Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Blogger, Victor Pañeda, Introduces Us to His Beloved Asturias in the North of Spain

I am so thrilled to have one of the first Spanish followers of my blog as a guest blogger.  I have been following Victor's blog for about two years now, and I love it because I never know what I will see.  His blog is called "Nada que contar," which ironically means "Nothing to tell." Not so, Victor.  He is from Gijón and is a proud champion of the Principality of Asturias.  He is also one of the first Spain bloggers to provide content for the GoOverseas.com Spain Wiki page for which I am the editor.  Thanks, Victor!  Your love of Asturias is contagious!  We simply must visit this beautiful place before we leave Spain.  Enjoy his post!  

Asturias (officially The Principality of Asturias) is a verdant, lush and mountainous region on the north coast of Spain. It's known as a Paraiso Natural (Natural Paradise) and it's quite popular amongst the spaniards looking for quiet and "gourmet" holidays. The geography of the region is varied, from the coastal cliffs on the north to the mountain ranges of Picos de Europa on the south. There are three main cities: Oviedo, Gijón and Avilés.

  •  Oviedo is the capital of the region. It's an elegant and distinguished city with a beautiful old quarter, a gothic cathedral and several interesting pre-romanesque buildings (Santa María del Naranco, San Miguel de Lillo...). Oviedo is host of the prestigious Prince of Asturias Awards, which are held in the Campoamor Theater.
  • Gijón is the biggest city in the Principality. A modern and vibrant city with an interesting past. You can find lots of roman and celtic sites in the city center or in the surroundings (Roman baths by the beach, The Roman villa in Veranes, the celtic village of Campa de Torres...). In Gijón there is a great cultural life, with lots of museums, concerts, exhibitions... There is a great botanical garden and, right in front of it, you can find the Universidad Laboral (the biggest building in Spain, built as an orphanage during Franco's dictatorship and now reconverted into a "cultural city", with museums, theaters...) Gijón is also known for being one of the spanish cities with more gastronomical events throughout the year. The old quarter is a former fishermen's town over a hill called Cimadevilla, with colorful little houses and cobblestoned, narrow streets. There are also several beaches, three of which are in the city centre.
  • Avilés is the third biggest city in Asturias, an industrial city which is currently under a big development due to the new Oscar Niemeyer Internacional Cultural Centre, an important cultural hub where you can enjoy many different activities and that counts among it's collaborators with people such as Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey or Brad Pitt. Apart from that, the city has an interesting old quarter with colonnaded streets.

Some historical facts:
The region has been occupied since the prehistoric era, there are remains of homo erectus and neanderthals (some of them, like the ones in El Sidrón under investigation and very important). The region was an important Celtic settlement, as all the northern regions of Spain. After that, with the Roman invasion, the Celtic domain came to an end. During the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Asturias (under the ruling of King Pelayo) was the only part which remained unconquered, and where the Reconquest started. That's why some asturians say as a joke: "Asturias is Spain and the rest is reconquered land". After the reunification of the different kingdoms into the Kingdom of Spain, the region took an important role in the colonization of the Americas. During the Enlightenment, Asturias was an important place and there are many thinkers and politicians such as Jovellanos where born there. The Industrial Revolution was very important in the area and it developed an important coal and metal industry. In certain periods there was an big migration from the region to Southern America. Those who migrated and became rich were called Indianos and you can see their print in the magnificent villas they built when they went back to their homeland. Since the 14th century, the heir of the Crown of Spain receives the title of Prince of Asturias. Most recently, during the Civil War and the Dictatorship of Franco, the region was known for it's rebellious opposition to the dictator.
Asturias is famous for its food. You can find lots of quality products such as seafood and fish, but also quality meat and vegetables. One of the most popular dishes is the famous fabada (a bean stew with meat and chorizo). The region is also home of an incredible amount of cheeses, with very different varieties and all of them of great quality. An example of those cheeses is Cabrales, a strong blue cheese.
In the Principality cider is the queen of drinks. One of the most impressive things about it is the way it is served and drunk, a ritual where it must be poured from the bottle held high above the head to the glass, which is held down under the waist, and must be drunk immediately in one sip. The typical sidrerías (cider houses) are very popular and noisy but definitely an experience you must try. In there you can drink cider and eat some of the typical tapas (croquetas, calamares, escalopines al cabrales, tortos... all of them are great).
There are also lots of typical sweets and desserts. For example you can try Carbayones (almond tartlets), Casadielles (walnut and puff pastry sweet), Arroz con leche (rice pudding)...
What to do:
  • Visit the Picos de Europa mountain range. There are lots of things to do there like visiting Covadonga (where the Reconquest is said to have started) and the lakes of Covadonga (two gorgeous lakes in the middle of the mountains) You can also go hiking. There are lots of beautiful trails suitable for everybody, like El Cares (a stunning trail with amazing views of the Gorge of River Cares) You can visit some of the little villages in the mountains like the hamlet of Bulnes, a village that doesn't have road access and, since a few years ago, people could only arrive there by foot (now there is a rack railway).
  • Visit little charming fishermen's villages like Lastres, Tazones or Cudillero, with all the flavor of the old times. Eat seafood there.
  • Enjoy the beautiful beaches. Some of the best are around the city of Llanes.
  • Walk around the old quarter of Oviedo and visit the market of El Fontán. Buy some Carbayones there, they are very typical!
  • Visit the roman and celtic sites of Gijón, enjoy the cultural life of the city and go to the Universidad Laboral (don't forget to go to the top of the tower to enjoy de view). Enjoy the promenade and the coastal trails. Visit Cimadevilla and have a lunch in one of the sidrerías in there.
  • Visit the Oscar Niemeyer Center in Avilés.
  • If you want to go shopping you will find great shops in both Oviedo and Gijón, from the best brands to alternative and funny things or vintage clothing.
  • Try to see some folkloric dancing and bagpipe music. It's very typical and part of the Celtic heritage.
  • Go to the Museum of Cider in Nava to learn everything about cider making and drinking.
  • Go to the Museum of Mining in San Martín del Rey Aurelio to see how does a miner feel by entering a replica of a coal mine.
Future King of Spain, Felipe, Prince of Asturias and his wife, the Princess  Letizia, who hails from the city of Oviedo.
  • Eat a lot, drink a lot and enjoy the hospitality and warmth of the people.

Guest blogger, Victor Pañeda, is a student from Gijón who dreams of the finish line and going to see the world.  He likes photography, cinema and reading. He shares his impressions of Asturias, Spain, and whatever else he chooses to educate us about on his blog, "Nada que contar", which ironically means, "Nothing to tell."  His blog can be reached by following this link:  http://uvepece.wordpress.com/

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow!!! I love it! I'm so flattered :) You should definitely visit Asturias and you will get to love it as much as I do :)


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