The new Museum of Roses has opened in the town of Kazanlâk in Bulgaria’s Valley of Roses. Bulgaria is one of the leading producers of fragrant rose oil in the world, as more than 60% of the world’s supply of rose oil is extracted in the Valley of Roses.
The new museum is considered one of a kind in the world; it’s actually replacing a previous, tiny museum dating from 1967. The new, modern 1200-sq-metre building has more than a thousand exhibits in the permanent exhibition illustrating the history of rose production in Bulgaria, the 300-year-old method of cultivating rose gardens, picking rose petals and extraction of rose oil and rose water. Twenty-four different kinds of roses are also on display, and there is a room for sampling scents.
The town of Kazanlâk has about 220,000 tourists annually. The rose harvest in the Valley of Roses lasts from mid-May to mid-June. The Festival of Roses, which takes place every June in Kazanlâk, is the highlight of the season and has been going on for more than a century. It features a Rose Queen contest as well as rose jam and rose rakija (local firewater) tasting.
Another great place to learn about rose oil production is the Enio Bonchev Company (eniobonchev.com), the oldest still fully functioning rose oil distillery in Bulgaria, dating from 1909 and open for visits and tours. It also has a family museum and gift shop with traditional souvenirs from the distillery’s own production of both rose and lavender oil.
Bulgaria produces one tonne of rose oil annually. The fragrance is very expensive – the prices go up to 10,000 euros per litre of rose oil. Three types of roses are grown in the region: rosa damascena (light pink and with the strongest scent), rosa alba (white) and rosa centifolia (‘hundred-petal rose’, dark pink).