Karlovo Rose Festival

Last weekend I went to the Karlovo Rose Festival and had a blast. Bulgaria is the world’s largest supplier of rose oil and related products. How much they supply varies from survey to survey. I’ve read everything from half to 75%!

The most interesting part about the weekend was non-rose fest related. It took place at a party that we happened to be invited to because we were walking past the restaurant. The background: I met up with another PCV in Plovdiv on the way to Karlovo and met up with one of the PCVs who lives there. It was the three of us for the whole weekend. We got dinner and then started to walk back to her apartment. As we were walking through the center, a drunk man came stumbling out. The Karlovo PCV has been working with him on a project. He recognized her and invited us into the party. As we made our way to the back of the restaurant, he pointed us out to everyone “Look! Here are Americans!”. As that didn’t make us stick out enough, it was a very fancy event. All of us were where jeans; everyone else in suits and dresses, sitting on chairs covered in silk. It was kinda embarrassing.

He showed us to a free table and sat down next to a vice mayor. A waiter came by and gave us wine and chocolate cake. Everyone was drunk. There was an auction going on and people in a drunken stupor were bidding on art. Hideous art. They even bid on a coat rack. I wonder what that guy thought the following morning with a hangover “I spend 400 leva on that!?“. All the money being raised was for the children of Karlovo though I’m not sure how exactly it will be used. After the auction, the real entertainment began.

Scantly clad women came out and started to do Vegas style dancing. They were covered in sequins and line danced. We wondered, what the world have we gotten ourselves into! The next act, however, was even better. An old guy came out looking like he belonged to a motorcycle gang. He wore leather chaps and a leather vest. He had a green bandana and a long grey beard. He didn’t have any shoes and ran around the resturant with two boards that had 5 inch nails stuck through them. They were very sharp. I know, because he let me touch them. He then raced to the middle of the resturant and put them down. He looked around the crowd and picked me out to join him. I think I was chosen because I was sober. I initally refused but he was persistent. I relented and got up. He then laid down on the bed of nails and started speaking to me in Bulgarian. I was a bit confused and scared-  don’t know the langauge well enought to agree to do something with sharp objects, let alone in front of so many people! He started to speak to me in Russian, which didn’t help. I eventually got the idea of what he wanted me to do so I stood on him. Yes, you read that correctly, I stood on a guy laying on a bed of 5 inch nails. He jumped up, unscathed and waited to be showed in applause. However, everyone was so drunk, I don’t know if many people we watching. We left the center and the line dancing girls came back. This time, they were wearing less and had Uncle Sam style hats and had red, white and blue attire.

They finished their routine and the nail dude came back. This time he had knives and torches. He played around with the torches, spinning them and just being impressive. After he blew out the flames, he pulled out a sword. He then lit the sword on fire. He then took the flaming sword and swallowed it. HE SWALLOWED A FLAMING SWORD. And then played with snakes. Boa constrictors. I think I would be more exposed to this stuff if my brother went to clown college instead. My loss.

The following morning we got up early to pick roses in the municipal fields. In typical Bulgarian holiday fashion, we started drinking.

at 8:10 am. That’s rose rakiya pictured. It’s like rakiya but made from roses. I’ve heard that is the origin of rakiya. Some monks had fermenting rose petals and decided to drink it. I have no idea if that’s true.

While in the fields, we watched the coronation of the rose queen and watch some horo.

After the preformances, we headed back to the city center to watch the parade.

More photos here:

Karlovo Rose Fest

The rest of the day was filled with more horo preformances and a rock band in the evening. The band, at first was pretty good. Then they just started to make noise, like, just the drummer drumming. Then it was the bassist. It turns out the band was on a cigarette break and was just filling time until everyone could have a smoke! It didn’t get much better from there. The band started playing together but I think they only knew the first few chords of several popular songs. As soon as they did the first minute or so of a song -without lyrics-they switched to a different song.

This upcoming weekend is the Kazanlak rose festival, the largest festival of this sort in the world. I’ll be headed there!


3 Responses to “Karlovo Rose Festival”

  1. PG Says:

    Great article! 🙂 I am from Karlovo and I really apriciate the things you said about my town in this article. Karlovo is a great town to live in. 🙂 5* for the article 😛

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