Picos de Europa

The mighty Picos de Europa bordering the autonomous regions of Asturia and Cantabria in the north of Spain have I found on my path twice: in the summer of 2019 we focussed onthe south; the city of Potes and Fuente Dé, and again in 2022 when we explored the north; Cangas de Onís and walked a part of the Ruta del Cares. Kurt Hielscher made several terrficic photos here and I managed to rephograph most of them. Though I really liked Potes, I think I'll keep the most vivid memory to Cangas de Onís, because we swam under its famous bridge and had lunch next to it. Next to the stunning views of the mountains in both 2019 and 2022 ofcourse.


Characteristic houses in Potes in the summer of 2019. By bike we went from Camping la Isla Picos Europa to the city center, which is only on a 3km distance, but with a kid on the back uphill still a little challenging. The reward: charming authentic Potes with its bridges over the Río Quiviesa and Río Deva. 

Puente Viejo in Potes, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Puente Viejo in Potes, 21st of July 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Here's the Puente Viejo, the old bridge, but I could not make the photo from the exact standpoint as Kurt Hielscher had done over 100 years ago. He probably made his photo from one of the houses more close to the shore of the Río Quiviesa. Today most of these houses were not for public accessible but apartments for rent. Still a beautiful spot in Potes. If you take a close look at the photo, you will recognize the house on another photo from Kurt Hielscher below. 

Potes, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Potes, 21st of July 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

During the First World War Spain was neutral. Kurt Hielscher, on a studytrip in Spain at the time when the war broke out, got stuck. He stayed in Spain during the whole war and decided to make the best of it by travelling around and make a lot of photos that eventually turned into his book with a selection of 304 photos in it that was published in 1922.In this book there are four photos of Potes. It is a beautiful village which we used for exploring the nearby and also beautiful Picos de Europa.On this photo you can see the Casa de Cultura de Potes with the Museo Cartigrafico Juan de la Cosa housed in it.Funny detail is the coat of arms that can only be seen on the first photo, but not on mine. Is it gone? No. Has it been removed? Yes! It has been replaced to above the door on the right side from which only a glimpse is to be seen on both photos. I have put a photo from the front view of this door with this coat of arms above it below.

And then we turned left to a passage where Kurt Hielscher made another photo with a characteristic view through a cobblestoned half-decayed and half-open pedestrian tunnel at the C. Virgen del Camino leading directly from Potes' charming centre next to the Río Quivie. Halfway the tunnel there's Bar La Reunión, where we had a drink, and I a homemade (!) beer, and a nice chat with the waiter about Kurt Hielscher's photos. 

Tunnel at the C. Virgen del Camino in Potes, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Tunnel at the C. Virgen del Camino in Potes, 21st of July 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Some of the places Kurt Hielscher photographed in Potes, I found quite easily, but not this one. After a while, I gave up searching and went to a bar for a drink with my family. It was at bar La Reunión Potes at the Calle Virgen del Camino. On the terrace of the bar hang some really big posters of old photos I recognized immediately. Two of them were the photos from Kurt Hielscher I wanted to photograph here, so I asked the bartender if he knew where they were. He did. He told me his dad was really fond of these old photos and also brought me to the house at the Calle Albanes that is situated just a little further but in the same street. 

Potes, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Potes, 1987-1991. Photo: Juan Agustín Núñez Guarde

Potes,  27th of July 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

It turned out that the house was burned down a few years before. No casualties but one person had some injuries but could be saved. When I bought the book of Mr.Núñez with photos from 1987-1991, I could check what the house was like 30 years ago, but it had been modernized already.


Into the Picos - Fuente Dé

Kim with our boys enjoying the scenerey.

Where we went up into the Picos by gondola, Kurt Hielscher, the mounatineer that he was, probably crossed the mountainrange on foot as he did across the whole of Spain over a century ago.

Cangas de Onis

The famous Roman Bridge in Cangas de Onís, the capital of the Kingdom of Asturias till 774 AD, dates back to the 14th Century, so it is not Roman, but it probably is a reconstruction of a previous Roman bridge. Since 1939, a reproduction of the Victory Cross, referring to the battle of Covadonga in 722 AD, has been hanging under the arch. The original, which image is to be find on the flag of Asturias, dates back to the start of the 10th century and is kept in the Oviedo Cathedral.

Cangas de Onís, with some 7.000 inhabitants, is situated only 25 kilometers from the coast of Cantabria, though the city itself is in Asturias, and at the edge of the Picos de Europa where both rivers Sella and Gueña merge.

Puente Romano, Cangas de Onís, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.

Puente Romano, Cangas de Onís, the 12th of August 2022. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Coming from Ribadessella at the coast, we saw a lot of tourists getting ready for canoeing the Sella river. Though we considered the river very inviting, we could not imagine us joining the crowds. In Cangas de Onís itself however, with the impressive view of the bridge, we could not resist the water any longer and went for a spontaneous dive. No canoes here! It was quite an experience to also swim under the bridge and at both sides from the bridge. We also could not resist to enjoy an extensive lunch at Restaurant Mesón Puente Romano on terrace a few meters from the bridge while youngsters were diving from enormous heights into the water. On my photo you can see one in pink shorts jumping. 

Lunch time nextto the bridge, a place we could not resist and enjoyed a lot!

"Canga" means valley in the Asturias/Galician dialect and "onís" is derived from "onna" meaning water in Celtic. The bridge became a National Monument in 1931.  

Crossing the bridge.

Strolling Cangas de Onís.

Route del Cares

And there was another Roman Bridge on one of Kurt Hielscher's photos I wanted to rephotograph in the Picos, but where. Next to, or better said above, my photoproject, we were also having our holidays and looking forward to see more from this part of the Picos by walking a piece of the Route del Cares. And believe it or not, soon we walked into this one.

Roman Bridge next to the Ruta del Cares, 13th of August 2022. Ofcourse we jumped in again before we moved on (no photos because we did not bring our bikini's). 

Puente la Vidre

Before leaving this mountain range with its stunning sceneries there was only one chance left. And that was here. We decided to have a short break before going back to the coast. At first, me and my oldest son, went down to the shore at the wrong side of the bridge and then tried the other, already running out of time a little bit, because we did not want to leave Kim and the youngest too long alone. It wasn't a good day for a swim anyway. 

Puente la Vidre, Trescares, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher. 

Puente la Vidre, Trescares, 14th of August 2022. Photo: Casper Molenaar. 

When we came down at the other side, it soon became clear this was the right spot, but it was not that easy to get exactly in the footsteps of Kurt Hielscher. Trees had grown and the bridge was restored, but in the end, I think I managed. The Puente la Vidre is the only bridge that connects the nearby village of Trescares with the opposite site of the Río Cares. According to a sign the bridge was built in the Late Middle Ages on the remains of an older bridge from the High Roman Empire era linked to the Roman road built by Agrippa going up the Deva and Cares riverbeds. It has a single arch that supports its pillars on rocky massifs on both sides of the river, the road is paved with river stones and protected with parapets. The bridge was rebuilt in 2001 and also known in Turkey because of the 125 years anniversary commercial from Coca-Cola from 2011 when I guess it was rebuilt again?

The bridge as seen from the other side.


Mogrovejo is a lovely village on the way from Potes to Fuente Dé. The photos are from 2019. We visited the village after we spent the night at the parking lot of Fuente Dé in the campervan.

The Monastery of Saint Toribio de Liebana

The same day we also visited the Monastery of Saint Toribio de Liebana with its famous cross, with the Lignum Crucis, a piece of wood, from the cross that Jesus would have died on. Just when we arrived the moment was there in the chapel to come up front and touch the cross which I did.

Below: View on Cangas de Onís from the famous bridge.

In the footsteps of  Kurt Hielscher