The next day I went to Montserrat, an hour away from Barcelona by train, up in the mountains, to hear the boys choir sing. They were amazing. I’m not particularly musically minded, however even I could tell they were really good, and the church was so full of people keen to hear this choir there was barely any standing room left. The train to the mountain was a regular train, then you had two options to ascend to the Monastery. I took the ‘dangling basket from a rope’ (Aeri de Montserrat) option as the views were reputedly better, and it was worth it, although I felt sorry for the man whose wife had convinced him this option was better becaues he was clearly not enjoying the ride. The other option was a funicular train, which went up the steep mountain tracks and was even shaped at such an angle so as to look like it wouldn’t fall off the mountain. Crazy stuff!
In the afternoon I made my way to Parc Guell, the famous park designed by Gaudi. It was large with many interesting monuments to see, and paths to wander along, and I saw some mind boggling sights. One woman in ‘shorts’ so short they didn’t include much more than a waistband; an ‘entertainer’ wearing leopard skin leggings, a leather vest with tassels and sunglasses made of two guitars playing guitar and singing old American rock songs in English with a heavy Spanish accent. There was also a guy playing an instrument I’d never heard or seen before, a Santouri. He was Iranian, and had been playing since he was seven years old. I was mesmerised by his music and ended up buying one of his cds. The instrument was played similar to a xylophone, and sat flat on the table, yet it looked more like a guitar with strings stretched across the top – 18 sets of four strings in a set.
From Parc Guell I walked to the La Sagrada Familia Basilica. I’d been told I had to go inside the basilica, and that my entrance fee would assist in finishing the building, which has already been going on for nearly 130 years. I arrived at 6pm and figured a quick look inside was ok for my student rate of €10. I’m extremely glad I bought that ticket, although quick look it wasn’t. I was expecting the usual dark interior with gold, marble and crystal of most basilica’s I’d seen, and wasn’t too excited. As I entered I got slapped in the face by the huge light filled interior, with white columns reaching 45 meters to the central nave are surrounded by bright colourful stained glass windows. The space inside is incredible and took my breath away. The church consists of 4500 square meters where 8000 people can worship. This is one place you must visit if you come to Barcelona. I watched a 20 minute film on the ongoing construction of the building, and that showed me just how much effort and detail is in every section of the church. There are three facades, of Passion, Glory and the Nativity, and on the central door, which is made of bronze and stands five meters high, the entire text of Our Father is inscribed in Catalan along with the prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ in fifty languages. The artistic elements and attention to detail in this building is purely stunning.
The metro system in Barcelona was one I admired. At first glance of a map of all the train stations and lines it looks quite confusing, however the different coloured lines were easy to follow once you knew which station you wanted to get to. I had a ten trip ticket, and was happy to discover that if you take a bus and a train within one hour of each other, both trips are counted as only one on your ten pass ticket. Bonus! I also never waited more than three minutes for a train, and the information board on each platform would count down the minutes and seconds until the next train arrived. Once on board the train, there was a panel above each door showing the stations and a blinking red light indicated which station was coming up next. This was a great system for people who don’t know the city, and saves the scramble at each stop trying to find where you are and if you should jump off or stay on the train. I felt very comfortable in Barcelona and was a little reluctant to leave.