Šiauliai is a fourth largest city in Lithuania. Its name derives from the word Saulė, which is a Lithuanian word for Sun. It is named after a Sun Battle that took place nearby. With time the name has changed and had several kinds of spelling.
Šiauliai Tourism Information Centre (Šiaulių turizmo informacijos centras), Vilniaus St 213 (Centre), ☎ +370 41 523-110 (firstname.lastname@example.org). M-F 09:00–18:00, lunch break 13:00-14:00. Provides all kinds of information, booking of accommodation and catering.
The settlement dates back to Neolithic Era, it became a town in ca XI century, but the official date of foundation is considered to be 1236 when the Sun Battle (Saulės mūšis) took place near the modern location of Šiauliai city. In 1795, Šiauliai was incorporated into Russia. During WWI Šiauliai was burned down and totally bombed. Became a Lithuanian city again in 1918, acknowledged to Lithuania by Soviet Russia in 1920. Restored during the interwar years, then bombed again during WWII in 1944 when the Red Army retook it at the war’s end. The city became an important industrial center of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and the home for a Soviet Air Force base (10th Fighter Regiment of 7th Mixed Air Division of Baltic Special Military District, and the 18th Military Transport Aviation Division). With Lithuania’s independence in 1991 the Soviet troops had been withdrawn, however the old historical part of the city (with exception of very few buildings and churches) is lost.
You can get to Šiauliai by train from western or eastern ends of the country as the main railway connects the seaside with the capital, whilst Šiauliai is about at the middle. To get there from elsewhere, including neighbouring Latvia, take a bus. For the trains check the LitRail website, for buses take a look at Bus Tickets (Autobusų bilietai).
Šiauliai is not a big city, so you need no more than buses or just your own feet. Buses go all through Šiauliai. There are daily buses that go to places around the city.
City buses run from 5AM-11PM. You can by tickets in the kiosks, one ticket costs 1,80 LTL
The microbuses go from 6AM-11PM. You can buy tickets in the microbus. One ticket costs 2,00 LTL.
Timetables are available in Lithuanian for both city buses and microbuses, details on route of every line (list of all stops and detailed schedule) can be seen by clicking on line (bus/microbus) number. You have to know where you have to or want to go first, only then is possible to find out which number you have to take and where to get off. As everywhere in Lithuania, the public transport routes are defined by names of the endpoints, and the path of the route is defined by the set of bus stop names which are linked to the landmarks and street names.
Same applies to the suburban bus routes: suburban buses run within the district limits reaching the centres of neighbouring districts and then return back to Šiauliai. For the short trips, for example to the Hill of Crosses, you have to take the suburban bus. Tickets are obtained from the driver, you have to name your destination and number of tickets you want to buy; seat number is not indicated on the ticket, take any if available. As soon as the bus approaches your destination point you are supposed to prepare to get off and to leave the bus immediately. If you keep on sitting till the last second, the new passengers will quickly board the bus making significant inconveniences to you because you'll be an obstacle on their way.
It often is more reasonable to reach some destinations (like the centres of neighbouring districts or some places near the main roads) by intercity buses. If the place is by the road between the major settlements where the bus is not scheduled to stop, the driver may agree to drop you off at the desirable spot (usual practice), you simply pay for the ticket up to the closest settlement.
Hill of Crosses (Kryžių Kalnas)
The Hill of Crosses (Kryžių Kalnas), north of Šiauliai is a national centre of pilgrimage in Lithuania. Standing upon a small hill, a former hill-fort, are many hundreds of thousands of crosses that represent Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity. Over the centuries, the Hill has come to signify the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Catholicism. After the 3rd partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire.
Poles and Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863. The two uprisings are thought to be connected with the contemporary use of the hill as a religious site. When families could not locate bodies of perished rebels during the uprisingslink title, they started putting up symbolic crosses in the location of a former hill fort.
After WWI, in 1918 Lithuania regained independence. In 1922 there were 50 crosses, the number before the WWII reached over 400. During that period the Hill of Crosses was a place for Masses and devotions.
After WWII Šiauliai region became a part of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. During the Soviet era, the pilgrimage to the Hill of Crosses became an expression of Lithuanian nationalism. The Soviets repeatedly removed the crosses placed on the hill by many nationalistic and Christian Lithuanians.
In 1961, 1973 and 1975 the Hill was cleared and the crosses were burned or turned into scrap metal with the area being covered with waste to discourage further similar activities at the site. On each occasion the local inhabitants and pilgrims from all over Lithuania replaced the crosses on the hill.
The hill is currently visited by many thousands of visitors and pilgrims from all over the world. The current number of crosses is unknown. Estimates put it at about 55,000 in 1990 and by 2006 the number had grown to an estimated 100,000. Diverse styles, designs and sizes are represented amongst the crosses. Some are carved out of wood, others sculpted from metal. The crosses range from 3m tall to countless tiny examples hanging upon and about the larger crosses.
On 7 September, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.
In 2000 a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby. The interior decoration of this monastery draws upon La Verna, the mountain where St. Francis received his stigmata.
Although the most interesting site near Šiauliai, the Hill of Crosses, is situated north of the city, the most attractive recreation area lies some 20 km south-west from Šiauliai centre. The area is commonly known as Kurtuvėnai Forest, which is a part of Kurtuvėnai Regional Park with the centre in Kurtuvėnai village. The management of Regional Park with the guest house is settled there. Horse riding centre locates in the stables of Kurtuvėnai Manor and operates since 1995. The three-star camping site "Kurtuvėnai" was established in the garden of the manor in 2008. The tavern "Kryžkelė" (“Crossroad”) was opened in the renewed peon's house. The building was built for the czarist army's warehouses when they dig Venta-Dubysa channel in the 19th century. Here you can try, of course, genuine Lithuanian beer, as well as some culinary heritage dishes which are made using old traditions. The Regional Park has numerous places, related to Lithuanian national movement of the junction of the 19th-20th centuries and to the events of both world wars. Kurtuvėnai has a rich, nice and diverse environment. Park area covers 17,252 ha, including 12130 ha of the forests. Whole park’s territory is divided to several zones: conservation (nature reserves), ecological priority (preservation), recreation, economic (forestry, agriculture) and living zones. Sparsely populated, park territory has about 1200 local dwellers. 30 small lakelets are swashing and 20 forest rivulets are running in the shelter of forests. Kurtuvėnai settlement is surrounded by nearly 100 fishery reservoirs. In the western part of the park there spurt well-known multiple springs of Svilė, which are considered to be the biggest in Lithuania. Predominant forests are coniferous. The landscape is characterized with high biodiversity of vegetation, some 981 plant species have been found there. There can be found many common species of birds and animals, even wolves are among them here, they permanently live in the western part of the forest. Some of the habitats are of European importance (Natura 2000). There are 2 cognitive paths (about 4.5 km each one) and 2 bicycle trails, 6 defensive hill-forts, 8 interesting landscape objects, 15 alone standing trees, each of which is a separate object of interest, related to one or other historical event or is just an expressive example of nature. The Shrovetide Feastival of Kurtuvenai is acknowledged as a one of the most viable traditional festivals all over Lithuania. Also, other feasts take place there, such as the Festival of barn-theaters, Fire-linkup on the Girnikai hill-fort, Midsummer Feast, and various events of the Christmas time.
Klaipeda, Lithuania's third largest city is to the south west.
Kaunas, Lithuania's second city is to the south east.
Telšiai, the capital city of Samogitia region.