"Spectacular Montserrat" Monistrol de Montserrat by sirgaw
Monistrol de Montserrat Travel Guide: 98 reviews and 394 photos
In researching for our 7 night stay in Barcelona, we were looking for a one-day excursion out of the city and to something different. Montserrat came out the winner and there is an excellent package that includes rail fares to and from Barcelona's Place Espanya rail station to the interchange with the spectacular rack railway at the town of Montserrat, travel on the rack railway, travel on the funicular that somehow claws its way to the top of the mountain and finally entrance to the audiovisual display located within the gift shop complex.
We exited the Barcelona metro station and went searching for the Place Espanya rail station, but got lost as the station is underground. Somehow we lucked into finding a ticket booth that could sell us tickets as shown above. We arrived about 4 minutes before the train left, so had to stand for the one hour trip, but as we were close to the door had the advantage of a running start to the rack railway and the bliss of seats (we're both over 60). The view as the train went up the mountain reminded me of a model railway, with a spectacular set of bridges spanning a river, a little town, mountains rising from both sides of the river and 2 different types of rail systems in use.
For the flat section of the rack rail, the train uses 2 rails and obtains its motive power from an overhead electrical system. When it reaches the start of the steeper up (or down) section, there is a middle rack rail that engages a large gear like wheel onto the "toothed" middle rail (see photos on separate travelogue).
We arrived at the modern terminal station and immediately made our way towards the Abbey "The Santa María de Montserrat," hoping to catch at least some of the famous choir, but it was not to be as the service had finished and people were streaming out almost knocking us over in the process. Obviously the sweet voices of the choirs performance did little to quell the rudeness of many. The interior of the Abbey is amazing and it is quite obvious that many have donated to ensure a very ornate interior.
We lined up to visit the famous Black Madonna and were gob smacked at the glitter of gold, silver and precious stones - all protected by glass and the ever seeing lens of security cameras. Signs in a multitude of tongues asked for silence. After leaving the shrine, a pathway led past row upon row of lighted candles lit by the faithful. We saw a pallet jack being used to transport the candles to huge bins where they could be purchased - and to think the monks would have man-handled the boxes of candles before modern technology got in the way. Maybe it was an ecclesiastical occupational health and safety issue.
After all the gawking at things religious, it was time to feed the inner man and woman and visitors to Montserrat are well catered for with a variety of eating establishments. We choose a cafeteria where I was able to enjoy a plate full of English style sausages and potatoes with gravy (sort of bangers and mash). My wife choose less fattening fare.
Our ticket included a trip on the funicular that travels towards the top of the mountain. The view from the interior of the car was spectacular as it has a glass roof. The view from the top was even more stunning from a lookout and display centre located at the top funicular station, where many walking trails lead to shrines placed there by the faithful. The area is very popular with hikers and bush walkers. Our fitness levels meant only a short walk to the other side of the mountain to admire the view overlooking a valley - we wish we'd allowed ourselves more time to explore the area.
Time to return to the monastery and a short wait for the funicular. Then we visited the gift shop and the interesting audio visual display, which includes images and sounds of the working life of the monks and the choir - and I'm happy to report that we were not bowled over by the hoards.
Sadly we had to leave and catch the last of the rack railway trains and the return to Barcelona. The rack train was full and so we had to stand for that leg of the journey. Then a 15 minute wait (again standing) at the interchange station and finally an already packed train for the one hour journey back to Barcelona. Although I have been critical of the younger generation and their lack of manners in offering their seats to seniors, we were offered seats on this train and so was an elderly German couple. Luckily they spoke English and we were able to swap yarns, but as for the 4 young guys who gave up their seats for us - "Muchas gracias mis amigos."
We returned to Barcelona and caught a metro back to our apartment - and this time no fighting over seats as the carriage was almost empty. It had been a long day and we weakened at the sight of a nice restaurant that cost more than the budget really allowed.
Information on the rack and funicular railway system http://www.cremallerademontserrat.cat/
Further information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montserrat_(mountain)
See also separate photo travelogue on Montserrat.
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