domingo, 15 de abril de 2007

A Trip to Montserrat

While Mom and Dad were here we headed up to Montserrat, a monastery about an hour north of Barcelona. We headed out early-ish, although I would probably have gone as early as possible next time. We got to the Plaza España metro, which is one of the main connector stations to regional trains. In the station we found the Montserrat ticket office. For 19,50€ (in Spain periods are commas and commas are periods!) we got a ticket which includes the metro ride, the train to Montserrat Aeri, the cremallera (or cog train) and the fee for 2 funiculars.

We got on the train at 9:30 and we were in Montserrat Aeri by about 10:30. We all got off the train and waited for the cremallera, which was a beautiful train ride, winding high up into the hills. The view was spectacular. The rick formations are really unique here, with wonderful spire-like rock 'towers' jutting up into the sky.
After about 15 minutes, we arrived at the monastery. The grounds were smaller than I thought, but hell, the fact that they built this place so far up is quite a wonder! After a snack we headed into the entrance to the main grounds. There is a large square, the museum (which we skipped) and the cathedral. After a few quick snaphots, we headed into the cathedral. The boys choir was singing at 1pm so we wanted to get a good seat. Throngs of people were lining up to see 'La Moreneta' or the Black Madonna, a small 12th Centuruy Romanesque sculpture of the Virgin Mary at the back of the church, which is the official patron of Catalonia. The boys choir sang beautifully and their voices echoed through the church...quite a moment.

After this, we headed to the funicular, which heads up the hill on (at least) a 45-degree angle all the way up! At the top, there are many trails you can take with various lengths. I think you can hike all the way up here from the villages below as well. We took a shorter route which takes you to this little chapel on a high ridge. Apparently on a clear day, you can see as far as Mallorca and the Pyrennes to the east. It was a bit hazy today, but still, the view was fantastic!

My parents took the funicular back down to the monastery after about 2 hours, but I decided to walk down the path. It was quite a site seeing the monastery grounds below as the path slowly turned and headed back. We didn't have time to take the funicular down to another spot where apparently the Vigin Mary made an appearance, but I'm sure I'll be back. For me, the hiking amongst the rocks and valleys below was more spiritual than any church could ever be.

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