|Hill of Three Crosses lords it over Old Town|
It's our last day in Vilnius and we have a train to catch in about four hours. However, when I opened our hotel room window early in the morning, the distant sight of the Hill of Three Crosses was beckoning me to come. Set on a wooded park up on the hill overlooking Vilnius, I realize this would make for a good walk. Erwin, my traveling buddy, still wanted to sleep so I went by myself.
|Welcome to the Republic Of Užupis|
Talk about serendipity. In my quest for the three crosses, I followed what I believed was the shortest route when I stumbled upon this bridge with a sign that says I'm about to enter Užupis, a quirky neighborhood just across the Vilnia River. During April Fool's Day in 1997, its bohemian residents of mostly artists declared this part of the city as an independent Republic of Užupis, with their own flag, currency and even a constitution (that guarantees "A dog has the right to be a dog" and "People have the right to have no rights" among others). Naturally, April 1 is their National Day.
|Eternal love - in padlocks|
It's not only artists who make their mark in Uzupis. Many lovers engrave each other's names on padlocks, hang them on the rails of Uzupis Bridge and throw the key to the river - supposedly a sign of each other's commitment that leads hopefully to a blissful marriage. The sheer number of padlocks hanging on this bridge tells me that padlocks are a hot commodity in Vilnius - at least among its young lovers.
|What's up Lithuania?|
|Fido takes a morning bath|
From Uzupis, I continued walking, emerging into a park but then I felt unsure which way I should be going. A young local came to my rescue - he was walking in the same direction I was heading and so we walked together following the course of Vilnia River while my inquisitive mind peppered him with questions about life in Vilnius. Standing on the riverbank, I was amused to find man's best friend enjoying an early morning dip.
My new-found friend and I began walking up the hill until we reached a fork where we parted ways - but not after he pointed to me where the trail to the Three Crosses start. I walked past an amphitheater and enjoyed my solitude in this wooded environment. What added beauty were daisies abloom everywhere.
|The view from the hill|
According to local folklore, this is the site where seven Franciscan monks were crucified. The original three crosses built in 1916 were torn down by the Soviets in 1950 and rebuilt only in 1989. Part of the 61-hectare Kalnai Park, the crosses have a commanding view of Vilnius' Old Town down below. And just like our visit to Gediminas Castle Tower, its hilltop location means I would have to walk down and walk back to the hotel. Fast. Or else, we'll miss the train.