As in Kanitz's time, roses are picked by hand. But instead of picturesque baskets, they are stuffed into ordinary large, and much more convenient, plastic bags.
The most striking difference between classical rose pickers and the true workers in the fields is their faces. The people toiling among the flowering bushes are mainly Gypsies.
They inhabit small, third-world-like houses in several villages around the area and one neighbourhood of Kazanlak. Most of them are generally unemployed. Rose picking is one of the few ways to earn something. Their daily wage depends on the amount they pick and ranges between 10 and 20 leva. The price that producers get for the rose flowers is not very high either. Due to the drought in 2009, for example, the quality of the attar deteriorated. Buyers reduced the price of rose flowers from 1.50 to 1.20 leva per kilo and a kilogram of rose oil sold for 4,500 instead of 5,000 euros on the international market. Rose producers suspected the buyers of a cartel agreement and tried to boycott them – without much success.
Attar of roses acquired a slightly negative aura in the collective consciousness of the Bulgarians as early as the 1890s, when Aleko Konstantinov's collection of satirical stories entitled Bay Ganyo was published. The main character, the archetypal uncouth and cunning buffoon – the Bulgarian equivalent of the stock Irishman, travels around Europe in search of a market for his valuable rose oil. Here is what happens in his hotel in Vienna: "As the rose oil that Bay Ganyo was carrying was indeed a rather precious article, I recommended him to leave it in the safetydeposit box. 'The safety deposit?' he shouted in a tone showing his pity for my naivety. 'You are strange people, you scholars! How do you know the kind of men they have at the safe? They could take your oil and disappear somewhere! Well? What do you do then? Can you see this waistband?' Bay Ganyo lifted his loose waistcoat. 'I'll put all the phials inside. True, they'll be a bit heavy, but safe.'"
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers