I spent this past weekend walking around the market that came to Oviedo during The Ascension. Although a lot of the people here seem to be non-practicing Catholics, there are still strong religious roots. According to the New Testament, The Ascension of Jesus, a fairly important day of the Christian year, is the day (4o days after his resurrection) when Jesus ascended to heaven.
During the weekend this is celebrated, the people from the surrounding Asturian towns come to Oviedo with their artisan food and crafts to sell them in the plaza of the Cathedral of Oviedo and in the area above the train station. Although I went when there weren’t too many people, apparently it gets packed. And there is some of everything. I bought a handmade necklace/ring/earring set for someone (I’ll say someone in case she’s reading this) and a pendant made from some kind of 65 million year old stone, or something like that.
There were toys, games, jewelry, pieces or art (carved out of charcoal, which I though was pretty darn cool) and, of course, FOOD. I didn’t go crazy…but I easily could have. I tried a piece or cake-bread will walnuts, some different flavored candies and a bocadillo, or a little sandwich, with sheep’s milk (?) cheese. There was literally a tent filled with cheese that you could sample, buy a sandwich or even get a huge chunk of whichever cheese you liked the best. There were also people doing traditional Asturian folk dances, a man with a bike-pedal-operated merry-go-round and gaitas, or bagpipes, being played. Here are some snapshots from the festival:
In going to the mercado this weekend, I thought I’d take the chance to write about the Asturian culture in this post. Northern Spain has a strong Celtic influence and, as many people will tell you, them and those from southern Spain no tienen nada que ver – they don’t have anything to do with one another. Up in the north, you won’t (really) see flamenco shows or bull fights. It isn’t as hot/dry as the south can be. The food tends to be different, though there are some dishes that seem to be common throughout the entire country. ¡Tortilla española! Anyway, the differences between the north and south stem from the different influences that each region had in the past – i.e. Celtic in the north and Islamic in the south. This can be seen in the architecture, in the art, in the personalities of the people, even in the land itself. Northern Spain has rolling green hills and mountains like those of Ireland and rain (though I apparently don’t notice the rain here) like in England, while the south has a hotten and drier climate but also aromas reminiscent of northern Africa.
In regards to the culture though, northern Spain, and specifically Asturias, has some things it is known for. For one, SIDRA. Loosely translated to “cider,” sidra is a drink made by crushing apples and fermenting the juice. It is then poured from a full arms-length to aerate it when it hits the glass and consumed immediately. Although other parts of Spain have their own cider, as well as other countries like France, England and Ireland, everyone knows that the best comes from right here.
Another thing characteristic of the region is its ties to its ancient culture. Most regions of Spain have another language spoken there apart from Spanish, many of them similar, yet distinct, “sister” languages of Spanish, meaning that they developed at the same time as Spanish from Latin. Here, it’s asturiano/bable, or Asturian in English. It isn’t a co-official language, but it is protected. In Oviedo, the people tend to mostly speak Spanish, but in the smaller towns throughout Asturias, this language can be very prevalent. Even in the capital, the people still accent their Spanish with characteristic suffixes or vocabulary specific to here and influenced by Bable. They even still use some sayings completely in this other language. For example, a few weeks ago I learned a saying that’s said here when it’s very cold:
Fai un cutu que’scarabaya’l peyeyu.
It roughly translates to “There’s a chill in the air that’s scratching at my (extra) skin.”
Another thing characteristic of the region is its ties to its ancient people. Some people living in rural areas still live very simply. Even in the big city, taking up the bagpipes isn’t out of the ordinary. Wearing clothes in the style of the people who lived here thousands of years ago and doing the traditional Asturian dance at festivals like La Ascensión is normal. I snagged this video clip this weekend, but I unfortunately can’t upload it. Here’s a youtube video though showing some of this traditional dance: