
What a legacy.
Overall, we had a truly incredible time in Lithuania. So, if you are like I was before going on this adventure and you really do not know much about Lithuania, I would recommend asking “Uncle Google.” Lithuania is a remarkable country that is definitely worth your time. Who knows? Perhaps you will get to say “Labas” to Lithuania as well! Ačiū! (Thank you!)
Have you been to Lithuania? What was your favorite adventure there? Please feel free to share in the comments below! 🙂
*For more information on the Hill of Crosses, click here.