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¡Adios, Oviedo!

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The decision to squirrel away all our worldly possessions in storage and embark on this travel project was not without risks. Any number of things might have gone wrong, and if we didn’t pick a great city for our initial leg, it could have been a disaster. We had to choose something perfect, and really hit the jackpot with Oviedo.

Bye Bye Oviedo

Of course, it wasn’t just luck. Since our arrival in Spain three years ago, friends had been telling us how beautiful Asturias was, particularly at the end of summer. So we expected to enjoy ourselves here. But neither Juergen nor I anticipated just how much we would love it. Asturias is a special place in the world. Both wild and elegant. Historic. Spain, but also somehow not Spain. There’s a sense of spirit here, not unlike what we found in Ireland. Maybe it’s the rain. Or the nature… mountains, forests, verdant valleys. Cliffs and the crashing ocean. These things inspire superstition and awe. They make you feel small, and yet very much alive.

Oviedo is the shining crystal castle of Asturias. We’ve explored this city from top to bottom, west to east. Oviedo is regal. Polished. It’s clean and safe, and proud to be so. Oviedo is also old, both in terms of its actual age and the seniority of its citizens. Seeing a 90-year-old woman hobble past a thousand-year-old building isn’t an uncommon sight. Life is slower; I suppose when a city has seen over twelve centuries and innumerable wars pass by, there’s no reason to hurry.

The people of Oviedo — the carbayones or ovetenses — are wonderful. Calm, polite, and with a measured Spanish accent which is easy on our slow, foreign ears. We didn’t need long to fall into the rhythm of life here. Sidra and cochopos? Who could possibly dislike that?! Hours spent inside cafés, without the slightest pressure to hurry out. Well-dressed Ovetenses, greeting each other on the street after church; or pausing to chat with goofy foreigners like Juergen and I, just because it’s a nice thing to do.

We’re going to miss Oviedo. But I won’t pretend that we’re not excited to get moving on to our next destination: Savannah, Georgia, one of the USA’s most historic cities, with an eccentric Southern culture that’s quite unlike anything I’m used to from growing up in the Midwest.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our articles and pictures about Oviedo and Asturias — and that you stay with us as we continue to explore the world, three months at a time.

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Luna Oviedo
Leaving Oviedo
Oviedo Spain
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October 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm Comments (7)

Oviedo, as Seen by Quasimodo

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The priests at the Cathedral were kind enough to grant us special access to the bell tower to take some shots of Oviedo from above. The stairs are in poor condition, so it’s understandable why the tower is normally closed to the public. Looking out over the city, Juergen and I both became melancholic. Our three months in Oviedo had come to an end.

Oiveo
Bell Tower Oviedo
Oviedo Ciudad
Facade Oviedo
Oviedo Bicho
Bell tower
Bell Tower Oviedo
Oviedo Tower
Ciudad Naranco
Oviedo Spain
Reyes Oviedo
Plaza Cathedral
Tourists Oviedo

Some more random Cathedral images:

Oviedo Cruz
Luz Santa
Oviedo Holida
Oviedo Night Life

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October 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm Comments (2)

El Teatro Campoamor

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The Teatro Campoamor is Oviedo’s most important theater, home to the annual Prince of Asturias awards in October and the scene of operas and theater pieces throughout the year.

Teatro Campoamor

The building was completed in 1892, and named in honor of one of Spain’s most popular poets, Ramón de Campoamor, who was born in Navia. Campoamor adhered to the Spanish realism movement, and achieved great fame during his own lifetime.

Built to replace the creaky old Teatro del Fontán, which is today the public library, the Teatro Campoamor was an instant hit among the burgeoning Oviedo society. The neoclassic architecture has a distinctly Italian feel and, in fact, the theater was designed mainly to stage major Italian operas.

Every October, the Teatro Campoamor becomes the focal point of all Spain, when the Premios Príncipe de Asturias are held here. All of Oviedo turns out for a chance to see some of the country’s most famous people enter and exit the theater, including the dashing Prince Felipe of Asturias, who’s in charge of the proceedings.

Location of the Teatro Campoamor on our Oviedo Map

Meet Princess Letizia

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October 24, 2010 at 10:27 am Comment (1)

Famous Ovetenses: Princess Letizia of Spain

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The future Queen of Spain is a carbayón. The beautiful and glamorous Letizia, Princess of Asturias, was born in Oviedo in 1972 and married Prince Felipe in 2004. And when he ascends to the throne, she will become the first Spanish Queen who was born a commoner.

El saludo de Letizia

That’s right! Letizia’s just peeps like you and me. Before her fairytale engagement and marriage to Felipe, she was a heavyweight journalist, who reported live from places like Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, and became the anchor of Spain’s most watched news program. Her tough journalistic chops won the Prince’s heart. Well that, and that she’s freaking hot. That probably played a part, too.

So, when she accompanied Prince Felipe to Oviedo for the Principe de Asturias Awardsi this year, it was a homecoming. I wonder if her old school chums bowed and addressed her by her full royal title: Her Royal Highness Doña Letizia, Princess of Asturias, Princess of Viana, Princess of Girona, Montblanc, Countess of Cervera and Lady of Balaguer. That’s a mouthful.

“God look, there’s Letizia… remember when we used to call her ‘Stinkyfoot’?”
“Shh! Here she comes!”
“Good evening, m’lady! All hail Her Royal Highness Doña Letizia, Princess of Ast… psst she gone yet?”
“Yes. She must really think she’s really something else.”
“All hail Princess Stinkyfoot!”
“Hee-hee!”

Meet the Spanish Royal Family

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October 23, 2010 at 8:33 pm Comment (1)

Asturian Bookstore Paraxuga

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Figures I’d discover this bookstore days before we leave! Filled with books about Asturias, trinkets, a couple tables for tea and esoteric tomes, Paraxuga is a super-cute little bookshop on Calle Paraíso.

Paraxuga Oviedo Tienda

Way back in August, during our first couple weeks in Oviedo, I thought I had scoured all the bookstores the city had to offer. I was mostly interested in books about Asturias. Novels, history, hiking routes, city guides, stuff like that. All the stores tended to have the same books, so I eventually just bought a couple and called it a day.

But although it’s smaller, Paraxuga has an incredible selection of Asturias-specific books, and is a neat place to spend some time. Man, I was kicking myself for not having discovered this shop earlier. They also have books about mystical things like witchcraft and tarot, if that’s your bag.

Though it’s close to downtown, Calle Paraíso isn’t a street tourists often go down. But if you’re looking for books about the province, make a beeline for Paraxuga.

Location on our Oviedo Map
Official Website

Andenken Oviedo
Buchladen Oviedo
Asturias Souvenirs

Spain Bargain Site

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October 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm Comment (1)

El Santullano – The Pinnacle of Asturian Pre-Romanesque

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Every day, thousands of people fly right past the most well-preserved and impressive Pre-Romanesque church in all of Spain: the Iglesia de San Julián de los Prados. Also known as the Santullano (from Sanct Iulianus), the ancient church lays along the highway which unites Oviedo and Gijón.

El Santullano

The Santullano was built in 812 by King Alonso II, making it even older than the Santa María del Naranco. It’s endured very little damage, and is one of the largest Pre-Romanesque churches still standing. 1200 years old. Mind-blowing.

It’s little wonder that King Alfonso would choose to christen his church in honor of Saint Julian, an 3rd century Egyptian forced into marriage with Basilissa. Julian and Basilissa decided to leave their marriage unconsummated, and were chaste until the day they were tortured and killed as Christian martyrs. Alfonso likewise would die a virgin. Originally his Santullano was part of a large religious and administrative complex outside the new capital of Oviedo, but the church is the only structure to have survived the centuries.

The Santullano is impressive for its architecture: the Roman influences and austere facade. But what most stands out is the interior artwork. 1200-year-old mosaic depictions of pastoral scenes, city buildings and geometric figures. These are the most well-preserved works of their time period in all Western Europe, and are unique in that they don’t portray any human forms, or the kinds of images normally associated with religious artwork.

Although it’s just a kilometer outside of the city, and entrance is less than two euros, the Santullano is something all too many people skip on. Don’t make that mistake.

Location on our Oviedo Map

Iglesia El Santullano
Iglesias Oviedo
Alfonso Oviedo
Santullano
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October 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm Comments (0)

Oviedo Stock Photography

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Take a seat

In case you were wondering… yes, our photos are for sale! If you’d like a large print of a particular picture of ours for personal use, or would like a high-definition copy for publishing in a magazine or advertisement, just drop us a line via our contact form.

And of course, looking at them online will always be free 🙂

Here some more random images from Oviedo and Asturias.

Modern Architecture
Oviedo Fontanes
Pavillion Oviedo
Apple Blossom
Asturias Palmas
Before the Storm
Blood Lion
Deutsche in Asturias
Manzanas Asturias
Eating Chest Nuts
Naked Wood
Garbage Oviedo
Hidden Palms
Jovellanos
Jovellanos Oviedo
Modern Gardening
Oviedo Number One
Oviedo Park
Pescadora
Private Pool
Raul Gonzales
Shadow of Happiness
Smoke Church Shop
Statue Library
Statues Oviedo
Stone Bench
Taube HD
Tom Park Oviedo
Virgin Oro
Waves Asturias

– Valencia Stock Photography

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October 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm Comment (1)

Oviedo’s Urban Planning (or Lack Thereof)

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No other Spanish city has as many streets designated as Pedestrian-Only as Oviedo, and it’s a joy to walk around the city center without having to stick to the sidewalks.

On the other hand… there is still a lot of room for improvement. Traffic lights in Oviedo take ages to turn green. Intersections make no sense. Way too many cars ignore the pedestrian zones. And biking in this city is a nightmare — drivers (especially taxis) seem to detest bikers and I’ve seen some disturbingly aggressive behavior.

Here’s one particularly striking example of poor urban planning which has vexed me since discovering it. Right at the end of the Paseo de la Losa. Let’s say you want to get to the building on the other side of the street…

You can’t just cross the street! Don’t be silly! You have to cross 4 streets, each with traffic lights that take eons to finally turn. This is simply aggravating.

Or consider the intersection between Calles Caveda and Foncalada. Just a normal intersection, right? But check out where the stop bar is on Calle Foncalada!

If you’re on Caveda, and want to go straight… half the time you’re shit out of luck, because the traffic stopped on Foncalada is blocking you, and you can pretty much forget about turning left. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that this is gong to cause mayhem — and guess what? It does. Frequently. As a one-time only special, I’ve waived my normal consulting fee and made a free suggestion as to where the stop bar should go (in yellow).

There are a lot of other examples of questionable planning throughout Oviedo. Of course, a city which is over a thousand years old is going to have weird streets and crazy intersections, but man! A part of me can’t wait to get back to the US, where most of our cities have boring, grid-like patterns.

Valencia Scenic Drive: Alcoy to Altea

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October 23, 2010 at 8:54 am Comments (2)

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 Regenta, by Clarín

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In 1884, Leopold Alas, better known by his pen name of Clarín, wrote a massive novel which would eventually be regarded as one of the 19th century’s best. La Regenta is a fictional account of the life and loves of Ana Ozores, a noblewoman who marries a man far older than herself, but allows herself to be pursued by two other suitors: the town’s resident heartthrob and a priest. Scandal!

La Regenta

The novel is set in an Oviedo superficially disguised as “Vetusta” and, with a rich ensemble set of eccentric secondary characters, wickedly satirizes Spanish society. In the well-stocked bookshelves of the apartment in which we’re staying, I discovered a copy of La Regenta, and immediately declared, “Yes! I shall read this!”.

These plans lasted until I felt the heft of the book, 9,183,433 pages thick, and opened to the first page of fine-print 19th century Spanish prose. “On second thought”, I considered, removing my smoking robe, lowering my reading glasses and substituting my brandy for a beer, “Dude Where’s My Car is on TV tonight. I can get to La Regenta later.”

The novel has had a huge influence on Oviedo, where approximately half the hotels and restaurants use the name “Vetusta”. And Clarín’s likeness is all over the place, on murals and statues. La Regenta herself claims the best spot in the city, right in front of the cathedral. Her statue must be among the most-photographed in Spain.

Despite its wide-reaching influence and universal praise, La Regenta is difficult to find in English. I don’t want to tell Oviedo’s booksellers how to run their businesses, but here’s some unsolicited advice: stock La Regenta in English! If there’s a classic book which has partially defined a city, tourists to that city will often want to read the book. Trust me.

Order La Regenta here: USA, UK, Germany

Location of La Regenta on our Oviedo Map

Vetusta
Regenta Oviedo
Regenta Clarin
Oviedo at Night
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October 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm Comment (1)

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Adios, Oviedo! The decision to squirrel away all our worldly possessions in storage and embark on this travel project was not without risks. Any number of things might have gone wrong, and if we didn't pick a great city for our initial leg, it could have been a disaster. We had to choose something perfect, and really hit the jackpot with Oviedo.
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