Theme Week Asturias

Monday, 25 January 2021 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Environment, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Gijon © Labé/cc-by-sa-3.0

Gijon © Labé/cc-by-sa-3.0

Asturias, officially the Principality of Asturias, is an autonomous community in northwest Spain. It is coextensive with the province of Asturias and contains some of the territory that was part of the larger Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages. Divided into eight comarcas (counties), the autonomous community of Asturias is bordered by Cantabria to the east, by León (Castile and León) to the south, by Lugo (Galicia) to the west, and by the Bay of Biscay (Cantabrian sea) to the north. Asturias is situated in a mountainous setting with vast greenery and lush vegetation, making it part of Green Spain. The region has a maritime climate. It receives plenty of annual rainfall and little sunshine by Spanish standards and has very moderated seasons, most often averaging in the lower 20s celsius. Heatwaves are rare due to mountains blocking southerly winds. Winters are very mild for the latitude, especially near sea level. Asturias is also home of the Princess of Asturias Awards. The paleolithic art in the caves of Asturias is declared World Heritage Site with the Paleolithic Art of Northern Spain.

Asturias was inhabited, first by Homo erectus, then by Neanderthals. Since the Lower Paleolithic era, and during the Upper Paleolithic, Asturias was characterized by cave paintings in the eastern part of the area. In the Mesolithic period, a native culture developed, that of the Asturiense, and later, with the introduction of the Bronze Age, megaliths and tumuli were constructed. In the Iron Age, the territory came under the cultural influence of the Celts; the local Celtic peoples, known as the Astures, were composed of tribes such as the Luggones, the Pesicos, and others, who populated the entire area with castros (fortified hill-towns). Today the Astur Celtic influence persists in place names, such as those of rivers and mountains. With the conquest of Asturias by the Romans under Augustus (29–19 BC), the region entered into recorded history. The Astures were subdued by the Romans but were never fully conquered. After several centuries without foreign presence, they enjoyed a brief revival during the Germanic invasions of the late 4th century AD, resisting Suevi and Visigoth raids throughout the 5th Century AD, ending with the Moorish invasion of Spain. However, as it had been for the Romans and Visigoths, the Moors did not find mountainous territory easy to conquer, and the lands along Spain’s northern coast never fully became part of Islamic Spain. Rather, with the beginning of the Moorish conquest in the 8th century, this region became a refuge for Christian nobles, and in 722, a de facto independent kingdom was established, the Regnum Asturorum, which was to become the cradle of the incipient Reconquista (Reconquest). In the 10th century, the Kingdom of Asturias gave way to the Kingdom of León, and during the Middle Ages the geographic isolation of the territory made historical references scarce. Through the rebellion of Prince Henry (the later Henry II of Castile) in the 14th century, the Principality of Asturias was established. The most famous proponents of independence were Gonzalo Peláez and Queen Urraca, who, while achieving significant victories, were ultimately defeated by Castilian troops. After its integration into the Kingdom of Spain, Asturias provided the Spanish court with high-ranking aristocrats and played an important role in the colonisation of America. Since 1388, the heir to the Castilian (later Spanish) throne has been styled Prince of Asturias. In the 16th century, the population reached 100,000 for the first time, and within another century that number would double due to the arrival of American corn. In the 18th century, Asturias was one of the centres of the Spanish Enlightenment. The renowned Galician thinker Benito de Feijóo settled in the Benedictine Monastery of San Vicente de Oviedo. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, a polymath and prominent reformer and politician of the late 18th century, was born in the seaside town of Gijón. During the Napoleonic Wars, Asturias was the first Spanish province to rise up against the French following the abdication of King Ferdinand VII on 10 May 1808. Riots began in Oviedo and on 25 May the local government formally declared war on Napoleon with 18,000 men called to arms to resist invasion. The Industrial Revolution came to Asturias after 1830 with the discovery and systematic exploitation of coal mines and iron factories at the mining basins of Nalón and Caudal. At the same time, there was significant migration to the Americas (especially Argentina, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico); those who succeeded overseas often returned to their native land much wealthier. These entrepreneurs were known collectively as ‘Indianos’, for having visited and made their fortunes in the West Indies and beyond. The heritage of these wealthy families can still be seen in Asturias today: many large ‘modernista’ villas are dotted across the region, as well as cultural institutions such as free schools and public libraries.

The Cantabrian Mountains (Cordillera Cantábrica) form Asturias’s natural border with the province of León to the south. In the eastern range, the Picos de Europa National Park contains the highest and arguably most spectacular mountains, rising to 2,648 metres (8,688 ft) at the Torrecerredo peak. Other notable features of this predominantly limestone range are the Parque Natural de Redes in the central east, the central Ubiñas south of Oviedo, and the Parque Natural de Somiedo in the west. The Cantabrian mountains offer opportunities for activities such as climbing, walking, skiing and caving, and extend some 200 kilometres (120 mi) in total, as far as Galicia province to the west of Asturias and Cantabria province to the east. Similar opportunities are available for the traveler of Asturias interested in Caldoveiro Peak. The Asturian coastline is extensive, with hundreds of beaches, coves and natural sea caves. Notable examples include the Playa del Silencio (Beach of Silence) near the fishing village of Cudillero (west of Gijón), as well as the many beaches surrounding the summer resort of Llanes, such as the Barro, Ballota and Torimbia (the latter a predominantly nudist beach). Most of Asturias’s beaches are sandy, clean, and bordered by steep cliffs, on top of which it is not unusual to see grazing livestock.

For centuries, the backbone of the Asturian economy was agriculture and fishing. Milk production and its derivatives was also traditional, but its big development was a byproduct of the economic expansion of the late 1960s. Nowadays, products from the dairy cooperative Central Lechera Asturiana are being commercialised all over Spain. The main regional industry in modern times, however, was coal mining and steel production: in the times of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, it was the centre of Spain’s steel industry. The then state-owned ENSIDESA steel company is now part of the privatised Aceralia, now part of the ArcelorMittal Group. The industry created many jobs, which resulted in significant migration from other regions in Spain, mainly Extremadura, Andalusia and Castile and León. The steel industry is now in decline when measured in terms of number of jobs provided, as is the mining. The reasons for the latter are mainly the high costs of production to extract the coal compared to other regions. Regional economic growth is below the broader Spanish rate, though in recent years growth in service industries has helped reduce Asturias’s high rate of unemployment. Large out-of-town retail parks have opened near the region’s largest cities (Gijón and Oviedo), whilst the ever-present Spanish construction industry appears to continue to thrive. Asturias has benefited extensively since 1986 from European Union investment in roads and other essential infrastructure, though there has also been some controversy regarding how these funds are spent, for example, on miners’ pensions.

Cudillero © Markus Bernet/cc-by-sa-3.0 Gijon © Labé/cc-by-sa-3.0 Lagos de Covadonga in Picos de Europa © Maduixa/cc-by-sa-3.0-es Playa de Toró near Llanes © Markus Braun Playón de Bayas near Castrillón © Francisco Javier Calzón Castelo/cc-by-sa-4.0 Playa de Santa María del Mar © María García Rivas/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Playón de Bayas near Castrillón © Francisco Javier Calzón Castelo/cc-by-sa-4.0
Asturias has a rich artistic legacy that emphasizes Romanesque indigenous architecture with monuments like Santa María del Naranco, Santa Cristina de Lena and San Miguel de Lillo. These monuments have a Ramirense Romanesque style (due to Ramiro I) or San Julián de los Prados, known as Santullano (Oviedo) of the Alfonsino pre-Romanesque style (due to Alfonso II), which are all in Oviedo. Other examples of architecture are Villaviciosa’s church, San Salvador de Valdediós (commonly known by the Asturians as “Conventín”), and the church of San Salvador de Priesca. Another example is Cabranes’ San Julian de Viñón. The Romanesque style is very present, since all Asturias is crossed by one of the Camino de Santiago routes, which highlights the Monastery of San Pedro de Villanueva (near Cangas de Onis), the churches of San Esteban de Aramil (Siero), San Juan de Amandi (Villaviciosa) and Santa María de Junco (Ribadesella). The Gothic style is not as abundant, but there are good examples of this style, such as the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. The Baroque style is more present by means of palace architecture, with such notable examples as the Palace of Camposagrado and Velarde – the latter seat of Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias. The Baroque style stands out in public civil engineering and bridge tolls (Olloniego); the milestones, the chairs or seats present along the road to Madrid and the resort of Caldas de Priorio (Oviedo) building. In 1985, the UNESCO declared the pre-Romanesque monuments and the Cathedral of Oviedo as World Heritage Sites. In popular architecture, the traditional granaries in Asturias, called hórreos, are known for their demographic extension and their functional evolution, its basic characteristic being its mobility: it can be easily dismounted and transported to another location. The Panera is the evolution of the hórreo, with examples exceeding 100 square metres (1,076 square feet) of area covered. The purpose of the horreo is to store objects and crops. With the arrival of maize and the beans, they were endowed with exterior corridors and railings for drying the harvests. Asturias is home to the only architectural work in Spain (as well as the largest in Europe) of the Brazilian architect and disciple of Le Corbusier; Oscar Niemeyer: the Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre. The architectural project was donated to the Principality by the architect, who was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, in the XXV edition of these awards. Niemeyer’s project combined several different elements, and projected an open space, a place for education, culture and peace. In the capital of the Principality stands one of the most representative buildings of modern architecture, the Palace of Congresses of Oviedo, by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also awarded the Prince of Asturias of Award for the Arts in 1999. Special importance has been placed in recent years on the recovery of industrial heritage through various routes and industrial museums, especially in the central area of the region.

Some of the most famous festivals in Asturias are from the small town of Llanes. These festivals celebrate the important saints and the Virgin Mary adored by the town. The associations that prepare the festivals have a rivalry between them and each year they try to outdo each other with more impressive shows. The three most important are the festival of San Roque (St. Roque) held on the 16th of August, the festival of Nuestra Señora Virgen de La Guia (Our Lady, Virgin Mary, the Guide) held on the 8th of September, and the festival of Santa Maria Magdalena (St. Mary Magdalene) held on the 22nd of July. The Magdalena is well known for its impressive march of logs where boys as young as 3 and men carry logs through the town until they reach the end point and start a large bonfire.

While Asturias is especially known for its seafood, the most famous regional dish is fabada asturiana, a rich stew typically made with large white beans (fabes), shoulder of pork (lacón), black pudding (morcilla), and spicy sausage (chorizo). Apple groves foster the production of the region’s traditional alcoholic drink, a natural cider (sidra). Since it is natural and bottled without gas, it produces a weak carbonation, and when Asturian cider is served, it is poured in a particular way, el escanciado: the bottle is held above the head allowing for a long vertical pour, causing the cider to be aerated as it splashes into the glass below. After drinking most of the content, it is customary to splash a little out onto the ground, as a way to clean the glass of any lees for the next serving. Traditionally, the same glass is refilled and passed around, with everyone drinking from it in turn. Asturian cheeses, especially Cabrales, are also eaten throughout Spain and beyond; Asturias is often called “the land of cheeses” (el país de los quesos) (Asturian cuisine).

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Asturias Tourism, Kingdom of Asturias, Asturian cuisine, Asturian architecture, Wikivoyage Asturias and Wikipedia Asturias. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.








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