Gordon: We spent a pleasant night at a hotel in the Shipka Pass. Located at an altitude of 1200 metres, it was cooler than the temperatures we have become accustomed to, with a high of about 24 degrees and a low of 13. The air was very clear, so landmarks tens of kilometres away could be plainly seen.
As usual, the economics of the hotel were a mystery. Along with another couple, we were the only guests. The four of us were also the only people eating at the restaurant, which had an extensive offering. This is the peak of summer, and the entire gross income for the hotel and restaurant for the day was perhaps $150. This maintains the physical structure, as well as employing at least three people. How does this pay for the hotel and maintain several families?
Because we slept at the pass, we started the day with a cool 13 km descent into an area known as both the Rose Valley and the Valley of the Thracian Kings. The later name comes from the 1,000 Thracian burial mounds in the valley. These are artificial hills that dot the landscape, each “concealing” a burial tomb. “Hey Mom, do you suppose there is something valuable in that little hill in this otherwise flat landscape?” Needless to say, most of the tombs were plundered of their valuable goods in antiquity.
In Kazanlak there is a particularly beautiful tomb that has UNESCO designation. We also visited this tomb, or, more correctly, we saw a reconstruction of the tomb, as the actual tomb has been closed to the public. Even when the actual tomb could be visited, the mock-up was more popular, because the entrance fee was much less. Ruth had shamed me into agreeing to fork over the admission price for the real thing, but because it was closed I had the benefit of agreeing to do the right thing, as well as retaining more money in my pocket for (very inexpensive) beer.
The region around Kazanlak also produces 60 percent of the global supply of rose oil. It takes about three tons of Damascene rose petals to yield a single litre of rose oil. This sells for hundreds of euros, mostly to cosmetic companies in France. The rose oil remaining locally finds its way into innumerable products (rose liqueur, anyone?) We visited the Rose Museum in town, which is undoubtedly the best smelling museum that I have ever entered.