My final day in Barcelona and I headed to the port to get the cable car that runs from it to Parc de Montjuic (this is separate to the cable car that runs from the Montjuic funicular station).
This system is older than the one in Parc de Montjuic and is accessed by way of a lift from the port to the platform 70m overhead. There are only 2 cars in operation – one on each cable – that run back and forth along the 1.3km route. This is different from the Parc de Montjuic cable car, which operates with multiple cars on a continuous loop.
As a result of this, there are capacity issues and a long wait for the trip. All in all, it was about an hour between queueing to buy a ticket from a grumpy sales clerk though to actually boarding the car.
The trip itself brings you across the harbour (I couldn’t see the Loony Tunes cruise ship providing accommodation to Spanish police looking to thwart Catalonian independence in the port) to a station in Parc De Montjuic. There is also an intermediate station but this is closed.
To get back from the station at Parc de Montjuic, I walked to the funicular railway station (see Day 1) and took it and the metro back into the city.
I headed north from Barcelona to the monastery at Montserrat, some 60km northwest of Barcelona (no, I haven’t discovered god – the monastery is accessed by a rack railway (also known as the “Cremallera”) and an alternative cable car and has two separate funicular railways on site. I consider such a gathering of railways to be my own personal form of heaven 😉 )
I took the train from Barcelona to Monistrol de Montserrat station from where the railway to the monastery starts. The initial section of the line is a conventional railway to the first stop at Monistral Vila. Adjacent to this latter station are two historic displays, one of a steam engine for the rack railway and the other a funicular carriage from the Sant Joan funicular. Beyond this point, it becomes a rack railway with a centre rack. The trains are powered by overhead electric wires.
Climbing steeply up the mountain, the horizontal remnants of bore holes, where the rock was blasted out of the mountain to clear the path for the railway, can be seen alongside the line. There is a passing point midway along the line to allow ascending and descending trains to pass. The journey up to this point was largely encased in mist. However, shortly after leaving the passing loop, the train rose above the clouds, leaving a view down onto the cloud covered valley below.
The monastery site is impressive and large (the cynic could argue that these religious knew how to bag the best sites for themselves). After a quick snack and a coffee in the cafeteria on site, I made for the first of two funicular railways on site. The ‘Sant Joan’ is particularly steep (maximum gradient of 65.2%) and rises further up the mountain with a length of 503m.
The views from the summit of the railway get even better. It includes a rock formation that would well serve as a future Mount Rushmore for an independent Catalonia (I would fear its use as such for a federal Europe).
The second of the funicular railways on site (Funicular de Santa Cova) goes back down the hill slightly. It is 262m long with a gradient of 55%.
Adjacent to the lower terminal of this line is a small museum dedicated to the funicular railways which include information boards in English. One panel records that there were historically 11 passenger funicular railways in Catalonia, 7 of which remain in use today. I took issue with the claim that the first funicular railway in the world was in Lyon in 1862 – whilst this may well be the first passenger carrying funicular, there would be earlier examples on mineral tramways.
For anyone thinking of making a similar trip, the train from Barcelona to Monistrol de Montserrat can be taken from the Plaza Espanya Metro station – line R5. It is possible to buy a combined ticket (cost €31.80 as of today) which covers the return train to/from Monistrol de Montserrat from Plaza Espanya, the Cremallera mountain railway up and down and unlimited trips on the Funicular de Santa Cova and the Sant Joan funicular.
Another overseas trip sees me in Barcelona, just as the Catalan Government are starting a fight with Madrid 🙁 I started this trip in Madrid, but saw little of interest there and certainly nothing of IH interest. Barcelona, on the other hand, comes complete with cable cars, funicular and rack railways and is therefore right up my street.
My first trip was on the funicular railway from Paral-lel (sic) station to Parc de Montjuïc. The funicular is integrated with the metro and is accessed from Paral-lel station with the fare being a standard metro journey. As the Barcelona system has a 10 journey card for €9.95 which covers journeys in the central zone, using this, my trip on the funicular railway cost less than €1.
The initial section of the funicular is underground, including the passing point midway. Another interesting point is that it is driverless – no staff are onboard. At the head of the funicular, you emerge into a park overlooking Barcelona. Adjacent to the funicular railway station, there is a separate cable car which takes visitors further up into the park. I took the round trip option for this (there is also a cheaper one way fare available).