Monday, September 28, 2015

Montserrat (Barcelona side-trip)

Got a little sidetracked! To be honest, I began writing this post over a month ago, and I just started to go in a really surprising direction. I wasn't sure what to do with it, so I decided to put it aside for a bit... and it ended up there for longer than I expected.

Our first full day in Barcelona was a free day before classes started the next day. The options were one of those hop-on-hop-off bus tours, or... choose your own adventure. One of my travel buddies had the great suggestion of a day trip to the Santa Maria de Monserrat monastery, about an hour outside the city (by train.)

As much as, once I had to leave, I would have loved an extra day to explore Barcelona, I have no regrets spending this day away.


The story is that the Virgin Mary appeared to some sheepherder children, they fetched the adults, she appeared to the adults, and they built the monastery on that site.

Up and away...

To get to the city, which is somewhat touristed-out but still pretty awesome, you ride a death trap, dangling hundreds of yards (more appropriately, "metres") in the air from a cable of unknown age. I mean... It adds to the experience.
DOOOOOM! But not really.

You thought going up was terrifying?

The City

There are several holy sites in the city to visit, including the main monastery building and several more remote sites, as well as an expansive cafeteria and gift shop. Because this was a sort of last minute decision, we didn't do much research other than what we could pull up on the train and in the city. That would have been a good idea.

Very Barcelona Knight Templar
We had planned to see the Lady of Montserrat statue, which is one of the rare and more famous "black Madonnas" in Europe. The line was longer than we'd liked, so we skipped in favor of a trip to the the Santa Cova (or Holy Grotto), the cave where the vision is said to have appeared. It seemed the most reasonable to get to, and, besides, a cave? How awesome does that sound? It's only about a 20-30 minute walk, but it has some reasonably steep and strenuous spots. Tangent: I really need to get myself some bad-ass adventure babe sandals. This is the not the first time I have found myself sort-of-hiking in open-backed sandals while travelling (Exhibit A: Petra 2009. Not pictured: flip flops.) Flip flops not recommended.

The path to the cave

The view from the path to the cave
The views from this walk were just spectacular. No picture could compare.

In the Santa Cova, there are offerings to the Virgin: wedding and confirmation dresses, babies' onesies, written letters and prayers, little trinkets and jewelry...

I've decided that reflecting on Montserrat, and putting it into a blog post with some semblance of purpose has been complicated for a couple of reasons.

First, I am not a religious person, but I imagine the peace and wholeness that I feel in nature is similar to what others experience in a different context... A part of the universe in a way that is comparatively small yet also whole and significant. This kind of site was awesome, for me, to bask in the warmth of that shared human experience.

Second, and more unexpectedly perhaps, my grandmother used to love this stuff. When I was much younger and they were still pretty healthy, she and my grandfather used to go on trips all over to visit Catholic sites. It's been a tough year for my family (though back on the up!) but it's a site she'd be all about (the history of which begins with a vision of the Virgin Mary.) I couldn't help but reflect on the line of bad-ass women from which I descend. Girl power.

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