My bedside clock rang and with the sheer coincidence of the sirens from a passing-by ambulance, I startled and stared out of my little quaint hostel window. The air was crisp and fresh albeit with a hint of the first morning dew trickling down whatever it adhered itself onto. The sunlight seeped through the openings of the cloud clusters and pedestrian started filling the Barcelonan streets. It was a seemingly nice to start the day that without the overshadowing of a black cluster cloud. It was even a good omen to start preparing for my trip to the serrated mountains just located in the outskirts of Barcelona.
It is called ‘Montserrat’ which literally meant ‘jagged mountain’ in Catalan. A mountain chain of peculiar rock formation marks the ambitious works of nature. Veiled by a pink aura, its composition of pink conglomerate distinguishes it from the ‘Blue Mountains’ and flaring red ‘Ayer Rocks’ in the land down under. It was nothing that I have ever seen upon my approach on the train. On the foothills of this spectacular giant, there were two options to the peak upon which a town lies. You could take the Aeri de Montserrat cable car or Montserrat Rack Railway which is in fact a funicular. Being a daredevil myself, I opted for the cable car. As the doors shut, enclosing me in a capsule of thirty people, I had my concerns on the reliability pertaining to my safety upon my ‘final destination’, as in the movies. The ride was worthwhile and making it more endearing was the close proximity between capsule and the treacherous slopes. A stone’s throw away! If it had swayed a little more, we would have crashed and landed within the valleys.
Stepping wobbly out of the vehicle, I was taken away by the mightiness of God’s work. There are in fact no words to describe the magnificence and it is the one place where you have got to come and experience it yourself. A ‘Haven’ is the closest I could divulge. There is a little town nestled snugly at the crags of the mountain peak and besides its finger-shaped mountain views, its other main attraction is a Benedictine abbey by the name ‘Santa Maria de Montserrat’. In it houses a statue of the ‘Virgin of Montserrat’ or the ‘Black Virgin’ which is Catalonia’s favorite saint in its basilica. After an elaborated process of photo taking and exploring around the town centre, I quickened my steps towards the abbey for the queue to touch the statue was a sight itself. It is believed whoever touches the black marble ball of which the Black Virgin holds out with devotion, he or she will be blessed. Just outside of the basilica is a welcome note written as follows: Welcome to Montserrat you who have come to visit Saint Marry in her mountain sanctuary, she offers you Her Son, Jesus, as a light and guide in your life, We hope that this house that welcomes you ill be a home to everyone. Help to make this so by your behavior. Peace be with you.
However what I saw were hungry tourists eating and sitting on the floor as the line goes on. This was not my idea of a holy devotional behavior in a church and I was simply disgusted. Although not a religious person myself, I would otherwise name myself a free-thinker, I was beginning to ponder the thoughts that would be going in that big guy up in heaven. It is like a picnicking fiesta or rather a snoozing siesta for some older tourists. Nevertheless the thoughts quickly ran past me and sooner or later, after 2 long exasperating hours of waiting, I walked up to the statue of the Black Virgin and clutched the marble close to my hands, and mumbled ‘May peace be with you and me and another one related to me’. I wanted to take a quick shot after but was edged out of the way by some big hunky Germans who were already to bully their way around. However when I got to the gift-shop near to the funicular station, a whole counter and display filled with the stature of Virgin Mary were sitting there. Sizes ranged from very petite-ly small to the 1:1 model could be found. And what’s more, I could touch it as much as I want. Talk about the counterfeits in China! Montserrat has its replicas of its selling point!
T Siu Kwan