Kasanlak is the common name used for this shambolic town in Central Bulgaria but it is actually called Kazanluk. Driving into the town on our way back from Karlovo was interesting to say the least. It certainly made an impression even if it wasn't a favourable one. I shuddered when I saw the scruffy, run-down apartments on the left hand side of the town. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen anywhere quite as cheerless on my travels. We would have passed it by if it hadn't been for the Museum of the Roses; somewhere I had longed to visit.
Kasanlak is situated between the Rodopi and Stara Planina mountain ranges, the eastern end of the Valley of Roses; a valley that is absolutely full of blooming roses in June and July. Until recently this part of Bulgaria produced 70 per cent of the world's rose oil which as you can imagine comes in handy when you want to produce perfumes and cosmetics; a vital resource for these industries. Many high profile perfume houses seek out this important export commodity. Perfume, roses, mountains. Reading these words you could conjure up quite a pretty image of this town but alas, it isn't pretty at all. It's a horrible place although there are a few historical attractions.
According to my guide book this dull town is famed for its Thracian tomb, built in the 4th century and protected by UNESCO. It is there but we were unable to see it as an archeological dig was being carried out and weren't allowed to view. At this stage we didn't despair as we were told that we could find a full scale replica of the tomb in the gardens surrounding the archeological site. We found the replica; a beehive-shaped dome twelve metres in diameter decorated with fantastic murals depicting funerary rituals. You have to walk down an entry corridor to reach the tomb which is quite exciting as it is flanked by friezes depicting dramatic battles. Viewing tmes: 9-5 every day.
I would like to be able to say that the town was pleasant enough to take a stroll through but everything looked so drab to me. Even the central square was non-descript and I am struggling to find artistic and creative words. Usually, I quite like an industrial town and I don't mind wandering around the seedier parts of cities as there is generally one or two buildings or monuments that I take a fancy too but I struggled in Kasanlak.
However, we did find another museum which did compliment the Thracian tomb and it was the Iskra Museum. This is situated on ul. Sv Kiril-Metodii - open every day from 9am - 5pm. The frescoes exhibits are from the Magli tomb and very interesting too as is the funerary cavern and a very large collection of Greek artefacts that have been found in this region. Very difficult to read the display information - all in Cyrillic. Haven't conquered that yet!
Finally, we found the Museum of the Roses. Again, all the explanations were in Cyrillic. A little annoying but on the other hand the museum was very interesting. Several displays showing the techniques for manufacturing natural fragrances. I'm not a great user of perfume but I was interested to see how ceratin cosmetics are made from rose water and the different manufacturers' techniques. Although the only name I recognised was Helena Rubinstein. There is a shop attached to the museum and a very sweet smelling one too. Here, you can purchase fragrant souvenirs, including rose-scented soaps, oils and perfumes.
There are several hotels in the town. We didn't stay overnight but the one that looked inviting from the outside was the Hotel Hhadzhi Eeminova. This is in the centre of town and built in traditional style. Street name - Nikola Petkov 22.
We didn't dine out here either so I can't recommend any restaurants.
In fact, I can't really recommend the town unless you really want to visit the Museum of the Roses and fill your bags up with Bulgarian-made rose souvenirs such as soaps oils and sweets. Bulgaria is a fascinating country but there are more beautiful and interesting towns than Kazanlak/luk.
Exact location: 25 miles northwest of Stara Zagora. Bus connections with Lovech, Stara Zagora and Veliko Turnivo.