Bulgaria's Rose Valley – The Red Edition | Quotient Travel

Red edition: The fragrant allure of Bulgaria’s Rose Valley

People on board a float toss rose petals at the Rose festival in Kazanlak, Bulgaria

The annual Rose Festival in Kazanlak is a highlight for both locals and tourists.
Photo: © Rosefestivalkazanlak.com

Red has long been a symbol of passion, boldness and vigour – all of which speak aptly to us as we gear for a new era of travel. Read on for all the red icons that has us fired up this season!

Pinkish Damask roses in Bulgaria's Rose Valley

Bulgaria’s Rose Valley has been producing quality rose essential oil from the Damask rose for over three centuries.
Photo: © Rosefestivalkazanlak.com

The fragrant allure of Bulgaria’s Rose Valley

While technically not red but vibrant pink, the red oil-bearing rose or rosa damascena (Damask rose) and its co-parent the rosa gallica are key to what many consider to be Bulgaria’s finest export – rose oil.

Rose distillation here dates back to around 350 years and the heart of the activity is in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley. Situated south of the Balkan Mountains in central Bulgaria, it’s also known as the Valley of the Roses.

The labour-intensive and painstaking process of producing rose essential oil ensures the queen of oils remains one of the most expensive oils in the world. Each milligram of ‘liquid gold’ requires about 3.5 kilograms of rose petals, picked in the early morning and handled with extreme care!

Every first weekend of June, the Rose Festival is held in Kazanlak and Karlovo with plenty of festivities including rose picking, concerts and the coronation of a Rose Queen. Of course, you can also expect to sample rose products such as rose jam and rose brandy.

Fragrant and alluring as they may be, don’t let your bespoke holiday to Bulgaria and Eastern Europe be limited to roses. Immerse in Thracian treasures, which offer an insight to the fascinating ancient civilization; among them is the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, one of two burial monuments designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bulgarian wines are also fast rising in world prominence, so linger long in Plovdiv, the European Capital of Culture 2019 and arguably one of the finest places to get acquainted with Bulgarian wine.

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Dish of laziji or stir-fried chicken with Sichuan peppercorn, chillies and spring onions

Sichuan dishes like laziji come with generous amounts of Sichuan peppercorn, dried chilli, ginger and garlic.
Photo: © FotoosVanRobin from Netherlands (CC BY-SA 2.0)

All heated up for Sichuan

You can’t quite immerse in China’s Sichuan province without tucking into its internationally renowned cuisine – and working up a sweat at that. When you think about contemporary Sichuan cuisine, images of spicy dishes with generous portions of chillies and peppercorns come to mind. But did you know that the Sichuan peppercorn is a spice produced from the dried berries of a prickly ash shrub?

Notwithstanding the fact that the Sichuan peppercorn is not a true pepper, it is an essential ingredient in signature savoury Sichuan dishes such as dan dan noodles, ma la hotpot, ma po tofu, kung pao chicken and boiled fish. Incidentally the signature ma la refers to the numbing sensation (ma) of the Sichuan peppercorn and the spice (la) of the chilli.

While Sichuan cuisine can be found in almost every part of China, there is no better place to indulge in it than the province itself. Your culinary happiness in Sichuan is typically initiated in Chengdu, the provincial capital and the first Asian city to be designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2010.

Chengdu is also home to the heartwarming giant panda and a great base to explore scenic attractions such as the Jiuzhaigou National Park, Huanglong National Scenic Area, Mount Emei, and the Bamboo Sea.

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Local Maasai dance in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve

Local Maasai in their shuka and traditional gear dance at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Photo: © andBeyond

The eye-catching garment that knits a culture

The sight of Maasai folk, clad in their signature traditional robe or shuka and adorned with beaded accessories, is a sight to behold. The symbolic garment, predominantly red, is a rectangular blanket draped around the body, thick enough to protect the wearer as they move about the African bush and in colder savannah months. So versatile is it that the Maasai also use it to sling children and goods, and as a cape or skirt.

While the Maasai and Samburu people have had a long history of wearing a traditional garment, the shuka was originally made out of animal hide. The tribes would dye the shukka red using vegetable pigments as they believed the colour could scare predators such as lions away. Only in the 1960s did cotton-based shuka emerge and it is thought that checkered patterns and stripes were inspired by the English and Scottish.

On your luxury safari in Tanzania or Kenya, take the opportunity to immerse in the Maasai culture by thoughtful engagement with local communities. Spend time learning their customs and appreciating insider perspectives on how the Maasai people have progressed and are continuing to evolve.

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The Lausturm tower of the Sooss vineyards in Lower Austriaa

The Sankt Laurent is grown predominantly in the southern part of Lower Austria’s Thermenregion region including in Sooss, where the Lausturm tower amidst the vineyards is a significant landmark.
Photo: © AWMB (Austrian Wine Marketing Board) / Egon Mark

Austria’s ‘sexier’ Pinot Noir

Even the most adventurous red wine drinker will find it challenging to conquer all the different varietals out there. But here’s one enigmatic grape to pay attention to – Sankt Laurent or St. Laurent.

This rare grape varietal predominant in Austria is said to be related to the Pinot Noir, although its exact ancestry is yet to be determined. St. Laurent is named after Saint Lawrence Day as that is usually when the grapes ripen and change colour.

St. Laurent wines are described in a myriad ways depending on the faction; Seattle-based Wine Folly terms it “a bolder, sexier and more bodacious Pinot Noir” while wine academic Julia Sevenich notes that it’s “the indigenous Austrian red wine grape for intellectuals”. What everyone seems to agree on is St. Laurent, despite its demanding nature and limited yield, results in an elegant, quality wine.

In short, St. Laurent wines are quite a different creature from Pinot Noirs, even to the extent of being likened to Syrah. St. Laurent wines are deep red in colour, with cherry and bergamot notes and plenty of depth.

While in Austria, pay St. Laurent homage at the Stift Klosterneuburg or Klosterneuburg Monastery, which is home to the world’s oldest viticultural school established in 1863 and Austria’s oldest vineyard. The monastery, also known for outstanding 12th-century elements such as the elaborate Verdun Altar, sits just outside Vienna.

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Red rock scenery and Devils Bridge sandstone arch in Sedona, Arizona

The Devils Bridge Trail in Sedona offers spectacular red rock scenery and a photo stop on the stunning sandstone arch it’s named after.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

The seductive red rock in Arizona

Sedona wants you to know, “God created the Grand Canyon but He lives in Sedona.” Whether you believe that or not, Sedona’s geological features – its red rock in particular – is plain marvellous.

Considering that the towering structures were merely sand and mud some 320 million years ago, Sedona’s red rock is a history and science wonder that is not only unique but gorgeous. Its reddish-brown hues are the result of its outer layer of iron oxide weathering over the years, while its curves were created from river water erosion and sand polishing.

You can easily spend a few days exploring Sedona and its surrounds, in addition to visiting the Grand Canyon and other West Coast destinations. Hang out at the Red Rock State Park and enjoy its many hiking trails, cruise along the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive and get a dose of Native American arts. There’s always a gallery exhibition, music gig, local theatre productions or some arts event to check out. And have we mentioned the magnificent sunsets?!

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Light streams through the Antelope Canyon in Arizona, USA

Rich in antioxidants, saffron is also known as a mood enhancer, earning it the nickname “sunshine spice”.
Photo by Mohammad Amiri on Unsplash

Spain’s spice superstar

There are many gourmet products that are set apart with an appellation or protected status, such as wine, cheese, ham, olive oil. But when it comes to saffron, there’s only one such appellation in the world – the PDO La Mancha Saffron for azafran grown in the Castilla-La Mancha region in central Spain.

Azafran is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean, with the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans credited for introducing saffron to Spain. While Spain is not among the top producers of saffron – Iran is the overwhelming world No. 1, followed by India and Greece – azafran is unchallenged as the best and most expensive saffron in the world. The agricultural conditions and passion in La Mancha have resulted in saffron that is unrivalled in its bright red color and explosive aroma.

That luxurious finishing is not the only reason why saffron is so expensive. It’s the stigma of the crocus sativus flower, which only blooms for a couple of weeks in October and November and must be harvested by hand while the flowers are still closed. Each flower has only three stigmas, which means about 1,000 flowers are needed to produce an ounce of saffron!

Immerse in the flavours of saffron production on your bespoke holiday to Spain and indulge in saffron-infused paella and other signature Spanish fare. The Festival de la Rosa del Azafrán is held in Consuegra on the last weekend of October; festivities include crocus-extracting contests and parades featuring gigantes y cabezudos (“giants and big-heads”).

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Hood and side of Ferrari F40 at the Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans, France

Racing Red has been painted on Italian race cars since the 1920s and is Ferrari’s most popular car colour of all time.
Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

The secret behind Ferrari’s red

Red is one of the most popular colours for supercars, especially Ferrari. But one particular shade – the Rosso Corsa – is the true Racing Red.

Rosso Corsa is firmly fixed in the international scene as the representative colour for Italy, but this was not always the case. During the first contemporary auto race held in 1900, the United States was assigned red. It was only in 1907, when a red Fiat won the Grand Prix race, did Italy adopt its famous Racing Red.

While Ferrari has been associated with Rosso Corsa, for a little over a decade the Italian automaker ditched the Racing Red for a brighter shade for its Formula One cars. There was a practical reason behind it – to avoid having Rosso Corso appear as dark brown in older television sets. With the subsequent advancement in TV quality, Rosso Corso made its return for good.

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