As Bulgaria are most known for the beaches around the Black Sea it may come as a surprise to many that Bulgaria has a valley dedicated to roses. Once a year the valley are being filled with people from all over Bulgaria but also foreign tourists that come to witness the yearly festival.
The Valley of Roses
You will find the Rose Valley between Sredna Gora (Middle Forest Mountain) and Stara Planina, also known as the Balkan Mountains, about 60 km outside Plovdiv. The name, Rose Valley, is not a geographical name but rather a notion of the place where the roses grows between Kazanlak and Karlovo. The roses starts to show up in the beginning of March when the temperature starts to get warmer. Between May-June its the time for picking up the flowers and the whole area are being filled with the scents from the roses.
There is a legend that tells us that soldiers of the Alexander the Great´s garrisons returned from Kashan in Persia through Syria to the Thracian parts of Bulgaria, and with them they carried rose plants. Another scientific theory is that the Ottomans cultivated the roses around Kazanlak around the early 1500 century by an Ottoman judge who had a vast garden where he planted the fragrant roses that he ordered from Tunisia.
The Rose Festival
Every year since 1903, it the traditional Rose Festival. It takes place the first week of June in Kazanlak. Dressed in traditional clothes the women are waking up early to pick up the flowers with musicians playing songs on the fields. Professionals and non-professionals are dancing around in joy and happiness. Every year there is a Rose Queen (Tsaritsa Roza) who´s task it is to pick the most skillful rose picker of the harvesting ritual. The girl to become the Rose Queen are being choose by a beauty competition among the graduating girls of the high school of Kazanlak. There is a coronation ceremony to honor the Rose Queen. There are also a lots of parade being hold during this week.
The Rose Museum
In 1967 an exhibition was arranged to honor the culture and traditions of roses, but in 1969 the exhibition became a permanent part of the Iskra Town History Museum in the town of Kazaniak. Here you can original photos and documents of the development of the rose distillation, facts about rose oil and rose water. A reproduction of the first laboratory where the rose oil was studied as well as rose warehouse from 1912. There is also a gift shop with rose products.
The Rose Oil
The roses became a big success in Bulgaria and the development continued under the Middle Age, and an equipment for multiple the distillation of rose oil was being invented. The first documents tell´s us that Bulgaria exported rose oil in 1740 to a French perfume company The rose oil is the main indigence of fragrances and cosmetics and today Bulgaria has the biggest production of rose oil in the world with 70%. The production of rose oil is an important income for the Bulgarian economy.
The Symbolic Rose
As the rose represent love, maybe its not a big surprise that Bulgarian writers, artists and singers are using the rose as an inspiration for their work. And whenever you enter a souvenir store there will be a big variety of different rose products such as different creams to soften the skin, perfume, rose jam and much more. The rose has become a symbol for Bulgaria.
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