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From Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #12: “The Towering Mountain of Montserrat and Why the Sacred Statue (the Virgin Mary and Child) is Black. “

Karen overlooking the clouds in Montserrat, Spain

Karen overlooking the clouds in Montserrat, Spain

Via a nail biting, narrow winding road, forty-miles outside Barcelona, Spain, we ascended by bus, 4,000 feet above sea level, to the astonishing Montserrat Monastery – that literally floats above the clouds. Dating back to 888 B.C., Montserrat is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat. Groups of young people from all over Catalonia make overnight hikes, at least once in their lives, to watch the sunrise and visit the Basilica.

Cross of San Miguel - Montserrat, Spain

Cross of San Miguel (to the right) – Montserrat, Spain

In Catalan, “Montserrat” means ‘saw mountain’ (as it appears serrated like a handsaw). The name describes the mountain’s peculiar appearance, with its multitude of rock formations that are visible from a great distance. The mountain is composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock. Montserrat is Spain’s first declared National Park.

Virgin Of Montserrat - Montserrat, Spain

The Black Virgin Of Montserrat – Montserrat, Spain

Notes From Machu Picchu – by Karen Kondazian

It was time for me to finally lay eyes on the mystical Machu Picchu, a place I had always heard about in awed tones, by the people who had been there– although I knew little about. I flew from Lima to Cuzco, high in the Andes at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. When I got off the plane, I felt winded, dizzy, had a bad headache. I was told that I had altitude sickness and was handed a hot cup of coca tea. After several cups, I felt light and chipper, myself again (While there, I drank many cups of this delicious brew… outlawed in the U.S. as it comes from the coca leaf – translated by the US immigration as cocaine). It kept me well… It kept me thriving… Without it, I could not have conquered the altitude.


Cuzco was founded in the 15th century by the Incas, and then later vanquished by the Spaniards. I stayed in an ancient Monastery (1595) the Hotel Monasterio del Cuzco, and at breakfast I heard chanting… beautiful, peaceful chanting – and drank coca tea. Blissful is how I started my day.