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Bulgaria: The “Rose Country” of the Balkans

  Sofia and Rila Monastery
   In the north of Greece, next to a “Rose Kingdom”, she is Bulgaria. There are mysterious love equations left by the ancient Thracians, and there are long shadows of the ancient Bulgars crossing the Black Sea towards Plovdiv.
   Because it is located at the intersection of the Eurasian and African continents, Bulgaria has been ruled alternately by various forces in history, leaving a very rich cultural heritage. Here, you can see ancient tombs in the Thracian period, theaters in the ancient Roman period, thousand-year-old murals in the Byzantine period, Orthodox churches with central domes, mosques with strong Turkish style, and Soviet style with socialist colors. Buildings, monuments and the colorful graffiti on the unfinished floors…
   As the capital city with an altitude of 550 meters, Sofia has no restlessness like Paris and London. Also added a bit of liking.
   Walking into the streets of Sofia in the drizzle, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is reflected in the rain in the square. The interior of the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans is lavish, but what makes it even more enjoyable is the ambience.
   On weekend mornings, the church is like a concert hall, where a free live concert is being staged, accompanied by bands, choir leaders, and morning prayers.
   Walking slowly down an unknown street, in an open-air book market in a small square, there are many people reading books in the rain. Roadside advertisements keep flipping through various rose products, as if to remind you that this is the capital of the country of roses. On both sides of the street, there are actually many small theaters hidden, and there are even queues in front of some doors. In recent years, Sofia has attracted the attention of Hollywood directors and has become another film base in Eastern Europe, and “dramatic” films seem to be more and more popular. Walking into a small cafe, the owner was very enthusiastic and gave a cartoon map with many non-mainstream fun places, not tourist attractions, but more interesting.
   About 120 kilometers south of Sofia, in the depths of the Rila Mountains, the Rila Monastery, a neo-Byzantine building dating from the mid-10th century AD, has been a symbol of Bulgarian national revival for centuries. There are not only treasures of many national cultures, but also many Bulgarian literati and writers studying here. During the long period of Turkish rule, it became the hiding place of many Bulgarian celebrities.
   I asked the staff of the monastery, a very kind old man, can ordinary tourists stay in the monastery? Unexpectedly, the old man told me that the monastery really has accommodation for ordinary tourists. How do you know if a person really wants to cleanse or just be curious? The old man replied slowly: In this age where everything is like fast food, if a person is willing to slow down and come to us for a short stay, this kind of curiosity is already the beginning of cleaning.
  The coveted Kazanlak Rose Festival
   Every year on the first weekend of June, the world’s most prestigious Kazanlak Rose Festival is held as scheduled. Since its establishment, it has gone through 113 years of history. Almost every year, senior government officials will come to the venue in person, appearing in the picking ceremony of the opening ceremony or the rose parade of the closing ceremony. It attracts countless tourists and businessmen. The Damascus rose, from as far away as Syria, took root in Bulgaria and brought an unprecedented rose economy to the country.
   During the Rose Festival, the whole city is lively like a big temple fair. In front of the city hall, children are dancing the square; on both sides of the pedestrian street, there are all kinds of stalls, people selling a variety of goods, but they have a common theme: roses. Rose painting, rose jewelry, rose wood carving, rose essential oil, etc. The restaurant on the street has roses on the table, roses printed on paper towels, and even provides free rose ice cream for tourists!
   Starting from Friday, the Rose Festival lasts for 3 days. Every day, there will be various “rose shows”, folk music performances in the evening, rose food festivals on the pedestrian street, rose art exhibitions, etc. The most not to be missed, of course, is the picking ceremony in the rose field in the early morning: the local girls and boys dressed in traditional national costumes, wearing roses, holding rose baskets, kept throwing rose petals; The salute guns are fired, and rose water is sprayed on the tourists, and the tourists are also invited to dance the cheerful Holo dance together…
   The picking ceremony is not over yet, and everyone has to rush back to the city to participate in the upcoming rose parade. The parade, led by the beautiful Rose Queen, walked down the street one by one. The parade line is so long, it feels like people from the whole city are in the procession, such as farmers who grow roses, villages, school children, boys in the baseball team, girls in the gymnastics team… Of course, the most eye-catching It was the Rose Queen. Whenever her float passed in front of her, people cheered and whistled. Every year, the Rose Queen is a beautiful girl chosen by the people.

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