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The Sidra Museum in Nava

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Sidra has been a big part of our Asturian experience — from learning the art of the Escanciado, to sitting with friends at one of the many sidrerías on Calle Gascona. There’s something grandly social about cider, and we’ve made sure to drink as much as possible.

So it was a given that we’d eventually find our way the Museum of Cider in Nava — smack in the heart of the Comarca de la Sidra. It may not be the best museum I’ve ever seen, but that didn’t preclude it from being a lot of fun.

We were given apples at the entrance desk, which we placed in a crazy Mousetrap like contraption, to see how they’re diced, pressed, fermented and bottled into delicious, alcoholic sidra.
[Coolness Factor: 7 out of 10]

From there, we were introduced to the various machines used throughout the ages for cider production. A bunch of old, wooden devices that look just about how you’d think they’d look.
[Coolness Factor: 4 out of 10]

With high-hopes we entered a room with loud music and flashing lights, and encountered a video about Asturians and their love of cider. A video which was apparently recorded in 1985, if the hairstyles and background music were anything to go by.
Bowm-chikka-bowm-bowm! Old woman buying cider at the grocery!
Bowm-chikka-bowm-bowm! Mullet dude drinking cider at the bar!
Bowm-chikka-bowm-bowm! Business lady with the cider in her fridge!
[Coolness Factor: 1 out of 10]
[Hilarity Factor: 9 out of 10]

Laughing muscles fully exercised, we now came upon the interactive portion of the museum. A magical bagpipe: “Press here” for flute function! Traditional Asturian games, like “Throw Ball at Screen”, and “Throw Ring at Board”. We spent quite a bit of time here, because we had paid €5 apiece to get into the museum, and damned if we weren’t going to get our money’s worth.
[Coolness Factor: 8 out of 10]

At the end of our tour through the Cider Museum, we were rewarded with a sampling of the drink, and a chance to try and pour it ourselves. I think the girl working there was surprised by my Escanciando Skillz. As I was pouring cider flawlessly into my glass, I gave her a little wink and she fainted dead on the spot.
[Personal Coolness Factor: 10 out of 10]

Honestly, if you want an overview of cider production, you’re better off going to the Gaitero Sidrería in nearby Villaviciosa. But I won’t deny we had a good time in Nava; it’s nice to occasionally visit a museum which is more “fun” than “educative”.

Location of Nava on our Day Trips Map

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October 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm Comments (0)

Covadonga – The Spiritual Capital of Asturias

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Oviedo may be the political center of the Principality of Asturias, but Covadonga is its spiritual heart. This mountain sanctuary near Cangas de Onís is where King Pelayo led a ragtag bunch of Christians to victory over a much larger Muslim force in the 8th century. It was Christianity’s first triumph since the Moorish conquest of Iberia, and marked the beginning of the 800-year Reconquista.

covadonga asturias

The Catholic church wasted no time in claiming Covadonga as its own, and declared the area a religious mega-site. You see, Pelayo’s men didn’t just use the mountainous terrain and their knowledge of it to turn back the Moors, the Holy Virgin of Covadonga assisted them.

Visiting is an odd experience. The grotto of Covadonga is undeniably beautiful, and does have a magical feeling about it. Supposedly, it rests on a ley line. But it’s also a solemn, strange Catholic Disneyland. Step right up kids, and see Pelayo’s final resting place! No talking please, this is a church. And now right over here, folks, we have the Fountain of Marriage! That’s correct, ladies, one drink from this enchanted water and you’ll be at the alter in no time! Pictures are allowed here, since it’s just kinda holy.

Oooh, only brave souls this way! That’s right, we’re entering the Holy Cave! Please no horseplay, kids, this is a holy cave, after all. And who’s this lovely lady, to your right? Why it’s our friend, the Virgin of Covadonga. NO PICTURES! She is most sacred! But if you’ll follow me right this way, we’ll enter the gift shop where you can buy pictures of La Santina and all manner of fabulous religious paraphernalia!

If you’re Catholic or superstitious or new-agey or into kitsch, you’re going to love Covadonga. But for cynics like myself and Juergen, it was a little much. The Basilica is gorgeous, set against the mountains, and it was fun to walk around a bit. There’s also museum on the grounds, which wasn’t very interesting; instead of history, I got artless portraits of archbishops and their robes.

But no trip to Asturias is complete without visiting Covadonga. Regardless of your views on religion and spirituality, it’s a haunting and interesting place.

Visit the Lakes of Covadonga

Covadonga Bell
Cruzes Covadonga
Covadonga Shrine
Covadonga Chapel
Virgin Covadonga
Cueva Silencia
Wedding Fountain
Covadonga Snake
Pelayo
Pelayo Perro
Covadonga
Lost in Covadonga
Organ Covadonga
Cruz Asturias
Beichtstuhl
My Covadonga
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October 22, 2010 at 5:16 pm Comments (0)

The Ruta del Cares: Seven-Hour Megahike

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The Picos de Europa are a huge mountain range that straddles the border between Asturias, Cantabria and León, just twenty kilometers from the ocean, and a paradise for mountain climbers, nature lovers and hikers.

Sun Hike

Juergen and I fall into that latter group for sure, so we embarked on the most famous hike through the Picos: The Ruta del Cares. Connecting the tiny villages of Poncebos and Caín, it’s a 24km, seven-hour roundtrip hike. That’s a lot, but the seven hours are packed with breathtaking nature, and fairly easy.

The river Cares has carved an immense and exhilaratingly narrow canyon into the Picos. The route travels alongside the river, high up into the mountains, through tunnels and along cliff faces. It was developed in the early 20th century for workers of the Electra de Viesgo company, who needed to reach the canal which still runs between the two villages. The hike has since become incredibly popular, and welcomes over 200,000 adventurers a year.

The Ruta del Cares starts with a long ascent, and before long we were high above the river. It leveled out from there, as we entered the canyon. I experienced some mild vertigo. In such a narrow canyon gap with sheer cliff faces towering high over your head and the river so far below, it’s easy to become disoriented.

There were long stretches through dark tunnels, over bridges high above the river, and we passed by a few waterfalls. By the time we reached Caín, we were exhausted but in great spirits. The first half of the hike had gone quickly by and, after a quick lunch, I didn’t dread the thought of returning the same way. The chance to see the canyon again was a powerful incentive.

If you’re fit enough and enjoy the outdoors, don’t miss this hike. But try and pick an off-season day during the week, as the route is truly popular and, on summer weekends, the number of people can be overwhelming.

Location of Poncebos (Start)
Plan of the Hike in Wikiloc
Detailed Info in Spanish on the Hike

Mist Land
Rio Asturias
Rio Picos de Europa
Picos de Europa Hike
Ruta del Cares
No Bikers Allowed
Dizzy
Dangerous Hike
Gefahr Wandern
Hiking Routes Picos
Fall Asturias
Exciting Hike
China in Spain
Hiking
Tunnel Hiking Asturias
Welcome to Leon
Waterfall
Wandern Asturias
On Nom Nom
Wet Land
Wet
Splish Splash
Sidra IN leon
Wandern
Picos de Europa
Play of Light
Travel Stock Photographer
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October 20, 2010 at 8:39 pm Comments (6)

Colombres and the Museum of Emigration

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Looking for a place to stay new Colombres?

At the end of the 19th century, Spain was mired in one of its darkest periods. Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were gone as a result of the Spanish-American War, and an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Morocco had left the country in a tailspin. Many escaped to the New World, where society was on the rise rather than in decline. This included a massive number of Asturians: mostly single, young and ambitious. They lent their enthusiasm to the growing countries of the Western Hemisphere, and made a fortune doing so.

Colombres Asturias

Many of these newly moneyed youngsters eventually returned home. Known as Indianos, they built fabulous homes and spent their wealth freely, at a time when the Principality desperately needed it. The mansions of the Indianos can be found all over Asturias, but no other town has such a remarkable collection as Colombres, near the border with Cantabria.

One house in Colombres stands out among the rest: the Quinta Guadalupe, constructed by Iñigo Noriega Laso, who emigrated to Mexico and became both extremely rich and politically influential. Today, his amazing mansion is the Museum of Emigration, dedicated to this interesting period in Asturian history. There are emotional photographs of emigrants leaving Spain, models of the boats on which they traveled, personal stories of adventure and danger, and information about the various Centros Asturianos which are still active in Argentina, Cuba, Mexico and the USA.

The museum is interesting, and it’s nice to be able to step inside such a house. Much of the original furniture is still present, and the library is full of tomes dedicated to the immigrant experience. If you’re in the area, definitely stop by.

Location of Colombres on our Day Trips Map

Magnolia Sprout
Water Drip
Bizarre Garden
Quinta Guadalupe
Mexico Asturias
Emmigration Museum
Museo Emmigracion
Detail Asturias
Muebles Asturias
emmigration asturias
Eduardo Urculo New York
Williams B. Arrensberg
Inka
Asturiano Dinero

Visit Stockholm

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October 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm Comment (1)

The Bizarre Beach of Gulpiyuri

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The coast around Llanes is well-known as one of the most stunning areas in Spain, and during a recent trip there, we sought out one of the features which makes it special: Gulpiyuri beach.

Gulpiyuri

Gulpiyuri’s name isn’t its only bizarre facet: this beach is found completely inland, in a gorgeous little cove which looks like something out of a fantasy. I kept expecting to see Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields rolling around on the sand, making out. The Cantabrian Sea bored through the earth to create this sandy spot, and though you can’t see the ocean, its waves to lap the shore just like any beach. Like a magical wave pool.

We sat here for a half hour, taking in the cove’s beauty and eating bocadillos. Our dog Chucky came along for this road trip, and though Gulpiyuri’s odd allure was probably lost on her, she seemed to enjoy the sand.

Location of Gulpiyuri Beach on our Day Trips Map

Inland Beach
Weird Beach
French Bulldog
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October 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm Comments (12)

Finally, We Visit Llanes

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During our three months in Asturias, we’ve seen a lot of wonderful towns. Just check out our Day Trips Map! But none of them have impressed us as much as Llanes, an absolutely gorgeous city in the east of the Principality. A perfect melding of tradition and modernity, Llanes is full of beautifully restored buildings, and boasts an expansive ancient center separated from the day-to-day village life by medieval walls.

Llanes Cubes

Walking around the streets of Llanes was a treat; practically every building screamed for attention, and each narrow alley seemed to be showing off. Even the town’s tourist office is a highlight, inside a small circular tower along the old city wall. The people we encountered were friendly, and despite the rainy weather, everyone was in good spirits, tourists and locals alike.

And there were a lot of tourists. Llanes is a popular vacation destination and in the summer, the population quintuples up to 20,000. Tourists (mostly Spanish) choose Llanes for its beaches, the plentiful surrounding sights, the proximity of the Picos de Europa and of course the beauty and excellent reputation of the town itself.

We spent a long time admiring ancient palaces like the 14th century Palacio de Gastañaga, and modern structures such as the Casino de los Indiano, which is today the city hall. Perhaps most impressive was the San Pedro Walk, a long and entirely green park which stretches endlessly along the coast, offering tremendous views of both the ocean and the town.

This was one of the last excursions from Oviedo which we embarked on. We shouldn’t have waited so long.

Location of Llanes on our Day Trips Map

Igleasia en Llanes
llanes Puerta
Llanes Iglesia
Melted Architecture
Llanes Asturias
Llanes Bush
Llanes Flores
Llanes Oldtown
Llanes Alley
Llanes Architecture
Llanes Construction
Llanes Bebe
Casino Llanes
Tourist Office Llanes
Llanes Faro
Llanes Pop Art
Fishing Net
Redes Llanes
Splash Boat
Boats Llanes
Llanes Beach
Llanes Playa
Walking Llanes
San Pedro Llanes
Sexy Curves
Cliffs Llanes
Llanes Rain
Llanisco
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October 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm Comments (0)

Road Trip Across Western Asturias

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Time was running out! With just over one week left in Asturias, we looked at the map and realized we hadn’t explored the Principality’s western half at all. Time for a road trip.

Jungle Spain

We headed out from Oviedo, through Grado, Pola de Allende, Grandas de Salime, Villanueva de Oscos and into Taramundi. It was an unforgettable trip, through forests, over hydroelectric dams, across mountain passes and into the least inhabited areas of Asturias. For long stretches, we drove without seeing another soul, save the random hunter. The roads were empty and well-maintained, which made driving an absolute pleasure.

The only extended stop we made was for lunch in Taramundi. Unfortunately, in the Hotel Taramundi we suffered through the worst meal we had during our three months in Asturias. I choked my way through a steak so raw, it must have been cooked over match light. I swear it mooed when I cut into it. I’m all for rare and bloody, but this was ridiculous. The other plate was awful too, runny eggs and the nastiest chorizo to ever bear the name.

Overall, we thought Taramundi was cute, but it’s a town clearly designed to ensnare tourists, lacking any sense of authenticity. It’s famed for its knives (navajas), so we bought one and spent the rest of the day slicing things. We were done with Taramundi after about ten minutes, and drove to the nearby village of Os Teixos. Here, they’ve shut down thoroughfare, so you have to park outside the town and walk in. Also, you have to pay an entrance fee! Os Teixos has converted itself into an open air museum dedicated to water mills.

We loved our day driving through Western Asturias, and were particularly impressed by both the hydroelectric dam near Grandas de Salime and the Puerto del Palo, which offered incredible views from 1146 meters above sea level.

If you’re curious, the route we took was the following:
From Oviedo, N634 West
About 11km after Grado, AS15 South
Shortly after a village called Tebongo, AS14 West
In Grandas de Salime, AS12 North
In Pesoz, AS13 West/North, becomes AS11 after the Puerta de la Garganta
About 10 km later, AS26 towards Taramundi

This took about three hours. We headed back to Oviedo along the much faster coastal Cantabrian Highway.

Lost Cloud
Mountain Street
West Asturias
Dam Spain
Cement Mirador
Electronic Mirador
Wild Wild West Spain
Water Towers
Grandas de Salime
Electricity Spain
Roadtrip Spain
Wind Mills Spain
Electronic Workers
Taramundi Spain
Taramundi
hombre Taramundi
Cruz Asturias
Maiz
Manzanas
Spanish Wood
Teixois Uvas
Navajas Taramundi
Schiefer
Teixois
Mills Taramundi
null
Os Teixois
Water Mill
Optical Illusion Asturias
Electricity Toixois
Drums of Spain
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October 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm Comments (0)

Los Caserinos – Milk & Cheese Straight from the Farm

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While Jürgen’s family was visiting from Germany, we spent a day driving around the Comarca de la Sidra and ended up in a tiny town called Grases, which home to Los Caserinos: a family-owned farm that’s been making cheese and milk for nearly a century.

Goatse

We took a tour of the farm and were introduced to the cows and goats which produce the Caserinos’ milk. The goats were especially cool; well over a hundred snow-white Saanen goats, who were utterly unconcerned by our presence. One of the smaller ones even tried to suck on my finger, which apparently resembles a goat tit. The tiny household sidrería was also interesting, with an apple press and antique tools used to produce the cider which is an ingredient in some of their cheeses.

The most best part of the tour, though, was hearing about the history of the farm. Our guide was the grandson of the original founder, and showed us pictures of his kids. Four generations of life among the cows and goats. His grandfather had been a casero, or caretaker, at the house of a rich family from the area; caserino is the diminutive form, and became the family’s nickname.

If you can’t make it to Grases to see the farm, you can visit Los Caserinos at their stand in the Mercado Fontán, where they have a Milk Machine: just put your bottle in the dispenser, feed the machine a Euro and get a liter of cool, fresh milk straight from the farm. And I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent cheeses they offer. Goat cheese, cow cheese, mixed, blue cheese, mixed with cider. We were able to try them all at the end of our tour, and ended up buying more than a little.

Location of Los Caserinos on our Day Trips Map
Los Caserinos (nicely done) Website
More information about the Mercado Fontán

Los Caserinos
Cabra
Cow Bell Asturias
Milk Cows
Euter Fabrik
Talking Cow
Sidraria Privada
Spanish Wooden Shoes
Branding Asturias
Leche Fresca Oviedo
Fresh Milk Vending Machine
Milk Boy

Books about Asturias

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October 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm Comments (3)

The Lakes of Covadonga

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Looking for a Hotel near Covadonga?

A road winds from the religious playland of Covadonga through a mountainous landscape, and ends at Enol and Ercina, twin glacial lakes separated at birth by a hilly clump of land.

Asturien

The lakes are only twelve kilometers away from Covadonga, but the steep, curvy drive requires 30 minutes to complete, and even more than that on busy days. Los Lagos de Covadonga are a popular destination; a gratifying breath of fresh air after the overly religious, incense-impregnated atmosphere of Covadonga.

Although the amount of tourists detracts from the sense of tranquility Enol and Ercina might otherwise possess, they’re still worth visiting. A number a hiking routes pass by, and there are tables for picnics.

Location on our Day Trips Map

Sheep Spain
Spanish Cows
Big Wall of Spain
Asturias
Picos de Europa
Picos Casa Rural
Largo Asturias
Ercina
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October 13, 2010 at 5:09 pm Comment (1)

Cangas de Onís – The First Capital of Asturias

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Looking for a Hotel in Cangas de Onís?

One of the most visited towns in all of Asturias is also one of its oldest. Serving as the entrance to the parks of Covadonga, the village of Cangas de Onís is inundated every weekend and throughout the summer with religious tourists who’ve come to pay tribute to the spiritual heart of Asturias.

Just over 6000 people actually live in the town, and I would bet that 95% of them are dedicated to tourism. But despite the ubiquitous souvenir shops and overpriced restaurants, Cangas de Onís manages to project some genuine charm. After the legendary battle of Covadonga, Pelayo, the victorious leader and first Asturian king, chose Cangas de Onís as the capital of his nascent kingdom. For over fifty years, until 774 when the capital was moved to Pravia, the town served as the nucleus of Christendom in the Iberian peninsula.

One of the most photographed images in Spain is found here. The humpbacked Roman Bridge was actually built during the the 14th century, well after the Romans were gone, but the name stuck. And with the Picos de Europa in the background, the beautiful Sella river running below it, and the symbol of Asturias (the Cross of Victory) hanging from the middle, it’s an impressive sight.

Location of Cangas de Onís on our Day Trips Map

Cangas de onis
Cruz Victoria Cangas Onís

Great Deal Travel Insurance

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October 13, 2010 at 10:22 am Comments (0)

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The Sidra Museum in Nava Sidra has been a big part of our Asturian experience -- from learning the art of the Escanciado, to sitting with friends at one of the many sidreras on Calle Gascona. There's something grandly social about cider, and we've made sure to drink as much as possible.
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