Friday, April 25, 2014

The North of Spain - Oviedo, Covadonga, & Lastres

Over the weekend of March 21-23 we took a trip to Oviedo in the north of Spain to  attend a baptism.  In February when we saw the Sisters from Oviedo in Madrid we promised them we would come to a baptism if we could, to which they said, "Great!  We have one scheduled for March 22."  It was far enough in advance that we had no conflicts, so we made arrangements to stay with the senior couple in Oviedo, The Hunts from Springerville/Eager, Arizona.  Small world; they know the entire extended Rogers clan, my mother's family.
Northern Spain is truly beautiful and so different from the plains of central Spain.  It is lush and green.  And HILLY!  Wow.  I had no idea how rugged it is in the north, even though we had visited Santander last fall with the Benitos, and yes, Santander is hilly (at least you travel through a very mountainous region to get there), but I wasn't aware of how extensive the mountain ranges are.  They extend west from the Pyrennes all the way to Santiago de Compostela.  As moisture comes in off the Atlantic, it hits the mountains and just dumps water, like all the time.  It looks like the islands of Hawaii, except about 20 degrees cooler.  They have winters and there is snow on the peaks year-round but down near the coast in the cities it's quite pleasant.  Especially in the summers when Madrid is sweltering.  Wealthy Madrileños all have a home somewhere up north to escape to in summertime.
Oviedo is the capital city of the Principality of Asturias in northern Spain. The Kingdom of Asturias began in 720, with a Visigothic Aristocrat Pelagius`s revolt against the Muslims occupying most of Spain at the time. The Arab invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 took control of most of the peninsula until the revolt in the northern mountains by Pelagius.  
The LDS Church has a thriving branch there that is filled to capacity every Sunday.  They moved a couple of weeks after our visit into a new facility.

On train leaving Madrid.  High-speed trains are MUCH more comfortable than airplanes.  Leg room!

From the train going through the Picos de Europa mountain range south of Oviedo. The deciduous trees were still dormant.  It must be spectacular in late spring, early summer.  But always green and usually misty. Shangrila.
Downtown Oviedo early Friday evening in a light drizzle.  Awarded as the cleanest city in Spain.
The town park, where they change the date in the grass daily.
A small plaza on the way to the cathedral.  Lots of statuary.   A terrific and well-hidden art museum in a little street off this square.

Oviedo Museo de Bellas-work of Dionisio Baixeras-"Felicidad"-1886.  I love this painting; the photo doesn't do it justice.  Kids, for our 50th wedding anniversary I want this painting.

Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Savior or Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. 
The Cathedral was founded by King Fruela I of Asturias in 781 AD, and enlarged in 802. The present edifice was begun in 1388. It is mainly a fine Gothic building, in a Classic and Flamboyant Style.
It wasn't open while we were there. My biggest regret was not being able to go inside.   The reason for wanting to?  In the Cámara Santa (Holy Chamber or Crypt) it houses what is reputed to be one of the most incredibly interesting relics of ancient Christianity:  
The Sudarium Google it. It's worth it.  The arca santa (pic below) houses the ancient relics, including "the cloth".  Unfortunately, the Sudarium itself is locked inside and cannot be viewed, for reasons that are self-explanatory when you find out what it is, but still it would have been fascinating, just to see "the arca santa".
Arca Santa de Oviedo.  I wasn't able to see this; it was inside the cathedral.

Plaza Mayor, town hall in background, with Viv and Sister Hunt, on our way to the cathedral.

 Congas de Onis:
 Saturday morning we left to visit Covadonga, on the way passing through Congas de Onis (the following 4 pictures), a picturesque town in the foothills of the Picos de Europa mountains of northern Spain.  The river Sella flows out of the snows and springs of the mountains, beautiful, clear, clean water, but very cold.

From the old medieval bridge of the river.  The water is deceptively deep because it's so clear.
The trees along the river park are trimmed and grafted together to form an interesting canopy in the summer.

Atop the ancient bridge with the Picos de Europa mountains to the south behind us.

I climbed down to the river, mainly just to give Vivienne fits as she yelled at me from the bridge.  I wanted to see if the water was really cold.  It was
is a mountain village and takes its name from the Sacred Cave of Covadonga.  In 722 AD, Iberian Christians won a namesake battle over the Muslims here.

The Basilica of Covadonga.  We arrived at noon and heard the most angelic boys choir singing for mass.  I got inside to listen to some of it, but pictures were not allowed. I have a video of the ringing of the bells, but can't get blogger to load it, sorry.  You'll have to imagine how cool it was to hear it bouncing off the mountains around us. Reminded me of "The Sound of Music".

The Holy Cave of Covadonga
Here was the first Christian victory in Spain over the Arabs and Berbers invading from north Africa under the Umayyad banner, and is often considered to be the start of the 770-year effort to expel Muslim rulers governing Iberia during the Reconquista.  The Christians had fled to this cave and from there successfully repelled the Muslim attacks, killing their leader and many of the soldiers.  It represents the turning point in Muslim conquest of Europe.  From there, over the next 770 years the Christians slowly drove the Muslims from the continent, Isabella and Ferdinand finally expelling them in 1492, the same year they financed the sailing of Columbus to the new world.
Therefore, Covadonga is sort of "holy ground" to the Spanish.  Muslim chronicles about the Battle of Covadonga say that in this cave fled the Spanish leader, Pelagius and his forces, feeding on honey the bees left in the crevices of the rock. Christian chronicles claim that a miraculous intervention of the Virgin Mary occurred, in essence, that she appeared to Pelagius in the cave and promised him victory.  In any event he was successful, a shrine has been built in the cave, from which flows a beautiful mountain spring, and here Pelagius, first king of Asturias, and his wife are buried.  He died in 737.  Pope John Paul II visited here and anointed it a holy shrine, the site of a divine miracle.

Vivienne at entrance to the cave.  No pictures allowed inside.

I surreptitiously took this photo of the sacred shrine.  The little arched wall to the right is the tomb of Pelagius

We drove out of the mountains and down to the seaside village of Lastres for lunch.  It's a quaint fishing village that gets its fair share of tourists.  There was a little restaurant with a great view, and fresh fish!

A delicious 3-course meal.  The 1st course salads (not shown) were fantastic.  De-boning the fish for the 2nd course took some work.

After lunch we drove to the sea shore.  It was raining so I was the only one the braved the elements for this awesome shot.  To me there was something primordial about it, the smell, the sound, the view.
 Saturday night baptism & Sunday with the Missionaries:

The baptism of Enrique Victoria Martinez from Dominican Republic. Baptismal font in the background barely held these 2 good-sized men.  Elder Hunt is an inspiration; came to Spain not speaking Spanish (his wife does) but he never gives up even when not able to follow the conversations.  A sweet man.

Us with Elder Quesne (pronounced Kane) from England.

Lunch at the Hunts apartment after Church with all the missionaries in Oviedo.  President Jackson at the far end. There were 10 investigators at church.  Diligent and happy missionaries.

Some of our favorite missionaries: Sisters Johns and Trone.  Hard workers and always happy. Taken just as we were leaving to catch the train back to Madrid.  It was a great weekend and we wish we could have shared it with our whole family.  Glad to be serving a mission in Spain.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Enjoying the missionaries

This is what you call back-blogging I guess.  It is so easy to get behind in sharing our experiences because we are living them!  WE LOVE being missionaries and are so grateful for the blessings that we have been given.

P-day at a bowling alley with Hermanas Endicott, Mather, Aagard, O'keeffe, Shelton, and Scheu.

Hermanas Scheu, Frost, Heims, Snelson, and Crandall.

Hermanas Hansen (from Norway) and Shelton

Bubba with Hermanas Stepp and Olsen on the last day of their mission.

A bunch of temple missionaries going out to see the sites of Madrid on their P-day.

Claire (from England) and Clara Benito at a JAS dance in March

Hermana Daniella Moreno just before she leaves for a mission to Osorno, Chile
 We had the opportunity to go to the Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and stay with our good friends the Buhlers.  We had the best time ever.  The Buhlers were with us for the nearly two months we spent at the Provo MTC and flew to Spain with us late in January of 2013.  They are going home soon and they will be missed!  They were awesome missionaries and worked so hard and did so much good.
Meeting our friends the Buhlers at the airport.

Elder Buhler, Tiare, Hna Smith, Hna Fowers, Sister Buhler, and Sister Sullivan in Las Palmas

View of the back yard from the old mission home in the Canary Islands.

Laura and Vivienne at the beach at the south end of the island, Gran Canary.

The water was gorgeous.

Tons of lizards and these flowers grow like weeds.

It is a desert island.

Hermana Sullivan with Hermana Smith at the JAS Institute in Las Palmas

The Buhlers took us sailing - the harbor of Las Palmas

"I sail!"......  Bubba as the skipper.  Nana was down below feeding the fish.

With the Elders at Telde, Gran Canary--Artesami (?), Sazquela, Rawlinson, and Saunders

The island of Gran Canary, up in the mountains in the center of the island.  The vegetation changes dramatically from the beaches to the mountain top.

Bubba with the canary dog that the islands were named after. Not canary birds as most people think.

On the bell tower of the 15th century cathedral in Las Palmas, with Merit, a lady from Helsinki of all places!

This was the home of Christopher Columbus in the Canary Islands.  I love the wooden balconies.  There is also a lovely courtyard in the center of the building.

Sweeping the streets with palm leaves.

We got spend about five days with the Buhlers and we loved every minute of it.  We are so glad our mission president encouraged us to go visit the Buhlers.  We are so blessed!  The gospel is true and the Lord loves ALL of His children.