Bulgaria & Romania: North Central Bulgaria

May 24, 2019 – Kazanlak to Veliko Tarnovo

We begin the journey northward toward Romania today with our first stop being at the foot of the Bulgarian Mountains in the town of Kazanlak. Located at the eastern end of the Rose Valley, it is the center of rose oil extraction in Bulgaria and the oil-producing rose of Kazanlak is one of the most widely recognizable national symbols. We’re going to learn more about this production process, but first we make a stop at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – an ancient Thracian tomb.

Ancient Thracian tomb in Kazanlak.

The tomb shown above is the original tomb – but visitors are not allowed inside to protect the frescoes. Instead, a replica tomb has been constructed nearby – an exact copy – so that people can appreciate the artistry of this ancient civilization, dating back to the 4th century BCE.

Our bedazzled guide at the Thracian Tomb. We couldn’t take our eyes off her!
The low arched entrance to the Thracian tomb requires Chris – with recently tweaked back spasming – to genuflect. Camera pointed in his direction, he smiles through the pain!
Ceiling frescoes inside the Thracian tomb.
The dome of this vaulted brickwork “beehive” structure. The tomb is made up of a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber, both decorated with murals representing a Thracian couple at a ritual funeral feast.

One disturbing fact that we learned about the funeral rituals for the Thracian kings is that their wives had to be buried with them. It was considered a great honor, and that they would rule as gods in the afterlife, so the wives willingly submitted to euthanasia. So did the king’s dogs and horses and other beings he wanted to keep with him! It was basically a mass grave.

Our next stop in Kazanlak is the Rose Museum, providing an excellent overview of the process of making rose oil.
Displays show how the roses are grown, the petals harvested and boiled down to make the rose essential oil.
I loved all the historical photos showing early production and testing of the product to be sure it was unadulterated.
Leaving the Rose Museum we pass a field where some Roma are preparing to go to work on the rose harvest.
After lunch in Kazanlak we continue driving into the mountains to visit the Shipka memorial Church. seen in the distance.
This stunning edifice is known as the Shipka Memorial Church because of its location near the town of Shipka. It’s actual name is the “Memorial Temple of the Birth of Christ.” It is a Bulgarian Orthodox church built between 1885 and 1902 in the seventeenth-century Muscovite style. It is dedicated to the Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian soldiers who died for the liberation of Bulgaria in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.
The golden domes gleam even on a cloudy day.
Interior of the Shipka Memorial Church.
We pause outside for our first official group photo. It isn’t until after the photo is taken that I realize a few people are missing, so it doesn’t count! It’s still a great photo, but we need a re-shoot.
The reason we were all smiling so much in the group photo is because, in casting our eyes about for a suitable photographer, we zeroed in on this muscle hunk and asked him to do the job. He was happy to help, and also happy to “pose” with us afterwards!
Our final stop today is the Etara Open Air Ethnographic Museum. It presents Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship. It includes water installations and houses with craftsmen’s workshops attached. The goal is to illustrate the architecture, way of life and economy of this region during the Bulgarian National Revival.
Typical two-storey house with water driving machinery on the upper floor.
In this particular structure the water powers these spools collecting thread.
Some of the means of water delivery are becoming a bit like a leaky sieve.
This water wheel grinds flour.
Dana has been sitting here a long time. He seems to be enjoying the view.
We continue to the town of Veliko Tarnovo where we spend the night at a hotel located in the heart of the old town. This is the view from my window.
Our hotel also looks out at the Tsarevets Hill Fortress which we will be touring tomorrow.

Our time in Bulgaria has passed too quickly, as this is our final night in this beautiful country. We’ll be back! Tomorrow it is onward to Bucharest, Romania!

One comment on “Bulgaria & Romania: North Central Bulgaria

  • georgie balugo , Direct link to comment

    Love your style of blogging and including quips about your tours.
    Mad Love and Happy Travels

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