Montserrat: The Virgin’s Perch Above Barcelona

July 1, 2017

Although the energy of Barcelona is so vibrant, colorful and loud, constantly being surrounded by foreign language, host mothers, other students, and the 2 million inhabitants of this city, some alone time was much needed. On Saturday morning, I hopped on a train that took me 53 kilometers outside of the city of Barcelona to a pueblo at the foothills of the area’s largest mountains.

Although most visitors choose to take a cable car and railroad track up the mountainside, I opted for the more challenging but less expensive option of climbing two hours to reach the monastery built into the top layers of this rock formation. Traveling alone and taking on this challenging hiked served as a test of my ability to be independent and persistent, some qualities that I hope to strengthen while abroad.

The silence of hiking alone was surprisingly tranquil. Rather than being lonely and disheartened, I enjoyed my own company. This experience so far has taught me that it’s just as important to spend quality time with yourself as it is with other people, to digest and reflect everything you’ve taken in. My energy on the way up came and went in spurts however the views from the landing on the mountain and the architecture of the beautiful medieval monastery were well worthwhile.

I was able to use my Spanish to communicate with tourist information desk about hiking directions and trails and the medieval history of the site. I also was able to have conversations in Spanish with other hikers that I encountered throughout the day, learning what this special place meant to them and getting tips on where to find the best views. I noticed that was listening was almost intuitive but my speaking fluency and usage of grammar structures still needs a lot of practice.

As many other tourists were clad with trendy platform sandals and cute sundresses, I was drenched in sweat and cloaked in a film of dirt and dust. Not the ideal image for pictures, but my rather organic appearance brought me closer to the meaning of the holy site as I chose the path that was taken by the faithful during the medieval ages and all of the pilgrims who later come to see the remarkable virgin of Montserrat.

Below are a few pictures of the dazzling church and the incredible views of rock formation, the Catalan countryside, and even the distant city of Barcelona set against the Mediterranean. Montserrat was a truly special place, seemingly placed by God’s hand himself. It is worth a day trip to experience the awesome power of nature, history, and humans devotion to higher beings.