Friday, December 22, 2006

Etxachar: Decorations with Tombstones and Bizarre Stores

Standing in front of a map with irregular squares with numbers written in Euskera, we tried to figure out the name of the Church we had just visited in Etxalar , a small town in the north of Navarra, Spain.

But it was mission impossible. The map had no logic. The names did not belong to the streets or the places. "Maybe they were different family names," we speculated. However, non of them was duplicated. Consequently, we decided to enter the town’s shop to ask.

Inside the store, everything was bizarre. The shopkeeper wanted to make sure that her clients could find everything they needed, and due to the shop’s limited space, she chose variety over order.

To pick up an ice-cream, we had to look through salmons and oysters that were stored in the same fridge. We had to be careful not to get our fingers caught in the mouse traps that were sold next to the chocolate cookies, and when we got to the register, we had to control our sweet tooth so we wouldn’t buy Christmas sweets in the middle of march.

The store lady cordially explained to use that the map showed the names of the town’s houses. She said that since the town had only 800 inhabitants, it was easier to remember the names of the houses than the street names.

She also revealed to us that no one was buried underneath the tombstones that were scattered along Saint Mary’s Church's front yard. “One day, the current priest found them in a corner of the Church collecting dust, and he decided it was better to use them to decorate the Church than to keep them inside,” she told us.

Although I doubt I will adopt this strange decorating technique, I take with me a little magic from this town of enigmatic stories.

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