Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#1525 2 weeks in Barcelona day 5: Montserrat

Ready to go back to Catalunya with me? Let's go!

Day 5 Friday 18 September 2015

When we decided we were going on this trip, my mom told us to think of things we wanted to see and do. The first thing (besides eating churros) that came to my head was that I wanted to go to Montserrat. I don't have any memory of going there before, although there are photos of me there when I was little. Lizzie asked me why I wanted to go there so badly, and I couldn't really put my finger on it, other than I really wanted to see it.

Montserrat is a mountain retreat for Benedictine monks about an hour or so from Barcelona. The allure of the place is the other-worldly rock formations on the mountains, the beautiful views and La Moreneta, the black Madonna of Montserrat.

Mom decided not to come with us. She told us that as a child, her family went to Montserrat at least once a month. The place was special to my grandfather, hence the many visits, and my mom was still hurting from her blister, so she decided to stay in the city. Fortunately Lizzie was up for coming with me. I'm glad she did. She navigated through the metro and the train stations like a boss!

We took the train from the city, and like I said, it's about an hour or so to the stop, Monistrol de Montserrat. From there you can get on a cable car or a funicular (rack rail) to get up the mountain to the monastery. We chose the funicular. It's a train that gets up a steep mountain. Here's the first view I had of Montserrat from the train:

Monistrol de Montserrat
Here's a view of that same town from up on the mountain:

a different view of Monistrol
There were lots and lots of people at Montserrat that day. We actually chose to go on Friday because we were told that on the weekend, many local people from Barcelona went up there for the day so we hoped it wouldn't be as crowded. Sometimes it seemed like we were the only people there,

view of the monastery
but that's not the case. Most of the people were at the museum or at the basilica waiting in line to see the Virgin. We took our time and enjoyed the view of the valley.

We also enjoyed a walk on a quiet trail that celebrated poets, writers and musicians as well as the dance of Catalunya, the sardana.

We were drawn to the basilica because we also wanted to see La Moreneta.

We had to wait in line for quite awhile. They only let a limited number of people through to see her at a time. When you enter the church, silence is expected. You pass by a couple of small chapels, then go up some steps with intricate carvings in the doorways.

Finally you are the in chapel of La Moreneta. They ask you not to take photos while you are there because there are so many people waiting behind you. I took the time to just look at her and say a little prayer. The carving is simple and beautiful and old, from the 12th century. She's black because the wood she is carved from has aged into a rich dark color. It adds to her beauty. I found this pic on the internet:

La Morenta de Montserrat
The statue is very small. When you are standing in front of her, you are basically eye-to-eye. She's behind glass, but the sphere she's holding, meant to represent the world, is outside of the glass, so you can touch that. The background is intricate and golden.

Behind the statue is a beautiful chapel where photos are not allowed. It's a place for prayer and reflection. It's peaceful and I had a feeling of grace there. I'm not a religious person, but I was moved.

I lost track of time; I don't know how long we were there. A couple of hours probably. I didn't exactly want to leave, but I'd seen everything that I wanted. We decided not to make the hike to the Holy Grotto or go up to the very top of the mountain. Maybe next time.

We made it back to the city. Mom had had her own adventure that day, going back downtown to La Rambla and wandering around a little. The three of us decided to go up to Putxet in the evening. Mom had lots of stories about what the area looked like when she was younger - lots of empty space, not so many buildings. It was fun to hear her talk about the past, even though I gave her some grief about going to so many schools. :) It seemed like on every other street, she would say, "I used to go to school over there!"

That night for dinner we went to a restaurant in the neighborhool. I can't remember the name of it, but it was all right. I was pretty hungry because we didn't have much to eat up on the mountain. We were too busy walking around and looking up.

I'm really glad that I had the chance to go back to Montserrat. I kept thinking how much MT would like it up there. He would definitely want to go hiking and the old rock climber in him would get sweaty palms looking at those rock formations.

I don't feel like my photos really give a sense of how incredible the place is. Even with all the people, I felt peace and joy there. Pretty awesome!

Next time...touring the city on the Bus Turistic.

1 comment:

Kteach said...

I think I have a tiny regret that I didn't go to Montserrat, but it all worked out and I got a delicious tablet of chocolate out of it! :_)