Kazanlak

Location:
Kazanlak is located 200 km from Sofia and is the capital of the Rose Valley.

History:
The area around Kazanlak has attracted successive waves of settlers and invaders, not only because of its strategic location near the Shipka Pass, which is one of the main ways through the Balkan Mountain range. In ancient times, the Tundzha Valley was the domain of the Thracian Odrysae, who exploited the vacuum left by the retreat of the Persians in the fifth century BC, to forge a powerful tribal state on the southern slopes of the Balkan Range. Their power was temporarily broken by Philip II of Macedonia in 342 BC, but they re-emerged a generation later under King Seuthes III, an unruly vassal of Alexander the Great's successor Lysimachus, who built a new capital, Seuthopolis, 7km west of present-day Kazanlâk - now submerged beneath a reservoir. The river Tundzha is thought to have been navigable as far as Seuthopolis in ancient times, bringing trade, profits and Hellenistic culture to the Odrysae - who expressed their wealth in the solid, but exquisitely decorated tombs which abound in the region. However, Seuthopolis soon fell into decline, and a deluge of Celts occurred around 280 BC, many of whom settled in the plain just east of Kazanlak. There was a fortified medieval Bulgarian settlement at Kran, just to the northwest (where a village of the same name still exists), but the town of Kazanlak itself is relatively modern, dating from the Ottoman occupation. Its name loosely translates as the "place of the copper cauldrons", a likely reference to the giant stills in which rose oil was prepared. By the turn of the century Kazanlak's streets were filled with the shops and store-houses of the rose merchants - a breed of Balkan trader that has long since disappeared, squeezed out by social ownership and state control.

Things to see:
The nineteenth-century Church of the Assumption, just off the main town square, is impressive with its exquisite iconostasis carved by Debar craftsmen. Remains from ancient Seuthopolis are displayed in the basement of the Iskra Museum, to the north of the square. Weapons, pottery, and coins minted by Seuthes III help to illustrate life in his capital, while the reconstructed floor plans of domestic houses reveal the bowl-like depressions that served as cult hearths, for appeals to tribal deities. Upstairs is a gallery exhibiting mediocre modern works and a collection of icons from local churches. The Ethnographic Complex is situated  within ten minutes' walk northeast of the museum, on the far bank of the Starata Reka. Here several nineteenth-century houses have been restored to their former splendor, one of which serves as a museum, where period furnishings and an elegant walled garden recall the lifestyles of Kazanlak's rose merchants. If you are interested in the production of the famous Bulgarian essential  rose oil you should not miss the Museum of the Rose Industry, 2km from the town centre.Though there's relatively little information given in English, the museum successfully conveys an idea of how rose jam, toothpaste, eau-de-cologne, jelly and, of course, attar of roses are produced. During the first weekend of June, the Festival of Roses (Praznik na Rozata) takes place. It involves folk music, dancing, and a lot of interesting workshops and competitions, including the selection of the “Queen Rose”. The Thracian Tomb is a vaulted brickwork tomb near the town of Kazanlak. The tomb is part of the large Thracian necropolis Seuthopolis. The monument was discovered in 1944 and dates back to the 4th century BC. The tomb is believed to have been constructed for a Tracian nobleman and a close associate of Seft – King of the Odrisses. It comprises three chambers: a rectangular antechamber connected via a long, narrow passage, with a round burial chamber. The chamber is covered with a conical dome and is decorated with ornamental and figural frescoes. Battle scenes are shown in the passage. Two tribal armies are fighting on one side; on the other, two warriors- presumably the chieftains- are engaged in personal combat in front of the armies. Two friezes are painted on the dome walls. The upper one shows three racing chariots and the lower one- a burial feast and procession. In the latter scene, the nobleman and Seft his wife are the focus of attention. The man is sitting on a throne, with a laurel burial wreath on his head, his beautiful wife sitting opposite him. On either side, they are approached by relatives, musicians with trumpets, and servants with fruit, perfume oils, jewelry, and a cloak. At the end of the procession, warriors are bringing a four-horse chariot and the personal horse of their deceased master. The tomb was robbed in antiquity, when the door and the antechamber were forced open. All expensive objects, traditionally accompanying the defunct, were stolen - gold and silver vessels, jewelry, and horse and chariot munitions. Only a Thracian knife and an iron spearhead were found on the floor of the passage. When the dirt was sieved, 140 minute hemispherical buttons and gold-plated earthen flowers were found, probably  part of the decorations of an expensive woman’s garment. The Kazanluk tomb is a rare example of the architectural craft of the Thracians and the art of painting during the Hellenistic age. It is the oldest one in Europe, and the only one with preserved frescoes. The Thracian tomb of Kazanlak was included in the World Cultural and Natural Heritage List at the World Cultural and Natural Heritage Committee session of 1979 in Luxor, Egypt.

 

Photos from Kazanlak


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