David's Diary: Saturday, February 3, 2002

Montserrat, Barcelona

Montserrat
Montserrat

A train ride away to the west of Barcelona is Montserrat (Serrated Mountain), a 1236m peak of rock pillars formed by wind and rain. We walked to Catalunya Square where we caught the train which fifty-five minutes later dropped us at the base of Montserrat. We then boarded a cable car for a stomach churning ride through space that took us up the mountain.

Main Square
Main Square

We arrived at the historic Benedictine Monestir de Montserrat which clings to the side of the mountain at 725m. The time was just before 1:00 and it took us a few minutes to navigate our way to the main square. We wanted to be in the monastery, founded in 1025, to listen to The Montserrat Boys' Choir. They perform daily in the basilica, the monastery's church, at 1:00 and we arrived to standing-only room at the back of the church just as the boys filed in. It looked like a wedding was also in progress as we stood and enjoyed the fifteen minute performance.

Church Entrance
Church Entrance

Afterwards the children were starved so we rushed off to find lunch. As Montserrat is a major tourist attraction, we had no trouble finding a fast service restaurant. The children's hunger pushed us along quickly which meant that we were first in line allowing us to miss the long lineups that appeared behind us. With fuller tummies, we headed back to the basilica to have a relaxed visit. Where the church had been full during the concert it was now almost completely empty. We took our time and enjoyed the side chapels. We even climbed up the stairs to visit the statue of the Black Virgin which is housed in a special room behind the altar. The statue is encased in glass, but her hand holding a ball is left exposed and like many a pilgrim before us we touched the ball where it had been rubbed by thousands of hands. While not superstitious, what's a little touch to help provide luck?

Mountain Views
Mountain Views

We next took the Funicular de Sant Joan which whisked us up another 250m toward the top of the mountain. From here it was an hour walk down paved trails to the monastary. There were small shrines along the way and we walked to one of them where we had views of the surrounding mountains. There was a haze over Barcelona so we couldn't see the city or the Mediterranean, but the views were wonderful nonetheless. Then it was time to return to the train station by taking the cable car down -- a ride that once again left us suspended in space. Allen and I fell asleep on the train ride home, satisfied after another day of exploration.

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