Our time in Lithuania came to an end Tuesday morning as we boarded a bus bound for Riga, Latvia. As we drove through the verdant countryside, we had time for one final stop in Lithuania – the Hill of Crosses.
The Hill of Crosses is precisely what it sounds like – a hill that is covered in crosses and crucifixes and other religious iconography. Originally, the spot was a hill fort on which people left crosses for unknown reasons, and over time it became a site of pilgrimage as travelers from all over Lithuania and the world came to add to the collection. Even though the site has been destroyed at various times, like during the Soviet occupation, pilgrims continue to return to the site, turning it into a place of resistance and endurance. Today, thousands upon thousands of crosses cover the hillside, and you can even purchase your own cross at a little roadside souvenir shop if you want to participate.
Shortly thereafter, we crossed into Latvia! Our first stop: lunch and a tour of Rundāle Palace, the palace of the Duke of Courland. This 43-room marvel of baroque and rococo architecture is now a museum with the majority of the rooms restored to their original glory. Between the paintings, sculptures, and furniture inside, and the enormous rose garden outside the manor, which highlights the cultivation of roses over the centuries in Europe, this was truly a feast for the eyes!
Tomorrow, we will explore Riga, including a tour of the famous Riga National Opera House. Until then, arlabunakti (good night)!