Monserrat – Catalonia

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I can honestly say that Montserrat is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And this is saying a lot because I am often impressed by the beauty of a place. But this place was utterly stunning in so many ways. It is the kind of place that has to be experienced to understand.

Montserrat is a monastery  located about an hour’s train ride North East of Barcelona. It is named after the serrated mountain range it resembles. To get to the top of the mountain, where the monastery is, you have a few choices once you get off the train at the Monistrol stop. You can hike up the mountain (like a bad ass), you can take the (terrifying sounding) rack train, or you can take the (terrifying looking) cable car.  We chose the cable car. If you are afraid of heights (like me) it is truly terrifying. But the view makes it all worth it.

Monserrat is the home of La Moreneta (a Black Madonna).  We are not Catholic at all so this held no spiritual significance for me, but we decided we would regret it if we didn’t check it out, so we stood in a very long line to see this holy artifact. As I climbed the stairs to the statue I had a kind of epiphany. The several people in front of me took photos of the statues as they passed by. Some of them selfies, some of the relatives standing next to it.  I also tried to snap a picture of her as I was walking up toward it, being caught up in the mob mentality. However, something inside of me said, “Moni, put your camera away and be in this moment.” And indeed, I felt a bit repulsed by all of the snapshots. The moment I snapped the photo was the moment I realized my folly. I decided to instead be in the moment, rather than an observer of that moment through the lens of a camera. When I went back later to look at my day’s snapshots  the photo I snapped of the Black Madonna was blurry! My husband’s photos of it were as well. The Black Madonna wasn’t having any of our touristy photo snapping.

When we were there it was cold and we didn’t dress for the weather. My husband was also coming down with what would later be a really awful stomach thing. So we didn’t spend as much time there as we would have liked. As we were traveling up the mountain we noticed the hiking paths and thought they would have been fun to walk. Someday I will return to walk them. And I will dress for the weather.

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Camera used was a Terrapin Bijou. Film was Ektar.

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