Do YOU believe – really believe – in witches? I mean on October 31st all kinds of craziness comes to the fore, with people – mostly kids – dressing up in all kinds of weird looking clothes, and outlandish outfits to celebrate Halloween. But the truth is Halloween night is one of the biggest nights of the year for witches. How do YOU imagine a witch actually looks? To me they’re much like the wicked witch of the North in the classic movie Wizard of Oz. As a travel journalist I’d never imagined part of travel media press trip would involve most of one day focusing on, you guessed it, witches. But a few years ago the tourist office of Spain invited me to be part of a 9 US travel media trip to Spain and the region of Galicia.
Located in the northwest corner of Spain, its coastline overflows with colorful coves, greener than green valleys, and fast running rivers that – on a sunny day like we had when we were there – sparkle as if they were filled with hundreds and thousands of the world’s finest diamonds. One of the most important people on any press trip is the guide. How good, or yes bad, is she/he, and do they give you newsy, thought-provoking information? Ours was, I thought, a real winner.
The bus on which we were traveling in Galicia stopped on the upper reaches of a huge hill – one could hardly call it a mountain – and as the breeze that’d appeared to have come out of nowhere, shrieked around our vehicle in eddying wind whipped gusts, our savvy guide told us, in the best “Get to know the local witches well” voice, “as you’ll NOT want them to cast a spell over you” almost whispered that moments from now, we’d be in a unique village called Santa Tegra.
As promised we rolled into Santa Tegra to be confronted, and almost enveloped, by a vast phalanx of booths, small stands, curio shops (of all shapes and sizes) selling – or trying to – almost everything connected to Spain, history, local crockery, stone ware, toys, gizmos of one sort or another, and enough scarfs, jackets, rings and things, to stock at least 5 huge American shopping Malls. Tucked in amongst all this paraphernalia, there were seemingly never-ending booths and shelves with witch dolls that highlighted how wizardly, wonderful and wicked witches were and, even better if one wanted to purchase one, they conveniently came in sizes small, medium, large, and were “tourist ready” and clothed in almost every sort of dress, outfit, and all in colors you never knew existed. All of us, all at the same time, instantly knew why our tour bus stopped at this precise spot.
Nevertheless, we all – as expected – stood, gawked and rubbernecked at this cauldron of local lore, as our guide informed us that Galicia is known as the Land of Witches. Embellishing this point, he theatrically stated that in olden times when someone was stricken with some sort of deadly disease, the local witch was summoned to cure the illness. Did they know back then, I wondered, if they would one day be a powerful draw for tourists?
I’ll confess, I’m still a real sucker for all this kind of sightseer schmaltz, and sensing this “I’m ready to buy” syndrome, one of the vendors, elderly and frail looking, with a spindly black hat, and wearing her required Witches wardrobe, approached me and pulled out this truly intimidating witch (model, of course, NOT a real one!) seated in a rocking chair and, when wound up, would rock back and forth. Even better, if one clapped one’s hands, she’d let out a blood curdling yell! I purchased it on the spot. As I said, for something offbeat, coupled with an unequalled array of exquisite scenery, check out Spain and, of course, Galicia. You might even say “It’s spellbinding.” Contact John: firstname.lastname@example.org