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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
This is meat country. And sometimes that meat comes wrapped in more meat.
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.
This is monastery country. There one around every corner. If they’re praying for peace and beauty, they’ve been answered in spades.
That’s a lot of country packed into this one county.
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.
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.
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.