A bit rough around the edges, Kazanlâk is nevertheless a fascinating town where Bulgaria’s various ethnic and religious groups commingle amicably. It’s a place with a surprisingly active nightlife, considering the town’s general scruffiness where hole-in-the-wall eateries flame roast chicken and the old Soviet apartment blocks are yellowing as if they’ve been smoked on too much. Nevertheless, when you throw in a rather fine square, some posh accommodation options, and glorious archaeological remains from the area’s ancient Thracian civilisation, Kazanlâk becomes an interesting enough place to spend a night or two. It’s also the jumping-off point for journeys across the Valley of Roses (Rozovata Dolina), a wide plain blooming with roses, responsible for over 60% of the world’s supply of fragrant rose oil. Crossing the plain, one ascends to Shipka village and Shipka Pass, site of a very decisive battle in the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War.
Originally settled as long ago as 2000 BC, the Kazanlâk area was developed by the Thracians, whose city, Sevtopolis, existed nearby. In the 4th century BC, a magnificent tomb was built, presumably for one of the Thracian kings, which still exists on the northeast side of town and is a Unesco World Heritage site. The Romans inherited the city of Sevtopolis, but modern Kazanlâk only came into being during the 14th century, as an advance guard for the protection of the Shipka Pass over the mountains just north of it. Today, the town retains considerable Ottoman spirit, with a working mosque and notable Turkish and Pomak Muslim minorities. Indeed, several of the villages in the vicinity of Kazanlâk are largely or entirely populated by such holdovers of the Ottoman empire in Bulgaria.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009