Spain - Barcelona, Castelldefels, Montserrat
Arriving from Tarragona by train, we had decided to base ourselves in Castelldefels. Not, because this is the little town where Lionel Messi lives (somewhere in a big hidden villa) and definitely not, because it is a must see in Spain. The simple reason was that in Europe it was a long spring weekend. So literally everyone was off for a city trip to Barcelona whith skyrocking prices for accomodation and food. Castelldefels is a beach town south of the airport of Barcelona and one can reach Barcelona CBD by metro within 20 minutes. And accomodation is half price compared to Barcelona. So we checked in a little, simple hotel. It was nothing special, but OK considering we only passed time in the room while sleeping.
Castelldefels has a surprisingly nice and huge beach. The water still was too cold for swimming (at least for us :-)), but the beach looks like a nice weekend getaway for the Barcelona city crowd. But the main "strip" at the beach, better to say, the backstreet looks like a version of the Ballermann in Mallorca. It is packed with drinking holes, restaurants of all types and budgets.... and it is quite crowded at night. That was not our taste so we stayed away of the area. We even did not visit the old town of Castelldefels. We preferred other things to do.
One day we spent in Barcelona. But we did not do any sightseeing at all. Our spiritual master Sri Swami Vishwananda was giving darshan in Barcelona. The event took place in a conference hall of a hotel near Passeig de Gracia - right in the middle of town. It started at 11 am. So we arrived early and spent nearly the whole day with him. It was wonderful once again. It finished at around 6pm.
Afterwards, we decided to look for a nice place to have dinner and to soak in the atmosphere of Barcelona. . We wandered down the busy Passeig de Gracia - it was sunday, but all shops open and the city was flooded with tourists. After a peaceful, wonderful day with our master these crowds of people were too much for us. Nor did we feel like shopping - we were in another mood and felt like enjoying the scenery and life. So we continued our walk towards the Barrio Gòtico which we like a lot the last time we went to Barcelona. It was difficult to find a decent vegetarian restaurant but finally we succeeded and enjoyed a quiet nd nice dinner before we took a train back to Castelldefels. So sorry, if we do not have any touristy stuff to talk about Barcelona - this is all we did in the city. Last time we visited the city back in 2011 (read our blog here) we liked it, but it was not our favourite city in Spain. Too many tourists, too many scams even though the architecture is stunning.
The following day we got up early again. We had planned to visit Montserrat. Montserrat is about 50 km inland of Barcelona. From Plaza Espana there are direct trains which take about 60 minutes. Montserrat is a spectacular 1.236m-high mountain with strangely rounded rock pillars. It is a Benedictine Monestir, one of Catalonia's most important shrines. In fact, it is the second most important pilgrimage centre in Spain after Santiago. Pilgrims come from far to venerate the Virgen de Montserrat, a 12th century dark sculpture of Mary holding the infant Jesus and a globe which pilgrims come to touch.
We took the train from Castelldefells to Bellvitges where we changed on train R5. We go of the station Montserrat Aeri. From there a gondola takes you to the monestir. The train was packed with people and when we arrived we decided not to wait for more than 1 hour till we can get on the gondola. We preferred to follow a sign towards a green garden near the train station saying "bar". We had just had some water in the morning and we were desperately longing for a breakfast. A "cafe de leche" and "pan de queso con tomate" were exactly what we needed. We enjoyed it in a wonderful green garden overlooking the mountainous region . There were only a few locals and no tourists. It was haven and we stayed for nealry one hour. When we reached the gondola the crowds had left and we only waited for 15 minutes. What a gondola! It was built before the 2nd world war. And since then, it is regularly checked and technically modernised - but the look and feel stays the same. Really a fun ride in an absolutely stunning scenery. We visited the Basilica of course, enjoyed the many
viewpoints over the valley and soaked in the atmosphere. Somehow we felt like gong for a walk a little bit - preferably we wanted to walk down to the valley. We asked at an information desk but we somehow did not get the information we needed and were a bit frustrated. We felt like being in a paradies but whatever you want to do costs extra money (an other cablecar up the mountain or down the mountain) - we simply could not find a solution to walk somewhere for free. Suddenly, I looked around and saw some other devotees of our spiritual master. As we both know them since a while we greeted them and they told us that Sri Swami Vishwananda was about to visit the monestir with a group of pilgrims. How lucky we were! We waited with our friends for a while till finally our master arrived. We were so blessed to be able to visit the monastir again, now with him. Of course we went to the Virgin Mary and finally sat down with our master for meditation in the Basilica. It was so peaceful and we were so happy to have this opportunity. We were even invited to a picknick with him on a terrasse overlooking the valley and the wonderful mountains. It was such a wonderful and joyful experience. And we were so incredibly happy with this unplanned surprise - a really divine surprise! We spent the whole afternoon with the group, simply enjoying the presence of our master, singing and dancing. In the evening we took the train down the mountain and then another train back to Barcelona and to Castedefells. What a day! We ended with a nice dinner in the beach in a quiet pizzeria (well, not really spanish - but we did not find another meat-or-fish-free-option).
And much too fast it was already our last night in Spain for this trip. It was a short night again as we had to take the first train in the morning towards the airport. A quick last spanish breakfast on the airport and then it was a 2 hour flight back to Basilea where we had our car parked. Midday we were already back in the office working.
It was a wonderful trip full of our spiritual master's spirit and love. It was on this trip that we decided that this year we will only travel with our spiritual master. As he is travelling a lot all around the world we have now made a lot of plans - be surprised!