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Published: September 12th 2010
Lithuania is an extremely flat country, its highest point is only 294 metres above sea level and yet
during our very brief visit to the country we managed to spend the majority of the time climbing
We arrived in Lithuania by bus from Riga in Latvia, and our first stopover was Lithuania’s best
known sight, the Hill of Crosses
. The hill, which has come to be an extremely significant
monument of Lithuanian national identity, is a stirring sight with hundreds and thousands of
crosses and monuments of all shapes and sizes. Its origin is unknown, but prior to Soviet
occupation it was a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. During the Soviet occupation the crosses
were bull-dozed three times and it became a representation of Lithuanians’ allegiance to their own
identity as they protested peacefully against occupation by continually resurrecting the crosses.
From the Hill of Crosses
we continued on to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius. Vilnius is similar
to the other Baltic capitals, in that it is centred around an Old Town which is essentially a popular
locale for visitors, with beautiful architecture, restaurants and museums whereas the majority of
residences and businesses are located outside of
We took a brief walking tour of the city, in which we saw Cathedral Square and the pretty Baroque
streets before we went to the Museum of Genocide Victims
which is locally referred to as the
KGB Museum as it is housed in the old KGB Headquarters in Vilnius.
The museum is heart-rendering; showcasing some rooms exactly as they were and giving access
to the cells in the basement, some of which were padded cells or torture chambers. One room had
a raised square platform in the middle which was only 30-40 centimetres wide, the room would
have been filled with cold water and the prisoner was forced to stand in the centre of the room or
fall into cold water. The holes in the walls were still visible in the execution room and the rooms
were considerably chilly despite the warm weather. Yet the most disturbing thing about the KGB
Museum was that its most recent execution was thought to have happened in 1996.
With all of this in mind we continued our sight-seeing and this led to our further encounters with
the hills of Vilnius. The second hill we ventured up with some
of the girls on the tour, was the
hill with the remainder of the castle on its peak. Jo, Krystal, Al and I entertained ourselves on
top of the castle and were in fits of giggles due to the high amount of static electricity due to the
brewing storm. Our hair was standing on end, and as Al wisely pointed out we should have been
getting down from such a high point rather than taking photos and standing around laughing!
In case we hadn’t yet seen enough hills or crosses, we walked up the Hill of the Three Crosses for
further views and yet further crosses before we had some dinner. We decided to try the Lithuanian
tasting plate which turned out to be potatoes cooked in a variety of different ways, it wasn’t bad,
but it was definitely too much potato!
A quick visit to the Gate of Dawn and a mangled ice cream were our last experiences in Vilnius
before we continued to our second last city of the trip, Warsaw.
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