On Saturday I visited the rosiest town in Bulgaria – Kazanlak (accent on the final a), and I am still high from the luscious smell of the roses that here are practically growing on you from everywhere.
Kazanlak is located in central Bulgaria, about 200 km east from Sofia. It is one of the main cities in the country engaged in Rosa Damascena cultivation and rose oil and water production.
This humble looking but very fragrant rose came to Bulgaria from Asia about 500 years ago, after it had been introduced to France. It got along with the moderate climate and light soil of central Bulgaria so well that by the 19th century the country was rising as a global leader in the production of rose oil, which it sold all over Europe and the U.S.
My quest to discover all of the above started with a rose-picking ritual in rose plantations located outside a village near Kazanlak.
Rose picking takes place in May and June, starts as early as 04.00 am and ends for the day at about 10.30 before noon if the weather is hot. Humidity makes picking easier because the rose blossoms do not stick to the picker’s fingers and there are no wasps. In addition, rose blossoms drenched with dew are heavier, which is good for the rose pickers and, the best part is that humidity increases rose oil yield by keeping the volatile fragrant substances within the petals.
Kazanlak is completely overtaken by roses and is the most rose-coloured city I have seen. Roses are planted in every city garden, park or grass lawn. There is a park called The Rosarium, which is planted with nothing but roses. There is an annual beauty pageant crowning a Rose Queen. The town is home to many small and medium cosmetics companies churning out all sorts of rose extract-featuring lotions and potions.
All this is very good. To tell you the truth I was thinking of calling this post Guns’n’Roses, to highlight the two major means of sustenance of the Kazanlak people – rose cultivation, picking and processing on one side, and production of military, law enforcement and recreational weapons at the local Arsenal factory, on the other.
I decided to stick to the roses though, as luckily, they are much more present in the city landscape and culture compared to guns. Although the global events may soon change this, at least for now, no one is crowning a Miss Assault Rifle or a Miss Sub-Machine Gun…
However, I found some of the ways the rose has entered the everyday life of the Kazanlak people rather funny…
So La Vie en Rose through and through…
I’ve never seen so many things pink or smelled so many roses in my life before.