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Asturias

My last bus ride! Even if it was an uneventful and totally pleasant ride form Madrid to Oviedo, I’m happy to not have to take another long distance bus for a long time. 6 hours is about my limit before I start getting antsy and that is just the amount of time it takes to get this far north. Kelly has plenty more bus rides lined up for the rest of her trip but she is on her own for that. At least she’ll have the computer and a few seasons of Entourage.

We went to Oviedo because, of course, we had a friend there. Err, well, K has been getting onto me about calling her friends “our” friends because she wants to make sure everyone knows SHE knows everyone in Europe and not me. This is true. I don’t really know anybody here and anybody I do know hasn’t invited me to their house to stay a week with them and their mom, which is exactly what Bea did.

or at least I think she did. It really could be that we invited ourselves. Hrm. You’ll have to ask Kelly

But however it worked out, we ended up here in Arenas de Cabrales – a town of about 800 people in the state of Austuria and somewhat working the tourist market as the hiking and sceneary around here is breathtaking. I’m not just saying that to be all positive and nice. The state of Austurias really is beautiful. one of the most beautiful places we have been, in my mind.

If you didn’t know…and we didn’t…Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe behind Switzerland. I’m curious to know how one defines this statistic – is it mountains per capita? Density of mountains per hectacre? Tallest peaks per sq km?

Well however it is, Austrias also ranks first in Spain in it. It is refered to as the Wales of Spain as the mountains shoot up from all sides, covered in grasses and rock outcroppings. In the winter the cows exist near the villages generally located down in the valleys. but in the summer the cows head to the higher altitudes to escape the heat and eat the richer grasses. The Austurians say this makes the milk unique and flavorful. And what do you do with a surplus of flavorful milk? You make cheese, of course!

Cabrales, a region of a dozen or so villages in this area, is famous for a particularly strong and stinky cheese. The cheese, aptly named Cabrales, is almost blue throughout from the mold it grows while aging in the farmer’s caves nearby. (They don’t really age them in caves anymore though because of EU rules, or at least they don’t for the cheese they sell.) it is a really strong cheese and takes a little getting used to, even for those of us who love other blue cheeses. I like the younger ones and even the older ones with honey or in a cream sauce, but neither of us have come around to eat it up with spoon like some of the old times do.

The other thing Austurias is famous for is their sidra – apple cider. Made in a similar process to wine, the cider is pressed from 4 different types of apples, fermented and then aged for 10 months in steel vats. It is then bottled and sold for incredibly low prices (maybe a euro or 2?) to every bar and restaurant in a 100 mile radius. This is not the super sweet stuff that you might think of when you think of cider in America. This is a lighter, lightly alcoholic (about 6%) wonderful summer beverage. And it even requires a bit of skill to drink.

The trick in pouring sidra is that you have to pour it from a distance of about a meter onto the side of a wide-mouthed glass. This allows the liquid to pick up some speed and then “break” when it hits the glass, destabalizing the oxygen from the rest of the liquid and generating a small amount of foam. You only pour a little bit, about 2-3 ozs and then you quickly drink it all. If you are sharing a cup, which is common, you pour at a little bit of the end over the part you drank from, thereby “cleaning” the glass.

Then you repeat this process everytime you want to drink some. Some places cheat and have devices to basically inject air into the process, but that seems to ruin the fun of it all and yes, it does taste differently if you don’t do this. But most places hold true to the old method and have special buckets or devices that allow you to pour in this style and not cause a mess as you can imagine you are going to spill a good 15% of you sidra in the process.

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One Response

  1. the fish photos is making me hungry.
    cool info about the sidre too!

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