Roaming on Roman Roads

camin real 4The Camín Real de la Mesa is the route that links Asturias with León.  It was used well into the twentieth-century by the traders who had to pass over the mountains with their asses and mules laden with merchandise.  There are ventas, or stopping places, along the way where they could break the journey, stable their animals safe from the wolves and bed down for the night.

This is the way the Muslims came into Asturias on their summer raids or razzias in the early days of the Reconquista when the rump Kingdom of Asturias was battling to hold on to a Christian presence in Spain.  Near Villandás the historian Sánchez Albornoz says there was a great battle where the invading muslim armies were defeated by Alfonso II.

Nowadays traffic follows the rivers along the valley floors and this makes the old carters’ trails great for hiking.  Even when they are country lanes there is little traffic and in the higher sections you have the feeling that little has changed since the original prospectors came to decide on the best route for a road.  Those prospectors were Roman.

The Romans had a genius for finding the directest route to their destination.  As you follow the path along a crest you cannot but admire their ability to find the smoothest possible way to descend into Grado and the coastal plains of Asturias.  They did not make switchback curves like the modern road that goes up through Somiedo; they followed the crests down as far as they could.

If you want to read about this network of paths, here is a good resource.  It is the association of the Camín Real de la Mesa.  We will walk some of these trails on the Shakespeare in the Mountains reading group dates.



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