Day 4, Montserrat - To Heaven and back | travel | Hindustan Times
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Day 4, Montserrat - To Heaven and back

travel Updated: Jan 21, 2011 22:57 IST
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Hevre's friend Ana joins us for breakfast today. She is an Argentinian
who came to visit Barcelona six years ago, fell in love with its vibe
and has been living here ever since. The cultural mix at the table
provides for some interesting conversation before we all head off
towards our respective days. A visit to Montserrat is on the cards for
me today.

The Monastery of Montserrat has been built into the cliffs of the Montserrat mountains about 40 kilometres from Barcelona. The vista for the most part of the journey is uninteresting as one colourless town rolls into the next. As the train draws closer to the mountains, there is a subtle shift in the scenery almost as if nature is conspiring to build towards the grand marvel you are about to witness.

The first sight of the Montserrat leaves me spellbound. As the train snakes through the route, I twist my neck in all directions to avoid losing sight of the mountain. The mountains are carpeted in lush green to a certain height and beyond that naked pink rock juts out pushing towards the sky. This is what the mountain gets its name from, the literal translation of Montserrat is jagged mountain. As writers we are taught to fight clichés but in times like these, only clichés can do the deserved justice...I am left spellbound. I get off the train outside the village of Manresa from where a funicular train takes me up to the monastery. The ascend is steep and quick, the village diminishes rapidly and within minutes we have travelled a vertical distance of a few thousand metres to the base of the monastery.

Montserrat easily demands a full day's attention and if time and pocket permit there are a couple of hotels around the monastery. Whether you are religious, an atheist or an antagonist, it is almost impossible to be unaffected by the ambience of the Benedectine Abbey. Sculptures, paintings and statues line the corridor to the innermost sanctuary which holds the image of the Virgin Mary.

After a walk around the basilica I take the Funicular of Saint Joan, which at 65° is the steepest funicular in Spain. This takes me further up into the mountains. From here, walking trail leads to hovels carved onto the face of the cliffs, this is where monks came for peace, quiet and meditation. Another funicular that descends from the monastery goes to the shrine of Saint Joan. The walk from the station to the shrine is lined with pieces of art made by different Spanish artists ranging from Gaudi to Miro.

This is an experience I would happily will to never end, but too soon it is time to abandon the heavens and return to the earth below.