Monday, June 17, 2013

Rose Festival in Karlovo

On May 31 - June 2, 2013, our weekend as a "rosober"(the Bulgarian word for a rose picker) was filled with many wonderful experiences, such as learning about the process used to make the world famous Bulgarian rose oil, which contributes to 70% of the worlds output. The country takes great pride in the roses they produce and it is truly a cause for celebration in the Valley of the Roses, where you can find fields of roses as far as the eye can see. Our trip lead us to the area around Karlovo, so were able to enjoy their festival.

The turnout was quite impressive, you could find visitors from all over the world including a large delegation of Chinese tourists. The costumes and the colors were a sight to behold. The official festival participants ranged from 1 to 90+, truly a multi-generational affair. It wonderful to see the Bulgarian youth not only embracing their culture but enthusiastic about continuing the traditions of their ancestors.
One of the highlights of the festival is the pageant, which is held before the actual events to select the "Rose Queen". This year the title went to the stunning Zlatka Chomakova. While Angel and I were waiting for the festivities to commence, we were sitting on a park bench and got a preview of the special guests. 
The festival also gave visitors a chance to purchase cosmetics and beauty products made from... roses of course. Personally, I am not interested in such items, I was on the hunt for food products made from roses like honey, syrup, jam or liquor, but they were no where to be found at the bazaar area.
I was rather disappointed with this absence of edible rose products, since rose jam or sladko is a very traditional and popular item. I was resolute to uncover some and heard about that the History Museum of Karlovo was offering tastings, so we made our way there. 
The stall selling jam was sold out, but we did manage to taste the jam and some very sweet liquor, which was actually produced in Blagoevgrad a town in the south-west of Bulgaria, near me a mere 2 hours away...
I really enjoyed Karlovo. There wasn't really much to do aside from the festival and a few museums on of note, one of which we didn't get to visit was the National Museum of Vasil Levski, a Bulgarian hero. I did however manage to find a quaint restaurant on a side street that is worth a visit during the warmer months for its charming courtyard dining. The food was decent for Bulgarian fare, but I loved the blooming flowers and serene ambiance.

Ханът (Inn) - При Бай Васил/ Hanuat Pri Bai Vasil
 27 General Kartsov St.
4300 Karlovo
Tel: 0887 89 39 96

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