Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Noordam 2013 - Day 4: Montserrat, Spain

Just a short metro ride from the hotel is Espanya station. The R5 regional train goes to Montserrat. The train was quite crowded; some people had to stand all the way. After little over an hour we arrived at Montserrat station. From there you have to go up the mountain. There are two ways to do that. Most people take the cable car (Aeri de Montserrat) that leaves from the first Montserrat station. We decided to take the rack railway (Cremallera) instead. The train leaves from the next station. The views are supposed to be a little less spectacular, but the advantage is that on the way back you get on the train one stop earlier than most people. That increases the chances for a seat on the way back.

We doubt that the views from the rack railway really are less spectacular. Wow, the train climbs all the way up alongside the mountains. Of course you have to make sure you are seated valley-side, but then you are treated with great vistas.

Shortly after noon, after a 2 hour trip from the hotel, we arrived at the monastery. How does someone get the inspiration to build a monastery here, stuck against a mountain? But the monastery is there and is beautiful. It has been destroyed multiple times, but is rebuilt every time.

Monastery at Montserrat

We went into the basilica first. There was a long line in front of the door on the right. That was the entrance for the ones that wanted to see and/or touch the famous black Madonna (La Moreneta). She survived all the times the monastery had been destroyed. We took the center door, leading in to the church. A choir was just performing. Not the famous boys choir (they have their vacation in august), but their temporary replacements sang great.

Basilica of Montserrat

After visiting the basilica we took some pictures at the old monks' cloister. In front of the cloister are four trees that are planted with symbolism: A palm for martyrdom, a cypress for eternal life, an olive for peace and a laurel tree for victory.

The Cloister at Montserrat

We had a sandwich in the restaurant and looked up the mountain. All the way up was a funicular that was included in our ticket. So up we went. 

Funicular up to the mountain

The mountains are so special. They look like the Bryce Canyon hoodoos, but white instead of red. The views on top were magnificent. There was even a nice breeze so even nice to cool off. You could walk down to the monastery but we took the funicular down.

Up the mountain at Montserrat

Up the mountain at Montserrat

The Monastery seen from the mountain

At the station there was another funicular, but this one goes down the mountain so you can walk the path to the cave. We took that one too because it seemed like a fairly nice trail with little climbing. The path went downhill and we were not really looking forward to climbing up again. So we walked just halfway.

Statues at Montserrat

At 4:30 pm we went to the station so we could take the rack train back. Each hour there are three or more trains downhill, but only one of them goes all the way to the train station in the valley. The other ones only go as far as the parking lot (for the people that traveled by car of tour bus). So we had to wait some time. At least we were in time.

Rack Train at Montserrat

The advantage of taking the rack train worked out. We got on the train one stop earlier then the people that came down on the cable car. We had a seat, a lot of the other travelers had to stand for over an hour.

Once back in Barcelona we took the metro and tramway to Port Olimpic. They built this marina (and the surrounding area) for the 1992 Olympic games. The taxi driver that took us from the airport recommended dining here. Indeed a great place to eat on the boulevard, close to the beach. We enjoyed our dinner very much, after a quite intense day.

Barcelona was great. We have seen a lot of the city in these four days, but we can easily spend another four days. It is a busy city, but we never felt unsafe. In a way it is a jovial atmosphere. We will definitely return here. But for now: time to pack our luggage for boarding the Noordam tomorrow!

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