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Oviedo and the Camino de Santiago

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The Way of Saint James, or the Camino de Santiago as it’s called in Spain, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian pilgrimages, probably right behind Jerusalem. Ending in Santiago de Compostela and starting from any number of spots, though usually in France, the pilgrimage requires a commitment of months.

Santiago Shell

The symbol of the Camino de Santiago is the scallop shell. The shell’s multitude of lines which all converge in a single point symbolize the many different paths which pilgrims can take to reach Santiago. And although Oviedo doesn’t lie on the most well-known route (The Camino Francés), it’s become an important stop nonetheless. In fact, for centuries during the middle ages, a detour to Oviedo was considered obligatory, to pay tribute to the relics in the Cámara Santa.

The shell symbol can be found all over the city, on the sidewalks, on signs and engraved in stone within the Cathedral, and demonstrates the importance of the Camino to Oviedo. Alfonso II the Chaste was the king of Asturias when the remains of Saint James were originally “discovered” in Santiago, and is well-known as the first pilgrim to the city. Old Alfie got the ball rolling.

Calle Magdalena, near the park of Campillín, used to be the way pilgrims would enter Oviedo. Within a small niche in the stone facade of one of the street’s buildings, you can still find an ancient statue of Mary Magdalene, whom the pilgrims would pause to revere. The street today is still full of activity, as a popular pedestrian zone with a lot of great little shops.

Amazingly, the Camino de Santiago is gaining steadily in popularity. I doubt it has anything to do with growing religious fervor. Most of the pilgrims we’ve seen on the roads have been young hippies looking for a “life experience”. We were always amused to notice that almost every town in Asturias claims to be on the Camino. The tourist dollars are awfully tempting, and you’ll find the shell sign on every street, in every tiny town.

Have any of our readers done the Camino de Santiago? I can see the appeal — any grand undertaking like this is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Books on the Camino de Santiago available here: USA, UK, Deutschland

Camino
Camino Asturias
Camino Oviedo
Santiago Pilgramage
Pilgrim Spain
Santiago Camino
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October 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm Comment (1)

Colombres and the Museum of Emigration

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Looking for a place to stay new Colombres?

At the end of the 19th century, Spain was mired in one of its darkest periods. Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were gone as a result of the Spanish-American War, and an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Morocco had left the country in a tailspin. Many escaped to the New World, where society was on the rise rather than in decline. This included a massive number of Asturians: mostly single, young and ambitious. They lent their enthusiasm to the growing countries of the Western Hemisphere, and made a fortune doing so.

Colombres Asturias

Many of these newly moneyed youngsters eventually returned home. Known as Indianos, they built fabulous homes and spent their wealth freely, at a time when the Principality desperately needed it. The mansions of the Indianos can be found all over Asturias, but no other town has such a remarkable collection as Colombres, near the border with Cantabria.

One house in Colombres stands out among the rest: the Quinta Guadalupe, constructed by Iñigo Noriega Laso, who emigrated to Mexico and became both extremely rich and politically influential. Today, his amazing mansion is the Museum of Emigration, dedicated to this interesting period in Asturian history. There are emotional photographs of emigrants leaving Spain, models of the boats on which they traveled, personal stories of adventure and danger, and information about the various Centros Asturianos which are still active in Argentina, Cuba, Mexico and the USA.

The museum is interesting, and it’s nice to be able to step inside such a house. Much of the original furniture is still present, and the library is full of tomes dedicated to the immigrant experience. If you’re in the area, definitely stop by.

Location of Colombres on our Day Trips Map

Magnolia Sprout
Water Drip
Bizarre Garden
Quinta Guadalupe
Mexico Asturias
Emmigration Museum
Museo Emmigracion
Detail Asturias
Muebles Asturias
emmigration asturias
Eduardo Urculo New York
Williams B. Arrensberg
Inka
Asturiano Dinero

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October 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm Comment (1)

The Fountain of the Foncalada

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“With this sign the pious are protected, With this sign you shall defeat the enemy”
Fontan Foncalada

This is the inscription engraved upon the Foncalada: a fountain near the city center, and the only remaining civil service structure in Asturias still standing from the Middle Ages. It was constructed in the 9th Century at the behest of King Alfonso III, and features the Victory Cross above the inscription.

In 2008, the Foncalada was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. That the fountain still works is remarkable in and of itself. We walked by about 50 times without ever descending the stairs to check it out. Don’t make that mistake: the Foncalada takes about 10 seconds to see, and is definitely worth a picture.

Location of the Fuente de Foncalada

Cruz Asturias
Foncalada
Fontan Asturias
Middle Ages Oviedo

Oviedo Shirt

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October 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm Comments (0)

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