Bulgaria is one of the largest suppliers of rose oil to the world's perfume makers. Roses are grown in the central Valley of the Roses, with Kazanlak being the small town at the valley's center. The Bulgarian oil-bearing rose, or Rosa damascena, has been cultivated in this area of the country for some 300 years.
It takes approximately 4,000 kilograms of rose petals to produce one kilogram of pure rose oil. The roses are picked from the middle of May, usually by gypsy laborers at very low wages.
We arrived in Kazanlak with friends after 2 1/2 hours of driving from Sofia. We sat down for drinks and watched troupes of young girls performing ahead of the parade.
Everywhere in Bulgaria you can find souvenirs made of rose oil, but Jodie finds the smell a little too strong for her.
The hour of the parade drew near, and crowds gathered alongside the central street of the town.
The president of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov, was in town and greeted the crowds. “The image of the Bulgarian rose around the world should be protected and developed further,” he said. This was the second time we had seen the president, the first being at the 100th anniversary of Sofia's synagogue.
Here come the kukeri! Kukeri are traditionally costumed men, with animal masks and sometimes with cow bells around their waists, who play a role in Bulgarian folk tradition.
Marches included children and students from many schools in the region.