Last Thursday I decided to go to Asturias tomorrow.
I put out feelers on Couchsurfing.
A man named Jorge agreed to host me in Gijon on Saturday, and a German guy reached out as a fellow traveler not having any luck finding a host, offering to split an Airbnb.
He was going to Gijon, but I wanted to go to Oviedo and already had accommodation in Gijon, so he agreed to change his plans entirely and meet me there instead. Meet Ben.
I grabbed a blabla car from Lugo and arrived in Oviedo around 9. Ben let me in. We pretended to be old friends that hadn’t seen each other in a while, then went out into the night.
Asturias is famous for its Cider, and we headed straight for Calle de la Gascona, the famous “Sidra Boulevard,” which is lined left and right with waiters pouring the sidra as tall as they can. They stretch their arms mightily above and below, a glowing green bottle in one hand and a thin glass for you in the other. As they pour, they look out unenthusiastically into the night, decidedly not at the bottle nor at the glass, yet somehow manage to hit their target every time. Now it’s true they do a fair amount of splashing and spraying, but the name of the game is to get it as fizzy as possible. They sling the glasses back to you and you’re supposed to drink it immediately before it fizzes out. The odd part about this dance is that once you throw back your cider you just sit there and wait for them to eventually come back and pour you another. You only drink when they’re ready to serve.
Ben and I got to know each other over several bottles of this Sidra. We watched the talented camareros create sticky waterfalls and slid backwards down the hill in our chairs. He lived in Madrid a few years ago then came back for a wedding and decided to take his time going back to Germany and see the North of Spain. He works in renewable energy and was making his travel plan up as he went. He was calm and polite and had eyes that matched his grey shirt. I realized after so many sweet, dry, fizzy glasses of Asturian gold that I was actually starving.
We found a vegetarian friendly restaurant and shared croquettas, babaganoush, and estrella Galicia. If sidra is the drink of Asturias, arguably Fabada (white bean soup) is the food, but our restaurant didn’t have any so I guess I’ll never know.
We wandered around the old town, which had a cathedral with a steeple like a spinal cord and a seemingly eternal twilight under the incandescent bulbs that illuminated fairytale clock towers and humble abodes with a dreamlike clarity. People embrace window gardens here, and it’s not yet cold enough for the flowers to have gone. Oviedo felt like a time capsule transporting us back hundreds of years. It never actually rained, but the clouds always loomed over us, creating a little ceiling over the city we called home tonight.
Two more beers and we sat on the stairs in the Plaza del Sol talking and people watching late into the night. It began to drizzle, and Ben gave me his jacket. His mother raised him right. Calle de Mon and Calle Oscura were supposed to be famous, but we might’ve gone home too early to really see what they were all about. Spainiards typically stay out till 7 in the morning, and we wanted to be semi-productive the next day.
We woke to a sweet breakfast our host had left out for us, which we shared with a couple from Barcelona. Ben went to do Laundry and I went to do a painting. I wandered around, hypnotized by the sounds of bagpipes and old men joking about my pants being broken (with intentional rips in them) then sat down on the exact same steps from the night before and got out my paints.
When we met up again, we found traditional folk dancers in traditional folk outfits and followed them to an old square called Plaza del Fontan for a performance. I got to sit in the sweet spot for a few moments and it felt as if they were doing it just for me. Swoon.