Neculai Ghimpu was born on July 15, 1912 in Covurlui commune, Galați county, being the sixteenth child of the family.
At the age of 21, more precisely in the period 1933-1934, he began his first trip, a walking tour of Greater Romania, a brave initiative carried out under the auspices of the magazine Romania picturesque, a publication dedicated to nature lovers between the two world wars.
Almost 40 years later, Neculai Ghimpu decided to do the Tour of Europe on foot, a new journey also supported by the Romanian picturesque magazine, thus proving that time has not diminished his passion and vigour.
The European tour was carried out according to a rigorous, set schedule and culminated in Ghimpu’s participation in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
In November 1976, he embarked on a new adventure, traveling on foot through Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt, North Africa, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the United States of America, Canada, Latin American countries, Japan, China and returned to the country after 3 years and 13 days, accompanied by a plane of the Tarom company, on the Pekin – Bucharest route.
Picturesque Romania dedicated an entire report to it
In his honor, the journalist Mihai Creangă wrote a series of articles in the magazine Romania picturesque, about his adventures. “I don’t know what the bear cubs would have meant to him, but Neculai Ghimpu’s destiny was set, since his youth, under the sign of the hike and it remained so: an incorrigible wanderer, a wind-world in front of which even the imagination remains at a loss.
The short man, only one meter and fifty-four centimeters, turns seventy in the middle of this summer. He will celebrate his jubilee in a new world map adventure. It will be the crowning of a life dedicated to them, to endless roads.
The eternal pilgrim says (should we believe him?): “It is my last feat, by which I honor my years and end a life of hiking.” It sounds like a threat and the end of the legend. I, for one, don’t think so, because he’s too busy and the indolence replaces Ghimpu in every cell. Stay put? It would be nonsense, a blasphemy, a sacrilege, a denunciation of an entire existence.
Now, in old age, on the threshold of the eighth decade, the life of Neculai Ghimpu appears to us as a book rich in interpretations. At the age of fierce youth (almost fifty years since then!) Ghimpu cel iute realized – under the auspices of the magazine “Romania Picoreasca” – before our walker from that time – the tour of Romania on foot. The performance does not remain only a Spartan type, there will hardly be a corner of the country, a trickle of running water or a settlement in the geography of the homeland that he has not then, in one circumstance or another, kicked with his foot, for knowledge, appreciation and delight”, one of the related articles states.
Moreover, he also wrote about the Tour of Europe: “The Tour of Europe is coming, the second act of what will be called the “Ghimpu adventure”, a hike whose end point would be the Munich Olympics. The world tour, the third act of this piece, would be consumed relatively soon after that, between the years 1976-1979; a simple list of the countries traversed by the globe-trotter, the settlements where he spent the night, the itineraries he wove with his step, the governors and officials who greeted and encouraged the intrepid hiker from the countries of the Middle East, North Africa, from the north and center of the American continent, to the heart of Latin American countries, from Australia to China and Japan would fill the pages of an entire magazine.
Last year, a trip to Russia followed, counting — thanks to the success and good health of the person who made it — as a “training” for the trip that is starting now, under the sign of 70 years: Great Britain (an older dream) and the Scandinavian countries.
Whatever we say, Ghimpu is a phenomenon of nature. By what? By tenacity, by the courage to face and escalate any difficulties (and there were thousands!), by the candor with which he comes into contact with totally unknown environments and worlds, by the paradox of getting along with all the tribes of the world without knowing a word from no foreign language, through extraordinary physical vigor and tirelessness, through landed optimism. Even the Donquijotic sequences of his travels become, in these circumstances, the delights of the “Ghimpu brand”.
I was going to meet Neculai Ghimpu, a Romanian sadea (he says, when asked how many languages he knows: …Moldovan, Mountainous, Oltenish, Transylvanian, Bukovinian), who is one of the happy exceptions to the tradition confessed in popular verse. Because Neculai Ghimpu did not walk like that, in his longing for his daughter, traveling was his constant passion, as can easily be proven, remembering here when, where and how he traveled. On July 8, 1933, with the sunrise, Neculai Ghimpu, then 21 years old, set off on his first big hike: the Great Romania Tour. At 7 in the morning he would put the first stamp in the “logbook”, a habit he would always keep afterwards, carefully collecting evidence from all the places he passed through.
That summer, he was still on the road. Autumn caught up with him, and winter caught up with him. But on January 5, 1934, the editors of the magazine “Romania Pitoreasca” from that time certified in the notebook of the young Ghimpu that “he traveled around Romania on its most extreme sides, also visiting Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia…”
As an encouragement and as a fully deserved reward for all the difficulties overcome and for the perseverance put in, he was awarded a prize of 15,000 lei. “This tour of Greater Romania, being his first attempt on this land, we wish him a more significant journey in the future, a tour of Europe or even the Globe”, the publication wrote.
“On November 11, 1976, nea Ghimpu ventured around the Earth, promising his wife that he would be gone “only one year”. He would return only after 3 years and 13 days, on November 24, 1979, during which time he had passed through 29 countries on 6 continents. His route was Bucharest — Asia Minor — North Africa — North America — Central America — South America — Australia — Southeast Asia — China — Japan — North America — Asia Minor — Bucharest. He traveled carrying with him a message written in French and English, under the generic name “Tourism — passport for peace and friendship between all the peoples of the world”, it is also shown in Picturesque Romania.
Neculai Ghimpu died in 2006, at the age of 93, in the capital.