Tour guides are often irritated when a group of tourists rush chaotically into souvenirs shops and spend a lot of time going from one stand to another to kill time. But what can we do? After all, visitors are obsessed by the thrill of buying and they all want to take away something to remember a given country by, buy presents for relatives and friends and talk big about the place they visited.
However, it turned out that in most cases the souvenir in question they were so keen to buy is quite expensive and bears a small label “Made in China”. Besides, it is not worth spending money on souvenirs which can be found on any stand in the streets of your own country. In other words, globalization is having its say. The markets are becoming uniform, as are our own tastes. Still, the souvenir industry is flourishing worldwide, including Bulgaria, where it is growing parallel with the positive development of the local tourist sector. Besides, a positive trend has emerged in this country in the recent years - the souvenirs sold in the country correspond to a great extent to its traditions and specific features. Take a walk around a Bulgarian resort or a tourist town, look into a souvenir shop and you will see this is true. Unlike some street stands and bazaars which sell various flowery items, one can find in specialized souvenir shops high-quality items such as authentic Troyan ceramic pottery or modern ceramic pots made by contemporary Bulgarian applied artists. Traditional Bulgarian table cloths with typical embroidery often seen in many local restaurants and pubs are quite popular amongst foreign tourists, too. So are the items made of copper and wrought iron, copies of icons, wood-carved souvenirs, etc. Dolls dressed in folk costumes also attract the attention of foreign visitors. “They go with a vial of rose oil water and are very well sold amongst Japanese tourists who practically go crazy when they see them”, says Desislava Tabakova who works as a sales assistant in a souvenir shop at the entrance of the Samovodska Market in Veliko Tarnovo. In her words, the sheep figures made of pure sheep wool are the biggest hit on the market. Why sheep souvenirs? “Because Bulgaria is famous across the world with its sheep yoghurt, yellow cheese and white brine cheese and because huge flocks of sheep once grazed in our mountains”, Desislava Tabakova specifies and shows us another traditional item - a hand made Rhodope Kaba (low-pitched) bag pipe. “I sell at least three bag pipes each year, although they are very expensive”, Desi explains passionately. Tourists can also buy from her shop beautiful jewelry made of wrought iron with semi-precious stones, typical Bulgarian products such as savory, paprika, rose hip-jam, rose-flower jam, rose-flavored Turkish delight, rose liqueur and rose brandy. All products made of Bulgarian oil-yielding roses sell like hot cakes among tourists. We are talking about the local cosmetic industry which uses this beautiful flower that grows in abundance in region of the towns of of Kazanlak and Pavel Banya! The stands in the souvenir shops abound in products made of Bulgarian oil-yielding roses. Desi’s shop makes no exception.
“The interest in the Bulgarian oil-yielding rose is huge. Practically all foreigners who come to Bulgaria take a souvenir made of traditional Bulgarian roses away with them. People often buy vials of rose oil which is sold in small quantities and is very expensive. You only need to put one drop of natural rose oil in your cosmetic cream to feel its wonderful scent and effect. We have a wide range of cosmetics such as shampoos, lotions, shower creams and soaps which contain rose water or rose oil. Tourists buy our perfumes a lot. We have ten types of perfumes with various rose fragrances.”
So, if you go out hunting for Bulgarian souvenirs, you should definitely focus on the specialized shops. There you can find authentic, hand made items or traditional Bulgarian products which will remind you of your summer vacation for a long time to come.
English version: Kostadin AtanasovPhotos: Veneta Nikolova
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