Our last random exploration of the day was more of an adventure than we bargained for (and living in Africa, I knows my bargaining). I spotted a sign on the interstate (do we call them “interstates” in Europe?) with a drawing of some huge structure and the words “Montserrat.” Our little Ford rental couldn’t get to the exit fast enough.
A few wrong turns later, we’d arrived at a parking garage for Montserrat, still a bit unsure what it was. But what it was was (whoa) a huge monastery and village perched in the very, very top of the Pyrenees.
We bought tickets for our second funicular tram of the trip and headed up, up, up. If the views at Balsareny were good, these were fantastic.
I used many descriptors for these mountains. Melted candles. Phallic. Fingers. All of the above.
The earliest history of the inhabitants of Montserrat is a bit cloudy, but the monastery was founded around the 11th century – and has since been rebuilt and refurbished, due to time and various wars. Today, it houses a rare black Madonna and a printing press that dates back to the late 1400s. The basilica was beautiful; it was quite dark and ominous, especially compared to the interior of the church at Tibidabo we’d seen a few days before.
After walking around a bit and murdering a Spanish omelette sandwich, we hiked up the mountain even higher. I could see a cross in the far distance, sort of across a canyon. There was a path leading up there. So up we went, naturally. The views were rewarding.
The cross didn’t specify who it honored, but it jutted out over the mountains. I had tired hill-climbing legs and fresh air and gorgeous scenery and no responsibilities other than to take it all in. I could have burst into a thrilled pile of glitter.
One last photo of the monastery. If you’re near Barcelona, go to Montserrat. We drove, but you can take a train from Barcelona. The price of the funicular tram was around $10-15 each and the monastery was free. Wear tennis shoes and a ponytail and hike your tail up the mountain to the faraway cross in the distance, viewable from the square outside the basilica.
Rachael Cullins is a twentysomething American girl living in Dakar, Senegal, with her husband and two dogs. She blogs about her adventures in Senegal and travels elsewhere in West Africa. She will reside in Dakar until summer 2013, when she and her family will move to another foreign post as part of her husband’s career with the U.S. government. In addition to West Africa, she has traveled to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Costa Rica and plans to continually add to that list.