Oviedo is located in the Austurias region of Spain, which is known for its greenery, its mountains, and its absolutely beautiful landscapes. Some of the most stunning views in Austurias can be found in Covadonga in Parque Nacional de los Picos de Europa, a national park about two hours away from Oviedo. We had the opportunity to go there with GEO a few weekends ago, and what we saw was absolutely spectacular. Our trip can best be summed up in the word my host mother used many times to describe the national wonders we saw “precioso” (precious).
We started the day with a ride up to the top of one of the mountains in Covadonga where we hiked up to see an old mine that you can still walk through, and Los Lagos (literally: the lakes). They were small – don’t picture lake Michigan, here – but absolutely beautiful. The fact that they were surrounded by some incredible mountain ranges definitely didn’t hurt J The lakes were so high up the mountain that we were treated with ridiculous gusts of winds, and I saw at least one hat and one person almost fly away. (I’m not kidding about the person part, actually. My friend Maddie was almost swept down the trail a little too quickly before we implemented the buddy system to weigh everyone down J) Once I was on the top of the mountain looking out at a gorgeous lake in the freezing wind, I found that the thing I really wanted most was a nice Cola Cao (Spanish hot chocolate). And, because you’re in Spain and there are cafés everywhere (I really need to write a blog about all of the cafés. Stay tuned!), all you have to do is walk a few more feet up the trail before you find a nice little café on the top of the mountain. It’s the perfect place to warm up with a nice drink, admire the view, and marvel at the rate of coffee consumption in Spain.
After we hiked back down the mountain, it was time to make our way to Cangas de Onis. There, in the lower altitude and much warmer weather, we all had a nice picnic before exploring the main iglesia (church). I say “main” iglesia because there are actually two less than a five minute walk away from the other. One is integrated into the town, and the other is hidden up in a cave in the mountain. Photography isn’t allowed inside the mountain iglesia so I can’t show you a picture, but imagine an ornately decorated altar facing five or six rows of pews, and that’s just about it. It’s absolutely tiny and seems quite inconsequential, like a good rain storm could wash it away. Despite that, it sits right above a huge waterfall. When you’re walking through the pews you can hear the water rushing under your feet, which was a really incredible experience.
After that, we headed to our last stop, the prehistoric cave known as Cuevas de Tito Bustillo. Back in the 1980’s, a group of university students decided to do some spelunking in the cave during Spring Break. They ended up finding cave drawings that had been there for thousands of years (not a bad way to spend your Semana Santa, right?). Experts were called to the scene, and the age and authenticity of the drawings were confirmed. These caves are now considered the most important prehistoric find in Spain, and we had the opportunity to explore them (with a trained guide, of course. We certainly would have gotten lost on our own.). I got to see bison and horses that had been on these walls way before any of us existed. I also got to realize that even prehistoric people who spent the majority of their life just trying to survive still managed to find the time to become a better artist then I (not surprising, of course, but still a hard pill to swallow).
We ended our day of adventure with a bus ride back in which almost everyone immediately fell asleep (a side effect of prolonged excitement), a lecture from our host mothers when we got home about how we should have worn a scarf (oops), and a warm bowl of soup to wash it all down. Overall, it was a day of snow, sun, mountains, caves, iglesias, and, as always, Cola Cao. Once again, not a bad way to spend the weekend J
Until next time,