From Riga, Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania

Park in Riga

It isn’t often that we chose to take a tour but this time it seemed like the right way to go and it was.

We had investigated  traveling by bus (which we did from Tallinn to Riga) or train, which seemed like there would have to be too many changes.

Swinging the pack ready to go to Vilnuis

This way we had read that we could get to see some towns and sights on the way and be in a small group in a small bus.

There were 6 others and the driver.

Typical pine forest. These go for miles

We had the front seats. Our journey took 12 hours and we had 5 stops.

The first stop left me feeling quite uncomfortable and in a very pensive mode.

The Holocaust memorial in Salaspils Latvia.

You walk under this structure into the memorial space
Inside the memorial at Salaspils memorial. At the other end of this narrow walkway are stories of the inmates. All in very dark surrounds
Inside the memorial. In a darkened space you could bring up images of people and interviews. These were the children who were killed there
Trying to get the broad view


Statues representing motherhood, the infamous, protest, red front and solidarity

This memorial was built by the Russians in 1967 stating that it was commemorating victims of Nazism. It covers 25 hectares

From 1941 – 1944   20,200 people found them selves here. Because of the harsh conditions, the treatment and punishment  2,000 – 3,000. A lot of these were children.

At first the camp was built using Jewish labour from Germany. Because of the conditions, most of those people died. Then it was used as transit and labour camp, mostly for non jewish prisoners.

The entry to the area  is a large oblong structure which you walk under to view the huge statues in the field. The writing on it translates as “Beyond this gate the earth is crying”

Once you have climbed inside this ‘bridge’ turn right and you see  the dark side which shows videos and stories of those that were interred there. Turn left and at the other end it is light with a viewing tower showing the ‘way forward’ the light.

Walking towards the Holocaust memorial in Salaspils Latvia

Outside a long granite slab carries with it the metronome sound of a heart beat. This can be heard all over the grounds. Almost bringing the place ‘alive’ (ironically)

A large marble ‘tombstone’ which had the constant sound of a heartbeat which you could hear all over the memorial site

Then you look out to the statues which are enormous and very soviet style.

Surrounding this site is a forest. So it is rather like a scar on the landscape.

On then we went to ‘the magestic Rundale Palace’

Rundale palace
Looking towards Rundale palace
From the steps of Rundale palace

An interesting history turned the original old medieval castle into the palace in the first half of the 18th century.

During the French invasion of Russia (1812) it was used as a hospital for Napoleon’s army .

Again it was used as a hospital for the German army during WWI.

Rundale Palace Gardens plan 1735
Detail of windows. Some have been painted as a replica.

In the 20s and 30s it was a school.In. fact parts of it was still a school in 1978

Row of trees at Rundale Palace

Part of it was used for grain storage after WWII.

It is said that over 8 million euros have been spent on the restoration and is now used as  accommodation for dignitaries as well as a tourist destination!

Certainly beautiful grounds and feel.

Gardens of Rundale palace

We were interested to note that all the steps are wooden along with the balustrades etc. But that is to be expected in this very wooded country of Latvia.

The next stop was the ‘Hill of Crosses pilgrimage site’

Marching towards the hill of the crosses
A bemused Sam at the Hill of the Crosses
A bored christ at the Hill of the crosses

We are now in Lithuania.

The scenery has been green fields all the way. The odd band of fir and birch trees but then just wide open fields of newly planted crops.

This hill started having crosses put on it in the 1800s.

Detail Hill of Crosses. The use of symbols of the cross is religious as we know but the pagan symbols are there as well. Star for the sun
crosses piled high

There is a belief that by putting a cross here will bring and strengthen faith.

Pope John Paul visited here in 1993 giving it even more credibility

It was interesting to read that during the soviet time it was banned but people found that they had one place to place something anonymously.

There is a monastery is near by and used by pilgrims for solace.

I’m a bit skeptical about it all but after reading that during the soviet times the hill was bulldozed, flooded and guarded by the KGB and soldiers. Yet the crosses continued which was suggested the strength of the Lithuanians  to hold true to themselves.

There are lots of pagan symbols as well hanging there. The sun the moon. Lithuania was a pagan country. It is credited as the last European  country  to declare christianity!

Hill of Crosses. In the middle of nowhere. Buses come each day bringing pilgrims and tourists to place a cross or other objects to ensure wellness, happiness, and whatever you want

We then called into the small towns of Trakai – now very much a place for water sports. It is known for the number of different ethnic backgrounds of its inhabitants including one group the Karaites who are considered Jewish but they wouldn’t agree. In fact they were given ‘non jewish’ status from the German authorities during the holocaust. They have really interesting houses as well.

Houses in a street were known by colour not number
Typical house structure in Trakai. These are a built by a particular non Jewish sect that has the same beliefs and follow the Torah but say they are not Jews. One room for parents one for family one for children and a false one upstairs
14th century castle. Always fun to visit!

We also walked around the castle.

And Kaunas

Wall art in Kaunas. First capital of Lithuania
Sam is right for life now. Having drunk the waters. Love the sculpture.

the second largest city in Lithuania. It is a vibrant town with its own castle and seemingly great fun activities happening all the time.

The buildings are gothic in style and it was a great little stroll we had around the place. one to come back to I think!!

Statue in Kaunas village square

Pope Francis is going there in October!

Maybe it looks like the leaning tower of Pisa. It is the Cathedral of Vilnius

So there we are. We arrived on time at 9 pm. Still light to walk to our accommodation in a soviet build apartment block. Dark concrete steps up to the 2nd floor but the interior is bright and light. These buildings all back on to big courtyards and play areas which is perfect for families.

After 3 days here in Vilnius we head to Warsaw by overnight bus, leaving at 9pm  arriving at sunrise 4.14. am.









4 thoughts on “From Riga, Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania”

  1. Once again you have taken me to curious and other places. Your writing and images of the holocaust memorial are very moving and disturbing…
    Thankyou for taking the time to share what you are doing and seeing xx Kate

  2. Sounds like an interesting way to travel Six others is not too many!!! A bit chilly here but fire is stoked!

  3. Another lovely journey, sad also but nice to know there is a memorial there to remind us all what happened in the past. They certainly know how to do palaces in Europe. Enjoy Warsaw another great city! Cheers M

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