Thursday 18 July 2019
Over 200 kilometres, and over many mountains, my road brought me to the fringe of the north coast of Spain. Rollercoasting the arms of mountains reaching to the sea, crossing deep valleys on sweeping viaducts, I left a chilly and misty Lugo for sunny beaches glimpsed tantalisingly to my left.
I wasn’t expecting much from Oviedo, but it looked attractive as I entered, modern and clean.
Founded in the Kingdom of Asturias, an economically poor mountainous area ignored by the Muslim conquerors of the Iberian Peninsula, in 761, it became the capital city when Alfonso II
moved his royal household there. This was around the time the pilgrim routes to Santiago De Compostela were being established (Ka-ching) a couple of which are routed through Oviedo. The king set about constructing a church, a cathedral,
and a royal palace as the core to the town. The medieval hub extends beyond the cathedral
but the city has done a wonderful job of melding the old into the new and the centre has a great cosmopolitan feel to it.
The city hosts the prestigious Princess of Asturias Awards, more information here, one of the winners being Woody Allen,
who filmed some of his 2008 hit Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Oviedo,
and described it as “a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, lovely, tranquil and pedestrianized” city. My brief experience would only lead me to agree (although cycle friendly it ain’t).
Allen’s statue is one of many gracing the streets and parks. Some like this one,
of Argentine comic heroine Mafalda commemorates the presentation of the Asturias prize to Quino, her creator. Others are Oviedo related,
like this character who features in a novel set in the town, or decorative,
like this ballerina (below, not above).
Behind the cathedral, housed in two small palaces and a modern extension is a wonderful art gallery. I could fill another blog about its joys, old and new, but will just feature one highlight, this marvellous watercolour by Dalí that I’d never seen before.
Called Metamorfosis de Angeles en Mariposas, Metamorphosis of Angels into Butterflies, it leapt into my favourites.
You can see the hand of a master in it.
Looking at the tourist information, Oviedo seems a great city to base yourself in for a few days, or longer, to explore the region of Asturias as well as the city. While, as a matter of principle, I don’t intend to return to any place I’ve been because there are so many new places to see, Oviedo might be an exception.