Monthly Archives: October 2012

Asturias: paraíso natural


After a couple of weeks of fighting through the Forest of Despair (ridden with Rodents of Unusual Size) that is the bureaucracy of Spain, and cutting myself quite a few times on Samurai Sword it took to cut the red tape, we were finally getting settled in Salamanca. Despite the exaggerations  of the previous sentence (or are they?), we’d actually had an amazing time in Salamanca so far. The feria of Salamanca was  a wonderful way to be welcomed into our new town and was finally winding down when we got on a bus and rode up to the wonderful world of Asturias, in the north.

Exactly ten years ago, when I when I had just turned 20 and had become a sophomore in college, I moved to the city of Oviedo in Asturias Spain to study abroad. That year changed my life in so many ways, and really is the beginnings of why we’re here in Spain today. I immediately fell in love with Asturias, its people, its history, its culture, its language, its food, its climate (the green sites and gray rain are so similar to the N.W.) and the amazing friends that I met along the way! Oviedo became a second home to me quite quickly. I actually remember the moment when I was coming home from a trip outside the city on a bus and when we entered Oviedo I had the calm feeling one gets when they’re finally home after a long trip. When I realized that Oviedo was my home it was the strangest, yet most comforting feeling that I could never quite describe. Oviedo became so much a part of me, and me of it, that even to this day I can see the footprints that I left there. A few years ago, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a man was strangely watching me. He finally approached me tentatively and asked if I used to live in Oviedo. I was blown away at this question and his recollection of me. He had worked at a coffee shop that I used to go to often and remembered. Oviedo is and will always be a very special place in the world for me and both Patrick and I were so excited to take a trip up to see everyone that we love!

Goofing off in the city with Miguel and Fran (notice Fran’s Oregon hoodie!!! ¡Vamos Patos!)

Asturias 2003

La Ruta de las Xanas 2003

Fran and I getting ready for a ‘football’ game! Oviedo 2003

Gijón 2002

Gijón 2002

María, Miguel y yo en la playa de Gijón (2002)

Oviedo has a very long and fascinating history and has pre-romanesque architecture including Santa María del Naranco (848), San Miguel de Lillo (848) and San Julian de los Prados (830). It is also a very modern city and is the home of a world famous orchestra a university, and other monuments and museums. It is such a beautiful and captivating city that filmmaker  Woody Allen (you can see some of his work here), says that:

“Oviedo is Delicious, Exotic, Beautiful, Clean, Pleasant, Peaceful, and Kind to Pedestrians. It’s as if it doesn’t belong to this world, as if it could not possibly exist … Oviedo is like a Fairy Tale” (I must agree, dear Woody)

Woody has been so inspired by the beauty and tranquility of Oviedo that he wrote it into the script his film Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and Oviedo was so honored they even made a statue of him! Music bands such as Blind Pilot have also included the mysteries and beauty of Oviedo in their work as well. Vocalist Isreal Nebeker, who is an Oregon native (coincidentally the brother of one of my former students), studied abroad in Oviedo like myself and wrote a very poetic song about his experience (If you’re ever curious about the lyrics I can explain them to you…mostly). I’m telling you, Oviedo is an amazing place!

My friend Woody and I hanging out together like old friends

Back to our trip…

Oviedo is and will always be a very special place in the world for me and both Patrick and I were so excited to take a trip up to see everyone that we love! We started out the trip by getting on a bus and heading north. As soon as we passed through the mountains via the Negrón Tunnel I immediately felt at home with the views of lovely Asturias. When coming into the city limits of Oviedo I couldn’t have been more excited to be there! We met our dear friend Miguel at the bus station and went home to drop off our bags and then we were off for the night! We arrived just in time for the festivals of San Mateo that happen each year during the third week of September. This wasn’t a coincidence! Many of our good friends came back to Oviedo to celebrate the festival from all over Spain (two even came from Nicaragua back to their hometown of Oviedo!) so it was a great chance to see everyone all together! Mostly by night we enjoyed the festival. Here you can see a bit of the city and how packed it gets at night with everyone having a good time! During the day they had events going on as well like the Parade (skip around the video to see representations of Asturians in the Americas) in honor of America Day and other family events. We also spent our time being turists and having fun visiting the city.

One day our friend Miguel took us up to a beautiful place in Asturias which I had been to a couple of times but that was the first time for Patrick. This place is called Covadonga. If you’re a cycling fan you may already know about this because of the Vuelta a España bike race that climbs up past the shrine and ends at Lagos de Covadonga. We of course took the car but it it is a popular climb for cyclists from all over the world.

Covadonga is a very important place in Spain because of its history. It is famous for being the place that modern Spain was born. It’s the birthplace of modern Spain because it was the first time that a Christian army won a battle against the Moors and started a ripple effect that spilled across the peninsula known as the “Reconquista” or the Reconquering of Spain. The Christian men who won this battle were led by the now iconic figure, Pelayo. It’s said that a statue of Virgin Mary that was hidden in the caves miraculously aided the Christian victory. There is now a statue of her in the caves (we weren’t supposed to take pictures but I snuck one anyway. Shhh don’t tell my grandma!)

The name Covadonga (Cuadonga in Asturian) comes from the Latin Cova Dominica or “Cavern of the Lady”. It’s strange though, she normally wears a red dress but is now adorned in blue. We asked around but couldn’t figure it out. Of course my dear friend Miguel is convinced that it’s in honor of the Real Oviedo soccer team. I think that Covadonga is too worried about the Spanish economic crisis to worry about soccer… That’s just me though 🙂

Like I said, this place holds a lot of history and culture and is very important and sacred to the Asturian people. Many Asturian children are named Pelayo (boys) or Covadonga (girls). If you find a Spaniard in other parts with this name you can be almost certain they are from Asturias.

Overall our trip was exactly what I needed to really feel at home in Spain. Seeing familiar places and faces was a breath of fresh air and solidified for me in many ways why we’re here in the first place. Spain has always been a part of me, even before I knew it I think. It calls to me in a special way, and thankfully to my husband too! Asturias is the part of Spain that is really my home and always will be. It’s like I always say…

¡Soy americana por pasaporte, asturiana por corazón!