Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kryzus Kalnas

Ever since I saw a picture in the "Looking at Lithuania" book we checked out from the library, I really wanted to go to The Hill of Crosses. Unfortunately, it's in Siauliai, which is over 200 km. from Vilnius. One of the other girls from UNC went to see it last week one day, and she said it was completely worth it. Friday was my opportunity, so I looked into bus and train schedules.

I left the hostel a little after 6 in the morning to walk to the train station. After asking a particularly helpful gentleman at the train station, I bought my ticket. My train left Vilnius at 6:45 and arrived in Siauliai around 9:20. I again asked questions and figured out how to get to the bus station, which was about a 10 minute walk in the rain. Luckily, I had my umbrella with me. After encountering more helpful people and finding out the bus I would take would leave at 10:25, I went into a shopping center and bought something I could eat for lunch later on. The bus ride was only 3 litas, and the bus driver let me know where to get out. The elderly lady I was sitting next to told me, "Kryzus Kalnas, walk there," and pointed at a road trailing off the main road.

I was a little concerned. It looked like I was in the middle of no where, I couldn't see even a glimpse of a hill, and it was pouring rain. I ended up walking with a Japanese lady who had gotten off of the bus as well. It was about a 2 km walk, and in the rain that was a lot worse. I don't think my friends and family in Colorado can quite comprehend the magnitude of the rain here. It's crazy! Even with the umbrella, I was soaking wet by the time I saw the hill in the distance.

Words cannot describe the wonder of that place. There are thousands, maybe millions of crosses. There are literally crosses hanging on crosses hanging on crosses. It's hard to even fathom. To me, it was a symbol of a solid, unwavering, undying, persistent faith tying together generations of people from several cultures and beliefs. It's simply amazing.

When I got back, I went straight to the church for music practice. It was our last, as camp starts on Monday. I have to say, singing in Lithuanian, a language I didn't know a word of before this trip, has been quite the challenge. But I'm getting there... I think.

Later that night, we said goodbye to Maryna, our new friend from Ukraine. AnnaRose and I walked her to the bus station, where she left around 10.

We then spent Anna's last night in Vilnius just hanging out and relaxing. We grabbed a snack and walked the streets until dark, so we could get some pictures of the Cathedral at night.

Back at the hostel, there were only three of us girls left. AnnaRose would leave at 4 the next morning, and Jessica would leave the next night. I would leave the next day to stay with the Millers until camp. We talked a little about our days. Jessica had gone with a couple others to the Soviet statue park and to a zoo. AnnaRose had gone to the castle at Trakai with Maryna. After telling each other about our adventures, we all said our goodbyes and went to sleep, content.

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