On European vacations my family tends to go sightseeing for the majority of our trip, another thing that we tend to do, is taking a day to appreciate the foreign landscapes. With Montserrat they’re one in the same.
To even reach the bottom of the mountain, we had to go on a van excursion for two hours. I then spent the next hour listening to the van fight its way to the top while enjoying the view. About halfway up, it became possible to see the monastery. It isn't anything special, but it does emanate a certain natural elegance. It's as if despite the monastery being man built, it has become a part of the mountain, not dominating, but rather enhancing it. As I got higher up the mountain, I was able to see more of the glorious Spanish countryside and monastery. By the time that we had almost reached the top, everything below was an indistinguishable mush of colors with a village here and there. Those villages, which were so impressive in person, now appear as tiny settlements whose only purpose is to add character to the landscape. When we reached the top the van stopped and now it's time for me to explore the monastery's surrounding town. The first thing that I saw is a small line of open air market stalls, nothing special, just some local products. While there, you have to try the homemade nougat, it was honestly the best candy I'd ever had. Next, while eating my snack I climbed some steep cobbled streets leading to the monastery itself. During the walk up, I was able to see how some simple workers could have lived in this modest town that formed to care for the monastery. The structure of the monastery isn't especially large when compared to a Spanish cathedral, but what is lacking in scale is made up for with a kind of rugged elegance that is hard to has to do with the idea that it is impeccably built and fits with everything around it so well.
Upon entering the monastery I realized that despite the humble exterior the inside doesn't lack for extravagant furnishings in the slightest. It definitely felt much larger from the inside as well as being a welcome break from the Spanish sun. The eighteenth century architecture of the monastery is dark on the inside, it was dark enough that I stopped until my eyes adjusted. Between the darkness and eerily quiet interior, it feels like one would expect of a religious retreat. At the front, in her dark archway, on a small pedestal, is a sculpture of the virgin of Montserrat. She is the main focus of most tourists, despite her unimposing scale. Because of the long line, I didn't wait to see her. Instead I sat and enjoyed the feel of the monastery while Taking pictures.
After sitting for a while my family and I left. As we stepped out the door the Spanish sun was blinding and not then did I realize how dour the inside was. The van ride down is even more stunning, because you know what is hidden within the plain town with the monastery. Not until then could I appreciate the genius of those that created it preserving the feel of the mountain.