Knuckle Soup for the Soul — Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

Posted by - September 25, 2014 | Category: Escapes, Europe, Romania

Neamt County, Romania

I thought there would be more wheelbarrows.

I’m not quite sure why, but like many first-timers to the country, I came saddled with three notions of Romania: Gypsies, Dracula, and Poverty. Romania’s GDP. As one of the trip organizers was quick to point out, not all Romanians are Gypsies, and not all Gypsies are Romanian.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

Durau Monastery, Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

My second notion was shot down rather quickly as well. Short of a single cartoonish Dracula mug spotted in a roadside gift shop, I was hard-pressed to find any evidence of Bram Stoker’s spawn in these parts – you’ve got to go to Transylvania (another Romanian county) for that sort of thing.

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And poverty? While there was no shortage of people living modestly, there was also no shortage of fancy restaurants either.

But not one single wheelbarrow.

Horse and cart, Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

So What Exactly is Neamt County?

Neamt is one of the 41 counties of Romania, about a 5 hour drive from Bucharest, or a one hour drive from the nearest airport in Bacau (served by Blue Air, who incidentally wins for most sympathetic barf bag.)

Red Lake near Bicaz Gorge, Neamt County, Romania, #priNeamt

Neamt County is a whisper to Bucharest’s scream. The sort of place designed for savouring, not devouring. It’s not on any backpacker trail. And it’s not on any tourist circuit. I saw one tour bus during the entire week.

Folks have just never heard of it.

Horses in Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

It doesn’t have the easy hop-on, hop-off practicality of Bucharest, the allure of the resort-friendly Black Sea, or the marketing windfall that Transylvania’s Dracula affords. But a visit to any place is not based on what that place doesn’t have —  it’s based on what it does have. And what Neamt County does have are countless monasteries, pokey folksy museums, rolling hills, and more nature activities than just about anywhere else in the country.

Take that Dracula.

Farm land, Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

This is meat country. And sometimes that meat comes wrapped in more meat.

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This is nature country. Home to two of Romania’s nine national parks, hills that roll into lakes, and mountains that burst through the clouds.

Bicaz Lake, Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

This is monastery country. There one around every corner. If they’re praying for peace and beauty, they’ve been answered in spades.

Neamt Monastery, Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

That’s a lot of country packed into this one county.

Bicaz Bridge, Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

One of the delicacies prepared for us was pork knuckle soup at the lovely Pensione Aristocratis. Prepared in a cauldron over an open fire, it didn’t look that appealing.

Knuckle soup, Aristocratis restaurant, Neamt County, Romania #priNeamt

Frankly, it had the same allure as a knuckle sandwich. I almost passed up on it, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was perhaps the tastiest, most surprising meal of the entire trip.

In a way that knuckle soup is a good analogy for Neamt County. On paper it doesn’t sound that appetizing. But if you dive in and take that leap of faith, it delivers a lot more than expected. 

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Between 5 and 11th of September I travelled #priNeamt – the third edition of the most important event dedicated to promoting online a county from Romania. Details about this event on http://goo.gl/Lw8mzy Organizer: Eventur Bucharest. Powered by Petrom Romania. Main partners: Autoritatea Națională pentru Turism, CJ Neamț, City Hall of Piatra Neamț, Bistrița Hotel from Durău, Blue Air and AutoBoca Rent-a-car.

 

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36 comments - add one
  1. Wow. You certainly have a way with words. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of meat wrapped in more meat (what a heavy meal) but that scenery is amazing. And I don’t seem able to pass up pokey folksy museums. 🙂

  2. “not all Romanians are Gypsies, and not all Gypsies are Romanian.”

    A quick search would reveal that less than 4(four)% of Romanians are Gypsies and the countries that have the largest population are USA, followed by Brazil and Spain.

    As a Romanian-Canadian, I am happy to see my Canadian felllows are willing to find out more about my Romanian fellows. What one gets from the North American mass media is useless. Just like the Romanian press writing or showing only the Canadian Native reserves issues or downtown Detroit.

    As for poverty, plenty in Romania, although it is somewhat relative. Considering the number of McDees and Timmies they have, it may them actually look richer! Since globalization has yet to wipe out the local cultures, one can still find centuries old traditions, loacl authenticity, real food and people that really give a d–n when they ask how you’re doing.

    Cheers!

  3. Loved this post! I have never been to Romania but I think the traditional “GDP” has always been stuck in my mind. I can’t get over how pretty and sunny Neamt county is – although I do confess that the meat has me a bit freaked out!

  4. Wow, Romania has been pretty much under the radar for me but it looks like there’s so much to see, it just may have to be one of my next trips. Probably minus the pork knuckle soup!

  5. What was that meat on meat dish? Looked incredible!
    My family is of Slovak descent and that knuckle soup reminds me of what my grandpa used to cook. It looked so blah, but I can still recall the aroma and taste. Just stepping through the door into his kitchen as a little girl, I knew when the soup was ready!

  6. Great post! Brought back the memories of the months I spent there some 20yrs ago. the only thing I didn’t like about my stay was…the infamous Soup (I think it’s called Chorba de Burta but spelling is probably wrong). Otherwise, I loved simple and hearty foods…although I have to admit it’s very close to the food I grew up with in Moldova.

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