Gastro tour “On the road of the sesame and tahini in Sakar and The Rhodopes”

Daily Tour 2 days, 1 night
Sakar Mountain, 6533, Bulgaria Tour Guide: Екатерина Терзиева

Sesame has been grown in the world since 1600 BC. It is immortalized in the tales of Scheherazade with the famous line “Sesame, open up!” (in English. Sesame – sesame). Reflects the plant’s ability to dissolve its seed boxes when ripe. The ancient Babylonians have believed that a mixture of sesame and honey preserves youth and beauty, and Roman soldiers have used it for gaining energy and more strength. Sesame cultivation and sesame tahini production were once a traditional livelihood in the Eastern Rhodopes and Sakar. Although they have subsided over the years, now the interest in this culture and produced from it tahini is reviving.

With its amino acids, silicon, phosphorus, copper, potassium, magnesium, vitamins E, B1, B2, B6, and PP, sesame tahini qualifies as a superfood. It is an indispensable tool for strengthening the body and treating many diseases, and since the calcium in it is five times more than in cow’s milk, it is also given to strengthen children. Sesame tahini also contains much more protein than cheese, soy and even some meats. It is recommended for blood vessels, and for menopausal women tahini is mandatory – it limits the dilution of calcium in the bones and thus protects against osteoporosis. Tahini has a calming effect on easily excitable nerves. It is useful for manual workers and athletes.

How to grow sesame, how to make sesame tahini, tahini from pumpkin nuts, hazelnuts, and apricot kernels will be shown to us by the owners of four tahini farms in Harmanli and Ivaylovgrad regions, and in the village of Dositeevo, where the Sesame Festival has been held for years. But not only sesame and tahini gives the fertile land of the Eastern Rhodopes and Sakar – we will try the elite wines of the region, fresh fish from Ivaylovgrad Dam, dairy veal from the farm of Betty and Niki – the stars of the TV show “The Farm”, thyme honey, we will visit an ancient Roman villa, the museum of sericulture, a museum of precious stones, we will walk to the only Albanian village in our country.

Place of departure / arrival:

Plovdiv. Possible transfers from Sofia and other cities by prior arrangement.The program starts at 9.00 am in the village of Dositeevo, municipality. Harmanli.

Hours of departure: 07,30 AM from Plovdiv through the Trakia Motorway, a meeting at the Lukoil gas station on Tsarigradsko Shosse Blvd.

The price of the tour includes:

  • One breakfast
  • Two lunches
  • Tahini tastings
  • Two three-stage wine tastings
  • Tasting of thyme honey
  • Overnight
  • Transport
  • Full tour guide service with a licensed guide
  • Entrance fees for the museums and sites visited
  • Tourist insurance

The price of the tour does not include:

  • Dinner
  • Coffee with dessert in the village of Mandritsa

Opportunity to purchase

Opportunity to buy fresh and natural farm products (various types of tahini, honey, wine, canned vegetables, milk, cheese and yellow cheese) at producer prices.

What to expect?

The gastro tour “On the road of the sesame and tahini in Sakar and The Rhodopes” presents a traditional livelihood for these parts of Bulgaria – growing sesame and turning it into sesame paste, which we know as tahini.

Obtained from finely ground sesame seeds, tahini is a staple in many Asian and Oriental dishes, such as hummus. It can be prepared from peeled and unpeeled sesame seeds, in the latter case it is darker and bitter. On the other hand, it contains more minerals and nutrients. It is most often prepared by mixing the two types. Tahini is also a rich source of protein – there is much more protein in it than in cheese, soy and some types of meat. It is also useful for blood vessels, and sesame oil is completely absorbed by the body. In Bulgaria, tahini is made in very few places. Somewhere they still prepare tahini in the old-fashioned way – by grinding sesame seeds between stones. Before that, the sesame is dried and baked in an oven. Elsewhere, the producers have already switched to modern technology and machine sesame seeds. We will meet with tahini producers, some of which are hereditary. We will try traditional for Sakar and the Eastern Rhodopes dishes with sesame – Dositeevski “kartalatsi” sprinkled with sesame, Pelevunska “maslenitsa”, which is sesame baklava, we will learn what else can be made from tahini. We will also visit the ancient capital of sesame – the village of Dositeevo, where they have been holding a Sesame Festival for years.

We will meet the people and stories behind:

  • Private history and ethnographic museum, with a rich collection of precious and semi-precious stones found in the area of Madzharovo. The exposure also includes fotos and a story about camel breeding – the old livelihood of the refugees from White Sea Thrace in this area
  • The Museum of sericulture in Ivaylovgrad – one of the brightest examples of the traditional urban sericulture house from the end of the XIX century.
  • Two wine cellars that produce wine from the valuable old local varieties Tamyanka and Rubin
  • Apiary, which produces honey from thyme and over 20 other herbs near the border with Turkey
  • The only Albanian village in Bulgaria

And the hosts on the first day will be Betty and Nikki – the stars of the TV show “The Farm”, who are parents of four children and have their own farm for grazing animals.


Day 1: First meetings with Sakar wine and tahini in the sesame capital of Bulgaria

The women in the village of Dositeevo, called the Sesame Capital, will tell us about the cultivation of sesame, which is also the focus of the already traditional Sesame Festival in the village, about the festive sesame sweet pie, about Dositeevski “kartaltsi” – pies with sesame. While tasting wine from one of the most valuable varieties in the area, in a cellar founded by a father and his sons, we will try pumpkin seed tahini and hazelnut tahini. At noon, the hosts of the TV show “The Farm” will treat us to a regular casserole with beef, potatoes and old beans of over 100 years old variety. In the afternoon we go to an old tahandzhiynitsa, where several generations produce sesame tahini. We will look at the collection of precious stones in the Museum of Life in the village of Borislavtsi,where they also have an exposition of the ancient livelihood of camel breeding. In the village of Plevun we will try the tahini of a young family that only produces sesame seeds in one of the few preserved ecologically clean regions in Bulgaria under the peak of St. Elijah. Before dinner we will try the vegetable specialties of a local housewife, and in the evening after the roast lamb we will sweeten with the local specialty Pelevunska maslenitsa (sesame baklava).

Day 2: In the footsteps of silkworms, Roman patricians and Albanian settlers

We will have breakfast the traditional for this area “trahana” and we will travel to Ivaylovgrad to visit the Museum of sericulture “Paskaleva house” – one of the brightest examples of the traditional urban sericulture house from the end of the XIX century, declared an architectural monument. The owner of the first private tahandzhiynitsa in Ivaylovgrad region will tell us why sesame oil is useful. We will visit the unic Roman villa “Armira” whose mosaics are a masterpiece of Roman art. The 1st-century suburban Roman villa is a sumptuous palace villa and one of the largest and most richly decorated Ancient Roman villas excavated in Bulgaria. In one of the local wineries will try to answer the question why the merlot has a special status in Ivaylovgrad. Our lunch includes fresh white fish caught the same day from the beautiful Ivaylovgrad dam. Our tour will end with a walk in the village of Mandritsa – the only Albanian village in Bulgaria. Located on the Silk Road, in the past there was a glorious history and rich people. It was founded in 1636 by three Albanian Christian brothers who were mandrakes. Hence the name of the village. In one of the local restaurants we will have afternoon coffee and, if desired, an Albanian dessert “tamblya karota”.

The green hills of the Eastern Rhodopes and Sakar, at whose feet the meanders of the rivers Arda and Maritsa meander. The waters of the majestic Ivaylovgrad dam are spread nearby, and the warm wind reminds of the nearby Mediterranean.

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