It’s nice to visit. It’s nice to take a walk on a joyful summer day. It’s nice to let your hair caressed by playful rays and blue eyes get lost in the blue sky. But these beautiful ideas crumble within hours, being replaced with more plastic expressions, when you feel like the sun beat your head as Doroftei beats his opponent. And that`s the way everything loses its charm, no matter how wonderful it is, because your eyes burdened with fatigue can`t perceive as beautiful anything but a soft bed next to an clock without alarm. The plan was to visit all the tourist attractions in Targu Neamt, and leave for the end the cherry on the cake. Situated somehow on the way home, at the end of the day Popa Museum from Tarpesti seemed to be placed there only to lengthen the agony. But how can you miss such a special place?, said a voice, urging us to revive our enthusiasm. Well, you wholeheartedly miss it out of ignorance, for you do not know and you have never heard of it. Placed deep in the heart of the village, it`s not too alluring to deviate from the road for it. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see the road is full of signs that indicate the same thing: Popa Museum. And then you acknowledge that it is given so much attention to it that it is shameful for you to still ignore it and treat it with indifference. Even if you’re tired and even if “museum” is not the most cheerful and refreshing word…
And thus, following the signs, we’ve reached the cherry on the trip cake. Though a little bit grumpy, I was looking around with brief glances, just waiting to find something I could not like in order to confirm to my ego that everything is just a waste of time. A harmonious wattle fence, ending with a gate that was special, to say the least, and some vehicles with foreign numbers that stood parked in front of it, contradicted my whims. So here were hosted tourists from other countries. They had heard of this place, while I had not. What a shame… Concluding that it was worth seeing, I ended the fog of childish discontent that was covering my eyes and I put a drop of serenity in my anyway tired look.
At Popa museum there is no trivial thing at all. As you step inside, you see the first item of a long series of precious objects. The gate is not just any gate… On it line up village representative characters figures, each one with its rank that can be distinguished here in centimetres. From the mayor to the witches, all of them share the same wood, being skilfully carved by the hands of that whose name has been kept alive until today.
Stepping into the courtyard we are greeted by a fresh carpet of grass that makes you want to take off your shoes. A bunch of cute houses with windows decorated with flowers smile at you with their traditional decorum, forming a picturesque painting. Stone carvings guard the place, being an introduction to what is known as naive art, as the son of the great artist Popa himself explains.
Resting on the grass at the shade of an apple, the words he was saying sounded like a fairytale, because learning so many new things, we felt like children listening to a story told by our grandfather when we visited him at the countryside. Only that instead of an invented world, we were finding out about real things. This way we were told that the creator of this traditional paradise is Nicolae Popa. With the soul of an eternal explorer blessed with talent, passion and curiosity, the artist dedicated himself to numerous and diverse activities from popular theater to sculpture in wood and stone. The love for tradition has made him become a folklore collector and collector of objects from the rural area in order to keep the village alive, for its spirit threatened to crumble under the burden of modernization. Thus, Popa Museum from Tarpesti is open since 1977, including 12 rooms with archaeological, numismatic, religious objects, and naive art and Romanian traditional objects like masks, winter costumes and numerous sculptures.
Popa Museum is a wonderful museum, because the 12 rooms opened to the public are crammed with treasure, and the eyes do not have time to breathe in their rush to embrace so much beauty at once. We would take a full day for each room but it still wouldn`t be enough to admire everything, and then we would start it over again, marvelling at what a big treasure could be left behind by a simple traveller through life. You can breathe there Romanian air, as if all grandparents in the country have joined their small houses in the same yard, spreading the smell of old times. You can fill your lungs with pure tradition, and be proud that you find yourself in it. Although you get soaked in a superficial present, the consciousness of the nation dwells in the soul. And Popa Museum fills your inner slef with being a Romanian.
(translated by Ioana-Sandrina Gheorgiu)