There are some places in Romania that will simply fascinate you. And one of them is, believe it or not, a private peasant museum, situated in the small village of Tarpesti from Neamt County, named Nicolae Popa Museum. The museum was founded in the ‘70s by the local sculptor Nicolae Popa, in his own house.
After being wounded in the Second World War, imprisoned by the communists for fighting against their regime and left without any personal goods besides his house, Nicolae Popa decides to wear a different kind of battle for defending the Romanian values. With hard work and commitment, driven by a strong native artistic inclination, he becomes one of the most valued and appreciated naive sculptors of Romania and a true creator of folklore.
Ironically, later on, the same communists who accused him of acting against the national interests were those who encouraged him the most. Nicolae Ceausescu even declared himself a true admirer of his creations and, as a result, the road to the museum was paved and a parking lot and a bridge were built to ease the tourist access. More than that, Nicolae Popa became an iconic image of the communist regime and the country was strongly promoted outside its borders through a set of documentaries focused on his life and creations. Each year, especially between 1970 and 1980, hundreds of coaches with tourists all over the world visited the museum.
A fascinating thing about his work is that, without special training, he succeeded to create shapes and figures of high artistic value. Inspired by the Dacian statues and pottery discovered on the local archaeological site, Nicolae Popa developed his unique way of transmitting to generations to come to the symbols and knowledge of the impressive ancestral heritage. He was a fierce defender and promoter of Romanian folklore and passionately dedicated his entire life to this. He created hundreds of ritual masks and traditional costumes, he organized all sorts of folk performances, he composed lyrics and wrote books and spent many days searching and restoring different traditional objects collected from all over Moldavia. And he didn’t stop a second from creating, not even when he turned 90 years. Nicolae Popa Museum is not just an enormous exhibit, it’s the story of an artist who wanted and succeeded to capture the quintessence of the Romanian people.
His family carries on his dream and now Nicolae Popa Museum enriches periodically with new traditional art objects. Along with the ethnographic collection, which occupies the largest part of the museum, there is an impressive numismatic collection and a naive paintings gallery. Also, the owners of the Nicolae Popa Museum organized a small boutique for souvenirs where tourists can buy traditional wood objects and masks, sculptures and glass icons. And, for a complete authentic Romanian experience, tourists may even try on some traditional costumes especially designed for them.