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December 2, 2012

Spain: Oviedo


Cathedral of San Salvadora in Oviedo

Cathedral of San Salvadora in Oviedo (HDR)

Oviedo is a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, pleasant, tranquil and pedestrianised city.  It is as if it did not belong to this world, as if it did not exist … Oviedo is like a fairy-tale.”

—Woody Allen

Woody, it seems, loves Oviedo.  Indeed, as we learned during our own visit, Woody used Oviedo as a location for his movie “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”.

Woody Allen's statue in Oviedo

Woody Allen’s statue in Oviedo

And Oviedo loves Woody back.  There’s a statue of Woody Allen, now a popular tourist attraction, prominently anchored near the downhill edge of Campo de San Francisco, Oviedo’s central park.

Even Woody thinks his statue is a bit odd:

“My statue in Oviedo is one of the great mysteries of Western civilization,” says Woody.

In truth Woody exaggerates only a little.  Oviedo, the capital city of the Principality of Asturias, is a particularly nice town.  With its meandering street plan and quaint buildings, it does, as Woody states, have a fairy-tale character.  And it is a bit of a mystery that there is a statue of Woody in Oviedo.

Oviedo seems a place that belongs more in the northern part of Europe rather than on the Iberian Peninsula; it doesn’t look typically Spanish.  Indeed, Asturias is Spain without the influence of Moorish culture.  The Kingdom of Asturias, unlike the rest of Spain, held out against the Moors.  Add in that Oviedo was largely destroyed in the Spanish Civil War and its reconstruction was done with a coordinated mixture of styles.  For whatever reason modern day Oviedo doesn’t quite feel Spanish.

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Inside the cloister of Cathedral of San Salvadora

Inside the cloister of Cathedral of San Salvadora

Pilgrims once traveled through Asturias to avoid the Moorish territory to the south.  At a branch point of the Northern Route of the Way of St. James, Oviedo has grand religious buildings built to awe visitors on their way to Santiago de Compostela.  Most impressive is the Cathedral of San Salvadora.  The cathedral was built, reconfigured, and expanded over centuries.  In its modern day sprawling form it incorporates a mix of architectural styles from Pre-Romanesque to Baroque into a tourist and pilgrim worthy sight.

Another part of Asturia’s Christian past sits on a hill overlooking Oviedo’s old town.  Here 200 meters apart are two pretty Pre-Romanesque churches, Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo.  Though both buildings were constructed in 848 as part of larger palace complex, they sit today by themselves on the hillside.  Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo are included in Oviedo’s UNESCO World Heritage listing in part for their architectural significance.

The church of St Mary at Mount Naranco

The church of St Mary at Mount Naranco (HDR)

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No doubt architectural historians will find Oviedo fascinating.  For a more casual visitor, the town’s appeal is found in its tight, character-filled streets and small plazas.  Oviedo is comfortable, livable, and pretty.  A touring agenda is not required; just wander and discover.  When the feet tire, stop in a quaint plaza and pull up a chair at a café.  Relax and have a coffee or sip a beer and soak up the atmosphere.  Better yet have a sidra, the local cider, vertically splashed into a glass by a waiter with arms fully extended.  Once served, the sidra is consumed rapidly.  The sloppy serving technique aerates the sidra and improves the flavor but the effect lasts only for a moment.

After a short visit it is easy to see that Woody has it right.  Oviedo is a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, pleasant, and tranquil place.

After all of this, there’s one question that remains:  Do I get a statue in Oviedo too?

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Posing with Woody

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More from Woody about his statue:

Question: 

How do you feel about your statue in Oviedo?

Woody Allen:

“My statue in Oviedo is one of the great mysteries of Western civilization. It’s a lovely town in Spain. I went there a couple of times and it’s beautiful. I went once years ago for something. Without asking me, I never did anything there, I never saved anybody’s life, and they said, ‘We are putting a statue up of you in town.’ I thought it was a joke. Then in the town there is a statue of me.”

It’s a good statue, completely undeserved, but a bronze statue of me. It looks good. I’ve got my sport jacket on, corduroy trousers. First I thought it was one of those things where I leave town and they take it in, then when Brad Pitt comes to town they put his statue out. Why a statue of me? I’ve never done anything up there.”

“I have a photograph of it at home with two feet of snow piled on my head. People keep stealing the glasses from it – and they are welded onto the statue. Guys come with blowtorches at night and they take the glasses off. I have been there where I’ve had half of my glasses off. They fixed it up this time when I was going there. It’s inexplicable. I don’t know what the connection is, like picking someone off the street. I just don’t understand, but they are nice people, and I’m happy to go there. I don’t visit the statue much.”

Spanish tourist pose with Woody

Spanish tourists pose with Woody

Inside the market

Inside the market (HDR)

Inside the cloister of Cathedral of San Salvadora

Inside the cloister of Cathedral of San Salvadora

Cathedral of San Salvadora (HDR)

Cathedral of San Salvadora (HDR)

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2 Comments »

  1. […] Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias (Spain, 2012) […]

    Pingback by The List « Another Header — December 19, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  2. […] Bordeaux and Angers France.  In Spain, the cathedrals in León, Santiago de Compostela, Salamanca, Oviedo, and Segovia are all pilgrimage-worthy.  Porto Portugal and Canterbury England also have […]

    Pingback by France: Amiens | Another Header — November 16, 2013 @ 6:08 am


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