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Kazanlak and the Rose Valley

At the foot of the Balkan Mountains in the stunning Valley of Roses lies the town of Kazanlak. Here the beauty of the mountains is combined with the fertile lands of the Tundzha River valley. The region attracts tourists from all over Bulgaria and abroad, drawn by the beauty of the area and the hot mineral springs of Pavel Banya, Ovoshtnik and Yagoda. The aromatic Bulgarian rose has been grown in the Kazanlak area for many centuries. The essential oils from the rose are produced here, adding to the attraction of the region. Peppermint, lavender, sweet basil and marigolds are also grown here.

Kazanlak town and its surrounding area are located in the western part of the valley. The town lies 200 kms east of Sofia and 108 kms north-east of Plovdiv. The Kazanlak valley is one of the most scenic in Bulgaria. It begins at Mezhdenik Hill in the east and stretches to Strazhata Hill in the west. The valley covers an area of approximately 780 sq.kms and is 350 m above sea level.

The valley forms a rectangular shape, 94 kms long and 10 kms wide. To the north there are the steep slopes of the Stara Planina Mountains (Kaloferska, Shipchenska, Trevnenska and Eleno-Tvardishka), and to the south there are the lower slopes of the Sredna Gora Mountain. The Tundzha River runs lengthways through the valley. The tributaries of the Tundzha River include the Tazha, Leshnitsa, Eninska and Maglizhka Rivers. The steep valleys of these rivers are particularly beautiful.

The Kazanlak Valley has three distinct parts – the western area is wild and hilly and sits up to 500 m above sea level, the middle part is narrow and low, and the eastern area has a varied landscape.

Forests cover 10% of the Kazanlak valley, but this is due to be enlarged around the slopes of Tyulbeto Hill and along the Tundzha and Eninska Rivers.

The area is rich in wildlife and birds. Species found here include hedgehogs, bats, hares, squirrels, sloths, various mice and rats, hamsters, pole cats, badgers and wild boar. Bird species include turtle doves, ring doves, stock doves, pigeons, cuckoos, various woodpeckers, larks, swallows, martins, crows, various geese, imperial eagles, falcons, and peregrine falcons.

The rivers and water courses contain fish such as pike, grey mullet, carp and sheat fish. Reptiles and amphibians found in the area include tortoises, mud turtles, various lizards, water snakes, grass snakes, salamanders, newts and various frogs.

The region has a mild winter, not much snow cover and only for a short time. It receives less winter precipitation than the rest of the country. Summer in the area is relatively warm and rainfall can be quite high. This gives the area a long period of vegetation. Maximum rainfall usually occurs in June, and the minimum in February-March. The weather is usually driest during late summer and early autumn. The average annual temperature is 10.7°C, summer being cooler here than on the Thracian plain.

A Dip Back in Time

Evidence of a settlement here dates back to the New Stone Age (Neolithic). The area on the upper course of the Tundzha River contains lands that were occupied by Seuthes III, a Thracian King. The Thracian town of Seuthopolis was excavated and preserved during the construction of the Koprinka Dam. Research has shown that a large Thracian population inhabited the area, reaching its peak around the 5th-3rd centuries BC.

The area became the administrative centre of the Kran region in the Middle Ages under the Bulgarian Boyar Eltimir.

Kazanlak was a fortress town, but later developed into an important craft centre with over fifty crafts and trades being prevalent here – coppersmiths, goldsmiths, tailors, shoemakers, leather-working, and rose production are just a few!

During the Crusades, in 1270, Count de Gruye brought the Damascus rose from Syria to the valley. Conditions in the area proved perfect for its growth – temperatures are ideal in February when the roses form buds, then later in May and June, when the humidity is high, the rose blossoms are picked. The soil in the valley is also well-suited to the cultivation of this rose.

The rose merchant, Doncho Papazov, established the first store house in 1820. Kazanlak has been the centre of Bulgarian rose growing and rose oil manufacture since the 1800’s.

The Kazanlak region fell to the Ottomans, as did the rest of Bulgaria. The region was a centre of many heroic battles led by Bulgarian volunteer forces and the Russian army during the Russian-Turkish War in 1877-78.

Following the Liberation, the textile industry developed rapidly in the area. After the Second World War, many industries developed in Kazanlak – hydraulics, arms production, food production, essential oils, perfumeries and cosmetics – giving the town and region a strong position in Bulgaria’s economy.

Important cultural and educational traditions are associated with Kazanlak. Neofit Bozveli introduced the mutual method of teaching at monastery schools in 1836, where older students teach younger students; the first school opened in 1860; and the Iskra Chitalishte reading club was established in 1973. The reading clubs became popular in almost every town and village, giving the communities venues for arts, education an culture.

The Pedagogue School of Kazanlak was opened in 1883, which provided well educated teachers for the whole of Bulgaria. Many famous artists and actors come from Kazanlak, including: Vidin Daskalov, Luna Davidova, Stefan Getsov, Lyubomir Kabakchiev, Todor Mazarov, Mara Penkova, and Porfirii Velkov.