We are now off to Bulgaria to imbue our senses with the heavenly scent of rose oil … to explore a fertile valley full of luscious bushes …
… imagine walking through, riding on horseback, hiking along a trail … or now probably driving to take a tour … of a verdant plain covered with roses …
|Fields of Roses|
… first seeing the new foliage, then the soft buds, before in late May and early June the full blush of roses starting to flower … more and more as the days pass on … giving over the entire valley to a pink glow of rose …
I’m back to quoting Patrick Leigh Fermor from the last of his trilogy of books ‘The Broken Road’ … as he walked in the 1930s over the Great Balkan mountain ranges into this fertile valley …
|Essentially Eastern Rumelia - which became absorbed into the country we know as Bulgaria.|
Plovdiv and Kazanlak artistically blobbed in red! ... but you can get the gist of the topography
The entire valley is covered with rose bushes, hundreds of thousands of them, all despoiled now by the long summer and fingers of the rose-harvesters;
|Courtyard of Rose Museum in Kazanlak|
For Kazanlak is one of the chief places in the world for attar of roses, that powerful distillation of rose oil which was so highly prized in the courts and harems of the Orient, especially in India and Persia.
The deep crimson, yellow-centred Damascus rose, famous for the sweetness and pungency of its scent, is the favourite flower for the attar …
… armies of men and women toil in the valley gathering the petals, culling them soon after dawn, before the high sun can drain them of the dew and the perfume which the night hours have been storing up.
Then in Kazanlak, these showers of petals are poured into enormous vats, the oil is collected … the precious remainder, like Calvados in autumn in Normandy, is distilled through a battery of alembics…
|Distillation Equipment of Zosimos from the|
15th C - Byzantine Greek manuscript
… and so concentrated is the essence which finally emerges that it takes over three thousand pounds of rose petals to produce a single pound of attar.
The valuable elixir is then bottled in tiny gilt and cut-glass phials, a mere thread of attar to each, and sold, understandably for enormous prices.
The smell is captious, overpowering and a little cloying … at the heart of the rose harvest, everything in Kazanlak smells of it.
The valley is aswoon … the brightly coloured petals, bursting out of their sacks on the carts and wagons in which they are piled, scatter the dusty roads with rose pink escapees …
… ahead to the north lay the Shipka Balkan, and I was soon climbing through the woods of walnut, oak and beech, empty except for an occasional swineherd and a swarm of razor-thin pigs: dark hairy creatures rootling for beech nuts and acorns which crackled underfoot.
I hope like me … you can feel you were there with Fermor in his rose blossomed valley … before he walks north into the natural woodland decorating the low hill sides before the craggy mountains push their way forth towards the sky.
|Rila Mountains - the source of the|
Maritsa river which flows through
Plovdiv on its way to the Aegean Sea
After writing this I have a hankering to also visit Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, but in its recorded history usually known as Philippopolis, after Philip II of Macedon conquered it in 4th century BC.
The city was a Thracian settlement later being invaded by Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Slav-Vikings, Crusaders and Turks … that’s a right mix of genetic heredity!
|Plovdiv nestled in its hills|
Subsequently the Russians were added in to the mix … as they liberated Eastern Rumelia, a large swathe of land, from the rule of the Ottomans.
As the European Capital of Culture 2019 – Plovdiv’s history will be revealed to the world … and I am sure there will be tours to Kazanlak with its Rose Museum …
… as well through the valley of crimson, yellow-centred Damascus roses through which the Tundzha river and its tributaries flow slowly meandering across the landscape.
I can imagine this place … and as it is five years ago that my mother passed on … this is dedicated to her as she was passionate about her flowers as well as learning in any way she could.
|Imagine the scent from these freshly picked|
We would have had some wonderful discussions following on from reading these sorts of articles – sadly I found Fermor too late … but I, at least, have found him …
|I wouldn't mind driving this route ... but particularly would do|
Number 3 Plovidv and along the valley north east to Kazanlak
Our first flush of roses is over … beautiful they have been … now the next buds are bursting forth to bring us summer scents of heavenly wonder …
Rose Distillation Process ... Bulgarian Rose Otto
Atlas Obscura - Rose Museum Kazanlak
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