FEVE fever : 5
In my beginning is my end
Guy sez: Yes, today is the only day to finish where it starts. It thus involves a return journey. After finding breakfast near the bus station, we proceed beneath the rain to various chemists lacking appropriate syringes and, eventually, the Railway Museum in Gijon, which now occupies the original railway station building . The latter celebrates, inter alia, the birth of the Gijon-Langreo railway in 1852.
Unlike any other railway in Spain for the next century, this was built to standard gauge (1.438m), before being forcibly converted to 1m gauge in the 1960s to become part of FEVE — a little before the Spanish AVE project was formulated to introduce standard gauge as the high speed norm.
The museum hosts many fine relics of narrow gauge splendour including a yellow FEVE travelling post office, various tank engines and 4-wheel coaches, which we gaze at in the rain for a while. It also has a splendid and extensive model railway of 00 gauge staffed by middle-aged spaniards happily whiling away their Saturday morning.
Aside from the proper gauge for railways, the main existential problem around these parts appears to be how to pour cider. This has to be aerated prior to consumption. The traditional means is by pouring into a glass held in one hand by the knee from a bottle held in the other hand as far above the head as possible. The possibilities of inaccuracy are considerable, hence best done either outside or over a large bucket. Only a small amount has to be poured at a time — certainly not more than 100ml — so that it does not fall flat before consumption. At dinner yesterday we were introduced to the first technological solution, namely a bottle top which magically mixes air with the cider as it is poured. Today, we encountered the electronic version, where at the end of each table is positioned a device in which you place your glass at an angle of 30 degrees in a holder, brandish your swipe card, and wait for replenishment, as an illuminated display informs you how much you have consumed (or not) from the hidden supply pipe.
This is in Oviedo, which we have reached on an express FEVE 2-coach electric multiple unit from Gijon, taking a mere 30 minutes through a lengthy double-track tunnel (previously home to an inclined plane operating on the principle that the trains of coal descending were heavier than those of empties ascending), and whose city centre is full of cranes and closed roads before we finally reach our reference point, namely a statue of Woody Allen, who must have a weakness for cider.
Lunch takes place on Cider Boulevard in Oviedo, and consists of fabada (large white beans stewed with bits of sausage) as well as our half-dozen cider top/bottom-ups. The cathedral is shut. We wander round the closed market and sit in the park as it starts raining again. No, more serious matters still await, in the shape of Lou’s trews. These had been looming from various shop windows in Gijon, and after a restorative cuppa, here we are at a mere few yards from El Corte Ingles (Oviedo branch), where a girth-attentive lady on the second floor resolves the problem by trial and error for a mere thirty euros, thereby enabling us to subsequently rush through the rain and catch the 4.40 back to Gijon.
Here Lou will subsequently seek out and test the laundry facilities (another advantage of remaining in the same place for two nights in a row), and I will fall asleep for three hours feeling knackered after discovering that the hotel laundry service hasn’t. Note: this last part of the journey also involved our first Spanish taxi, hardly a matter of note. But there we were, and it was pissing it down as it had been all day.
And the evening and that evening’s cider, which we watched being poured by a charming lady while we drank wine, were the fifth day.