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Beyond Barcelona: The Monastery of Montserrat

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Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

About the Author:

Based in Toronto, Saira Bhatti is a Pakistani travel photographer and story teller . She shares most of her work over social media and have recently established “The World Citizen Photojournal” (https://www.facebook.com/worldcitizenphotojournal/), her first initiative of photo stories. She can be followed on twitter as well (@sairabhatti)


It is true, one will find hidden gems in the same location irrespective of how many times you have visited that place. I returned to Barcelona after 8 years, the city still felt vibrant, different but this time I was seeking for a getaway near Barcelona. Thus this time, I landed up in the unique landscape of Montserrat.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

The travel to this location offers a nice drive via car on the A-2 and C-55 route, however, for those without a car, there is an option to take the public transit using special train service

We took an early morning (1 hour) train ride to Montserrat from Placa Espanya. The ticket that you buy from Espanya covers the cost of the cable car that takes the visitors to the Monastery that is perched at the foothills of Montserrat. The short cable car ride reveals beautiful views of the surrounding areas. Montserrat, whose name means ‘serrated mountain’, is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

The monastery is located at 1,200-meter-high mountain is a remarkable architectural landmark. It has high significance for Christian pilgrims and visitors that come here to visit the Santa Maria Abbey, Black Madonna and Santa Cova.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

The monastery and the related basilica has modest exteriors. It provided us with a welcoming, cool shadow in the heat of the sun. It gets very hot in September in Spain.Saira Bhatti in MontserratSaira Bhatti in Montserrat

The walls are adorned in neatly laid out sculptures and writings. The courtyard was made of marble with a simple pattern in black and white.

 

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

The Santa Maria bascillica has astonishing interiors which after sometimes starts look extremely overwhelming. The light falling off the ceiling openings seemed divine while it lit the benches and selective portions of the cathedrals interiors.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day” ~Abraham Lincoln

An array of candles are being lit up by the visitors outside the Santa Maria abbey. Each candle is a prayer for oneself or for someone else. It is an important tradition for the Catholics to light up a candle when visiting a church.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

 

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness” ~Anne Frank

Montserrat also provide opportunities for hiking. Montserrat’s highest point is Sant Jeroni which can be reached by a footpath from the top station of a Funicular de Sant Joan service. From Sant Jeroni, almost all of Catalonia can be seen, and on a clear day the island of Mallorca is visible. At the top there are well marked hiking trails for the curious ones. Take any of the trails and you will find interesting structures nd pathways. Not to forget, you will be able to view the beautiful landscape of Montserrat and the surroundings.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared: “Go down again – I dwell among the people” ~John Henry Newman

A small, worn out chapel up in the rocks served as a good pit-stop in the heat and in the shadows of the nearby trees. I peeked into the structure through the locked, rusty door and could see two benches and candles in a candle stand. Sat on the stairs of this modest looking chapel for few minutes staring at the landscape.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
Montserrat is a multi-peaked rocky range which is part of the Catalan Pre-Coastal.

Catalan Pre-Coastal Range runs along the Mediterranean sea and montserrat is situated within this range. The mountain is composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock. It is considered to be Spain’s first ever National Park.
Saira Bhatti in Montserrat

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
“Sé valiente. Toma riesgos. Nada puede sustituir la experiencia” : “Be Brave. Take Risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” ~Paulo Coelho

There is a nice trail upto the point where Cross of San Miguel is located which offers a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape and towns. Number of spots on the well-paved trail offers a unique view of the cross overlooking Montserrat. This shot was taken on the way back to the monastery.

 

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
“Words,” he said, “is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life.” ~Roald Dahl, The BFG

 

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
Visitors lookout to Catalonia at Cross of San Miguel

And there were these book addicts taking the opportunity to read in this location. Isn’t it just ideal! The other seemed writing something as well, may be filling up her travel diary.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; Pay attention to them and they always love you back” ~John Green

The Santa Cova de Montserrat sits on the slopes of a hillside; The chapel around the cave was built between 1696 and 1705; The chapel is located just beneath the grotto where the original icon was found, and it was built in the form of a Latin cross; It is a sacred location for many Christian devotees.

Saira Bhatti in Montserrat
“Aprendi a vivir” : “I learned to Live”