The wonders of Montserrat

It took me three visits to Montserrat to finally be able to write a blog about it. This mountaintop is famous for the black Madonna and her arrival still remains a great mystery. Legends said that she was found on the mountain in the year 880 after flashes of light shone down from heaven. No one knew how she ended up there on that mountain and the inhabitants of the village decided to build a church around the place where the Madonna was found. From that time on Montserrat has been visited by many pilgrims from all around the world. Even though some critics say that the statue was brought there by the villagers as a ‘marketing stunt’ to draw many visitors and earn money, the magic hasn’t faded away and many people still visit this beautiful place.

View on Montserrat

The first two times I visited this special place, I did the full pilgrim tour. This 3-hour walk up via a steep pathway provides you with the most wonderful views you have ever seen. This tour is only for real adventurers and when you arrive at the monastery, you can see the difference between the lazy crowd and the hikers. There are plenty of women wearing high heels and uncomfortable dresses. You will also see the typical not so sporty tourists and, of course, the old pilgrims who just come to pray. When I arrived in my hiking boots and sweaty t-shirt, I felt a little uncomfortable. Nevertheless, they didn’t know what they missed, because when I arrived at the top, I couldn’t but feel ecstatic and the Montserrat magic struck me like lightning; I was in awe of all I saw. 

Recently I visited Montserrat for the third time. Because it’s winter and no weather to go for a hike, we went up the mountain by train. However, when we arrived, the ambience felt less magical. Something was missing and I think that part of the Montserrat magic is the adrenaline kicking in after a long hike, resulting in a feeling of euphoria. I took my time to enjoy the views and because we didn’t ‘waste’ our time walking up the mountain, we actually had time to see the museum. I thought it wouldn’t be as magical as the first two times. Maybe I got bored of this place? But when most of the people were gone at the end of the day and the peace returned to Montserrat, I silently enjoyed the views and I felt it; the real Montserrat magic. For the third time, I saw why is was so amazed by this place.

Since Montserrat is not that far from Barcelona, many tourists stop by to see why this monastery is so special. Montserrat was so popular that it grew out to be quite big. On the mountain, you can find the church, the monastery, a museum, several restaurants, a shop, and even a hotel. The fun doesn’t stop there, because for the real adventurers there is yet more to explore. The area is quite big and different pathways lead even further uphill, to the higher mountaintops, where you can see the most amazing views and appreciate Montserrat’s nature. I never made it that far, but the next time, I might stay a little longer and sleep in the hotel to discover more of this interesting place.

Climbing mountains

We were sweating and suffering when we were walking up the mountain. Before starting our adventure, we quite randomly chose a route to walk so we didn’t know where we were going. We just wanted to walk in nature and chose a park that was reachable by public transport. At times the “path” only existed of earth covered by loose rocks which added an exciting element to the route.

The view

The name of this beautiful mountain is Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac. While my boyfriend and I were following the path, the Spanish spring sun was hiding behind the trees and the temperature was comfortable. During our hike we saw several signs directing to “la mola”. We decided to follow them, not knowing where we were going. Fun fact: in Spain saying something is “mola” means it’s cool. We were walking for hours and in between we made a few stops to enjoy the stunning view. The further we came, the more we suspected that we were climbing the whole mountain, because the path was quite steep and the hike was challenging. As amateur hikers, climbing the whole thing had never been our ambition.

We were going further and further. At times we could hardly breathe and we had to stop. After sitting down and drinking some water we were able to continue our struggle. But then, all of a sudden, there were no more trees and we encountered a flat landscape with in the middle of it a building that resembled an old castle. It was quiet and peaceful. We couldn’t walk up anymore. There were no higher peaks and we had a full view all over the valley that was even more amazing than the views we had seen earlier.

The funny jacket

Because the trees didn’t offer any shelter anymore, we got blown away by a strong wind. It was also quite cold in these heights. I put on my funny jacket to keep myself warm. When we got to the building, we learned that it used to be a monastery. In this former monastery there was a restaurant and as we were tired we sat down to eat something. We were brainstorming about how the people who work here go to work every day. We couldn’t believe they would climb that mountain every single day. We decided to ask a waiter and we were wrong. They indeed would walk up to get to work. This discovery left us in awe.

After our contemplations on how people walk up that mountain every day, we went back to the valley. The way down was way easier and only took us an hour or so. Then our feet hit flat earth again. For me, as a Dutch person, this is very important because our country is flat and mountains make me homesick. From the ground we saw the mountain rising up. It seemed so high, and we had been there! We could see the little (from this distance very little) monastery on top of that big mountain and we almost couldn’t believe that we had climbed that whole thing!

This day got me inspired, because for me climbing a mountain was a big deal, it was difficult and it took me hours to do it. My muscles were aching for days after that walk. For people who do it every day, on the other hand, it’s normal. I always tend to think in metaphors and this is a great example for every obstacle in life. The first time you do something new and scary, it’s heavy and it might leave you exhausted for days or even weeks. But when you do it more often and you practice, it gets easier and easier. Then climbing a mountain becomes a piece of cake.