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The Bulgarian Roses

The Valley of Roses in Bulgaria is majestic! It is the home of the exquisite and rare   Bulgarian rose oil, also known as “attar of roses”, a well renowned world center for rose oil production and the source of many of the world’s finest perfumes. The Kazanlak Valley is known as The Valley of Roses. It is situated between the Balkan and Sredna Gora mountains and  the rose found a second homeland here. The oil-yielding rose – Rosa Damascena - was brought to Bulgaria from India via Persia, Syria and Turkey. In the 19th century Rosa Damascena became the greatest wealth of the Kazanlak region and a symbol of Bulgaria.
May and June are the most majestic months in The Rose Valley, as the rose fields are blossoming and the entire valley is enveloped with their fragrance.The Valley of Roses, where the Bulgarian Rose Oil or rose attar is produced, has at all times amazed people with its beauty. The great Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov gave vent to his emotions which the lush landscape of the Rose Valley evoked in him back in 1886.

"How beautiful this valley is! As far as eyes can see, glistening green meads and tender velvety swards, rose gardens in blossoms spelling fragrance, clear mountain springs murmuring through fresh meadows, tufts of chestnuts, walnuts, plum-trees, cherries, cornel-trees and apples in flowers and across this wonderful green panorama, among copses of willows and whispering elms, the young Toundzha meanders in wonderful curves. At the background one can see Stara Planina: a range of giant peaks, basking in the blue sky... And fifteen days later, some enchantress will sprinkle dewy roses upon these tender greens and the air will be flooded by this fragrance and by the songs of the dark-eyed women rose-harvesters with freshly-picked rose flowers on their heads..."

Some interesting facts about Bulgarian roses

In March 1826 there were 13 900 decares of rose plantations in the Valley of Roses, which means that about 1 400 kg of rose oil was annually produced. In 1865, Henrich Bart and Felix Kanitz mention in their travel notes that rose oil was produced in 123 Bulgarian towns and villages and the annual oil production was 1650 kg (not only in the Kazanlak Valley). Konstantin Irecek gives the number of 700 kg for Kazanlak region. Apart from its production, the trade with rose oil is essential for the well being and livelihood of the local people. The first rose merchants to be officially mentioned are Kiro and Hristo Kiroolu from Kazanlak, who exported rose oil to Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1771 and the following years.

                                                                                                                      Rose Picking

Rose picking lasts for about a month- from May 20 to June 20, but that depends on the spring weather conditions. Picking is done every morning from 5 a.m. till 9-10 a. m . The basic technology of the production of the famous Bulgarian rose oil is double distillation. The more primitive process needs 15 kilograms of rose blossoms and 60 liters of pure water to fill a still. The process is very labor-consuming: 1 kilogram of rose oil requires about 300 kilograms of rose blossoms; 1 gram requires about 100 individual blossoms. One kilogram of rose oil costs about 5500 Euro on the international market.

                                                                            The Bulgarian rose oil has the highest quality worldwide- it has no competition
All world-famous perfumery makers use it as part of their recipes because of two principal qualities: it makes the fragrance more lasting and gives its specific flavor. Bulgarian rose oil has been indispensable to the developing European perfumery industry since 1720. It was shipped via Istanbul to Marseilles, London and New York carried by horse caravans via Bucharest to Vienna, Paris, and Berlin.

In 1820 the first Bulgarian rose oil trading company of Doncho Papazov from Kazanlak was established. Later his sons Dimitar and Botyo Papazov expanded the trade. Next came the rose-trading companies of Kancho Shipkov (1840),Christo Christov (1863) and Petko Orozov (1864).

Bulgarian rose oil won gold medals at the world fairs in Vienna (1873), Paris (1875), Philadelphia (1876), Chicago (1893) etc.

Each first Sunday of June in Kazanlak is  organized the traditional  Rose festival, unforgettable experience of Bulgarian beauty, merriment and hospitality.

                                                                          History and legends about the Rose

Here is a quote by Doreen Virtue: "Mother Mary is often called “Our Lady of the Roses” because these beautiful flowers are one of her symbols. When we’re in her sacred presence, we may smell the fragrance of roses without having any physical flowers nearby.

In fact, the name Rosary means “a garland of roses.” Roses are considered the queen of flowers, and white ones symbolize Mother Mary. Red blooms are said to have blushed when she kissed them in heaven. In the Middle Ages, roses were used in purification ceremonies, and Mother Mary is the ultimate symbol of purity. White roses are associated with Mary’s joys, red with her suffering, and yellow with her glory."

Roses were grown in Egypt in the times of Pharaoh Ramses II. Rose oil was used for embalming the mummies, and Cleopatra used cosmetic products obtained from oil-bearing roses. The ancient Greek chronicler Teophrastus mentioned roses, brought from Persia during the campaigns of Alexander of Macedonia, which his homecoming soldiers had probably taken with them to the Balkan Peninsula. This is confirmed by the ancient Greek historian Pliny the Younger who describes twelve varieties of roses in his book “Natural History”, naming them according to their geographic origin. One of them was called “Thracian rose”. This is clear evidence that roses were grown in the Thracian lands from the 1st to 4th century, which is also confirmed by the mural paintings of a tomb near the town of Hissar. It is most likely that Rosa Damascena was brought from Persia but the exact time is not known. Roses found the best conditions in the Valley of Tundzha River and in the XIX century it became the most precious asset for the people of the valley.

The Roman legends explain the origin of the rose and its red color through the goddesses Diana and Venus. Diana, the goddess of hunting and of the moon had a priestess, Rosalia by name. Rosalia decided to marry the young man Semedor and leave the goddess. Diana, furious about the infidelity of her priestess pierced her body with an arrow. From the spilled blood sprung up bushes with fragrant white flowers named roses after Rosalia. The roses got red from the blood of Venus who pricked herself on the bush while running away from his husband Mars.

A legend from Persia tells of the origin of the rose attar. Princess Nur Djihan who liked taking a bath in warm rose water discovered it accidentally. Once she noticed that in the channels where rose water was running, oil spots were floating. Collecting those oil spots she realized that it was natural rose attar.  She named the strong and durably smelling rose attar after her husband, Djihan Giri. 
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