Today we disembarked from the Brilliance of the Seas and boarded a coach for a post cruise tour to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, about an hour and twenty minutes south west of Barcelona. We ate an early breakfast in Windjammer before gathering our hand luggage and assembling in the Pacifica Theatre.
Many people on board have come down with a serious cough – myself included – since our departure from Malta. Undoubtedly some stupid passenger went an infected the rest of the ship instead of staying in their stateroom – GRRR. So we have at least a few hundred people sick disembarking in Barcelona where airports are only just starting to recover from Friday’s air traffic controller strike.
Once we checked in, we had to wait about half an hour before leaving the ship. Our tour group collected our bags and joined the tour bus.
Our journey took us out of Barcelona along the south, and up into the surrounding mountains. With a little sleeping on the bus, we awoke to find ourselves climbing up to amazing heights as the bus rolled along towards our destination.
View from Montserrat
Additional views from the mountain tops – about 700m about sea level
The first thing we encountered was the cable car terminal, from here we were able to take pictures up the mountain. An excellent vantage point; we also took photos of the beautiful countryside. We then re-boarded the bus for the final leg of the journey – some twenty minutes up a steep, winding road. Luckily we encountered no trucks or buses coming the opposite direction.
Rob outside the monastery
Weaving our way higher and higher the view increased so that we could look out to the sea. The top of the mountain range was cloudy/foggy but did not obstruct our view of the famous monastery. Our guide gave us a history of the area as well as the background on the foundation of the monastery. Outside the bus, the wind was cruel and merciless; the view was, however, spectacular.
The Unbelievable cable car
We circled the ridgeline before making our way towards the basilica. There is also a cable car/tram which enables people to ascend to the very top, but we did not have time to do this. Instead, we walked “the long way” around to face the monastery. The exterior is honestly more interesting from the initial view as you enter the compound, but once you are standing in the main courtyard, you are immediately arrested by the master craftwork of the entrance, not too mention the intricate tiling work throughout.
Next, we entered the side entrance which took us through a number of small shrines before exiting at a set of marble stairs. One flight went down to the crypt, the next took us up, to ascend above the back of the main priory. There were TV crews setting up TV cameras for something, and the vast church was silent except for the occasional click of cameras (without flash, thankfully).
Continuing on, we ascended a number of stairs to finally come out above the altar where intricate mosaic work encased some golden statues of the virgin Mary and baby Jesus. Following from here, we climbed down a set of stairs to find yet another room of worship, off to the right. Exiting to our left we left the Basilica and walked outside, along the face of the rock cliff past many candles burning.
1) Looking towards the altar
2) The famed “Black Madonna”
3) View from the “Black Madonna”
Given free time, we re-entered the Basilica and took some quiet photos of the ceiling and of the pews. We visited the crypt, which appears to hold a Pope or Cardinal. We exited and retraced our steps to visit with various marble statues and a number of wall mosaics listing cities of worship for whom thousands of pilgrims make a journey from each year.
Taking the short cut, we quickly browsed the souvenir shop (didn’t buy anything) and walked back to where the local farmers had ben setting up food stalls along the main road. We sampled delicious goat’s feta and parmesan (which, unfortunately we couldn’t really take back with us) before rejoining the bus – thankfully air conditioned!
We’re currently awaiting two fellow Australians who are inexplicably twenty minutes late. Once they return we will be on our way back to Barcelona to check in to our hotel. We’ll be in town until December 9th, then flying back to Shanghai.
More to come.. Gaudi style