The term «Aldeology» It could well fill a gap in the academic lexicon. Studying the villages is not a simple matter or a lack of meaning. It is, nothing more and nothing less, than to know the gear of the peoples, to understand their past, to analyze their future and to forecast their future.
Studying the villages is also a matter of method. Two brothers from the rural nucleus of Asiego (Cabrales), Manuel and Javier Niembro, they combine theoretical and statistical knowledge, with the full experience of living in the town. Both have studied Geography at the University of Oviedo. Javier and Manuel, since the summer of 1999, have engaged in an initiative worthy of praise. Now they live in Asiego. And they bring and take from the beautiful mountainous area of Cabrales a bag full of ideas. They have turned their village into a laboratory full of knowledge possible for the visitor. The small cheese factories, the ointments, the wineries, the stables, the caves, the erías, the caleyas, the houses, the mountains and the men are their object of study. They have approached him in several ways: documenting, chatting with older people, but above all they know him because they live there since childhood and there they develop their economic activity around rural tourism. They also have enough semantic instruments to tell what they see, what they hear and what they read. And they tell it at the same time that they walk, chat and pour a "culín" of cider to their guests-friends.
The itinerary starts at eleven o'clock in the morning or seven o'clock in the afternoon. You visit a modern cheese factory, inside an old house rebuilt according to the aesthetic canons of the usual Asiego. There, with attentive eyes, the guests follow the explanations of how a handmade Cabrales cheese is made. And they are interested, they ask, they want to know every last detail. «And why you can get to chop milk» «And what is rennet» «How to recognize a good cheese».
The farmhouses, the hórreo, the sheepfolds ...
Once again outdoors, take a short walk around Asiego to show the hallmarks of a territory and incidentally erase some topic among those who do not know. With his hand pointing to the horizon of his municipality, Javier Niembro, the geographer, explains what councils, parishes, villages, agrarian terms are. Then he focuses on a house, and from that house he details a detail. The small windows, for example, "are small because of the lack of glass at that time, but there are also those who say they have the necessary size, that of a potty." Smiles «A farmhouse is a set of granary, meadows, and a house built with endogenous materials, the limestone of the Picos de Europa and the wood of the forests, with a corridor always focused to the south to give the sun and dry the crops ». "The roof has stones to resist the wind." "The granaries were anti-rust and moisture constructions." Also explains some social change. "In the 50 years everyone went to the cities, in the 70 many built in Asiego to spend the summer and did so away from the architectural criteria proposed by the environment." "Soot kitchens were replaced by tiles, clay tiles by uralites and blackboards." Now, the aldeologists explain, it seems that people return and there is more construction of a second residence. The new houses are more respectful of the essence than the previous ones. But the people who return are also of legal age; People who left being a girl. The aging index of the villages is high and is growing little by little.
Leaving the village proper amounts one up the erias, traditionally «the cereal zones», in the words of Manuel Niembro, the eldest of the brothers. Erias were subject to private property. But in November, when the cows went down from high to low pastures, in months when they were not cultivated, walls collapsed so that the cattle would walk at ease and the land became communal. In February the masonry works returned in common. "In short, the cycles of the economic activity of the people," Manuel summed up after a clarifying talk.
Las Llosas they are the high zones that surround the erías. A more extensive land to be used by the community. "In a town the collective feeling prevails over the individual, dominates the sense of the public," highlights the young geographer. Two zones exist in the Llosas: the pastures of lowland and the port. Several ports, even today, are operated jointly, such as Asiego-Carreña, Asiego-Porrúa. And in the harbors are the majadas, the scattered cabins for the shepherd's accommodation during the light summer transhumance. "Now many are demolished, abandoned."
Cabrales Cheese Cave
And the ancient symbiosis of man with his environment is still explained. Now, 8 in the afternoon, it's the turn of a cave where cheese is still being cured in a traditional way. And the cave, as Manuel describes, is seen to be alive and that brings its whole being to cheese. There is the penicilium fungus, lichens on the walls, acidic waters and a constant but invaluable flow of karst skin. In the middle of the cave some topic is also broken. "No, Cabrales cheese is not cured in manure or has worms." Faces of satisfaction among some, some disappointment in the most romantic. Manuel comforts the latter, "if they had worms, it would not be bad, it is already known that avant-garde cuisine is that of insects."
Microorganisms, places and men continue to live in a route through the laboratory. "Aldeology" moves forward "per les caleyes." Tall. A livestock farm. "Here, in Cabrales, the liter of milk is the most expensive in the region, after the designation of origin and the creation of the regulatory council, Cabrales cheese can only contain milk from cows that graze in the regulated area."
The pumarada and the llagar of cider
Back to the village, leaving behind the rumor of the milking machine and the heat of the stables, when it gets dark, an ointment is examined, its production is explained and that of other crops, mowing. And it is summed up at the end of the talk: «They are the seasons, the natural cycles on which agriculture depends». Then you walk towards the goal of the trip a craftsman's winery in the heart of rural. "This is house cider, here no additives are used to correct fermentation, it is not gasified, the apple is crushed with grip or counterweight dams." «Cider + chestnuts in autumn = amagüestu». "In spring the first spikes are made." «No, no, it's a lie that you have to throw half in and half out, it's done to make me back, to break.»
The espicha in the wound
In the wine press, the guests of the Niembro brothers take some culines and praise the liquid element, and homemade. The didactic is finished with a espicha practice. Cheese platter, cabbage mayau, boiled eggs, corn tortillas, chorizo with cider, picadillo with potatoes, cod omelette, potato omelette, honey and more cider. Friendship.
"Here there is quality of life, people and the environment are pampered," says a couple from Vilanova i la Geltrup (Barcelona). And the integration formula proposed by the Niembro brothers is assimilated by their students. «After these explanations one is more prepared to do popular tourism, without anyone marking your agendas», maintains the Real Jesus from Madrid.
The oldest of the Niembro, Manuel, explains the virtues of a method they have invented for rural Asturias. «People are interested, pay close attention, and it is desirable to satisfy this interest for the good of the peoples. If ethnography interests the village, it will recover its details and part of its life of yesteryear, ”he maintains.
Asiegu has become a laboratory for rural development.
More information Cabrales TourismText: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com
Information of interestApproaching Carreña de Cabrales, from where a local road starts that takes us to Asiegu in just 10 minutes.
The itinerary starts at the Casa Niembro Bar. To sign up you must make your reservation in advance, by calling 985 84 50 01 or by contacting House of Village Pamirandi.