Oviedo has the feel, history, and all of the trappings of the graceful European city that it is. Plentiful pedestrian streets, a beautiful historic core, beautiful parks, fountains, and street art grace this city of 220,000. It was an interesting place to roam. Gijon and Aviles by contrast seemed much more industrial, but both have beautiful old cores and are seafront cities. Oviedo is 20 kilometers or so inland from the larger Gijon.
The mountains provided a natural barrier across the North of Spain that kept the Moorish invaders (or as George Costanza says to the Bubble Boy, “the Moops”) to the South. Asturias, being somewhat isolated due to the terrain maintained its own, somewhat distinct culture from the rest of Spain.
Before coming to Spain I heard alot about people walking the Camino Santiago — the Way of St. James — a pilgrim route across Spain to the legendary burial place of St. James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. St. James was one of Jesus’ disciples. People take weeks and months doing this walk. It sounded interesting, but I did not have weeks to put this. I thought I might do a little section here or there though. It turned out that the only other Americans I encountered outside of Madrid were people walking on the most popular route that crosses the plains South of Asturias from Burgos to Leon. What I learned though is that there are many routes used for this pilgrimage (see map). Trail routes are marked by a symbol of a sideways scallop shell. I did get my chance to walk little bits of “the way” in cities where the various routes invariably passed the cathedral. In fact, the “original way” also sometimes called “la ruta primativo” crosses Aturias and passes through Oviedo. It is more of a mountain route than is the popular route to the South and takes even more stamina I think. The history of this route is that all of the lands South of the Cantabrian Mountains were controlled by the Moors for along time so were off-limits to Christians wanting to make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The Ruta Primativo across Asturias to the North dates to those times.