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More of Oviedo in Pictures

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The capital of Asturias is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and a walk through its streets reveals Oviedo’s 1000-year history, as much as the vibrant, contemporary place it is today. The ancient Pre-Romanesque churches and Baroque palaces are stunning, but we had just as much pleasure photographing the more modern buildings.

Here’s another set of random pictures of Oviedo, taken over the past week. This city is really beautiful.

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August 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm Comments (2)

El Mercado del Fontán

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The largest market in Oviedo is found in the Plaza del Fontán, which has been home to the city’s food merchants since the mid-16th century. In the middle ages, the plaza was still on the outskirts of the small city, and bordered a small lake filled by natural springs, which gave the plaza its name. The lake is gone but the focus on food remains.

After the lake was drained, a proper market hall was finally built in 1885. With a pale green exterior and oddly shaped arches, the Mercado del Fontán certainly sticks out. It’s not as big as other central markets around Spain, but there’s still plenty to be had.

Stands hawking fresh fish from the Bay of Biscay, including huge bonitos, join those dedicated to meat and vegetables. One of the more popular spots offers fresh milk out of a vending machine, from a nearby farm called Los Caserinos. There’s a restaurant on the upper floor, and a few stands are dedicated entirely to Asturian products. Everything is fresh and looks delicious, making it all too easy to drop a ton of cash here.

Take a look at our pics, and try not to get hungry!

Location on our Oviedo Map

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August 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm Comments (5)

Restaurante Punto y Coma

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On the recommendation of one of our new Asturian Twitter friends, we chose Punto y Coma for our first big lunch in Oviedo. When we arrived at 14:30, the place was already packed and we were lucky to get a table.

The reason for the restaurant’s popularity was apparent as soon the food was brought out: our first plates were tri-color pasta salad with tuna, and a massive helping of paella. In Spain, lunches are the day’s big meal and we were used to large portions, but this exceeded expectations. Spanish lunch menus always consist of two plates, but I was already full by the time I finished the first!

Still, when my fillet of virrey arrived, served with his eye socket on the side as a macabre decoration, my hunger returned. Juergen had ordered beef, which was slow-cooked and extremely tender. If groans of pleasure are anything to go by, it must have been delicious.

Wine and bread came with the meal, and both dessert and coffee were served afterwards. All for €10 per person. That’s an incredible deal, even without taking into consideration the high quality of the food.

The menú del día changes daily, and we’ll probably be back frequently. We’d like to discover other great spots in Oviedo. If you know some, make sure to share with us, in the comments, Twitter or Facebook!

Restaurante Punto y Coma
Calle Suárez de la Riva, 5
Location on our Oviedo Map
985 202 025

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August 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm Comments (3)

Picturesque Oviedo

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As we settle into our new home, different facets of life in Oviedo begin to emerge. The city is monumental, but surrounded by the most striking nature. And people seem to be happy, affluent and comfortable here. Yes, we realized early on that three months in Oviedo wouldn’t be a struggle.

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August 12, 2010 at 9:10 am Comments (9)

San Miguel de Lillo

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Just 300 steps from the Santa María del Naranco, we find its companion building: San Miguel de Lillo. Ramiro I built both in the same year, 848, for different purposes; Santa María as a recreational palace, and San Miguel as a church. Together, they make Oviedo’s Naranco Hill one of the most important areas for Pre-Romanesque art in all of Europe.

Unlike the fully intact palace, the church of San Miguel has only partially survived into the present day. In the 12th or 13th century, a landslide caused the collapse of most of the cross-shaped structure, leaving only the western third. That’s still enough to impress visitors, though, as well as architectural scholars. Like the Santa María, the San Miguel de Lillo was far ahead of its time.

Architectural highlights of the church’s remains include original wall paintings, faded by still visible, depicting a throne and a human form. A gorgeous window at the top, intricately sculpted from a single stone, allows light into the church, illuminating the perfectly preserved door jambs at the entrance. These are carved in the shape of the sovereign and his court. Another unusual feature of the San Miguel is an upper royal balcony, for the king to listen to services.

Unfortunately pictures were not allowed inside, probably due to the fragile wall paintings, but we got some shots of the church’s exterior. Guided visits to San Miguel de Lillo are in conjunction with the Santa María, from where they leave.

Location on our Oviedo Map
Architectural information about San Miguel
Our Visit to Santa María del Naranco

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August 11, 2010 at 10:40 am Comments (6)

Famous Ovetenses: Alfonso II the Chaste

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King of Asturias for 51 years, from 791 until his death in 842, Alfonso II el Casto had an impact on Oviedo that has barely diminished over the course of the centuries.

He moved the kingdom’s throne from Pravia to Oviedo, and built numerous churches in his new capital, including the Iglesia de San Tiro and the Cámara Santa. Renowned for his brave military victories against the Moors, particularly the history-changing conquest of Lisbon, Alfonso played an important role in re-settling the north of the Iberian peninsula for Christianity.

Ole Alfie was chaste during his reign. Nary a woman did he touch! So many centuries have passed that most knowledge about him comes from folklore but, by all accounts, he was an intensely sober and religous man who eschewed the pleasures of the flesh for those of the spirit. In fact, he was one of the very first pilgrims to travel to Santiago de Compostela, to visit the newly-discovered remains of Saint James the Greater. His unshakeable faith served as a model for the citizens of Oviedo, who to this day are more strongly religious than most of their countrymen.

Besides the regal statue found next to the cathedral, Oviedo has honored Alfonso’s memory by naming its most picturesque plaza after him.

Location on our Oviedo Map

A visit to Vienna

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August 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm Comments (5)

First Set of Random Oviedo Photos

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Once in awhile we’ll be posting a random set of photos, which don’t easily fit into other posts, but are too good to ignore! These are all from our first week in Oviedo, and reveal some of my initial impressions.

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August 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm Comments (3)

A Concise History of Oviedo

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Possibly because I’m from the USA, where a building from 1910 is considered ancient, I’m fascinated by European history. A city like Oviedo, with centuries engraved into almost every corner and churches over one thousand years old… well, it’s too much for my little corn-fed American mind to fully comprehend.

Without getting too in depth, here’s a guide to the history of Oviedo. Later, we’ll publish specific articles about the more important people and happenings.

761 AD On a hill the Romans called Ovetao, two monks build a monastery consecrated to San Vincente (the Valencian martyr). This is considered the founding of the city.
812 The King of Asturias, Alfonso II the Chaste, brings his court to Oviedo, making it the capital of Spanish Christendom until 924, when the capital is moved south to León. Alfonso II The Chaste
Middle Ages No longer the capital, Oviedo loses much of its importance and wealth, and turns into an intensely religious city. Most famous for its catholic relics, it becomes an obligatory stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago.
1388 After being absorbed into the Spanish Kingdom, the Principality of Asturias is established with Oviedo as its capital, returning it to glory. From now on, the heir to the Spanish throne will be known as the Prince of Asturias.
1521 A fire on New Year’s Eve destroys the inner city, sparing only the cathedral, which escapes almost undamaged. Which didn’t do much to curtail the citizenry’s religious fervor.
1608 A catholic inquisitor, Fernando Valdés Salas, founds the University of Oviedo. When he’s not furthering educative goals, Salas is known as one of Spain’s most fanatic inquisitors, claiming many lives in the name of the Church and compiling an infamously broad list of banned artwork.
1808 Oviedo is one of the first Spanish cities to rise up in armed resistance to the French invasion. French troops assault the city for a year, but will eventually relent against the stubborn defense.
1884 La Regenta by Clarín is published. Set in Oviedo, the novel is considered among the greatest of the 19th century.
1934 Oviedo descends into chaos during the Miner’s Strike of 1934. In the resulting battles, the Cámara Santa is dynamited and over 3000 miners are killed. A couple years later, 75% of the city will be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
1985 UNESCO recognizes two city churches as World Heritage Sites.
2000 – Now Oviedo dedicates itself to livability, becoming one of Europe’s most pedestrian-friendly cities, and one of the safest and cleanest in all of Spain. With the city in tip-top shape, it’s attempting to be named the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

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August 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm Comments (6)

The Cathedral of Oviedo – First Impressions

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Oviedo’s most celebrated monument is the Catedral de San Salvador, found in the middle of the city and visible from miles away. Closely linked with the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage leading to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the cathedral is also known as Sancta Ovetensis in reference to the abundance of important artifacts stored inside.

The location has always been the religious apex of Oviedo. In 765, four years after the founding of the city, King Freula the Cruel choose the spot for a modest church, which was soon destroyed by a Moorish raid. Shortly afterwards, King Alfonso II ordered the construction of a basilica. It wasn’t until 1377 that work began on the Gothic cathedral which we recognize today.

The bell tower dominates the cityscape. Despite being massively damaged over the centuries by lightning, tornadoes and war, it’s a thing of beauty. Over 80 meters tall, the five levels of the tower resemble joints; Oviedo’s most famous author, Clarín, described it as a “stone finger pointing to heaven”. The best place to photograph the tower is from the Calle Santa Ana, where it exhibits its least-damaged side.

The cathedral’s interior is austere, very dark. I suppose all churches are serious places, but somehow this one seems more so. The detail in the engravings and artwork is difficult to make out, especially within the chapels. There’s not much information, let alone an audioguide, for visitors, which is slightly disappointing. But the cathedral is mightly impressive, and we visited many times during our stay in Oviedo, devoting time to the Cámara Santa, the Gothic Cloister and the bell tower.

Location on our Oviedo Map

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August 4, 2010 at 8:04 pm Comments (10)

Our Arrival in Oviedo

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The drive from Valencia to Oviedo is a long one, so it’s lucky that the Spanish countryside is so beautiful. We needed seven hours to reach Salamanca, where we grabbed a beer in the massive Plaza Mayor, and spent the night. Before leaving the next morning, we had time to explore the cathedral, which must be the only church in the world that has a space-walking astronaut sculpted into its facade.

From Salamanca, we took the highway through the high, dry plains of Castile and León. As we progressed further north, the terrain became more hilly and we soon found ourselves in the mountains. The poetically named Embalse de los Barrios de Luna (Reservoir of the Neighborhoods of the Moon), awaited us at the end of one of the many mountain tunnels, offering up a gorgeous panorama. The sparkling water below us in the mountain’s valley was breathtaking, especially after the hours spent driving through arid plains.

As we passed into the Principality of Asturias, we were greeted by the clouds which would be our constant companions during for the next three months. But the abundant rain makes for a verdant landscape, and the downhill drive into Oviedo seemed to pass in a heartbeat. Without much difficulty, we were able to find our apartment, which was within sight of the train station, and ten minutes from the city’s historic center. Perfect.

The move from Valencia and the long drive were exhausting, but we were anxious to go explore Oviedo and Asturias. From August to the November of 2010, this blog was updated almost daily with our experiences, and impressions of the city and its people — impressions which would evolve a lot over the course of 91 days. Make sure to follow us on Twitter for real-time updates on what we’re up to, now. Hope you enjoy our pictures and anecdotes from Asturias!

And if we have any Ovetense readers, please leave comments with your insider tips on restaurants and other interesting things to do!

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July 31, 2010 at 7:13 pm Comments (5)
More of Oviedo in Pictures The capital of Asturias is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and a walk through its streets reveals Oviedo's 1000-year history, as much as the vibrant, contemporary place it is today. The ancient Pre-Romanesque churches and Baroque palaces are stunning, but we had just as much pleasure photographing the more modern buildings.
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