To welcome all the international students to Oviedo, the University of Oviedo ended a successful first week of classes with a trip to the nearby town of Gijón where an espicha was held for us. Traditional to the Principality of Asturias, an espicha is a celebration filled with traditional dancing, music, and sidra served from barrels. Sidra, a popular beverage in Asturias, is similar to apple cider but it has an alcohol component because it’s made like wine. The pulp and juice are squeezed out of the apples and these are left to ferment for a few months before they are ready to be consumed as sidra.
As we settled into the restaurant we were welcomed with music and the ever-popular Spanish tapas, or mini appetizers. Typically served as family-style, the tapas we ate included a variety of hams, cheeses, breads, and cakes. The music was both playful and lively. Soon after we started to eat, the first glasses of sidra were poured and served to all the students.
Sidra in Spain is not only popular because of its taste, but because of the way it’s served. The drink is poured from a height and into a wide glass which helps get air bubbles into the drink and give it a sparkling taste. A culín, or a small quantity, is served in a glass and drank right away so that it doesn’t lose that taste. When drinking sidra, it’s important to have some food in your stomach and to not mix the drink with any alcoholic beverages because the acidic components of the fermented apples will not mix well with other drinks.
As the night progressed, conversation was bustling, sidra was being poured, and the tapas were quickly disappearing. Everyone was having a great time but there was still one component missing to the night–the dancing. The night could not end without a performance of the traditional Asturian folk dance which is similar to Celtic dancing. A man and a woman dressed in Celtic outfits got on the stage and danced together to the sound of a drum and the bagpipes. Since we are a group of students learning about the Spanish culture, it was important for us to immerse ourselves into it so the dancing couple decided to teach some students how to perform this dance. Two students joined the couple and they danced on stage in front of the student crowd. The espicha was a lot of fun and not only did we have a chance to enjoy each others’ presence and celebrate a successful first week of class, but we did so in an Asturian style.