Since I study all sorts of maps before I leave, I thought I would have an easy time of getting from Barcelona to Montserrat. Should be easy – I had all my notes: go to Placa de Espanya (Metro line Green) and there would be signs to direct me to the FCB – but I got myself confused and kept following signs to Fira Montjudec and not Fira Montserrat. Finally, I found the right spot and asked about how to get my ticket to the train and cable car. Here is where I had a brain freeze. Not sure what happened from the time I pulled out my wallet – but somehow it did not get back into the pocket of my travel bag. When I finally noticed (about 20 minutes latter), it was gone. Fortunately, I HAD done some things right. Yes, I lost some cash – Euros and Canadian. Yes, I lost my driver’s license – replaceable. And yes, I lost one credit card – but my cell phone worked in the subway and I had a plan so that I could make calls from Europe. I was immediately in touch with my credit company and thus the crisis was averted. I still had some Euros on me, other cards, my passport, and my travel documents.
With a sigh of relief, I was off to Montserrat. This is a monestary built high in a mountain that overlooks the Catalan region. It is consider a place of pilgrimage for many Catalans as it is home of the statue of the Catalan Black Madonna. It takes about an hour on the train to one of two stops that will then take you to the top of the mountain. One way – the way I took – is a cable car. The other way is a funicular. I thought the cable care would be more “fun”. Once at the top, you have to (of course) go up a long ramp then stairs (in Europe, you do not need a stairmaster). The views are incredible and the mountain has some interesting “shapes’. Once on top, there are additional funiculars to take you to other spots in the mountain, as well as other shrines.
The main shrine is a basilica. I got there right at noon – and they opened the doors to the basilica at 12:15. I noticed some people in the crowd who were dressed up – almost like a wedding. In fact, it was a wedding! So, through all the people who were just there for the day, the bride was walked down the aisle in front of family – and a whole like of strangers! There were some singers that were dressed in Flamenco dresses.
Most people were lined up to see the Madonna. There are a series of chapels that you walked through. The first was a Chapel to Saint Peter. The second was a chapel to St. Ignatius of Loyola who underwent an intense experience at Montserrat. The third was the Chapel of St. Martin. The fourth was to St. Joseph of Calasactius. This chapel was done by Francese Berenguer, a disciple of Gaudi and the first example of Catalan Modermisime art. The fifth chapel was for St. Benedict. It is very austere and has a very modern painting. Next is the Angel Gate – it has carved scenes of angels, Mary and other objects of worship. The stairs leading up to the shrine have panels depicting Holy Mothers on the left and Holy Virgins on the right. St. Catarina was one of them depicted. Next was the Font of the Mother of God, then the Door of Ascent, with carvings of the Archangel Gabriel and St. Joseph and lastly, the Panel of the Visitation. Then you go up a final set of stairs to see the statue of the Mother of God from the late 12th century. In her right hand is a sphere that represents the universe – to which she has been given authority over. Most of the statue is behind glass, however the sphere is outside the glass, and it is tradition to touch the sphere as a blessing. When you are at the statue, you can turn and see the entire basilica from the lofty height above the main altar.
There is one more panel that depicts the nativity of Mary. Then you are down another flight of stairs and can go around the corner to a small chapel where you can also see the back of the statue. This chapel was one of the most quiet and peaceful places I’ve ever been in. I was amzed at how peaceful — especially since there were so many people walking by it. Once you leave this area, you can go down more stairs to an area where you can leave a lighted candle for an offering – and trust me, there were a lot of lit candles!
The basilica itself was an interesting mix of old and very modern and I took some pictures of some panels that I still want to puzzle out the meanings. One in particular had names of cities that included Ephesus and Pompeii – two places that were on my trip! Quite strange.
I walked around a bit more outside, but I really did not feeling hiking any more – and the thought of more stairs was giving my knee a fright. So, I headed back. On the cable car ride, it was only me and the operator – and there were a couple of views that were a little scary!
Once back in Barcelona, I headed for my hotel and officially checked in. I am in the room right next to the one I had last time – 308 – it only has one balcony that overlooks the Placa del Angels. I then headed to Las Ramblas, thinking I might get something to eat – walked around a bit then decided to head to another place I knew called Taller de Tapas. I HIGHLY recommend this restaurant in Barcelona. I’ve eaten ther twice. The waiters are friendly and the food is awesome! I had sangria, a salad with mozzarella cheese and the freshest tomatoes, tomato bread (a Catalan specialty – I really do not know how to describe it, but just try it if you get the chance!), and shrimped grilled with garlic and a chili pepper. I was in heaven. This was so fresh and just perfect. I decided to try dessert as well — a Catalan crème and espresso. Again … amazing.
I finished my day in Barcelona with a concert by Manual Gonzalez. Awesome!