Thursday, June 16, 2011

Amy Jo Saltzman: Gijón, Spain

Amy Jo Saltzman is a senior studying Chemistry at the University of Utah. She is currently abroad with the Advanced Spanish Language study abroad program in Gijón, Spain.

This summer I am participating in the Gijon Spanish study abroad program. We are studying Spanish history and art. Along with studying we have the opportunity to visit the places we study on excursions. One excursion took me to one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
The day started with everyone meeting in the Plaza del Marqués, this is a historic plaza right next to the beach with a fountain and a statue of Palayo (this is also a very lively place at night with many sidrerias close by). From the Plaza we took a bus to a medieval city called Santillana Del Mar where we were free to explore the city. Santillana del Mar is said to be the city of three lies; it is not holy (santi), flat (llana), nor by the sea (mar). Santillana del Mar is however a very interesting city, as you walk down the main street you see what were once nobility houses built in the 15th to the 18th centuries. These houses are now shops selling local foods and souvenirs on the bottom level and homes on the higher levels. The main street leads to a 12th century Romanesque former monastery.
After exploring the city and tasting a few local treats we boarded the bus and made our way to Covadonga. This is an incredibly beautiful place almost hidden away in a mountain side with green trees all around. In Covadonga there are some caves that lead to a site where the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared to Palayo and his soldiers before the first battle won by Spain starting the re-conquering of their lands from the Muslims. Where this occurred a small chapel was built. As you walk through the cave it opens up into the open and it looks like the chapel was carved out of the wall. Under the chapel is a waterfall and a small reservoir that are accessible by stairs coming down from the chapel. Next to the waterfall is a fountain that comes from a spring called the Fuente de siete Caños or the Fuente del Matrimonio. This spring is supposed to ensure marriage within one year to anyone who drinks from it. Up the road a short walking distance is the Basilica, a stunning neo-Romanesque building. Covadonga is my favorite place I have been to so far in Spain.
The last stop on the excursion was to see the Puente Romano in Cangas de Onìs. This is a bridge built in the 13th century from which hangs a copy of the Cruz de la Victoria, the symbol of Asturias (the providence of Spain which we were in). We took off our shoes and walked in the cool refreshing water, ate some ice cream then got back on the bus to go home. Spain is a beautiful country full of rich culture and history. It is also full of wonderful people who enjoy eating great food and staying up late.

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