Tim Foolery

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Olympics & More: Montserrat

Montserrat was our destination after we visited the Mies Pavilion in Barcelona. We hopped the train just a few feet from the Pavilion and headed northwest to Monistrol de Montserrat.  The suburb train trip took approximately an hour and the train was packed.  There are two ways to get to the top of the mountain once you get to Montserrat – either take the funicular or the cable car.  We opted for the cable car only because it is much faster.
The real reason to visit this area is because of the Monastery. Built over 4,000 feet above the valley floor this Monastery was home to one of the first printing presses, which is still operating.  Many of Spain’s great painters have work on display at the museum and basilica including Pablo Picasso and El Greco.
A major pilgrim site, Monistrol de Montserrat also houses the Black Madonna, or Virgin of Montserrat.  It is thought by some pilgrims that this Madonna was carved in Jerusalem in the early years of Christianity – but research shows that it was probably created in the 12th century. We didn’t wait in the enormously long line to walk up to the Virgin. We aren’t Catholic and weren’t there on a pilgrimage. Although I did stand in the line for about 15 minutes while MS took off to see what I was actually in line for. We often visit locations like this — no point in both of us doing to research THEN getting in the line.

The Black Virgin – full camera zoom

The trip back from Montserrat was rough. It was very hot in the valley and since the trains back to Barcelona are limited (leaving every hour) they are very full. We had to stand (not a big deal), but the train was as full as a subway train during rush hour.  Plus the air conditioning on the train wasn’t sufficient — we were dripping.

If you are spending a few days in Barcelona I would recommend visiting this great little mountain town. It allows you to get out of the City and in the summer you’ll love the temperature change at this altitude.

Have you been to visit the Black Virgin?  When you have a choice of a cable car or a funicular, what would you choose?  How do you beat the summer heat in Barcelona?

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