Gastro tour “On the road of saffron and Rhodope cuisine”

Daily Tour 2 days, 1 night Availability: 2020-10-31
4800 Devin, Bulgaria Tour Guide: Екатерина Терзиева

Saffron grows in increasingly large areas in Bulgaria and is slowly displacing traditional tobacco as a livelihood in the Rhodope Mountains. The hope is that the beautiful purple flower can bring life back to long-deserted villages.

The cultivation of the winter crocus, whose stigmas are the most expensive spice in the world, involves entirely manual labor. Harvesting is done day by day by hand, and the separation of the stigmas from the flowers is done by hand. To obtain 1 kg of dry saffron, it is necessary to manually harvest about 160,000 flowers and separate the three red-orange stigmas. Hence the high price of the final product. The petals are used to extract essential oil for cosmetics.

One of the legends about the origin of the saffron winter crocus is romantic – Crocus has been in love with a nymph with whom they have been inseparable. However, the god Hermes has turned her into a bush, and the young man into a beautiful plant, which was later called saffron.

The Babylonians and Assyrians used saffron as a remedy. There are also texts in Chinese medical books about the healing properties of saffron, dating back to 2600 BC. It was believed that the spice gives energy and stimulates love abilities. The Romans used it to aromatize public halls and bathrooms and believed that it had antidote properties. Wearing saffron yellow clothes and shoes was considered a sign of wealth.

In Bulgaria, saffron producers make tea from it, put it in soaps, paste, cheese, and quality perfumes and cosmetics. Some even brew brandy from it, and flavor honey. The family of producers from the Rhodopes also has their own production with saffron, whose saffron farm we will visit during our gastronomic tour.


Place of departure / arrival

Departure hours: 07.30 from Plovdiv, possibility for transfer from Sofia, Pazardzhik and Stara Zagora . For travelers from Plovdiv – departure from the bus stop in front of Trimontium Princess Hotel.


The price of the tour is all inclusive and includes:

  • One breakfast
  • Two lunches
  • Tastings of saffron products
  • Tasting of Mursal tea
  • Dinner
  • Overnight
  • Transfer by safari jeeps to the Eagle’s Eye site
  • Transport
  • Entrance to the visited museums and caves
  • Full tour guide service

Opportunity to purchase

Opportunity to purchase fresh and natural farm products at producer prices.


What to expect?

The gastronomic tour “On the road of saffron and Rhodope cuisine” presents a new livelihood for this part of Bulgaria – growing saffron winter crocus and turning it into a spice, tea, using it in honey, cheese, pasta, perfumes, and cosmetics.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, as it is grown entirely by hand. The bulbs are replanted every year, and the separation of the stigmas from the purple flowers is also associated with manual labor. Saffron is not only a pleasant cooking spice but has been known for thousands of years for its healing properties.

In addition to products with saffron, we will have the opportunity to try a number of typical Rhodope cuisine dishes – Rhodope “klin”, “patatnik”, “tenurki”, trout from the high mountain lakes. We will spend half a day in the warm mineral and thermal pools of a four-star hotel in Devin, and the second day is dedicated to adventures in the Rhodope caves near the villages of Yagodina and Trigrad, climbing by jeep to the stunning site “Eagle’s Eye” opposite Mount St. Elijah. the Rhodope bears in the museum in Trigrad, tasting of the gentle and healing Mursal tea.

We will meet the people and stories behind:

  • Mountain saffron farm
  • The warm and healing mineral waters of Devin
  • The masters of the Rhodope cuisine from three Rhodope restaurants
  • Mursal Tea Farm
  • Apiary above Vacha dam
  • The Yagodina cave
  • Peak St. Iliya and “Eagle’s Eye”
  • Devil’s Throat Cave
  • The Bear Museum in Trigrad

Itinerary

Day 1: In the caves of the Rhodopes, Peak St. Iliya, and a cup of hot Mursal tea

On the way to the Rhodopes, we stop for a cup of coffee on the terrace with a magnificent view over the Vacha dam and continue to Trigrad. We descend to the exotic cave “Devil’s Throat”, whose main part is occupied by a large hall, which houses the highest underground waterfall on the Balkan Peninsula. We will pass through the Trigrad Gorge – an extremely picturesque gorge on the Trigrad River to go to the Bear Museum – a mammal typical of the Western Rhodopes. We will hear recordings with an authentic roar of bears, wolves, foxes.

We will calm the spirits with a cup of fragrant Mursal tea, grown on the mountain ridges above Trigrad. The aromatic herb has been used for generations in the Rhodopes for colds, lung and kidney diseases, and is drunk as a general tonic. Its name comes from the Mursalitsa peak in the Rhodopes, and the legend says that the Mursal tea grows at the place where Orpheus’ tears fell when he was looking for his beloved Eurydice. This is where one of the most healing herbs in nature appears. An herb that is said to be magical and heals everything.

We have lunch with traditional Rhodope dishes and head to a new challenge – Yagodina Cave. Its natural entrance leads to the first floor, where an ancient dwelling was discovered, inhabited around the 4th millennium BC. We continue with off-road jeeps to the site “Eagle’s Eye” under the peak of St. Iliya, where we calm down in front of the mighty beauty of the Rhodope Mountains. We stay in one of the four-star hotels in Devin, and for dinner, we try other typical Rhodope specialties.

Day 2: Saffron and the silky tenderness of the mineral waters in Devin

The second day of our gastronomic tour begins with pleasant hours to relax in the embrace of the warm mineral water of the two pools in the hotel, and our lunch is in one of the most famous Devin restaurants, which will prepare our typical dishes. After the culinary experience, we visit a family saffron farm.

The winter crocus, from which the most expensive spice in the world is extracted, is at the center of the family’s small family business. Violeta is from Devin, a German-speaking philologist, and works for a large international company. He is from Dobrinishte, a construction technician, and for two years he has been mainly engaged in the saffron business as a registered farmer.

We will have a cup of saffron tea while they tell us about their saffron adventures. The family not only produces tea and spices from saffron stigmas, but puts them in honey, pasta, and special cheeses.

On the way back we stop at the only Bulgarian spring with naturally carbonated mineral water in Mihalkovo.

 

The purple saffron fields of the Rhodopes, the warm mineral waters of Devin, the adventures in the caves underground, on the tops of the Rhodopes and the delicious Rhodope dishes of the mountain.

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