I traveled by bus to Bilbao, played some banjo and then caught the bus to Oviedo. My friend Sarah met me at the bus station with a big hug and an offer to carry my banjo. We set off down the road towards her house before deciding to take a bus which took us nearly to her doorstep. She lived on the second floor of the building in a lovely large apartment with a few other people and gave me a large mattress to sleep on, and yoghurt, bread, and cheese to eat. I had been friends with Sarah at Bard and we had graduated together in May. She had gotten a position teaching English in a small town near Oviedo, and tomorrow was her first day of work. She had just moved in a few days ago, but it turned out that she had spent a significant amount of time studying abroad in the city in the past, so she was already quite familiar with the area. We stayed up for a while chatting and trading stories about traveling and a bit of reminiscing before going off to bed. Sarah awoke super early in order to leave time for getting lost and all that and said goodbye before heading of to work. She had given me a city map the day before, pointing out landmarks and sights that I should try to visit, so after a little more sleep I ate a simple breakfast of fruit and cheese and set out to see the sights.
I set off first for the historic center of the city and found that the city is nearly overrun with statues. If statues ever started coming to life, this is not where you would want to be. The giant butt with legs would walk on over to join up with the armored torso and probably start fighting with the giant fat woman and her young (but not small) baby.
Various animals would prowl around the park in the middle of the city alongside the very real peacocks and other birds that make their home there. Men with suitcases and traveling trunks and women with elaborate dresses would drink sidra (cider) with Woody Allen himself underneath an enormous umbrella. (Speaking of umbrellas, have you ever seen an umbrella wrapper in stores. Pretty cool) Woody would be slightly put out because his glasses are constantly being ripped off by mischevious kids, but once he grabbed one of the many cannons he would swiftly put an end to that!
Anyhow, the city is beautiful, with lots of green and really beautiful architecture. The city isn’t very tall, which makes it nice to walk around in. The statue of Woody Allen has a great quote on the base that says “Oviedo is a delicious city, exotic, beautiful: it´s as if it didn´t belong to this world, as if it didn´t exist at all… Oviedo is a fairy tale!”
I walk up to the top of the town where I find some old stone churches. After some more walking around and eating fruit and pastries Sarah calls me and we meet up by the statue of a man sitting on his pile of luggage. We make our way wandering around town and finally ended up on Gascona, the famed “Boulevard of Cider.”
Nearly every store sold cider, but of a slightly different variety than the Basque sidra. The pouring from above your head was the same, but you would pour even less into the glass. You would drink all that you could in one swallow and then toss the rest onto the floor. The bars often had mats or even drains near the bar, while at the restaurants they would have a little bucket to toss your drinks into. The cider is usually less than two euros for a large bottle, and every shop is different. We walk and see the cathedral, as well as the church where Franco (yeah, the dictator-y one) was married.
That night we have a relaxed evening and go to bed fairly early to prepare for the big day tomorrow. The big day was just that Sarah had the day off work (can we just take a moment to marvel at how much time off European workers have in comparison to in the US?) so we were able to sleep in and do some more exploring. She had a dentist appointment, which is the kind of thing that I really don’t want to have to do in a foreign language, but she seems to manage ok. Then we decide to set out to find Christ. But that’s a story for another day. Tune in next time for another exciting episode in “The Life and Adventures of a Banjo Player in Oviedo!”