Trip date: December 2016
We were leaving Vilnius, heading towards our New Year's Eve destination of Riga, Latvia. With no trains between the two cities we decided to risk the weather and drive. For the most part the roads were good and we all enjoyed the road trip.
Wanting to take advantage of the car we decided to do a little sightseeing along the way. Our first stop, an hour and 30 minutes outside of Vilnius, was the interesting Bistrampolis Manor in the tiny village of Kuciai. The plantation style building was built in 1850 and is now a hotel, restaurant, and conference center. But the history of the land and original buildings goes back 500 years.
We were definitely in rural Lithuania as we drove 5 miles on a dirt road past nothing but fields to get there. We had a good lunch in the restaurant and as it was really cold, didn't spend a lot of time walking around the grounds, but they were very pretty.
From here we had another hour and 30-minute drive to the Hill of Crosses. Situated in the middle of nowhere in northern Lithuania, this has been a site of pilgrimage since the mid-1800s.
Approaching the hill is so strange as there are over 100,000 crosses! There are paths around and through the crosses, in some sections hundreds had toppled over (a cross-slide?) and the paths were blocked.
There are crosses of all sizes, and many made of non-traditional materials like airplane propellers. Some are basic and others are quite artistic. There are very, very old ones and others brand new. If you didn't carry one on your pilgrimage you can buy one in the gift shop or parking lot.
It's quite a sight!
Back in the car, we drove another hour and a half, crossing into Latvia, on route to Rundale Palace. As we crossed the boarder we noticed that most houses had one or more of the trees in their yard decorated for Christmas. It is said that the tradition of Christmas trees started in Latvia in 1510!
Unfortunately, we arrived just as the palace was closing for the night. We walked around the exterior a bit but weren't able to see much. I was disappointed not to get a chance to explore but it's not my first time being locked out of a palace; there was this one time in Russia...
We had another hour and a half drive before reaching Riga. The road was fine but it was very dark with no streetlights and a two-lane highway for most of the time.
When we arrived in the city we were all just about speechless! Riga, modern on one side of the river, with an incredible old town on the other, and stunning bridges spanning the two sections, was absolutely beautiful!!
We couldn't wait to see it in the daylight!
All Lithuania photos are here and Latvia photos are here.
You can also find photos of our trip on Instagram using the hashtag #BalticBash2016
Other posts from this trip:
36 Hour Parisian Birthday Party
Christmas in Beaujolais
Baltic Bash Kick Off
Out and About in Lithuania
A Very Baltic New Year
Latvian Eats & Drinks