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Spain 2010 – Day 3: Zaragoza

Bienvenidos to Day 2 of my Spain trip! Today we drove out of Barcelona and headed towards the monastery of Montserrat. Afterwards, we headed towards the scenic city of Zaragoza. We spent a lot of time on the bus today, but still got to see some really cool stuff!

We wound our way up the twisty road to Montserrat and hit a giant traffic jam just a couple short miles from the summit. We waited and inched along at a dreadfully slow pace that ate up an hour of our visit by the time we reached the top. Apparently, there was a big mountain-walking event going on that terminated in Montserrat, so there were quite a few spectators on hand (and it was Sunday).

We had several activities to choose from on the mountain: ride the funicular up to the top, visit the museum (which features a Caravaggio, some Picasso’s, and some Dali’s), or get in line to kiss the black Madonna. Seeing as how neither my mom or I are particularly religious, we opted for the first two options. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed in the museum so… enjoy the pictures from the top of the mountain!

A view of Montserrat from the entrance to the funicular. The main church is to the right. A view of the craggy rock formations from atop Montserrat. We took the funicular up to get this view. A panorama of the view from atop Montserrat (after riding the funicular). These dancers came out and performed several songs. I imagine missing a strike with those sticks could be pretty painful.

I grabbed a quick video of the dancers at Montserrat. Check it out…


We did still go inside the church and I snapped a few pictures. The line to kiss the Madonna was insane (read: three hours long). You can see the Madonna in the third picture as a man steps up and takes his turn at the kiss her feet. The statue itself is quite odd. Were she to stand up, her legs would look short and stubby like a dachshund’s but her upper body would be lean and quite tall. I guess proper body proportions weren’t so important back then (just look at Michelangelo’s Pieta).

A view of the front of the church in Montserrat. The inside of the church at Montserrat. A service was in session when I came in. The mile-long line to kiss the feet of the virgin trails off-camera to the right behind the metal fence. I stood way in the back of the church and zoomed as far as I could to capture an image of the black Madonna. There was a line all the way through the church and the courtyard waiting for a turn to kiss her feet.

After leaving Montserrat, we headed for Zaragoza. This is the first of many town/cities in Spain vying for the coveted crown of “European Capital of Culture” crown for 2016. Apparently, 2016 is the year a Spanish city is chosen. This is all well and good for me as I get to see each city put it’s best foot forward.

That said, Zaragoza is a beautiful city. We went to the main square and visited Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. It was a very pretty square and Cathedral. Check out the pictures below!

A panorama of Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar I spied a young boy fascinated with the pigeons as I listened to our tour guide. I think this picture eclipses any historical information I may have missed while capturing it.  The main square in Zaragoza. I really liked the moon appearing in the waning light of the daytime.

Below is a quick video I took that offers a 360 degree view of Zaragoza Square.


Next we went into the Cathedral proper. Probably the most interesting part to me was the bombs (see the first picture). They were dropped on the Cathedral at the height of the Franco era during his fight with the revolutionaries. He blamed the bombing on the revolutionaries in order to get the citizens of Zaragoza on his side. Apparently, it worked, but I believe he dropped these dud bombs himself as a political ploy so he could proclaim a miracle ordained by the Virgin Mary herself.

In the Franco days, two bombs were dropped on the church but didn't explode. This was heraled as a miracle and so thus they are displayed proudly within the church. A view from inside the Basilica. A view of the lady of the pillar for which this church is named. She is regularly dressed up in some fancy cloth so the pillar isn't very visible.

Here are some other pictures I took around Zaragoza. Click on them for more information.

At one end of the main square in Zaragoza was a church with a heavy influence of Muslim architecture. That wasn't nearly as interesting as the stork nest perched on top. A statue of a lion perched atop a pillar astride one of the entrances to the old Roman bridge   This is the bridge we came over entering Zaragoza. I thought it looked quite striking in the nighttime.

Dinner at the hotel was fairly standard fare. Fortunately, the wine was free-flowing and that’s all I really care about. After a long day and a short night touring the night scenes of Zaragoza, it was time for bed. Tomorrow we’re off to Pamplona, the site of the running of the bulls. See you then!

Dinner at the hotel in Zaragoza. The food was mediocre. Nothing to write home about.

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