Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spain in Early December - I - Montserrat I

My friend thinks Barcelona is one of the coolest places to visit in Europe.  So I said, why not?!

I landed in Barcelona at 11 in the morning.  If you have ever traveled by Ryanair you would understand when I say that the elation at being liberated from bone-distortion inducing seats dominates the excitement of initial moments in a new place.  Nevertheless, Barcelona is nice enough to make one forget the flight experience. 

I took a bus ride to La Rambla street; reached there in 40 minutes flat.

La Rambla: In the words of a Spanish poet "the only street in the world which I wish would never end".

Spaniards, just like the Chinese, love red.  I am not sure if this is brought out well in this picture as my camera was center-focused on getting the candid shot.  The blurred up tree canopy looks rather nice as well I think as it puts a sense of closure ...

Rituals Cosmetics: One of the several places on La Rambla that can help you burn deep holes in your pocket.

The Spanish poet's wish was not granted.  The street (almost) came to an end.  That is where I found my hotel.  I dropped my bags off and asked the hotel receptionist about how I can get to Montserrat.  To my dismay he mentioned that all tours leave in the morning and noon is a trifle too late to start off, specially in winters when sun sets around 5:30 PM.  Nevertheless with nothing else on plan for the day I headed straight to Placa Espanya that has buses and trains departing for Montserrat.

If you take a train ride, you have the option of taking another train for the last leg of your journey or taking a cable ride.  I highly recommend doing the last leg on the cable as the view from where you catch the cable is simply stunning - something you would see only in passing if you would instead ride the train all the way to the top.

Catalunya Flag: Took this shot while waiting for the transfer train to Montserrat. 

Towards Montserrat:  I took this shot from the train - you can see reflections in the train's window.  The other train the background with mist-induced solar light dispersion generated a nice effect.

After an hour of train ride, a 10 minutes wait and then another 15 minute train ride, this is where I found myself.

Montserrat: which literally means 'serrated mountains' is 60 km from Barcelona.  This view is what you see when you step right out of the train station.  The rocks are pretty homogeneous in color.  You see different shades and even a bit of yellow due to optical effects of sun rays piercing through differing densities of mist. 

The Church of Black Madonna is in Montserrat.  More on this later.  Let us enjoy the sight of its unique rock formations in the next few pictures.

Montserrat: Notice the small cross planted atop the rightmost peak.  Look out for the local topographical maxima and there is a high chance you would see the cross of Christ on top of that.

Cross in Mist: This picture is taken from the Churchyard.  What you see in the foreground are not clouds but mist. 

Montserrat: Never seen a temperate zone tree as thin, tall and seemingly straight.  On the left is the Montserrat museum and on the right the Montserrat church.

Montserrat Fenicular: Those who like to go up still higher from the Church's base can take the fenicular - a train the climbs up (and down) an incline of 75 degrees on rails.

When I first heard about it I exclaimed, "no way!".  Actually, it really does.  But here is the deal, while photographing from the Churchyard I saw 3 of them on their journey down.  Whenever one would come down, another would go up in sync.  This prompted me to head back down to the information counter and ask 'why'.  The lady on the other end smiled and said that is because the fenicular system operates like an elevator - two trains are connected to each other by a close-to-the-track cable.  Thus while one rolls down under gravity, the other is raised by the weight of the other.  If no one wants to come up then you can't take the train down - its (almost) that simple :).  In this picture you can see the two trains one just emerging from the canopy below and the other moving out of the canopy above.

This ends the outdoor fun.  In the next post we will enter inside the Church of Black Madonna.

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