Finally, a break in the weather, the sun was starting to shine, so out came the long awaited shorts and t-shirt. The coach tours were starting to arrive at the Hill of Crosses, so time for us to leave. We paid our €2.90 parking fee and headed in to the Lithuanian countryside. Lovely to see some nice rolling green hills with endless golden farm fields. This is a working country dotted with small farms where cows roam freely and chickens loiter along roadsides. From the bewildering looks followed by broad smiles, we guess this place isn’t visited much by cars never mind campers.
We parked up outside the Tytuvenai monastery. First a walk around the grounds and then inside to the monastery and the church. This place felt so authentic and special. No theme just sensitive restoration and we cant recommend this place enough. It had an unvisited ‘hidden gem’ quality about it just like Real Monasterio de Santa Maria De la Villdigna dome in Spain.
Click to enlarge the photos
This secluded monastery was once a 13th century fortress before the Friary of the Blessed Virgin Mary moved in. The outside grounds is home to sheltered archways covered in frescos and little glass stones. Under the stones tiny letters and flowers. In the centre of the grounds a passion chapel, a small place of worship only reached by worshipers who walk on their knees up the flight of stairs to the altar. Even today, the practice is still carried out. Only later we found out the stones are actually sacred stones from Jerusalem.
Apart from one or two people the place was so quiet. So quiet we thought it might be closed but lucky enough it was open. Inside the 2 ladies who look after the church and monastery were lovely and so welcoming. We paid our €2 entrance fee and we followed our silent but tentative guide as she unlocked each room to the amazing rabbit warren. Each room housing different historical finds from pottery to priest robes and religious artefacts. All in excellent condition. Down the corridors towards the church passing a beautiful painting on a wooden door (too dark to get a good photo but beautiful) and in to the church.
The church provided a real first impressions of wow. Decorated in colourful red ribbons, which complimented the elaborate altar surrounded by 4 Franciscan saints. The lady even took us around the back of the altar to where the monks would hold their mass and then down in to the cellars and back up to the kitchens. The monastery has not been used since 1864 when it was closed after accusing the monks of contributing to the rebellion. A truly wonderful visit.
The village itself didn’t have much to offer other than a small store and what looked like a small cafe, so we moved on.
Our Bumble Verdict: Tytuvenai Monastery – excellent, highly recommend.
Our pilgrim route continued and as we drove to our next stop we passed lots of tiny villages all with huge religious monuments. All decorated in a rather a pagan sort of way. Many of them looked like huge wooden totem poles with intricate carvings, which often towered above anything else in the area.
We pulled up at a small village to go and buy some potatoes for our evening meal. We are having chicken chasseur tonight and need some spuds to accompany our dinner. The supermarket was only small and stock more household goods that grocers, so unfortunately we departed with no potatoes. As we walked back to Vin we decided to have a look around the church and if was only then we realised we where at Siluva.
The village attracts 1000’s of visitors a year, so the town is set up to cater for huge crowds and open air mass. The information centre was closed but the boards in and around the grounds explained that at the 400 years ago the village people moved from catholic to calvanist belief and the last catholic priest buried a box with the final church documents and a picture of The Virgin Mary. Some years later The Virgin Mary appeared holding baby Jesus along with the box.
As a result of the apparition they built a new church around the rock where she appeared. The church is more like a tower than your usual shaped church and very pretty inside. The village now has 2 churches, the original and the new and in between a tree lined walk way with pilgrim centre to one side. It was nice but for whatever reason, we just didn’t connect with the place. I guess the emptiness of a site that caters for 1000’s of visitors -will certainly feel and look very different with people present.
Our Bumble Verdict: Siluva, not for us
We moved on trying to find a nice spot for the night but everywhere was saturated. The grounds water logged and every avenue turned in to a bog or temporary lake, so we kept on moving until we arrived at Kaunas. That’s the beauty of motorhoming…you can just move! On route, we did have a double rainbow, so pot of gold on its way! With lack of wild camping options we pulled in at Kaunas Camping. At first we thought it looked rather uninviting but as we parked up we realised it wasn’t that bad. Quite basic but nice site for a city. €8 camper, £5 pp plus €1.50 for the dogs. Not what we planned for but glad we pulled in because we bumped in to two brits! It was brilliant to have a chat and exchange stories and glad to hear we are not the only ones who think the Latvian roads are a nightmare.
To end the night on a high we got another lovely email, this time from Lisa and Alastair, who have just arrived in Norway. It really does give you a boost when the information you share comes in helpful to others and people let you know, cheers guys.
Our sleepy spot: Kaunas, campsite about 5 kilometres from the city. Nice sunset, good company and a noisy motorway .
Paid Camping GPS position N054.934926, E023.917061
Route: Siauliai to Kaunas