Secluded from the rest of Spain by the Cantabrian mountain range, the small autonomous community of Asturias is often undeservingly overlooked by tourists, which makes it an ideal off-the-beaten-track destination.
Asturias is the greenest (which also means rainiest) part of Spain and is particularly famous for the majestic Picos de Europa, whose beauty was consecrated in 1918 when the area became Spain's first national park.
The region evolved from the Kingdom of Asturias, the first medieval kingdom to be founded after the Moorish conquest of Iberia in 711. In honour to this illustrious past, the modern region is officially known as the Principality of Asturias (Principado de Asturias in Spanish). The title of Prince of Asturias is bestowed to the heir to the Spanish throne, just like the title of Prince of Wales in the United Kingdom.
The flag of Asturias shows the Victory Cross (Cruz de la Victoria), said to have been carried by King Pelagius of Asturias at the Battle of Covadonga in 722 - the first significant victory by the Christians against the Moors, which assured the independence of the Kingdom of Asturias. The cross is a popular symbol of the region and is often displayed on car stickers.
The Asturian language, closely related to Leonese, is understood by approximately 550,000 people, including 100,000 native speakers. It is a recognised and protected language, although not one of the five official languages of Spain.
Famous people from Asturias include (chronologically): the explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the biochemist Severo Ochoa (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), and the F1 champion Fernando Alonso.
Asturian cuisine is highly regarded within Spain. It is especially known for its river salmon and seafood, notably squid, crab, shrimp, bonito and sea bass. There are over 100 different types of cheese in Asturias, each being produced in its own village. The most famous cheese is Cabrales, produced with unpasteurised cow’s milk in the mountains of the Picos de Europa.
The Asturians have a long tradition for producing apple cider. Asturian cider contrasts with the French and English ones by being drier and using mostly acidic apples instead of sweet or bittersweet ones.
The most emblematic regional dish is the fabada asturiana, a rich stew made with white beans, pork shoulder, morcilla (black pudding), chorizo, and saffron, and most commonly eaten during winter.
Among other typical dishes, let's note cachopo (fried meat with ham and cheese, similar to Cordon Bleu), caldereta asturiana (seafood casserole), merluza a la sidra (hake in cider), frisuelos (crêpes similar to those from Brittany), tocinillo de cielo (a sweet made with egg yolk and sugar), and arroz con leche (rice pudding dessert).
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