I arrived in Šiauliai, Lithuania after a long day of sitting on buses all the way from Tallinn. After spending the night with my super nice Couchsurfing hosts Iván and Ester, I had time to walk around the historical town of Šiauliai and its most famous landmark, the Hill of Crosses (Kryžių kalnas).

The road leading to the Hill of Crosses with tall trees and dark clouds and the background.

The road leading to the Hill of Crosses from the closest bus stop. It’s hard to show the scale in a picture, but the trees were absolutely enormous. The walk itself went quickly, as I strolled together with Slovakian traveler Milan whom I met while waiting for the bus.

A wooden crucifix with the Hill of Crosses in the background.

When we were coming to the Hill of Crosses, Milan said he was a little surprised about how little the hill actually was. The hill is barely a hill, but a small tip rising between the fields.

Thousands of crosses on a hill with a stairway in the middle.

So, what is this Hill of Crosses anyway? The tradition of bringing crosses and crucifixes to the hill started during the 19th century. When Lithuanians (unsuccessfully) fought for their independence from the Russian Empire, the families of the deceased members of the Uprising started to pay their tributes to the dead in this location.

A small wooden path between lines of crosses and crucifixes.

The hill then became a symbol of Lithuanian independence and culture. The tradition continued during the whole Soviet era even though the officials tried to remove all the new crosses that appeared on the site.

A pile of small crucifixes, including a sign to pray for Syria.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the tradition of bringing crosses to the pilgrimage site has completely escalated. According to some estimates, there are over 100,000 crosses on the hill and more keep coming every year.

A miniature statue of Jesus lying on the ground beside small rocks.

And the crosses and crucifixes are just everywhere. I mean, I looked down on the ground at the top of the hill and realized that most of the trash I was stomping were actually little religious tokens.

Crosses hanging from a pine tree like Christmas decorations.

Looking up, the trees of the hill were also decorated with crosses. A Christmas tree, perhaps?

A tiny crucifix statue visible behind buttercup flowers.

Crouching buttercup, hidden Jesus

A carved wooden statue of Jesus missing an arm with crosses in the background.

This Jesus had lost an arm. He’d still make a good baseball player.