Las Fiestas de San Mateo are the biggest event of the year in Oviedo, taking place over the course of nearly two weeks. Oviedo has celebrated the saint’s feast day for over a millenium, since the days of Alfonso II in the 9th century.
What exactly comprises the festival of San Mateo? It’s a question which we’ve been posing to everyone we meet, and which no one is able to satisfactorily answer. There’s the Día de América on the 19th, which is a parade to honor the cultures and people of the New World. And there are fireworks on the 21st, the día grande of the festival. But concentrating on individual events isn’t the best way to think about San Mateo. Basically, the whole city becomes a huge party zone. San Mateo is simply a monstrously long fiesta.
In every plaza of the old town, on every corner and along every street, open air bars sell caipirinhas and mojitos. Every night, there are jazz concerts in the Plaza de Paraguas, rock concerts in the Plaza Feijoo, and big performances of theater, comedy, music and more in the Plaza de la Catedral. Makeshift party tents called chiringuitos are set up all over the place, disturbing neighbors with dancing that lasts until 4am. The city park, the Campo de San Francisco, converts into a massive kids’ playground. Everyone goes out, and the streets are packed with both young and old people having a good time.
Though there’s not much to distinguish San Mateo from other festivals around the world, it’s one of the few times in the year when noble Oviedo lets its hair loose, and reveals an exuberant side to the city normally kept under wraps.
- Fallas en Valencia
, San Mateo
September 11, 2010 at 3:47 pm Comments (7)
We always have a hard time remembering the holidays of new countries and on September 8th, another one sneaked up and took us off guard. The Day of Asturias, which celebrates the Principality’s patron saint, The Virgin of Covadonga.
The virgin’s legend dates back to the 8th century and the Battle of Covadonga, when a ragtag group of Asturians beat back a much larger invading Muslim army. That battle, waged so many centuries ago, has become the subject of legend, but scholars agree that it was the first major victory against the ruling Moors, and allowed the Kingdom of Asturias to establish itself as a Christian stronghold.
Covadonga has become a mythical place for Asturians, and September 8th is the day they most proudly celebrate their history and culture. Every year, a different Asturian city is chosen to host the festivities; this year, the traditional markets, fairs, contests and parades were set in Ribadesella. In Oviedo, the only events were a performance by the Gaita band Xácara in the city center, and fireworks on the 7th.
That’s it, I’m paying better attention from now on to holidays. October 12th, the Day of Spain, I have my eye on you!
- Day of the Valencian Community
September 8, 2010 at 10:01 am Comments (3)
- Book a hotel for this event (in Ribadesella)
Entering 80 years of history, the International Descenso del Sella has become one of the most important events on the Asturian calendar. Over 300,000 people showed up to watch this year’s canoe and kayak race and participate in a week full of parties.
Of course, we had to go, especially since the train ride cost just €10. We stayed on the train through Arriondas, where the race starts, and followed the river twenty kilometers to its end in seaside Ribadesella. All along the route, we looked out the window at campsites and drunk, sunburnt party people. At the Arriondas stop, a group of hilariously hung-over teenagers boarded and all instantly, simultaneously fell asleep. Watching the increasingly frustrated ticket-checker try futiley to rouse them was great fun.
We managed to claim great spots along the riverbed to watch end of the race. The athletes, mostly muscle-bound Spaniards, rowed swiftly past the finish line and it was all over far too quickly. But the race is really just an excuse for the week-long party that grips the region. Music, festival rides, food stands and above all, alcohol. Cider, beer, vomit, whiskey, dancing, vodka, public urination, followed by more vodka and vomit. The Descenso del Sella simply must be the coolest canoe race in the world.
Location on our Asturias Map
August 9, 2010 at 11:59 am Comments (2)