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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)

La Llave: Traditional Asturian Game

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The Llave (“The Key”) is a curious traditional Asturian tossing game, played in and around the Oviedo-Gijón area. This is the only Youtube video I could find of it.

Each player gets to throw six stones at the “Key” at a distance of 14 meters, scoring points for successful strikes. I would be terrible at this game, so please don’t challenge me to a match!

October 22, 2010 at 7:03 pm Comments (0)

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
Covadonga Car Hire
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October 22, 2010 at 5:16 pm Comments (0)

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