Stilettos and Crosses


estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 17 seconds

It was winter and it was snowing heavily and we had booked a flight to discover Latvia and Lithuania. We thought we had packed everything we needed: snow boots, snow coats, bobble hats and woollen mittens. When we arrived there we understood we had gotten it all wrong! In Riga, 20 centimetres of snow are no excuse to leave your 10 centimetres high stilettos at home! In Riga, snow is no excuse to neglect style or class. And the most painful to acknowledge was that they could actually walk elegantly in the snow with stilettos. Why we lose our precious time trying to look elegant with flip flops stuns me ever since.

But this story is not about Riga or Latvia, so we crossed the border straight to Siauliai, where I secretly hoped our limited style would not stand out. We had read about the Hill of Crosses and were curious to visit it and see how it looked like.

The hill is situated 12 km away from Siauliai, so we had to take a bus and explain the driver where we wanted to stop. It was snowing and the bus was advancing slowly. We had left the city behind and were driving on a lonely road, passing through forests and open fields. At a solitary intersection the bus suddenly stopped and the driver commanded us out. We stepped out not prepared to face the cold and white emptiness. We were still far from the hill according to a reluctant sign that indicated the direction to follow. We had to walk another 20 minutes and while advancing through the crud I kept thinking of shoes, trying to imagine my almost comfortable feet in high heel shoes instead of the caterpillar snow boots I was wearing. Insane!

And then we saw it! A hill made of more than 100,000 crosses. These crosses do not represent death, like in cemeteries, even though it is possible that in the beginning they meant to honour the victims of a rebellion to the tsar. The soviet army destroyed the hill a couple of times in the past, only to be faced with more crosses appearing there. Nowadays these crosses are offered by pilgrims from all over the world as a symbol of Love, Resistance and Faith. It is a special place – both because of its singularity and because of its location – and it transmits peace and respect.

Pointless to say that from the moment I saw the Hill of Crosses, I did not think of shoes any longer. However, today, recalling the experience from the present and from the comfort of the sofa, I am inclined to believe that the moment was much too solemn to be wearing snow boots!

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