Continuing the series of Barcelona day trips, this is another great one. Montserrat literally means "the serrated mountain" and makes reference to it's jagged form against the surrounding landscape which is completely flat. There is a Monastery on top of the mountain, and various walks can be enjoyed to view the fantastic views.
This is one day trip I can recommend using the great public transport services.
From Plaça Espanya, you can take a train around 40 minutes to Olessa de Montserrat which is a beautiful train ride inland. You will see after leaving Barcelona that the surrounding land is particularly flat and then all of a sudden a huge collection of rocks seem to just shoot out of the ground creating peaks - this is Montserrat. The train leaves Plaça Espanya from around 8:30am onwards each hour and drop you at the bottom of the mountain with two options of getting up to the top.
First is the zip train, or cremellera - so called as the train tracks have teeth and the train's wheels are like cogs which sit in the teeth, like a zip. The alternative is the cable car which leaves right outside the train station. Both of these methods will take you right up to the top where the monastery is. Those travelling in a car often have to park along the long winding road which takes you to the top, and then walk the rest of the way, which on busy days can be quite a hike.
One of the highlights of the Montserrat trip is the close-up viewing of the Black Madonna with infant Jesus seated above the church altar, and almost everyone makes the climb through the back altars to worship or admire the Virgin Mary so rarely seen in this manner. There are many theories as to why the Virgin Mary is portrayed in this way; due to fire damage, natural wood, or the ageing process. I've heard different stories on each occasion I've been there (and there have also been various fires, although not in the church itself). According to the wikipedia page, "la moreneta" was unable to be moved by the monks, who built their monastery around her, and that the statue is a Romanesque sculpture dating from the late 12th Century - some believe to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church.
Also worth a mention are the side trips such as the Angel trail, which can be enjoyed from the peak of Montserrat. Funicular trains take you to the highest points above the Monastery itself, and other routes - varying in length and time - can be taken at a leisurely pace, giving magnificent views of the surrounding countryside for those who are not only visiting for the Christian side of things.
Have you been to Montserrat recently? Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. For nearby accommodation to Montserrat, try apartments for rent in Barcelona, which can offer considerable savings for groups. Also, see this great Barcelona guide for other tips and ideas whilst visiting the city.
Flickr Credit (all my photos of Montserrat have family or friends in front of the best views!!)