Mis Padres visit Oviedo

Standard

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, my parents came to visit me in Spain for my spring break, or Semana Santa. In most of Spain, if not all, spring break is held the week leading up to Easter. This is probably due to the
large amount of festivities held throughout the week, such as the parade celebrating Holy Week in Oviedo.

My parents and I traveled to 4 cities in Spain, making a two-day stop in Oviedo. Though the time was short, we filled those two days with Oviedo’s famous museums, a self-guided tour led by yours truly, and the delicious restaurants offered in the city. We arrived in Oviedo from Madrid by train at about noon, dropped our stuff in the hotel, and grabbed a quick bite to eat at a local cafe.

Later, we took Oviedo’s easy bus system around the city, eventually landing at the large mall right outside of the city. We rode the bus back into the city and ate in a local marisqueria called La Chalana, where the Temple group and I actually ate our first Jaime Dinner in Oviedo. Eating quite possibly the best steak dinner I’ve had in a while, my parents and I easily agreed the meal was one of the best throughout the entire trip.

The following day was full of visits with my family. First, we made a trip to the cathedral of Oviedo. A mass was being held when we visited, so we were unable to see that part of the cathedral until later in the day (big tip: if there is a mass while visiting most cathedrals in Spain, you can almost always get your ticket stamped saying that you plan to return later in the day to tour the inside of the cathedral!). We toured the cathedral museum and the cloister, since they were open for tours during that time. The cathedral in Oviedo is also a very significant part of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage from various points in Europe, ending in Santiago de Compostela, a city in A Coruña, Galicia, because it is the only one along the northern route that has only one tower on the facade, instead of the normal two or more towers in other cathedrals.

Plaza de la Catedral in Oviedo

Plaza de la Catedral in Oviedo

After, I took my parents to the free Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts). There are two parts to this museum, one with older works of religious and monarchical paintings and the other with more recent works from artists like Picasso and Dali. At night, we had the opportunity to watch the Spanish soccer team play in a European qualifier against the Netherlands, with some takeaway pizza.

Though my parents didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Oviedo, there is definitely so much more to see and experience. If you have guests coming to Oviedo, you might take them to the archaeological museum, definitely important in Spanish and Asturian history; the museum also happens to be free! The only downside to this museum is that it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays — the two days my parents were here. If the weather is nice, beaches are within an hour away; towns like Gijon and Aviles have beaches, as well as large varieties of restaurants – Gijon actually has a restaurant that claims to sell Philly cheesesteaks!

If you’re in the mood for something in nature other than the beach, Mount Naranco is definitely a sight visited by a lot of Oviedo and Asturias tourists. Located at the top of a mountain, a Jesus statue — one very similar to that in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — stands, lit at night, watching over the city of Oviedo. You can get to the top by hiking (Warning: it’s about 3.5 miles to get up to the top) or by taking a bus that leaves you off at other pre-Romanesque buildings, such as churches, and then the statue is right around the corner.

The statue of Jesus Christ on top of Mount Naranco(Credit to Sienna Vance)

The statue of Jesus Christ on top of Mount Naranco(Credit to Sienna Vance)

Culture Week at UniOvi

Standard

With what feels like forever since I last wrote a blog post, I promise I’ve been doing a lot within the city of Oviedo and traveling a bit to experience other Spanish cities to compare to Oviedo. When comparing cities and other regions to Oviedo and Asturias, possibly the easiest comparison is among the gastronomy and landscape of the city itself. For example, fabada is a very popular soup in Asturias with beans, vegetables, and chorizo, whereas octopus is a typical dish in Galicia, the autonomous community to the west of Asturias I visited a few weekends ago. Oviedo is full of hills (I remind myself it’s a slight workout every time I have to walk up the large hills), but Salamanca, located in the autonomous community of Castillo and Leon to the south of Asturias, is fairly flat and easy to walk through.

A great way for students studying in the University of Oviedo’s Casa de las Lenguas to learn about Spain and the differences between communities is through the culture week held a week before Semana Santa – when spring break is held. Depending on the coursework you are taking in Casa, you would sign up for either one or two workshops from cooking, botany, theater, storytelling, photography, singing, journalism, and film. I was lucky enough to get the two I wanted, photography and cooking, for my two workshops for the week.

In cooking, I learned more about the gastronomy of Spain to build on what I had already learned in my Society and Culture of Spain class. When losing at the history of Spanish cuisine, religious influences played a huge role in what types of foods were cooked and how they were eaten. For example, Christian influences brought a lot of “finger food” because typically utensils were not used; the Jewish brought a lot of new vegetables, such as green beans (they’re called Judias Verdes or Jewish beans in Spanish); the Muslims brought saffron, a main ingredient that is still used in a lot of Spanish dishes today.

Photography was a different type of class in comparison to cooking. We took pictures around the city of Oviedo – mine were pictures of food and colorful houses – and printed them out. We added captions to all of our pictures and decorated a frame for the picture. The pictures were then on display at the end of the week when other workshops introduced their topics to those students who had not been in them.

Currently, the university is on break for Semana Santa. I was lucky enough to have my parents visit me for the week, during which we are visiting Madrid, Oviedo, Bilbao, and Barcelona. With a lot of sights to see and attractions to visit, I’m sure I will have a lot to do with the next few days, to have even more to relate back to my now second home of Oviedo.

 

Below are the two photos I used for my photography workshop with their captions:

Jamon y queso

“Queso y jamon, para no perder la direccion” (Cheese and ham, in order to not lose the way) – I used a play on words with the more popular Spanish phrase “Con pan y vino se hace el camino” which means “With bread and wine, you can do the walk”

 

"El exterior no siempre dice algo sobre el interior" (The outside does not always depict what is in the inside) - the professor who supervised the photography workshop and I discussed many different ways to say something about looking to all parts of things that may appear beautiful or ugly, because they could be competely different internally.

“El exterior no siempre dice algo sobre el interior” (The outside does not always depict what is in the inside) – the professor who supervised the photography workshop and I discussed many different ways to say something about looking to all parts of things that may appear beautiful or ugly, because they could be completely different internally.

 

La Vida es un Carnaval!

Standard

All I knew about life in Spain before coming here was that nearly every day is a holiday. There’s actually a joke – one that I think might also have some actual facts supporting it – that there are more holidays in Spain than regular days. While I wouldn’t say that this has rung true thus far, there have been plenty of celebrations since I’ve arrived here in Spain.

Semana Santa [Holy Week], San Fermín [Running with the Bulls], La Tomatina [Tomato Festival/Food FIght], and Las Fallas [in Valencia, Burnings] are probably the most well-known festivities in Spain. Another holiday, one that is actually celebrated across the world, just passed during the month of February: Carnaval. Carnaval is celebrated similar to that of Halloween in many countries across the world, usually during the month of February, before the Christian season of Lent begins. For those who don’t know, Lent consists of the 40 days before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Since the Catholic calendar does not consist of dates, but rather quantities of days or weeks, these days are different every year. Given that Spain has a very large Catholic population – and very rich history at that – Carnaval is a special celebration not to be missed if visiting Spain before Ash Wednesday.

Foam from Aviles Carnaval! (Photo courtesy of elcomercio.es)

Foam from Aviles Carnaval! (Photo courtesy of elcomercio.es)

My friends and I got to experience Carnaval in three cities: Aviles, Gijon, and our wonderful new home of Oviedo. First up was Aviles, a city about a half hour’s bus ride from Oviedo that actually looks and feels extremely similar to Oviedo – hills, winding streets, and lots of people (for this holiday, a lot of people is better!). Aviles has a very distinct Carnaval with a long-lasting tradition. There is a parade like many other cities – all three Carnavals we attended had parades – but before the parade, it was time for ponchos and rainboots for the tourists and non-dressed-up Spaniards. No, it wasn’t raining, at least not from clouds in the sky. Instead, foam is blasted across the main road through Aviles near the main plaza, with agua gushing out of a large fire-hydrant-like hose into the sky and onto the foam to create a messy mixture that excites the kids and others who brave their way into the mix. Though I didn’t watch much of the parade, I heard plenty of shouts from children about seeing their favorite characters on floats from Frozen to Spongebob.

Gijon Parade - Costumes and instruments with dancers and famous characters reminded me of home and how important Mummer's is to Philly, just as Carnaval is to Spain.

Gijon Parade – Costumes and instruments with dancers and famous characters reminded me of home and how important Mummer’s is to Philly, just as Carnaval is to Spain.

Gijon and Oviedo definitely had much smaller Carnavals in comparison to Aviles. However, they should certainly not be overlooked for this holiday. The parade in Gijon was epic and reminded me a lot of the Mummer’s Day Parade in Philly. Large groups marched down the route through Gijon in matching outfits and with large (and large amounts of) instruments for dancers to perform to the beat of and to hear traditional and popular songs throughout the night. I didn’t stay very long after, as I wasn’t feeling well that night and it was also held on a Monday. The weekend after Aviles, Carnaval in Oviedo took place and, still feeling sick, I didn’t stay for much for this one either. Carnaval left us with a real sense of home, especially with the parades so similar to those of New Year’s Day, and with lasting memories to say that we braved the foam and the ear-pounding music that came with a true Spanish holiday.

A Chinese dragon from the Gijon Carnaval Parade

A Chinese dragon from the Gijon Carnaval Parade

Things I kinda, sorta (but don’t really) miss from home

Standard

Aside from a fairly mild—OK, it was pretty severe—case of homesickness a few weeks ago, I am only just starting to slightly miss what comes with living in the U.S.: convenience. I was definitely one of those hypocritical “Americans are lazy” people—you know, those people who complain that the U.S. has too much convenience and not enough quality stores or restaurants but then hits the newly developed local Target store for mascara, a pair of flats, and some milk and eggs (not to mention Starbucks and Pizza Hut for the ride home).

Not that convenience doesn’t exist here; it totally does! In Spain, the one-stop-shop is El Corte Ingles. With each location being somewhat different, you can find drugstore and high-end cosmetics on the floor above women’s shoes, which just so happens to be the floor above the supermarket. Besides El Corte Ingles, there isn’t much that an American would consider “convenient.”

The first thing I honestly thought I would miss a lot more is coffee from Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. My obsession expanded over the years to even having the apps I can add money to in order to receive coupons and free coffee every couple drinks (trust me, so worth it!). However, Spain has an endless supply of cafes con leche and amazing variations of the drink college students and young professionals love so much. While I wish an iced coffee was more common, my daily intake of cafes con leche has led me to the point of endless love for the drink that only costs a Euro ($1.18 recently!) at the school cafeteria and elsewhere never more than two Euros. While I’m sure I’ll run to a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts once I go home in May, I am 100% certain nothing will compare to the strong, decadent cup of joe I enjoy each day here.

Where you'll see me every Sunday afternoon

Cafe & futbol – where you’ll see me every Sunday afternoon

The next thing I thought I’d miss is Target. With a Starbucks right in almost every storefront, it’s a coffee lovers’ dream to drink coffee while browsing through the different sections of a Target store; but, of course, this isn’t the only thing I miss. From $1 makeup to discounted iTunes gift cards every holiday season (seriously, why pay full price?!), the convenience of a Target is something I adore about living in the U.S. I actually brought a Target purse with me and have used it for everything other than school; perfect size for everything, including travelling to Germany to visit family, and has held up for the last month and a half. However, with El Corte Ingles and the inexpensive chinos stores – think dollar store but better quality – it’s hard to not find an alternative to, quite possibly, my favorite store back home.

The one thing every one of my friends asked me how I’d survive without is WaWa. Born and raised in Philadelphia, there isn’t a time in my life when I don’t remember a WaWa being within walking distance. It was always the preferred stop on the way to a sports game or before heading down the shore for the weekend. I’m actually pretty sure most of the breakfasts I ate during my senior year of high school were from WaWa. And let’s be honest, hoagiefest is a time of the year most tri-state area folk look forward to. With the different options of sandwiches – bocadillos – I don’t really have the time to miss WaWa as I’m eating tortilla espanola on fresh-baked bread.

The final thing that I actually do miss about home is the variety of food. Don’t get me wrong, I love the food I’ve been having and I have tried more than I thought I ever would so far, but it’s all actually traditional Spanish food. The only “traditional” American food I can even think of is the idea of fast food (implication: convenience!!!!), but the best part about the U.S. is the variety of food options, in my opinion. You can easily have your favorite Mexican spot, pizza spot, and, from a born-and-raised Philly girl, cheesesteak spot (hint: it’s not the tourist attractions of Pat’s or Geno’s). Not that these places are nonexistent in Spain, but they are definitely far and few between. Five girls from Temple and I ate at the local Mexican restaurant recently. While it did the trick for our Mexican cravings, it was definitely not the Mexican we’re used to back home (a.k.a. muy picante![spicy]).

Homesickness abroad comes in various forms, and for me, convenience has stood out. But, I have used that homesickness to fuel my curiosity for what Oviedo and the surrounding areas offer, fom the rich culture and history, to traditional cuisine, to Spanish tchotchkes that I might not see back home.  So, there are things I kinda, sorta (but don’t really) miss from home, but by exploring as often as I can, I am learning to appreciate Oviedo’s strengths. I know I’ll have stories to tell to those I have missed back home and I’ll appreciate them even more upon return.

An amazing cupcake from an amazing "confiteria" or "paaderia" which sells bakery items as well as cakes and chocolates

An amazing cupcake from a “confiteria” or “paneria” which sells bakery items, as well as cakes and chocolates

School, Sidra, and Sand

Standard

Living in Oviedo has many perks – great food, a great atmosphere, and accessibility to many great places. Also, it has the University of Oviedo, where the Temple in Spain semester and summer programs are held for Spanish language and culture courses. With three weeks of school already completed, it’s hard to believe that my group and I have been here for over four weeks. As homesick as I’ve gotten, I definitely would not have been able to cope as easily as I have without the wonderful distraction of school.

Personally, I’ve always secretly liked school: it gave me something to do, it kept me busy after hours, and, of course, it’s taught me some incredible lessons. Being in a school in another country is no different in these respects. Luckily, there are no classes held after 3:00 p.m. each day, giving us plenty of time to explore the city of Oviedo and, on the weekends, giving us time to reach the airport for an early flight if we wanted to travel. So far, my classes have varied between reviewing grammar material to learning the history of Spain and the culture that I wouldn’t have learned in a language class. I can definitely see that I will learn a lot in my classes and I am excited to learn more.

Some breaks from homework consist of meeting up with friends and heading down to Gascona – El Bulevar de la Sidra [Boulevard of Sidra]. Gascona is a small strip of restaurants – mostly sidrerías – where you can have anything from a drink with friends to a full meal. The two times I’ve gone thus far with friends, I have had tapas and sidra, the traditional Asturian drink of cider. The first thing visitors realize about sidra is the way it is poured: the bottle in one stretched arm and the glass held at the hip. This process oxidizes the drink; if this process weren’t to occur, the sidra would be similar to flat soda. In the glass, you will be served a culin, which comes from the word culata meaning “butt.” A culin of sidra is the typical amount (about 6oz.) and is meant to be drunk quickly, as the sidra “dies” if it sits (no worries, it just gets flat—still safe to drink but definitely not as appetizing).

El Bulevar de la Sidra

El Bulevar de la Sidra

Waiter pouring sidra (notice that he's not even looking at the glass!!!)

Waiter pouring sidra (notice that he’s not even looking at the glass!!!)

Sidra machine in La Chalana, where we had our first group dinner in Oviedo. Just a press of the green button and you've got yourself a perfect cup of sidra.

Sidra machine in La Chalana, where we had our first group dinner in Oviedo. Just a press of the green button and you’ve got yourself a perfect cup of sidra.

When needing a weekend break, Oviedo offers easy access to other places in Asturias, Spain, and the rest of Europe. Two weekends ago, many of the Temple students took a day trip to Gijon, which is easily accessed from Oviedo through a quick train or bus ride. Gijon is a beach town located in the north of Asturias against the sea of Cantabrica. It is similar to Oviedo in the way that the streets are winding and sometimes confusing, but is still small enough to figure out how to get back to the train station. Unlike Oviedo, however, Gijon is very flat with very few hills. We spent the day discovering many of Gijon’s seaside sights from exercise parks and cliffs to famous statues and fancy restaurants.

Our first of many stops to take pictures in Gijon

Our first of many stops to take pictures in Gijon

Cantabrica Sea in Gijon

Cantabrica Sea in Gijon

Arbol de la Sidra (tree of Sidra) - more than 3,000 bottles of sidra were recycled to create this tree in Gijon

Arbol de la Sidra (tree of Sidra) – more than 3,000 bottles of sidra were recycled to create this tree in Gijon

Since then, the entire Temple group has been travelling. This past weekend, I went to Germany to visit family, two girls went to London, another went to Madrid, and the rest on a trip to Brussels, Belgium. The quick and easy (and usually inexpensive) flights offered from Oviedo and surrounding airports allow us to travel without missing too much school, but still give us the experience of a lifetime.

It’s not weird, just different

Standard

¡Estoy en España! [I’m in Spain!]

The first two weeks since arriving in Spain have flown by; I can’t believe how much my classmates and I have done since we got here (including the 6 hour nap I took the first day—bad idea!). Reminiscing over these last two weeks made me realize how true it is that time flies when you’re having fun. The first five days – when my group and I were in Madrid for a culture orientation – I had some serious culture shock that I am only now getting used to, after constantly repeating the phrase one of my high school Spanish teachers always said: “It’s not weird, it’s just a little different.”

First, Spaniards eat three meals a day and typically take two breaks—one between breakfast and lunch, the other between lunch and dinner—to have coffee, eat a snack [pincho or merienda], and socialize. Spaniards spend a lot of the time socializing; they are not rushing to get back to work or get home to start dinner, as would typically happen in the States.

Speaking of food, everything I have eaten has been delicious! The fruit is always juicy, and warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread is something everyone needs to experience. My least favorite cultural difference at the start of our orientation week had to be eating dinner at an extremely late-to-me time of 8:00 p.m. It is typical of Spaniards to begin dinner anywhere between 8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. and, as with their two snacks, they take their time. Lunch and dinner are almost always served as two courses, and wine is drunk with both meals (yes, even at a 2:00 p.m. lunch). Also, as I have noticed, everyone eats everything here. Excluding allergies, I have not met a Spaniard yet that did not eat/like everything that is put in front of them at a meal. Being an extremely picky eater, this absolutely boggles my mind.

Second, going out for la marcha [going out] does not necessarily mean going out to a club and getting drunk. Instead, Spaniards will go out with friends to a bar or cafe (lots of cafes I’ve seen are bars also), eat tapas [small plates] and drink socially. After, Spaniards do one of two things: go to a discoteca [a term for a club] or another bar, or they go home. Being so used to my 8 hours or more of sleep at home, I have not yet been able to stay out past 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., but many of my friends have. The nightlife seems similar to that of the States, with just less public drunkenness (it’s actually really frowned upon to be extremely drunk in public).

Third, the Spaniards I have met tend to be fairly direct and opinionated. This can be a good thing, but to an American, some statements can at first come off as rude. In Spain, it seems very common to refer to other people by their race or ethnicity, but it is simply used as a descriptive and is not perceived as offensive. On top of that, many Spaniards with whom I have spoken have come across as assertive. At a restaurant in the States, you might ask the waiter “Could I please have a water with lemon?” whereas in Spain it seems more common to say “Un agua con limon” (simple as that, but is not considered rude).

Also, whether or not you actually know what a Spaniard is saying, you can understand the message they are trying to get across, whether they like or dislike something or whether they agree or disagree with something. For example, with my host mom, who speaks super fast (I’ve had to ask her to repeat phrases a lot!), I could understand how she felt about a Spanish actor through her facial expressions when he came on the screen, as well as hand gestures—she shooed him away as if to get him off the screen!

Finally, as far I have noticed, Spaniards are generally happy, positive people. They eat great food, socialize often with family and friends, and never complain. Whether in assisting with the language or helping to cook dinner, Spaniards are willing to do a lot for others and are happy to do so. This just adds to the hospitality I have noticed in Spain thus far.

P.S. – My favorite food so far has definitely been coffee and tortilla espanola—an egg omelette that can contain any or all of the following (and then some!): potatoes, ham, bacon, vegetables, cheese.


Below are some pictures of my first two weeks in Spain:

Puerta del Sol - view from Hotel Europa, where we stayed for six days in Madrid.

Puerta del Sol – view from Hotel Europa, where we stayed for six days in Madrid.

Palacio Real - not inhabited full time anymore by the monarchy, but still used for special celebrations.

Palacio Real – not inhabited full time anymore by the monarchy, but still used for special celebrations.

El Alcazar - the former castle (now museum) where Isabel & Ferdinand once lived.

El Alcazar – the former castle (now museum) where Isabel & Ferdinand once lived.

Panorama of Toledo - my favorite city thus far, where all three religions in Spain (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) coexisted together.

Panorama of Toledo – my favorite city thus far, where all three religions in Spain (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) coexisted together.

Plaza de Cibeles - my favorite sight in Madrid because of the lighting done at night.

Plaza de Cibeles – my favorite sight in Madrid because of the lighting done at night.

Pre-departure excitement

Standard

Studying abroad has always been a goal of mine for my collegiate career; I knew since grade school that I wanted to study somewhere for at least a semester to become more culturally aware of a population different from my own in Philadelphia. Choosing a college meant choosing a study abroad program that could benefit me personally, culturally, and academically. Now that I am preparing for a semester abroad in Spain, I have become more aware of the opportunity I have been given and what it entails.

Though my emotions and feelings about leaving for five months vary daily (sometimes hourly!), I am super excited to be immersed in the Spanish culture and surrounded by the foreign language I have been learning since high school. To prepare myself for the semester, I have been listening to Spanish music everywhere—whether I’m exercising, walking to class, or finishing homework, I try to pay attention to the ways in which the lyrics are put together that may be new compared to what I have learned and point out grammar or vocabulary I already know. In addition to music, I have been watching the news in Spanish with the captions on in Spanish as well, so I can read along and listen at the same time. This has certainly helped my Spanish in the short amount of time I have been doing this, and I hope that it prepares me in a new ways that a classroom couldn’t for the semester.

Barajas Airport - Madrid, Spain. Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)

Barajas Airport – Madrid, Spain. (Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)

Of all the emotions and feelings I have had since my acceptance in September, the most prominent feeling I have felt is apprehension. As stated earlier, I am extremely excited to be spending such a long time in hopes of increasing my Spanish vocabulary and grammar skills, but it has not come without nerves. Everything that I am excited to experience, I am also nervous to experience; from my host family to daily life in Spain, I am nervous about all of it. At the Spain pre-departure orientation held Friday, November 14th, the advice given to us was to get out into the life of Spaniards and to go out of our comfort zone. I know it will be difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone, probably due to nerves, but I also know that is the only way I will truly embrace my time abroad and learn new things about the ways in which the Spanish locals live.

From making packing lists (and even beginning to pack after the pre-departure orientation) to making plans with my hometown friends before I depart, I am beyond excited to spend the spring semester in Oviedo, with a new family from which I hope to learn a lot and experience things I would never experience if I were in Philadelphia for the remainder of my time at Temple. Despite the nerves, I feel truly blessed to have been given this opportunity through Education Abroad at Temple; I know many of my experiences in the spring will be due to them and the assistance (both financially and mentally) of my parents.

Current Coat of Arms of Spain - King Felipe VI

Current Coat of Arms of Spain – King Felipe VI

Lessons

Standard

After living in Spain for a month one starts to learn certain things about the culture that are different from American culture. While I am not an expert on the Spanish or Asturian culture, here are a few things I have learned about the both cultures:

1. Ham is a key ingredient

As soon as you step into a restaurant in Spain you will learn that Spaniards love ham. It was shocking yet amusing to see the multiple ways ham can be incorporated into a meal. When our group was in Madrid, we saw restaurants such as “Museo del Jamon” (the ham museum) where all that was sold were ham sandwiches. Unlike America, ham is cooked into almost every meal such as egg and potato omelettes, pizza, or served as a burger.

2. Drinking sidra is a pastime

As I previously mentioned, sidra is an Asturian hard cider that is made out of fermented apples. Asturias is very famous for sidra and the citizens of Oviedo can be seen drinking it at all times. The city has its own sidra street called Gascona where many sidrerias, or restaurants where sidra is served, can be found lined up throughout the street. Though the drink is served in a fancy way, drinking it is nothing out of the ordinary and is part of every-day life.

photo

The lights that shine above the entrance of Gascona

3. The climb to Naranco

Every citizen of Asturias has done it at least once, and many do it multiple times. Climbing Mount Naranco all the way to the top is a must do if you are from here. At the top, a giant statue of Christ as well as a clear view of Oviedo. The statue resembles the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, but of course this one is a lot smaller. The hike from the bottom to the top is about 3.5 miles and is very steep, but once you make it to the top you can enjoy the beautiful views of Asturias. On a clear day you can even see the ocean which is about 15 miles away.

photo

We made it all the way to the top! Left: me and Godnere

4. Hospitality and assertiveness

Something that I love about this culture is that people are very hospitable. For example, whenever I had to ask someone on the street for directions, they were more than willing to go out of their way to take me to my destination even if it was completely opposite from where they were going. Hospitality also applies to language. Whenever I made a mistake when speaking, the people were more than willing to help me out and teach me how to say something correctly. At the same time, people are assertive and to the point, there is no beating around the bush. This can be taken as rudeness as first but that is never the intention. It takes a few interactions to learn that being assertive is part of the culture and that people really do want to help you out.

There is so much more to Spain than the four points I have made but just like any other culture, not everything can be explained through writing. The best way to learn is by immersing yourself into the culture, and it is also the best way to create amazing memories that will last a last time. Until next time Spain.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Standard

This past Saturday the group went on an excursion to three beautiful places: Cangas de Onis, the lakes of Covadonga located in los Picos de Europa, and Covadonga.

Cangas de Onis

photo 1

The famous medieval bridge with the Latin cross in the middle

Our trip started in the quaint town of Cangas de Onis, Asturias’ first capital located about an hour and a half from Oviedo. The town consists of one main road with narrow roads coming out of it. Though it was small, it was the perfect place to walk around and do some souvenir shopping. The town is famous for its still-standing medieval bridge and the Chapel of Santa Cruz. As soon as we arrived a small group of us went to see the bridge, which was built on top of the Sella river. A Latin cross can be seen hanging from the middle of the bridge. Next we walked to the other side of the town to see the Capilla de la Santa Cruz (chapel of the holy cross).

Picos de España

photo 2

Lake Enol, located in the Picos de Europa

The next stop in our excursion was the famous mountains and lakes of Covadonga. Breathtaking, beautiful, and astonishing are only a few ways to describe the views from the mountains. We took the bus all the way to the top to see the two lakes, Lake Enol and Lake Ercina. The roads the bus took were narrow, so it was nerve-racking when the bus made a turn and the road underneath us could not be seen. In the three hours we were there we hiked, ate lunch, and hiked again. These mountains are home to many cows, so they walk around freely and even on the roads with the cars. The driver had to be careful on the roads because the cows jumped over the fence once in a while.

photo 3

Post-lunch picture! Left: Lauren, me, Jenná, Wilder

Covadonga

Our last stop was to the small town of Covadonga which is located about 20 minutes from the mountains and lakes. Covadonga is famous because of the Virgin of Covadonga, who is said to have appeared to Christian soldiers to cheer them on and give them strength during the Moorish invasion. A small statue and shrine with the image of the Virgin are housed inside a small, outdoor chapel that is used for daily Catholic services. To reach the chapel one must go through a cave and to the end of it. Inside the cave is also the grave of Pelayo, the founder of Asturias.

photo 5

Posing on Pelayo’s grave. Left: Max, Fionna, Jess, Megan, Rita, me, Professor Doyle

Underneath the cave there is a stone fountain with seven spouts. According to the legend, the person who drinks from all of these seven spouts in one breath will get married within the year. So far no one has been able to prove this legend to be accurate.

photo 2 (1)

Gray drinking out of the spouts

Espicha time

Standard

To welcome all the international students to Oviedo, the University of Oviedo ended a successful first week of classes with a trip to the nearby town of Gijón where an espicha was held for us. Traditional to the Principality of Asturias, an espicha is a celebration filled with traditional dancing, music, and sidra served from barrels. Sidra, a popular beverage in Asturias, is similar to apple cider but it has an alcohol component because it’s made like wine. The pulp and juice are squeezed out of the apples and these are left to ferment for a few months before they are ready to be consumed as sidra.

photo 1

Live-music being played from a drum and the bagpipes

As we settled into the restaurant we were welcomed with music and the ever-popular Spanish tapas, or mini appetizers. Typically served as family-style, the tapas we ate included a variety of hams, cheeses, breads, and cakes. The music was both playful and lively. Soon after we started to eat, the first glasses of sidra were poured and served to all the students.

photo 3

The proper way to pour sidra into a glass

Sidra in Spain is not only popular  because of its taste, but because of the way it’s served. The drink is poured from a height and into a wide glass which helps get air bubbles into the drink and give it a sparkling taste. A culín, or a small quantity, is served in a glass and drank right away so that it doesn’t lose that taste. When drinking sidra, it’s important to have some food in your stomach and to not mix the drink with any alcoholic beverages because the acidic components of the fermented apples will not mix well with other drinks.

photo 2

Enjoying some delicious food and sidra with other Temple students. Left: Max, me, Sarah, Gray, and Jess

As the night progressed, conversation was bustling, sidra was being poured, and the tapas were quickly disappearing. Everyone was having a great time but there was still one component missing to the night–the dancing. The night could not end without a performance of the traditional Asturian folk dance which is similar to Celtic dancing. A man and a woman dressed in Celtic outfits got on the stage and danced together to the sound of  a drum and the bagpipes. Since we are a group of students learning about the Spanish culture, it was important for us to immerse ourselves into it so the dancing couple decided to teach some students how to perform this dance. Two students joined the couple and they danced on stage in front of the student crowd. The espicha was a lot of fun and not only did we have a chance to enjoy each others’ presence and celebrate a successful first week of class, but we did so in an Asturian style.

photo 4

Two students being taught how to dance an Asturian traditional folk dance.