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The Valley of the Roses

Kazanluk, the Valley of the Roses and Plovdiv


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From Shipka we descended into the Valley of the Roses. Right now we are in the middle of the rose season, which is a big deal here; Bulgaria makes about 60% of the world's rose oil, plus smaller amounts of other rose products like rosewater, soap, hand cream, liqueur and things like that.

Now when you hear or see the name 'The Valley of the Roses' you may get an image in your head of a valley completely filled from one side to the other with field after field stuffed with red, pink or white roses. Wonderful scents hanging languorously in the air. Roses as far as the eye can see (until the mountains appear in the horizon)! The reality is not quite like that, however. Now Mum and I were under no false illusions - we knew it wasn't going to be like the idealised image it's easy to come up with - and so we still really liked what we saw. There was a lot of farmland, both arable and for livestock, but we did pass the occasional field of pink roses; a novelty to people from the UK, where there are some rose gardens, but not open fields like the ones we saw here.

We stopped in the outskirts of Kazanluk at the impressively named Research Institute of Roses, Aromatic & Medicinal Plants, which contains the small but interesting Museum of the Rose.

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Before we went inside, we looked round part of the grounds and admired some almost perfect-looking deep red roses clearly at the peak of health.

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Inside the museum, bowls of rose petals were placed around the museum - a great touch, I thought. The scent was amazing. We saw lots of old equipment for the distillation and storage of rose oil (attar of roses), fascimiles of black and white photos of rose pickers in action, and some documents relating to the attar of roses trade. No wonder real rose oil is expensive; apparently, to get 1 kg of rose oil you need 3000 - 3500 kg of petals from the pink Kazanluk rose, or 5000 kg from the white rose! The petals are picked in the morning, from 4 am until about 10 am; apparently petals picked in the afternoon lose up to 50% of their oil content.

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Mum and I both bought ourselves a bottle of rose liqueur from the tiny shop attached to the museum. Then we crossed the road and walked into a rose field. The roses were not very close together (the majority must have been picked already) but there were still a decent amount there and we both enjoyed looking round.

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From the rose field we headed into the town centre to visit the famous Thracian tomb. This we were unable to do; it was locked up and apparently only archaeologists and other official people are allowed in. We did however visit the full-scale replica round the corner. This is absolutely tiny, but the frescoes are fantastically well done. You would never guess that they are replicas if you didn't know otherwise.

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It was another hour and a half before we arrived in Plovdiv; both Mum and I dozed off on the way. The hostel we stayed at (Hiker's Hostel) wasn't as good as Guesthouse Old Plovdiv, but the owner was friendly and the place served our needs. After a rest, we went for a walk. Neither of us was particularly hungry for some reason, so instead of dinner we visited a Turkish coffeeshop attached to Dzhumaya Mosque. Mum had a decaf coffee and I had a normal Turkish coffee; to go with our drinks, Mum had baklava while I had sutlac (Turkish rice pudding).

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Posted by 3Traveller 14:16 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art mosque museum hostel roses mum plovdiv explorations kazanluk valley_of_the_roses turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

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