I'm not sure why this category is called "Afternoon in Montserrat" since you can visit in the morning; there are guided tours that leave from Barcelona called Afternoon in Montserrat but the page now seems to reflect opinions about the whole experience and a variety of methods of getting there.
Just to chime in on that then, this is indeed an amazing place, a huge religious complex that dates back to a holy statue that history says was found in 808. So settlement here goes back aways!
- It gets you into the scenery outside of Barcelona, both during the trip and then with the amazing view from a dramatically carved mountain.
- The 'getting there' is pretty cool. Even a lame transit user like me who read up on a couple of FAQs from the Internet could figure out how to buy the combined train/cable car ticket at the automated kiosks at the Espanya station. As a bonus, when you wait for a return train, you have the most amazing view anyone could want from the station, of the mountain and the Monastery complex. You can also take a guided tour, but it sounds like people often complain about how much time they get on the mountain. That's a real issue, because there's great stuff to see up on the mountain, but also some junk. You want to control where you spend your time IMHO.
- Read up first to make sure whether you want to take the cable car or a small train up to the mountain. We did the cable car, and found it stable and fun and short. This is one of those unique experiences that you go to Europe for in the first place.
- The church is awesome, and you get to touch a revered statue of Mary. I'm sure that experience is different for everyone, but for this recovering Catholic, there was a great sense of spirituality and history placed in the context of many centuries.
- The Disneyland effect kicks in here in a couple of ways: food is expensive, though there's a lot of variety, which is great. In the gift store, they've got the Black Virgin statue on anything you can think of, from fine jewelry to household goods. If you're a believer and want a Black Virgin on a trivet or pen, that's great, but I can see why people who take guided trips up here might get a bit tired of spending too much time in the store.
- We got chased out of an exhibit on the monks themselves, apparently because you're supposed to know you have to pay. It was a bit unsettling, and my family outvoted me on paying because we had spent too much time at the temporarily gutted museum ...
- In the appropriate category, I already ripped the monastery for false advertising in its museum, which I would skip until the fine art returns. http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g187501-d2209735-r205413234-Montserrat_Museum-Montserrat_Catalonia.html#REVIEWS Spend the time instead walking around the complex, and instead of spending your standing time and foot energy on mediocre art, take advantage of the other attractions.
Overall, it was definitely a unique experience, a pilgrimage to history or for religion, or both.
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