October 30, 2008

There Once Was a Mountain...

The Aeri station for getting ALMOST all of the way up Montserrat

The Aeri has arrived and we are about to board...

The Aeri! I was in that little yellow contraption!

The view out of the Aeri

Almost at the top!

The rain here finally ended on Thursday morning so I decided to enact my original Wednesday plan and to head to Montserrat (literally translated “serrated mountain”), about an hour northwest from Barcelona. This has been on my list of “day trips” to take since I arrived here and especially with it being so close AND hearing such great reviews from everyone I have spoken to here that has been, I figured I couldn’t leave this country without going.

The history behind Montserrat goes a little like this. Millions of years ago the sea that covered the area drained due to lifts in the earth’s crust which accounts for the craggy rock formations. Legend says that 50 years after Christ was born that St. Peter brought an image of the Virgin carved by St. Luke into one of the mountain caves, it was then lost during a Muslim invasion in the early 8th C, and then rediscovered in 880 with such joy that a chapel was built to house it. The Virgin of Montserrat then became a symbol of Catalunya as well as a place to go to for “clandestine nationalism” during times when Catalonians were repressed especially during the Franco years.

In order to get to Montserrat you have to take three modes of transportation from Barcelona to get to the top of the mountain; first is the regular train, then an Aeri, and then a funicular. The Aeri is a little yellow octangular box attached on the top by a cable wire, holding no more than 35 people, with windows all around and which takes 5 minutes to get up the steep mountain at a 45 degree angle. The views on the way up AND down were incredible though I swear at one point I thought the bottom was going to hit the rocks below! This yellow cart zips you up ALMOST to the top of the mountain, leaving you in the “town” of Montserrat, and I use the word “town” loosely as there really is only a museum, a basilica, a monastery which houses 300 monks, a few restaurants and a hotel. Though I shouldn’t say “only” because the mountain was breathtaking with its crazy crooked peaks and odd formations.

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