The Kingdom of the Asturias was a tiny area in north west Spain where in the 9th century “the flame of Christianity was kept alive”, as the UN website rather poetically puts it, whilst most of the Iberian peninsula was under Muslim occupation. This site comprises five structures in and near the town of Oviedo and one about 20km further south. Once again, my rather lackadaisical approach to preparation meant that I didn’t realise this before I got there: I’d just looked at the name of the site and assumed everything was in Oviedo. Luckily, I’d also assumed there was a fair amount to see and planned to stay for two full days.
I’ve been getting rather lazy recently and having not felt like getting up in time to catch the 9am bus from A Coruna had taken a later departing but much faster, and therefore more expensive service. It turned out to be all rather executive, with only three seats across the width (I got one of the single ones), snacks and drinks served by a nice uniformed lady and a gift when you got off (a folding shopping bag). I do wonder if they vary the gifts though, otherwise frequent travellers must be drowning in bags.
The reason for the listing of these monuments, quite apart from the whole flame keeping alive thing, is that they are in a locally unique version of the architectural style categorised as Pre-Romanesque. Five of the listed sites are churches and the sixth is what the UN call a “remarkable … hydraulic engineering structure” but which I’d describe as an oversized stone dog kennel built over a spring.
Whilst not impressive, the walk to the latter did ensure that I found the street full of sidrerias – cider bars and restaurants. The local cider is the cloudy flat kind, sold in large bottles. It is poured into glasses in small amounts from a great height and then intended to be knocked back in one. You are generally supposed to then carry on chatting to your friends or eating your dinner until the waiter comes back past your table to pour your next mouthfull, unless you fancy doing the vertiginous pour yourself. I’m afraid I cheated and just tipped some into my glass when their back was turned. The cool way to do the pour is to hold the bottle above your head, the glass as low as you can and almost horizontal and then tip the bottle, without looking what you are doing, and catch the stream on the very lip of the glass. As you can imagine, even experienced pourers have a slightly hit and miss approach, which explains why you can smell a sidreria long before you see it.
Anyway, back to the architecture. You can probably guess that I didn’t make it to the church 20km away, but I did visit the others, starting with the chapel buried in the later cathedral, where I took some illicit photographs of the wonderful interior columns.
Two more churches were reached by an infrequent bus from the town centre. The first is only one end of an originally much larger building and was not open but apparently has some interesting fresco decoration inside.
The second was originally a secular building forming part of a palace and has some great carving inside and out and terrific columns:
Finally, here is a church a short walk from the town centre and located uncomfortably close to a busy dual carriageway.
It has interesting and presumably early if not contemporary pierced stone tracery windows.
I really liked the shape of this building, with its accumulation of simple forms to make a complex structure, which is why I chose it for my Lego model: