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The Asturian Hymn

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The official Anthem of Asturias, popularly elected in the 1890s, is a curious song. It’s unlike any “national” anthem I’ve ever heard. There’s nothing grand about it, and it seems more suited to a traditional dance than a national statement of identity. But, here, you be the judge:

Take away the bagpipes, and the tune sounds oddly familiar. Here’s the English language translation of the lyrics, courtesy Wikipedia:

Asturias, my beloved Fatherland,
My loved one Asturias,
Ah, lucky he who could be in Asturias
For all times!
I’ve got to climb up the tree
I’ve got to pick the flower
and give it to my brunette
so she may put it in her balcony
May she put it in her balcony
May she put it not
I’ve got to climb the tree
and the flower I’ve got to pick
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October 6, 2010 at 9:32 am Comment (1)

Fireworks for San Mateo

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Last night, Oviedo invited the pyrotechnic company to light up the Parque de Invierno with fireworks. The Valencian company also did the closing of the World Cup, and we are already well familiar with their incredible work from our time in Valencia.

San Mateo

It was a great night for fireworks, and the show didn’t disappoint. We found a spot on the side of a steep hill, and watched a display that seemed to go on forever. Something Valencians understand about fireworks, is that noise can be just as important as visuals, and the rhythmic, perfectly timed sounds were almost as impressive as the explosions themselves.

San Mateo is winding down! Today’s a holiday, and then it’s all over…

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September 21, 2010 at 11:19 am Comments (0)

The Gaita Asturiana

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Until moving to Asturias, I shared the popular notion that bagpipes are from Scotland, and that the instrument’s presence necessarily indicates Scottish influence. That turns out to be completely wrong. Bagpipes have a long history in all Europe, from the Balkans to Scandinavia, and definitely in Northern Spain. There’s nothing uniquely Scottish about bagpipes; they weren’t even invented there.

Bagpipes are known in Spain as gaitas, and they’re the most popular traditional Asturian instrument. The Gaita Asturiana is different than other bagpipes, with just two pipes instead of four: the chanter, which is the melody pipe played by the fingers, and the drone, which rests on the shoulder. I impress you with my bagpipe knowledge, no?

Impromptu bagpipe concerts are a common occurrence in Oviedo, and we happened upon one during the first few days of our stay. The music was actually pleasant; usually, upon hearing the wheezy moans of a bagpipe, I clamp my ears and walk swiftly in the opposite direction, but this sound was tolerable. Almost enjoyable, in fact! Check out the video:

Want more bagpipe fun facts? I’m full of them:
*In German, the bagpipe is known as a dudelsack, pronounced “doodle-sack”. For real.
*The first evidence of the bagpipe in Asturias is a 13th century carving in a church in Villaciosa.
*The Scots used bagpipes to frighten off their enemies on the battlefield.

Well… alright, that’s all I got. Bagpipe knowledge exhausted.

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September 6, 2010 at 6:02 pm Comments (8)

Day Trip to Cudillero

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Asturianu is the indigenous language of Asturias, though there aren’t many people who speak it anymore. And Pixuetu is a dialect of Asturianu spoken only in Cudillero, a tiny village on the Cantabrian coast, distinuished by its use of Nordic words. Its no wonder that parents around the world are in a rush to teach their children Pixueto, since it’s totally going to be the next Chinese.

Cudillero Viaje

After visiting Cudillero, which was originally settled by Vikings, I understand how the village was able to develop and maintain its own dialect. Squished into a narrow valley that empties into the sea, Cudillero is difficult to reach today; centuries ago, it must have been almost completely isolated. The town has always been closely tied to fishing and, in fact, the name of their dialect is a combination of the words “fish” (pix-) and “activity” (-uetus).

I don’t think we heard any Pixuetu during our visit, but we did hear a lot of Spanish. Cudillero has become a true tourist town. We were overwhelmed by the amount of traffic and tourists, but at least they were all Spaniards; the town hasn’t yet been discovered by foreigners. Luckily, the noise and bustle didn’t detract much from the experience.

There’s one important road in Cudillero, running from the train station high up in the hills outside the city, down to the sea. The central plaza is the main area of activity, bordering the port and boasting views of the houses which cling uncertainly to the mountainsides. Away from the tourist filled plaza, we had a blast exploring the back alleys of Cudillero. There are no “streets”, really, just stairs carved into the cliffs connecting one house to the next.

As it has been since the town’s foundation, the port continues to be the nexus of commerce for Cudillero. Unless it’s between the sleepy siesta hours of two and five, hordes of fishermen are always hard at work down by the docks, and walking down towards them is rewarded with the seaside view of Cudillero. The town spills from the mountain valley into the water, like an unmoving river of people and houses.

FEVE operates a train which arrives in Cudillero after a stop in Pravia. We really can recommend a day there.

Location on our Asturias Map

Layers of Mist
Clay Town
Calle Cudillero
Blach and White Cudillero
Bakery Cudillero
Eburido
Town Gossip
Cudillero Church
Lonja Pescado Cudillero
Cudiller Spain
All You Can Eat Fish
Fisher Nets
Catching Lobster
Fish Skin
Cudillero Day Trip
Cudillero Faro
Cudillero Harbor
Magic Rock
Fishing Cudillero
Hanging Out in Cudillero
Don't Walk Too Fast
Cudillero Rocks
Lost
Tourist Trap
Cudillero Roof
Bird Punk
Plaza Majo Cudillero
Harbor Yacht Cudilloro
Lighthouse Cudillero
Mirador Cudillero
Leuchtturm Cudillero

Explore Asturias by Car

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August 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm Comments (10)

To the Top of Mount Naranco!

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Oviedo is bounded on the north by Mount Naranco, which stretches over five kilometers in length and reaches 634 meters in altitude. 634 meters? Pfah, that’s nothing… let’s climb it!

Jesus Sacred Heart Oviedo

And so we did. Starting from San Miguel de Lillo, a path winds up the mountain, through a forest and finishes at the top. It’s all uphill, but the path zigzags and isn’t too difficult. Unless, of course, you’re like us: stupid.

We thought we’d take a shortcut, since well-trodden trails are so boring. The little path shooting off through the shrubbery looked promising! Soon enough, the path disappeared but, clever as we are, we decided to push through the thicket anyway. Thorny branches were soon scraping our legs and arms to shreds. I clutzed through a spiderweb and, spotting its hairy owner crawling up my stomach, unleashed a deafening shriek of ladylike terror. Clever and masculine, yep that’s me.

Bloody and agitated, we eventually made it to the top, where we were greeted by a giant statue of The Sacred Heart of Jesus. With his arms open towards the city, Jesus seems to be embracing Oviedo, protecting it. Underneath the statue is a version of the famous Cruz de la Victoria, which features on the flag of Asturias.

Climbing the mountain was worth the effort for the incredible view over Oviedo and its valley. There’s no better place to get a sense for the layout, size and topography of the region. You can also drive up to the top of Mount Naranco, if you don’t feel like a hike. Either way, make sure to go on a sunny day; the panorama is unforgettable.

Location on our Oviedo Map

Bitchy Gease
Fairy Tale Asturias
Awesome Bug
Farn
Painful Hike
Oviedo Panorama
Sacrado Corazon Jesus Oviedo
Mountain Around Oviedo

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August 18, 2010 at 4:15 pm Comments (6)

Day Trip to Gijón

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Everything I’d read about Gijón, the largest city in Asturias, described it as “industrial” or “working-class”, so we arrived fearing that it’d be boring. But we needn’t have worried: Gijón is beautiful, full of students, lively bars and charming plazas. We spent the day walking around the old town center, the Cimavilla, admiriing monuments, plazas and incredible old buildings. The weather was great and the streets were full with young people sitting on whatever piece of stone was available.

Playa San Lorenzo

In the middle of the city is the beach of San Lorenzo, which stretches along the coast for over a kilometer. Though a lot of people were swimming, I wasn’t about to join in after experiencing the ice cold water at the Playa del Silencio. We also walked around the docks on the other side of Cimavilla and grabbed a bottle of cider in one of the city’s many sidrerías.

Gijón is much bigger than Oviedo, and the few hours we spent there during our first visit weren’t nearly enough to conduct a thorough exploration of its streets. No bother. It’s just 30 minutes by train from Oviedo, and we returned often. This is the kind of city which needs to be discovered slowly. On subsequent visits, we discovered the Park of Santa Catalina, a beautiful green area at the top of the city with a famous sculpture called “Elogio del Horizonte”, and the Termas Romanas, Thermal Baths built in the 1st Century by the Romans.

Location on our Asturias Map

Lady Stoner
Kiosk People
Fontan Out of Control
Calle Leon Gijon
Passaje Gijon
Pharmacia Gijon
Bar Carmen Gijon
Jesus on a Roof
Christus Gijon
Architecture Gijon
shadow beach
Snow on the beach
Beach Summer Gijon
Beach San Lorenzo
Abstract Beach
Castle on the beach
Asturian Mansion
Asturian Curtains
Beach Cross
Gijon Cathedral
Cathedral Gijon
Sailing Club Gijon
Plaza Gijon
Urban Art Gijon
Where did the Sidra Go
Sidra Gijon
Tostas Gijon
Sunny Alley Gijon
Snow in Gijon
Sailing in Gijon
Bubble Balls Gijon
Nordeste Gijon
Making out in Gijon
Boat in Wall Gijon
Sunning Gijon
Cute Bar Gijon
Gijon Face
Fury Coat Spain
Holy Sailor
Gijon For Lovers
Casa Fernando Gijon
Palace Gijon
villa hill gijon
Hungry for Pigeon
Souvenirs Gijon
Sac Player Asturias

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August 15, 2010 at 3:12 pm Comments (13)

Senda del Oso – Path of the Bear

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The villages of Tuñón and Entrago, found south of Oviedo, are connected by the Senda del Oso, a popular trail running through the valley carved by the Trubia River. Formerly a track for mining trains, the trail has been converted for recreational use and has a lot to recommend it: rapids, tunnels, cliffs, fountains, villages and, yes, bears.

We did the 22-kilometer walk on a Sunday morning, when the mist was still covering the tops of the mountains, and were amazed by the scenery. When you think “Spain”, mountainous and verdant Lord-of-the-Rings-landscape isn’t usually what pops into your mind. Although very long, the trail was easy — basically flat and endlessly entertaining.

Just south of Proaza, whose most impressive feature is a massive hydroelectric station, you come upon the enclosure of Paca and Tola — two rescued brown bears, orphaned as babies when a hunter slew their mother. They’ve been living in there since 1996, and are now twenty-one years old. We weren’t able to get too close but, even from afar, the bears were cute — playful and almost human-like in their actions. A male bear, Furaco, has been brought in for mating purposes, but the sisters apparently haven’t shown much interest in him. Poor Furaco. Maybe he’d have more luck with another type of bear.

By the time we reached Entrago, we were exhausted. We had time for lunch and a long siesta on a park bench, before the bus back to Oviedo. This was our first experience with the bus system in Asturias — it’s pretty good! Just €2,05 to Tuñón, and €3,75 on the way back. The buses are clean and comfortable, although the curvy mountains roads caused the kid next to me to vomit all over himself. Thanks for keeping it off of me, chaval!

You can find more information about Paca and Tola here and, if you’re so inclined, vote on which one will get knocked up first.

Location of the Hike’s Start on our Map

spooky stairs
spanischer friedhof
spanish flower lady
farming tools
drying asturias
jahr asturias
sidra fria
trubia
hiking break
nature asturias
asturias nature photographer
modern art asturias
crazy wasle
froggy
Asturian Cow
berries asturias
bear walk
hiking spain
Tunnels osos
wandern asturien
climbing asturias
clouds asturias
oso walk
Asturian Village
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August 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm Comments (13)
The Asturian Hymn The official Anthem of Asturias, popularly elected in the 1890s, is a curious song. It's unlike any "national" anthem I've ever heard. There's nothing grand about it, and it seems more suited to a traditional dance than a national statement of identity. But, here, you be the judge:
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