Saturday, November 16, 2013

Montserrat by Margot Justes

Barcelona is gorgeous, and I decided to spend a couple of days before and a couple of days after the cruise in Barcelona. So much to see that four days wasn’t enough. Since the cruise ended on Sunday, disembarkation was early, ship docked at seven, and most everything was closed. It was the perfect time to go to Montserrat.

Montserrat is a monastery up high in the mountains, 38 kilometers from Barcelona and about an hour by bus. The setting is glorious, built into the mountain, with stunning views wherever you turn.

It was started around 1025, but the rich archeological history dates back to 3,000 years BC. The credit for the monastery’s existence is given to Abbot Oliba, a powerful figure in Romanesque Catalonia.  An aristocrat, he was elected Abbot of Ripoll. The Abbot and a group of monks decided to built the monastery, next to a chapel of Saint Mary.  

The Catalans to this day are extremely proud of their Catalonian heritage, and many Catalonian flags could be seen flying from apartment windows in Barcelona. There is even a current political movement for the Catalans to secede from Spain.  

There are a few ways to reach Montserrat, by cable car, bus, car or by rack railway. The road is narrow and winds up the mountain. I decided it was best to leave the driving to the professionals.  

Along with the church, monastery, library, meandering roads and artistic treasures, there is also a hotel, and when I go back I’d stay in the hotel for a couple of days. A few hours just wet my appetite for more.

There is a service in the church on Sunday, as well as a noon performance by the boys choir, so the church was filled to capacity and beyond. You literally couldn’t get in-it was packed solid- even a well oiled sardine would have a problem. I got a glimpse of the ornate church, but couldn’t handle all the humanity, it took me ten minutes from the very back of the church to get out the door, and fresh air.

There were a few tents set up on the main road, and local artisans sold their wares, the most prominent items displayed were various cheeses, honey, hams and fig cakes. Local delicacies, and I can vouch for the local hams. Positively yummy.

I just touched on Montserrat, if you find yourself in Barcelona, Montserrat is not to be missed.

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