Some 65 kilometers north of Barcelona there is a pretty old town called Igualada. We visited friends who live there and were given a very warm Belarus/Spanish welcome with all the usual traditions of dinner with local red wine and Spanish delicacies before being invited to spend the night with them. In the morning, we went for a walk around the town and discovered lots of beautiful buildings dating back to the 11th century. The narrow streets, music in the bars, small shops selling hams and assorted delicacies as well as fruit and vegetables stores, are make this a wonderful environment that offers a cozy atmosphere to the many tourists who flock here every year to enjoy the annual European balloon festival that takes place in July.
Not far from Igualada there is a National park on a mountain, which includes the famous monastery of Montserrat. A few million years ago this beautiful mountain broke off from the Pyrenean range and according to legend, angels sawed off the top of the mountain to create a crown for our Lady the virgin Marie. Montserrat actually means “Saw” in Spanish. This mountain is divided into several beautifully rounded tops which inspired the architect Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona to create his masterpiece the “Segrada Familia” as well as many other similar buildings with their wavy lines and natural shapes.
The road from Igualada winds up the mountain among spectacular scenery, mostly covered with green forest, it is here that we found one of the cutest daisies among the flora that numbers in excess of fifteen hundred species. The winding road up the mountainside leads one to the inner sanctum of Catalonia, the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat on the mountaintop, where tourists from all over the world come to worship and admire the beauty and architecture of this site.
A thousand years or so ago, the local village people found a wooden statue of the Madonna on the mountain which somehow glowed, whatever the reason it was installed on that spot as a place of worship, later the Benedictine monks built a monastery around it. Today the Virgin of Montserrat is in fact a copy made in the 12th century from a poplar tree and is now the main shrine and spiritual patroness of Catalonia. The actual monastery building is in fact the third one to be built on this site. Some people claim the black Madonna as it is known has healing powers and many from all over the world go there to make a wish and be healed from their ailments.
The Monastery of Montserrat is very large and you will need to spend a whole day to see it all. There is also a museum, and a funicular railway that takes you to the very top of the mountain, or if you are fit enough you can climb the mountain on foot which offers fabulous picturesque views of the surrounding area. If you prefer not to climb mountains, in the lovely church you can listen to a boy’s choir from one of the oldest musical institutions of Europe.
There are many places in the world where you really want to go back and visit just one more time. I can assure you Montserrat is such a place.