The BBA V2 wanders the backroads of western rural Lithuania

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July 10th 2013
Published: July 16th 2013
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We should have known by now that Vicky(our GPS)loves roads that takes us to the centre of cities and to the backblocks,if she gets the opportunity.Today it was the turn of the backblocks in a major way!The town where we are staying is in a rural village but we did think there were some reasonable secondary roads to get there and so plugged in the shortest route to the GPS.Needless to say we have learnt our lesson once and for all,more later.

The weather has remained fine although as we get closer to Poland we are not sure this will continue given Poland's weather patternsBut we shall make the best of what is ahead today.

Its back into Lithuania today and a stop at an attraction in a field about 10km before the city of Siauliai(get your head around that one to pronounce) we had seen on the Travel programme on TV.We assume that finding it will be easy enough as people make pilgrimages to it in the thousands and therefore we expect it will be signposted from the main road.We might even find it using Vicky,of course!

The E77 was probably the best road surface we drove on in Latvia and it didn't take long to reach the border and into Lithuania heading southwest.The scenery during the morning was pretty well much like we have been looking at for the last week or so,except for the time we have been on or close to the coast.Andd as we got back into Lithuania there was a definite noticeable change in the amount of cropping.

We found the Hill of Crosses after one false turn down a road that the GPS directed us to and we discovered after we had returned to the main road that there was a minor road that we could have taken to get to the site.

It was lunchtime so before we walked the short distance to the small rise in the land,a hillock we guess you would call it,we had a boot lunch sheltering from the sun as best we could in the wide open spaces amid fields of wheat or some such grain.

No one quite knows why or how the Hill of Crosses got started other than a cross was planed by an unknown person in 1831 after a war between Russia and Poland at which time Lithuania was a province of Poland.Since then thousands of crosses have been planted by people and today no one really knows how many crosses are actually there.One thing we can say is that when you look at the hillock from a distance you can tell there heaps of them there but it is only when you walk amongst them that you really appreciate the numbers,that are absolutely everywhere from being pushed into the ground to hanging off tall varieties.

During the Soviet times in Lithuania the authorities removed the crosses that had built up and bulldozed the site on at least three occasions as it was seen as an affront to the regime which discouraged religious beliefs and actions associated.They didn't succeed and the hill and its crosses grew again after each time.

At the rear of the hill is a monastery which has a small chapel and a window that looks directly to the hill and looked to be a great place for a photo..........if only people didn't walk up the middle of the path or should I say dawdle so that they were always in your shot.!One particular woman seemed to take an age to make the distance and then she had the nerve to come into the chapel,which is supposed to be a quiet place,and talk her head off..ggrrrr.Any way we both finally got the pictures and video we wanted and made our way back over the hill and through the crosses.

Pope John Paul II visited the hill in 1993 and there is a substantial cross in erected in memory of that visit.

It is an odd place in a way,this little hill amongst the wheat fields and all the crosses, and it was difficult at the time we were there to just understand our feelings as to whether is was a deeply sacred place or just a little macabre in a way.

It is a favourite stop for tour buses and there were three there for the time we were at the site along with a dozen or so cars.Also uch is the popularity of the stop that a fully sealed car park with a small parking fee,toilets ...for a fee and a souvenir shop selling......what else,crosses in all sizes.

We still had about 80km to go to our destination after we passed through Siauliai and ahead of us the roads all became secondary ones as we drove into the real rural Lithuania.

After a short conference between driver and navigator it was decided to switch the GPS to the shortest route thinking that we might get to Raudone,our destination more directly.Wrong move!

The GPS,we have discovered,factors in speed at 10kph when unsealed roads are in the mix to a destination and shortly after changing the command we hit the gravel.At first the surface was very good and we maintained 65kph leaving a cloud of dust behind us.Gretchen did slow down at one stage for the few cows we have seen in a field for ages.They were close to the roadside and she felt sorry for them!

Our track went west,then south and then east as we followed the shortest route.After half an hour we were regreting the move as we didn't seem to be getting any closer to our destination although this sense was down more to the fact that the road surface had started to deteriorate and things were getting bumpy.

At one point a car that had been behind us for a few minutes eating our dust sped up and overtook us leaving Gretchen no alternative but to slow down as she couldn't see what was ahead.That car then turned in a different direction to us but amazingly reappeared in front of us a few minutes later having come off a sealed road.We wished we had followed it after it overtook us!

Finally the tar seal came back just short of Raudone and we turned to follow the road up a short hill from the river to our overnight stay.There was one last test for the car springs for the day as the road into the village was cobbled!!

The place we were due to stay at had changed its name from what was on the website but as it was the only accommodation in the village it had to be it.

A cheery Polish lady greeted us and by the method of sign language she gathered who we were and she showed us our room.Things here weren't quite like we had booked as we discovered when she opened the door to the room and there was obviously no private bathroom for us.She then went on to show us where the shower room and the separate toilet were and that we would be sharing!That certainly wasn't in the plan and after the backblocks drive we weren't in the mood for being railroaded.However there didn't seem to be much point in trying to sort it out as he didn't speak English so we thought we would wait and see who our fellow shower and toilet companions for the night would be and then decide what to do.

Well eventually as we were having pre dinner drinks the other room occupiers arrived and we formulated a plan to be up before them for a shower.The toilet we would just have to run the gauntlet and hope none of them were in there if we needed it!You can probably tell we don't do shared facilities!

As we sat down to dinner,which we had cooked in the shared kitchen,the heavens opened up after a huge thunder clap and it bucketed down with rain,the first we had seen since Augustow,Poland nearly a couple of weeks ago.Poland must be close by!

After a short walk around the village after the rain stopped we retired to bed.It had been a long day ending not quite the way we wanted it to with the shared facilities.

Additional photos below
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16th July 2013

No vampires allowed!
My first thought about the hill of crosses would be that vampires would not like it...I imagine it could be quite a weird spot to visit but a great one to photograph! Seems like my last comment from a few days ago hasn't reached you yet-maybe the cyberspace willies got to it first?
19th July 2013

Gretchen has a good panoramic photo taken on her Sony camera capturing the spread from one side to the other.Will send you a copy soon.It wasn't downloaded in time for the blog. Even weirder place today near Straslund was the Nazi holiday apartment buildings built in 1930's but never finished but still standing.More to come perhaps on Facebook.

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