Meeting Montse in Montserrat

Montserrat Travel Blog

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Montserrat from the train
When I told one of my colleagues at work that I planned on visiting Montserrat, he advised me not to go. "It is nothing special, not worth the trip", he said. Nico, with all respect, you're a fool! I wouldn't want to have missed this trip to Montserrat, thank God I didn't listen to you.

I caught the train without any troubles this time. It wasn't much of a challenge though, as I bought the "all inclusive" Trans Montserrat ticket in advance, mainly out of laziness. I think that maybe, if I would have bought all the tickets separately, I would have spend a little less. But then again, now I didn't have to waste time queuing or buying tickets at the funiculars etc. After all the troubles with tickets and trains yesterday, I was happy to play it safe this time.
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En route I met a lovely American couple who asked me out on if I was traveling alone, where I was from, etc. It was an interesting conversation as the woman happened to have grown up in Catalonia (as born from a Spanish mother and Portuguese father). She told me about the importance of the Mont Serrat Monestary, not only for religious matters but also because it preserved much of the Catalan identity and language during the Franco era. An importance so big, that many Spanish girls later were named after this cloister. And so was she: Montse.

The three of us got of at the second Montserrat stop: the one that leads to the Cremallera. There's another stop earlier, for those who want to take the cable car up, but that didn't appeal to me much. First of all, I don't like heights that much, neither the possibility of falling down.
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Secondly, as the Catalans are so proud of the cremallera railway, it would have been a waste not to take it.

Once on the site, I first visited the Cathedral itself. In front of the entrance, there is a little patio giving nice views over the morning lit facade of the building, showing the 13 statues of Jesus and his apostles. There's a circle on the floor where people go standing with there arms raised to the statues, in order to receive a blessing, I presume. If someone can tell me what the legend is about, please do.
After wondering the grounds around the monastery, I decided not to waste a good day sitting inside the cathedral. The queue to see the black Madonna was so long it could have easily been an hour wait, while the weather was just perfect.
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So I decided to skip the statue for now and took the funicular St. Joan to the top of the mountain. This was the part I had been looking forward to the most.

From the upper station of the funicular, several paths lead to different viewpoints and chapels. I first walked some 15 minutes to the St. Joan chapel, from where there are wonderful views over the plains and mountain. I sat down to eat a cookie but after only 2 minutes a giant wasp appeared, and she was on a mission to conquer my food. That I didn't like at all. There were plenty of other tourist around (Germans, by the way) so I didn't want to make a scene, but I couldn't help getting really upset as the animal didn't leave me alone.
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Not that I'm so scared of wasps, I just don't want to get stung as I'm allergic to them. It's not that bad that I would need to go to the hospital, but bad enough to get fever and a nasty pain. If I would have got stung in my leg up there, I wouldn't have to dream about continuing my walk. I would have been glad if in that case, I could walk back to the funicular without any help, and get in the Barcelona bound train to put my leg up, before the swelling got to bad. I would have to take pills in the hostel (that I didn't bring up to Montserrat, I didn't think there would be wasps out there) and then sleep the rest of the afternoon. The next day would have been a boring one, spend out of the sun in the hostel lobby. Not at all what I was planning for. So just when I considered throwing the cookie away (in the direction of the not at all helpful Germans), the rescue team arrived.
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There were George and Montse back, and I was so glad to see them. George "offered" to take my cookie, so the wasp would follow him instead of me. I loved my cookie but I didn't doubt for a second. So after a short chat (me being saved and George now under wasp attack) I continued my walk back down. I felt pity for George but I eased my guilt telling myself that he got my half eaten cookie as a gift instead.

After that lucky encounter, I took the path that left from the other side of the funicular station. I didn't really knew where it went to though. At first I just wanted to take pictures from another angle, but the landscape was so stunning that I kept walking on an on. For the first 20 minutes I didn't see a single person. It was SO quiet out there. I remember doubting about going back as I had no clue of were I was going and got the feeling that no one else was taking this route.
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If I break a leg, I thought, nobody will find me out here. Just when I began to worry, however, I met another solo traveler making his way up. I asked him were he came from and he said the road went back down all the way to the monastery. How lovely! That happened to be just where I wanted to go. While looking at his sweaty face I was also mighty glad that I was walking the track downhill! The midday sun was really hot and there wasn't any shade at this time of day.

It was a beautiful walk past rough rock formations, a little church and another viewpoint, where a cross stood. Then, almost back at the monastery, I passed Montse and George again. Apparently, after he had eaten my cookie, the wasp had left him (aiming for the lunch of the German girls) and they had taken the funicular back down.
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As they asked me where I came from I told them they were very brave to walk back up, as it was a long way back to Pla de Tarantules. They were only trying to reach the cross, however, good for them! That was the last time I saw George and Montse. And I still feel a bit sorry for not saying proper goodbyes. My visit to Montserrat would be a different memory without them...

My last walk was one to the Santa Cova, the cave were the statue of the Virgin Mary is said to be found. Now there's a chapel build around it, where people leave gifts to thank the Lady for making their wishes come true. I didn't take the funicular down but walked instead. This side of the mountain was shaded now, which made the walk more pleasent. The views weren't as spectacular as the ones from on top, but it was a nice walk anyway, and the chapel was very charming and quiet.
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I didn't think about walking back up however, as on my way down I passed lots of tired people that had refused taking the funicular. I wasn't planning on making the same mistake.

Last but not least I went back to the Basilica, where the queue for the statue was now very short (I reckon most people visit first and then go up the mountains). The path led through beautiful niches of which many where decorated with wonderful mosaiks or woodwork. But it was the Madonna that was really stunning. I had noticed a similar styled statue in the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar, and I wanted to memorize the Madonna well, so that I could compare both. I had thought of a wish as well. It is said that when you touch the Madonna and make a wish, it will come true. So I had a deep thought, decided what I wanted the most of all, and decided to wish for that.
Montserrat
When it finally was my turn I was stunned by the beauty of the statue. It is very simple, not big neither glamorous, but it is a work of art. I reached out to touch it, very swift, thought of my wish, and moved on. Two seconds it took, if not one. And on my way back down it occurred to me that I did not at all memorized what she looked like. I had been completely consumed by the moment, with all my heart hoping that this wish would come true. And I promised that if it did, I would come back to thank her, walk to the Santa Cova and leave her a gift. I look forward to the moment, when that time has come.
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Montserrat from the train
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photo by: benwielenga