As the weather was meant to pack it in later in the week I
decided to head out to see the Santa Maria de Montserrat
monastery while the sun was still around. Once again my nerdy research made the trip a
lot easier, as I managed to catch the metro to Espana station where I bought a
combined train + cable car ticket from a machine (which conveniently had an English option). Having just missed the train
I was glad I’d packed a book for the 45 minute wait for the next one. It’s easy
to get off at the wrong station as there are 2 stops on the mountain – one for
the cable car and another for the furnicular (little rail car for people scared
of heights yet wanting to go to the top of a very high mountain) and a few people made this mistake. Should’ve checked google first!
Unfortunately I arrived at the monastery just as mass
started, which meant I couldn’t enter the church until it finished, so I
decided what the hell, let’s climb the highest mountain instead! I caught the
furnicular up to the Sant Joan stop, then followed the signposted track up to
the peak of Sant Jeroni, a mere 1,236m above sea level. Since I’d decided I needed
a bit of training before my Morocco
trip I hoofed it up, and reduced a 1.5hour climb to under 1 hour! The views
were AMAZING, and apparently on a clear day you can see right across to the Pyrenees Mountains. On the way back I watched a
couple of crazy guys rock climbing up a curved granite face. Apparently the Cavall Bernat (1,111 m) is an important rock feature popular with climbers. Little did I know
I would soon be doing the same thing! I had enough time for a fast-walk up Sant
Joan to the little hut, but unfortunately not enough to visit Santa Cova, where
the Virgin Mary is said to have visited. Beware the path back is extremely
steep, to the point where you have to lean back to keep your balance – my poor
aching knees! I managed to get back to the monastery safely enough to visit the
church to see the Virgin of Montserrat, a "black Madonna" statue, which is an object of pilgrimage as well as the patron saint of Catalonia. It was beautiful and worth the
second visit, but I decided not to take photos as it felt somehow disrepectful in the solemn church. It was a moment I am unlikely to forget any time soon.
On the train home I met some ex-South Africans who had
emigrated to Israel
almost 40 years ago and raised their family there. It was very interesting
hearing their views on traveling and Israel, and we had a good long chat while randomly having to change trains and wait for another one to come along.
After a long day of hiking and traveling there was no better
way to end it than with a glass of sangria on La Rambla. Ah!