Valley of roses - the Bulgarian must-see
Roses are the symbol and the national pride of Bulgaria. "Valley of roses" is the name Bulgarians have given to the Kazanlak valley which is about 200 km east of the capital Sofia. The area covers about 2,000 square kilometers, including the fields of Karlovo, Kazanlak and parts of Nova Zagora. This area has favorable climate and fertile soil to grow roses and produce rose oil.
The town of Kazanlak, the heart of the Rose Valley, is home to the Rose Festival on the first weekend of June. On this occasion, the whole valley transforms into a vibrant flowery heaven.
In Kazanlak, the rose symbol can appear anywhere, from museum names, hotels, clothing decorations, jewelry, tattoos, in dishes, drinks, to the head wreaths for tourists… At the rose festival, visitors are greeted with beautiful rounds of flowers. People here also use them to make cakes, soaps, jewelry, rose water or rakia, a type of strong wine.
In the fields, visitors can see how the farmers harvest roses in the traditional way. Flower picking usually starts at sunrise and ends before noon of the day. Visitors can also visit the Rose Museum located in the Rose Garden Park in Kazanlak.
What’s more, do not miss out the process of distilling rose oil. Bulgarian Rose Valley is renowned for the largest source of rose oil in the world. It is sometimes referred to as "liquid gold", a pound of oil (approximately 0.5 kg) can worth up to $ 6,000. It requires nearly 3,200 pounds of roses to produce finished products.
Roses are not only beautiful but also bring many economic benefits. Bulgaria is one of the biggest producers of rose oil in the world (70-85%) and most of it is extracted from the valley.
The most popular flower oil in the valley is made from the pink poppy Damask. The origin of this flower is unknown. It is believed that the flowers originated from ancient Persia, brought to Bulgaria in the 17th century by Turkish merchants. It is called Rosa Kazanlika as a way to honor the land where it is cultivated.
During the holiday season, a parade is held to for the Queen of Roses, usually the girl chosen from a group of high school graduates. The Queen of Roses must always wave and greet everyone during the parade.
At the festival, visitors and people in traditional costumes will blend into the Horo folk dance on the accordion and drum background in the fields full of flowers. The end of the festival is the dance of men wearing the Kukeri, performing a local ritual to dispel evil spirits and cold weather, wishing good health and good harvest.
By: Emily Smith