What you need to understand when communicating in Asturies is that there are two languages- Castellano (Spanish) and Asturien. Asturien has about a 80% similarity to Castillian Spanish. Except in the most rural, isolated places you can be pretty sure that people will speak Spanish. You will notice that lots of signs are written in both languages, but this isn't because people can't also read Spanish. It's because that many Asturiens feel like their culture and language are being suppressed by the government in Madrid. There is a real effort in Asturies to have the culture and language of Asturies validated and officially recognized by the government.
Here is a link that will give you a list of translations of commonly used words from Asturien to Spanish (it takes a while to load): http://www.infoasturias.com/plantillas/SRT_plantilla_recurso_sin_zona_frame.jsp?id_nodo=3285&&&keyword=&auditoria=F
Here is site that will give you basic Spanish vocabulary for dining, lodging and on the highway you may need when you are in Asturies.http://www.asturnor.com/dic.htm
Below is a link to the organization that is fighting for the normalization of the Asturien language.
On our horseback ride, we made a surprise stop at a local bar for sidra. This was a pleasant surprise, since my daughter wanted to try Asturias' national drink, but passed on the visit to the sidreria in Arriondas two nights earlier. In this picture, our horseback guide is pouring sidra for us. See my Arriondas page for more information on sidra. My daughter ended up thinking it was ok. Of course, this was after my husband and son kept saying it was the worst drink known to mankind. I agreed with my daughter. It's ok. Yes, just ok.
This sidra was a bit smoother than the local sidra we had in town. I'm pretty sure this is tourist grade. It's different, I'll say that. Maybe it's an acquired taste. Not sure how many bottles you need to drink to acquire the taste. Maybe 1,000.
I've got to give my son credit. He'll be adventurous. When we were in Cangas de Onis, we stopped at La Cabana for lunch and the menu was in Spanish only. Even though he speaks more Spanish than the rest of us, he did not know what cochinillo was but he ordered it anyway. It is suckling pig, and the authentic version is served with the leg and hoof still on, so you can see exactly what size this piglet was when he/she met his maker.
That didn't stop by son from digging in. He did, and he said that suckling pig was absolutely the best, juiciest, most tender pork he had ever had in his life.
Another traditional Asturian dish, and one that I was willing to eat, is calderata marisco or fish stew. It is made with hake (merluza) and shell fish with the most delicious light sauce. I had never had hake before in the US. It is outstanding - very light and moist. This version was made with hake, shrimp and clams. Elsewhere in Spain, I tried a similar dish, which as Basque style. That one had an egg in it. Once the egg was hard boiled. Another time, it was a gooey fried egg.
The quintessential Asturian dish has to be fabada asturiana. It is a bean stew with salt pork, chorizo sausage and morcilla (blood sausage). Yes, blood sausage. Being a vegetarian, I just could not cross that line, but my son and husband ordered it, and said it outstanding.
Rule of thumb - any food in Asturias that is black is made from blood. Good to avoid if you are a vegetarian or don't have aspirations of being a vampire.
Asturias is an agrarian region. For centuries, agriculture and fishing have been two of the most important industries. Dairy products - milk, cream, cheese and yogurt - from Asturias are famous. The Asturian dairy products are found all throughout Spain. Asturias produces a large number of different cheeses, which nowadays are more popular than ever. During Franco's regime, the artisinal cheesemakers had to either stop producing cheese, or go underground. Fortunately, they have come back strongly, and you'll find a wide variety of different cheeses, because of the different methods employed by the individual towns and cheesemakers.
The most famous Asturian cheese is the Cabrales cheese, a bleu cheese made in Cabrales. I love stinky cheese, and the true Cabrales is the stinkiest, sharpest of all stinky sharp cheeses. I enjoyed it immensely, but my family had to hold their noses while I blissfully nibbled at my cheese.
fishing plays a big part of asturian culture and you see it all over the asturian coastline.
it has played a big part in asturian economy over the years and even if it has been cut down recently due to fishing quotas, it's still an important part of asturian life.
If you want to have an authentic Asturian experience, no trip to this rustic green paradise would be complete without a visit to a sidreria. Asturias is apple country, and the rugged people of the mountain have created a version of apple cider fit to put hair on your chest. The first thing you need to know is that sidra (cider) is neither sweet nor spiced like cider in the US. It is a potent, slightly vinegary, unfiltered, rustic drink. The more you drink of it the better it tastes, trust me!
The first link is a commercial link to the siderias all over Asturias. The second link is to the Cider Musuem, which is both informative and fun. The site is cute, with a really awesome game where you create cyber-cider.
Traditionally sidra is enjoyed at sidrerias which have dirt or sawdust floors to deal the the mess that is associated with the way the drink is dispensed. Drinking sidra is always a group activity. Sidra is sold only by the bottle- for a light to moderate "buzz" consider approximately 1/2 to 1 bottle per person. When you receive your bottle of sidra, if you are unfamiliar with the proceedure, it is best to allow the waiter to serve. The serving of sidra should be left to the pros lest you waste half a bottle! There will be only one special sidra glass per group of friends. A small amount of sidra is dispensed into the glass in such a manner as to release the effervescence and thusly must be quaffed (chugged) in one gulp immediately. (Letting it sit for even a moment ruins the flavor.) You must leave a small amount of sidra in the bottom of the glass, swill it around to rinse the glass, then dump it on the ground. The glass is then passed to the next person, who repeats the same process. Ideally, this process will go on for hours, whilst friends drink, eat, play games and make merry. It is a wonderful tradition!
Spanish people always dress sharp and are tidy. If you don't want to look like a tourist, leave your tacky Hawaiian shirts, t-shirts, body piercings, Birkenstocks, etc at home. Tailored clothes, clean fitted jeans, nice shoes, etc will help you blend in. (Spain is a great place to invest in some great quality shoes.) Even the poorest folk in Spain will own at least one fine outfit for going out.
The Asturien people are very proud of their heritage and have lots of holidays on which they like to dress in traditional folk-costumes.
During occasions for which in the United States we might have a marching band, Asturias has a "banda de gaites/gaitas" (a bagpipe band.) If you have read through all of my tips, then you know the Asturian bagpipe is a traditional folk instrument and the interest folk culture has experienced a renaissance in recent years. For parades, public ceremonies and other festivities any decent sized town will be proud to display its local banda de gaites. Large cities, such as Gijon and Oviedo also have festivals and occasions for which they invite not only pipers from all over Asturias, but all over Europe. People from all over gather together on these occasions and celebrate their common celtic roots, dress in traditional folk costumes, sing songs, and carry flags displaying their common folk heritage.
Direct link to download some traditional Asturien tunes: http://lsi.uniovi.es/wwwd/musica/musica.html
Devoted Catholics in Spain take their local Virgin very seriously. Every town has it's own Virgin which is paraded through town during a yearly celebration. After they've reached their destination they will have town gathering with traditional dancing and food. Even though many spanish people are Catholic in name only, they still hold high esteem for traditions such as these.
Many young people today in Spain are agnostic or athiest, but because of family pressures still partipate in this rituals because of their cultural, not spiritual significance.
I don't think this tip has any inherent value per say, but you've got to admit this is a pretty interesting hat. The "montera picona" is the traditional hat for the mountain men of Asturias. Pretty wild, eh?
Here you will find the words and music to "Asturias, Patria Querida" the national hymn of Asturias. These music shown below has the lyrics in Spanish, but the Asturianu version is more authentic:
ASTURIES, PATRIA QUERIDA
Asturies, patria querida,
Asturies de miós amores
¡Ay quién tuviera ' n Asturies
en toes les ocasiones.
Tó d' esguilar a aquel árbol,
tó de coyer esa flor
y apurrila a la mio neña,
que la prenda' n el balcón,
que la prenda en só balcón,
que la dexe de prender,
tó d' esguilar a aquel árbol
y la flor tó de coyer.
People in Spain absolutely love it if you try to speak Spanish. Most Spanish people love to talk, and given the opportunity, they will like to show off their English skills. But since you are a guest in their country, it's nice to put forth the effort to communicate in their language first.
You should also know that there is another language spoken in Asturias, called Asturianu. It is about 80% understandable if you speak Spanish fluently. (For example, in Asturianu Asturias is spelled "Asturies", manzana is spelled "mazana", duerme is "durme", etc.) You may notice some signs are written in two languages, one which may appear french to you-- this is Asturianu. Asturianu (or Bable as some uneducated people call it) is the native language of Asturias and experienced a period of decline, but is now experiencing a renaissance. Aproximately 1,000,000 people in Asturias speak this language in addition to Spanish. Many Asturians are very proud of their heritage.
Two kisses- when people greet each other they exchange a 'kiss' on either cheek. You don't actually apply your lips to the person's face, you just sort of rub cheeks. Some women who are really friendly, (the kind who would pinch your cheeks in the USA) might actually place a wet one on you, or two women who are really close friends or family, might actually use their lips. The only exception is a man greeting a man would shake hands. A man greeting a woman, a woman greeting a woman, or a woman greeting a man would all exchange kisses, except in a business setting. Confusing? Well, not really- once you're there you'll see what I mean. For example, you wouldn't kiss the concierge at your hotel. However, if you were at a pub and you got talking to someone and he introduced you to his friends, you would have to kiss them all. If you're nervous, let them make the first move, but move quick or you will seem rude. It is extremely rude not to reciprocate. Again, just watch what others are doing and you'll see how it works.
I stayed at this hotel to go and visit a friend and watch Sporting vs Atletico Madrid. I had booked...more
The most famous hotel in Asturias is located in the heart of Oviedo. The core of the building, which...more
Carretera de Covadonga s/n Soto de Cangas, Cangas de Onis, 33589, Spain
Good for: Families