Whenever we think about a specific country or region in the world, we tend to search for the most well-known characteristic it possess and we most of the times define that area by this single distinguished trait. This does not necessarily bring justice to the region, but it is a common practice nonethesless.
For instance, every tourist knows that Bulgaria is renowned, among other things, for its tradition of producing essencial oils. And anyone who denies having bought a souvenir consisting of a small bottle of rose oil is a liar. This is basically one of the most widespread ‘tokens’ one takes back home after a visit to Bulgaria because it captures the essence, so to speak, of the country. Whenever we think about giving our loved ones a souvenir we consider an item which is basically a symbol of that state’s tradition.
And this specific tradition dates back from the 1800s and it is a custom that brings great pride to the nation. History has it that the first roses were introduced to the country by soldiers of Alexander the Great and that they had brought them for Persia. The flowers found the soil and the climate to be perfect for their growth and thus massive cultivation began. The Bulgarians have even developed a specific method of cultivation which eased the labor required originally in the process of planting, which favoured massive proliferation, but which preserved the quality of the flowers.
Today, Bulgaria prides itself with a unique region called the Rose Valley and a product, the rose oil, which is recognizable at an international level for its unique properties. In fact, the oil produced here is considered the best in the world and it manages to maintain this distinguished quality due to the strict protocols imposed by the government in terms of both testing and production.
The term ‘Rose Valley,’ or ‘Valley of the Roses,’ is used to refer to the area where the renowned roses are planted, an area situated in the center of the country, but which is not geographically demarcated. While many might not consider fields of roses to be acuratelly labeled as a tourist attraction, one cannot deny the beauty of the immense meadow of roses once confrunted with such a view. It is definitly a way of pleasing the senses.
But if you are interested in more than just admiring the fields, that you should definitely visit Bulgaria in the first week of June. Why is this specific period worth your attention? Because it is the time of the year when the Festival of Roses is being held. The festival includes numerous traditions and even though you cannot actively participate in them, these are definitely great to follow, even if from the spectators’ booth. During this week, the pickers wake up early in the morning and go on about their job in the field in traditional costumes. But the fieldwork is sprinkled with episodes of dancing and singing.
Another event of great interest is the beauty peagent organized each year. All the girls who graduate highschool that particular year are signed up in the contest and the most beautiful of them all is chosen Queen Rose. In her turn, after she is crowned queen, the girl has to reward the most skillful rose picker in another ceremony which takes place later in the afternoon.
The city of Kazanlak, with this festival, manages to involve tourists in the traditions of the country and also to pinpoint the cultural traits and customs it so proudly perpetuate over generations.