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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)

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

Order La Regenta here: USA, UK, Germany




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October 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm Comment (1)

The Butt Statue

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It’s a butt! A huge, shiny butt, right next to the Teatro Campoamor. And what’s more: it’s a double butt.

Eros Oviedo

Butt on the back, and a shimmering pair of matching cheeks on the front. This bizarre sculpture is called the Culis Monumentalibus or El Culo, and is the work of Eduardo Úrculo, who also created the Williams B. Arrensberg statue.

Is it art? I think so. Do I want to slap and/or grind on it? Definitely.

Location of El Culo on our Oviedo Map

Culis Monumentalibus
Culo
Ass of Oviedo
Big Ass

The for 91 Days in Oviedo Lottery (always a new link)

Road Trips Asturias
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October 16, 2010 at 7:43 pm Comments (2)

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For 91 Days