Sunday 9th July
Last night we slept between a field and a railway track, enjoying the noises of late night cargo trains rumbling past our car.
“That is literally the longest train I’ve ever seen” said Morgan, as carriage after carriage of industrial metal shapes rolled past us at midnight. “It’s like Snowpiercer.”
In the film Snowpiercer, the world has been destroyed except for one enormous train, which contains the entire population of earth.
Trains started running again around 5.30am this morning, when we were still firmly asleep in the car. As we finally emerged around 9am, I couldn’t help but compare us to the commuters passing by on the Monday morning trains. Here we were, unwashed vagabonds, making coffee on a camping stove as we stuffed our sleeping bags back into their sacks. Imagine having to put on smart clothes and go into an office! In that moment, I truly felt a world apart from the hordes of people commuting to work in the city.
We’d slept pretty near the border with Lithuania, and we crossed over after an hour of driving, waving goodbye to Lativa. We were heading straight to the Hill of Crosses, one of Lithuania’s more creepy attractions. In fact, a bunch of stuff in Lithuania looks to be slightly creepy and macabre, which is why we’re so excited to explore this country!
Unfortunately, it was a rare, brilliant sunny day as we arrived at the hill of crosses, which normally would have been cause for celebration, but today it really detracted from the creepiness factor. We’d seen pictures of the crosses in thunder storms, and it looked just like a Tim Burton movie. Still, even with a bright blue sky, the sight of 200,000 crosses planted on top of each other is pretty fascinating, and we loved the story behind the hill.
Like its Baltic neighbours, Lithuania has a long and sorry history of being occupied by Russia and the USSR. When the USSR took control of Lithuania during WW2, they set about destroying organised religion. Because of course, there’s no place for religious influence in a communist state. But, the practice of planting crosses on this particular hill had been established in the 19th century, and it was going to take more than a few communists to stop the Lithuanians from expressing their beliefs. As fast as the Soviets could remove the crosses, locals would plant more, often sneaking out at night with concealed crosses. The Soviets even bulldozed the site a few times, with no lasting effect.
A few of the crosses were kind of incongruous though…
The whole time we explored the area we were watching Lex, eagle-eyed, to make sure he didn’t try to pee or chew on any of the tempting wooden crosses. We’re pretty sure that offence would earn us a life time ban from the state of Lithuania.
We drove west that afternoon, towards the national parks on the Baltic sea coast. As we pitched up at a REAL campsite, I was counting down the seconds until I could have a proper shower. Ahh, such luxury.
At this campsite, we met 9 year old Andrew, who’s on a year-long round the world trip with his parents. Andrew was an exceptionally confident boy, bounding right up to us to introduce himself and tell us all about his trip and the places he’d seen. Although his parents were making him study along the way, he admitted.
“But it’s still way better than school” he confirmed.
With all this travel, Andrew’s probably learning twice as much as his peers at home in New Zealand, whether or not he cracks a textbook open this year.
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