Monday, October 12, 2009

Covadonga and Ribadesella

There is a student organization here called AEGEE, whose purpose is to organize trips for international students to see the country they are staying in. Technically its mission is to foster inter-European student socialization, but they let Americans join anyway. There are branches of AEGEE in pretty much every city in Europe that has a university, but there is no real set structure, it's completely student-run.
That was the background information, so now when I refer to AEGEE you'll know what I'm talking about. Anyway, these guys spoke at our welcome meeting and told us about a free trip this past weekend to Covadonga and Ribadesella, so of course every foreigner in town was in the Plaza de la Gesta Saturday morning to catch the bus. Our first stop was Covadonga, about an hour and a half away in a very mountainous region that looked a lot like Norway, only the roofs were covered with terracotta tiles instead of grass and goats.
Covadonga is a Catholic shrine in the Picos de Europa mountains that was the site of the first Christian victory over the Moors during their conquest of Spain. This happened sometime in the 9th century, just like everything else in Asturias. The Asturian forces in the Battle of Covadonga were led by Don Pelayo, the first king of Asturias, and were heavily outnumbered by the Moors but managed to win by hiding in a cave and luring them into a narrow valley where there numbers would be less of an advantage. Also, apparently during the battle the Virgin Mary appeared on the battlefield to encourage the Christians, which is why the site is now a Catholic shrine. In the late 1800's a basilica was built to commemorate the battle, and the area is a major tourist attraction for it's historic significance and it's scenic mountain surroundings. There are also some very picturesque glacial lakes high in the mountains above the basilica, but our tour didn't include those, much to Amparo's dismay when I later related how my day went. But now, let's look at some pictures.

The Basilica, we went inside briefly but they were in the middle of Mass

Statue of Don Pelayo, with the cross he carried into battle (the Cruz de la Victoria, now a symbol of Asturias)

The Holy Cave, where Don Pelayo and his wife are buried (but not in that chapel, oddly enough)

Another view of the Basilica, from near the cave

We stayed in Covadonga for an hour, then got back on the bus and drove back towards Oviedo to a town on the coast called Ribadesella, about an hour away. The town is well known for it's beaches, and is uniquely situated in a protected cove where a river meets the sea, as you should be able to tell from the photos. We spent the whole afternoon in Ribadesella, and I went to a pizzaria for lunch with a group of Europeans I had met earlier at Covadonga through a German girl I knew from one of my classes. There was another German guy, and Italian guy, a French guy, and an Irish girl. After lunch AEGEE led us up a hill at the mouth of the harbor to take in the view, and then we had an hour free so my group decided to go check out the beach. It was pretty cool to actually meet some people and talk to them, but I felt a little left out as they all already knew each other and have been hanging out since they got here. Oh well. I gave my number to the German girl to let me know if they ever went out to the bars or anything, and she texted me that night at midnight after I had already gone to bed to see if I wanted to go out with them. I told them another time and then I didn't call the next night, so we'll see how that goes I guess. Anyway, loser stories aside, here are some photos of Ribadesella. If you look at the first four photos in sequence it will be like looking from right to left from the entrance to the harbor over the the main part of town, and that's probably how you'll look at them, because that's the order they're in.

Most of the houses along the beach appear to be bed and breakfasts or small hotels, in keeping with what I may or may not have already said about Ribadesella being a resort town for over a hundred years. (Remember to click any picture to see a larger version)

Cliffs facing the sea on the other side of the hill

We got back to Oviedo around 7:30 and I waited forever to take the bus back to my part of town (you'd think I would have had enough of buses by this point). The rest of the night was uneventful, like I mentioned I got a text inviting me to go out to bars after I had already gone to bed, which made me feel very old and lame. Here's one last photo - I know some of you have been to Norway and can attest that aside from the orange roofs, the resemblance is uncanny.

1 comment:

  1. Try to cultivate friendships with this group, they sound like an adventurous lot. In years to come, your favorite memories won't be about the classes that you take or the places that you visit but about your day-to-day experiences in learning the European way of life. Geez, I'm really sounding like an old codger. . . Aunt Connie