9 History of Asturias, curiosities and Asturian traditions.
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History and Tradition
A thousand-year-old kingdom in the Old World
Whoever gets to Asturias without having been here before, without having read or heard any reference to it, immediately receives two surprises: it is a place steeped in history and tradition, and it is inhabited by a people with a unique, friendly character.
Basílica de Covadonga.
Over a thousand years ago, there was a kingdom...

Over a thousand years ago, amid high limestone peaks, green mountains, lush forests, mighty rivers, lakes, springs, waterfalls, fruit trees, high mountain meadows and vast grazing lands... a kingdom emerged that had twelve kings, the first being Pelayo, whose memory is especially safeguarded at the Royal Site of Covadonga, in Cangas de Onís. The last was Alfonso III, known as The Great, and for nearly one hundred and fifty years in between the two, a great deal of history –battles included– which was to be decisive in the social and geographical evolution of the Iberian Peninsula and in what is nowadays Spain. Asturias was the first Christian kingdom of this European peninsula and many traces remain of that ancient kingdom –the most prominent among which is Asturian Art or Pre-Romanesque Art, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There have likewise endured so many reminders of the nobility and lineage that run through the bowels of this land, which, from the 14th century on, is also a Principality, the region most closely linked to the Spanish monarchy since those ancient times to the present.

The uniqueness of a destination

Asturias has not lost its essence, its identity, its rich past, its immense historic and prehistoric heritage –it boasts five prehistoric caves declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its heritage and tradition coexist in harmony with a dynamic present in a territory in which you can enjoy, among many other delights, a unique cuisine, with fabada bean stew, cheese and cider as the most distinguishing elements in the context of Spanish gastronomy as a whole.

If you are ready to immerse yourself in culture and traditions, Asturias is a veritable mosaic of sensations, emotions and experiences of all kinds, always within a habitat characterized by a warm and humid climate with mild temperatures all year round.

Fly like an eagle paragliding over hill forts or burial mounds, swim like an otter down rivers filled with gold, navigate like a salmon does through sites which gave rise to the kingdom of Asturias, surf off beaches with Jurassic footprints or sail with a wind like the one that bore Christopher Columbus himself to America... anything is possible in Asturias, even dreams.

The ancient kingdom, nowadays a Principality, full of surprises, stories, legends, mythological creatures and traditions, envelops the mind and imagination of the traveller...

The first Princess of Asturias born in Oviedo and the first Asturian Queen of Spain

News that becomes very pertinent in these times, as the newly crowned King of Spain, Felipe VI, had married an Asturian from Oviedo, Letizia Ortiz, when he was still Prince of Asturias and heir apparent. This love story reinforces the deep ties of the Crown with the old Principality, which in the last decades of the 20th century had already universally united its name to that of the Prince of Asturias Awards through the Awards that bear his name and have become famous throughout the world.

More than six centuries of history have ensued between Catherine of Lancaster –the first Princess of Asturias– and Doña Letizia –the first Princess of Asturias born in Oviedo and the first Asturian Queen of Spain– and Asturias remains just as pure, natural, fascinating... Contemplating its pristine landscape, ancient mansions, Indiano villas built by returning emigrants who had made their fortune in the Americas, the old quarters of its towns and cities... it seems as if time has stood still. Walking the "Camino de Santiago" or Way of St James, you can feel like the first monarch who did so, an Asturian king whose court was in Oviedo, crowned Alfonso II and known as "The Chaste".

A paradise of traditions
Hoguera de San Juan.
Bonfires and "jogueras"

Asturias is full of fire on the feast of San Juan (Midsummer's Eve), when it is also traditional to decorate village fountains with flowers. There are bonfires of all types and in diverse settings… in the mountains and on the beaches. Coinciding with other festivities, "jogueras"' are typical in eastern Asturias. These are huge poles planted in the middle of a meadow with a greased top or "cucaña", ready to be scaled by the bravest...

MUSI - Museo de la Siderurgia.
A land of iron

Asturias is a land of "ferreiros" or smiths and metal-workers, but the area where the tradition of working iron has best been preserved is in the west, in Taramundi and Oscos, where the art of knife-making and of the "ferreiros" has come down to us intact to this day and where you can learn about these ancient crafts. A veritable land of traditional crafts.

Herrero en los Oscos.
Giants of metal
Metals are everywhere in Asturias… underground, in the form of geological and cultural riches, and between the sky and the ground. A veritable paradise of industrial archaeology, elements such as pithead gear are enormous, bona fide "metal metaphors" of all this cultural wealth, nowadays converted into tourist attractions, especially in the Nalón and Caudal Mining Valleys.
Cueva Huerta.
Painting on stone and living in caves

Prehistory is one of the richest and most documented periods in Asturias. There are numerous outstanding examples of engravings and paintings in Asturias dating back thousands of years, primarily in the east and centre of the region. For this reason, Asturias is one of the Spanish regions with the richest cave painting and prehistoric heritage.

Ruta del Tabayón del Mongayu.
Roads, paths and trails constitute history and tradition

The paths, roads, lanes, passes and trails in Asturias are full of history and traditions. Roman roads built over trails that already existed, lanes that lead to unexpected villages, roads like St James' Way or the Relics Trail, mountain couloirs that have seen dozens of human and sporting feats. Asturias' trails constitute history and tradition.

Cortín de miel.
The enchantment of the stone pens known as "cuerrias", "corros" or "cortinos"

These circular stone buildings located in a wooded area with abundant vegetation, built to safeguard the beehives they contain from bears and other animals, are a very Asturian tradition. They are also used for drying the spiny burrs of the chestnut, one of the most delicious and nutritious fruits of the Asturian forests.

Bosque en Taramundi.
The living forest

The forest is the most suitable place to imagine and bring to life Asturian mythology. Pagan in origin, with links to the Astures, Romans and Visigoths, over time it has been influenced by Christianity and Romanticism, and now enriches the ethnographic, literary, cultural and aesthetic universes of today. The xana (water nymph), trasgu (goblin), busgosu (half man-half ram), nuberu (master of the clouds), Güestia (Holy Company) and cuélebre (winged serpent) exist in the collective imagination of children and adults as characters in fairy tales, fables and legends... in short, as the magical memory of a lush, green land.

Museo Jovellanos.
A world of Enlightenment figures

The Enlightenment bequeathed many "enlightened" figures to Asturias, such as Jovellanos and Flórez Estrada, among others. A look back at their lives and works leads the traveller along mining trails through much of Asturias, in the case of Jovellanos, or to Somiedo, birthplace of Flórez Estrada.

La Aldea Perdida.
A journey through literary tradition

Asturias is a land of great writers and their works have left their mark on history and places and in the minds of all. Names and pen names like Palacio Valdés, "Clarín", Campoamor and Pérez de Ayala, to name but a few, comprise a literary memory with actual locations and sites that allow the visitor to recreate the creative moments of these geniuses.

Hórreo en Mieres.
Raised buildings on dry land

Asturias is a land of raised buildings on dry land, proof of which is to be found in the region's raised granaries-cum-storehouses: "hórreos", which have four "pegoyos" or stone legs; "paneras", which have six or more stone legs; and "cabazos", a typical hórreo in the westernmost area of Asturias, especially in Taramundi. This ethnographic wealth also includes the broom-thatched stone huts called "cabanas de teito", so abundant in the mountain meadow hamlets or brañas in Somiedo, and also the fact that some hórreos, especially in western Asturias, have a thatched roof like that of these cabanas.

El Angulero.
The Elver Fisherman and his return home for Christmas

He travels for weeks from the Sargasso Sea to get home for Christmas, to San Juan de la Arena, where he comes ashore with gifts for the youngest members of the family, like a seafaring Father Christmas. He is the elver fisherman or "angulero", a character inspired by the fishing tradition of this village, one of the world capitals of elver fishing.