Barcelona, Spain - Day 9
Arriving in Barcelona we had a full day scheduled and couldn't wait to get started. We only had a day and we wanted to see as much as possible so instead of booking with the cruise our excursion we decided to roll the dice and go on another Viator tour to Montserrat, Park Güell, and La Sagrada Familia. If you remember reading in my Rome - Day 5 post Barcelona is one of the main stops for Norweigan to let people on and off the ship and how much we should appreciate that process in Rome because it was chaos in Barcelona. Due to all of the people getting on and off the ships at the port, it caused a huge traffic problem and our tour guide wasn't able to get us at the scheduled time. So, we waited patiently out front and eventually we were picked up and started on our way to Montserrat. On the way our tour guide decided it would be best for us to take the cogwheel train rather than driving to the top because it would take to long and he was right. The ride up the mountain was beautiful and only took about 25 minutes. You can also take a chairlift if you wish, but it didn't look all that safe. Montserrat is Spain's first national park and monastery.
As you can see in my photo above when we were there they were holding a ceremony in the Basilica of Montserrat. There was a choir of children getting ready to sing, but we weren't able to hear them very well. One of the most interesting things about this place is the story of the Virgin of Montserrat which is in the last photo above as the black madonna and child. The Black Madonna was believed to have been carved in Jerusalem at the beginning of the religion. It is a wooden sculpture. It is one of the most famous Black Madonna statues in the world and in 1844 Pope Leo XIII declared the Virgin of Montserrat the patroness of Catalonia. One of the most common questions about the Black Madonna is why she is black. The dark color of the Virgin's face is the reason why locals have nicknamed her 'La Moreneta' ("the little black lady"). Contrary to popular belief, she is not black due a portrayal of a Black African Madonna. The blackness also does not come from a dark color in the wood or from earlier coverings in paint. It is known from historical descriptions of the Madonna that she has simply darkened over time.
After we made our way down the mountain we took a drive through the city streets of Barcelona and stopped at some of Antoni Gaudi’s modernist masterpieces like the Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, and La Sagrada Familia. These architectural marvels were drastically different and served their own very unique purposes. We unfortunately couldn't go into the La Sagrada Familila, but it looks absolutely stunning from what I have seen online. What's amazing about that Basilica is that it has been under construction since 1882 and must be completed by the year 2026 per Gaudi's will.
Our last stop was Park Grüell which was also a Gaudi project that never really took off. The park was to be over 60 million dollar mansions for the most prominent people in Barcelona, but as it sits today there are only two mansions and has been turned into a public park as of 1926. Many of the structures are decorated in recycled tile mosaics that are extremely colorful and beautiful.