Bulgarian souvenirs overview

Despite what people say, tourism remains the major source of income in Bulgaria. Profit from a lavender cultivation, honey gathering and cattle breeding has nothing to do with earnings that the state and its citizens get from a tourist flow.

In the summertime some visitors set off to the Black Sea coast, others explore high mountain routes and come back to ski in winter. Mature tourists prefer to chill out in hot springs during the off-season. Meanwhile, few people know that souvenir shops with all their wide range smoothly follow travelers from one busy place to another. So, let’s figure it out, what to look for and what kind of memorable gifts to bring to your friends and family from Bulgaria.

1. Rose products

Bulgaria is well-known for being a main supplier of rose oil in the overseas market. Picking one, make sure it has the quality certificate and its seal isn’t violated. Due to a great demand, unscrupulous merchants put on a counter low quality items or even fakes. Rose oil is used as a basis for cosmetics and perfume manufacturing and rose water producing. In fact, rose oil can be hand-made especially if you’re staying in Bulgaria in a blooming period and have enough spare time. Check out our previous article where we told about homemade rose oil.

Besides, Bulgarian rose’ petals jam and delight definitely worth tasting. And surely, local wine made of roses needs mentioning, even though it’s hard to be found on a shelf. Who knows if it contains artificial roses’ taste boosters, but what food isn’t enhanced with flavourings these days? Also note the lovely rosebud-shaped soap bars, the authentic rose candles and rose home fragrance as a possible souvenir.

Rose production have a great influence on culture and traditions in Bulgaria

2. Lavender products

In addition to rose valleys, located in Kazanlak area, there’re many lavender fields in Bulgaria. As a rule, most of the crop is exported to some other European Union countries while the rest is used for the domestic market goods production. When choosing one, it is worthy drawing attention to cosmetics, bath salt and tooth paste, enriched with lavender essential oil, car fresheners and lavender-flavored sugar candies. Liquor intensified with lavender aroma is yet a rare thing still can be found in the sale. If not but much-needed there’s always an option to google and order some via internet, moreover local delivery is affordable and speedy.

Want more? Check out the annual lavender festival in Bulgaria

One might desire to gather a bunch of wild lavender and dry it out. Plenty of these lovely flowers can be found from June to August beyond the town nearer to the fields and meadows. Speaking of what to buy we’ve once managed to find even chips with a touch of lavender taste. By the way, a box of lavender macaroons is always an elegant gift. In spite of these Italian biscuits came into fashion in Bulgaria, they can be hardly found in a grocery store but are available online.

3. Wine and Raki

If you’re lucky to have some space in your suitcase you may benefit from a bottle of local wine, raki, liqueurs, etc. Thanks to mild hot Bulgarian climate a great diversity of grapes are cultivated. However, dry wines are mostly made here while sweet and semisweet ones are rarities. A sweet-wine-drinker may consider it too fortified and in this case a spoon of honey may be added right in a glass.

The price for the wine in Bulgaria is around 5 to 50 BGN

Apart from white and red ones a refined rosy wine with variety of fruit flavours can be spotted on the shelf. Bulgarians themselves don’t appreciate these kinds of drinks and snobby assume the excess of sugar worsens any wine. Raki tastes a bit like brandy, has a fruit aroma and minimum 40 % vol. of alcohol. Mastika is a strong anise- flavoured drink, consumed chilled and is equivalent of Greek ouzo. Got to say, Bulgarian alcohol is not everyone’s cup of tea, do always taste before buying.

4. Food

Bulgaria is famous for its natural vegetable ketchup “lyutenitsa”. It comes in many varieties: smooth, with bits, spicy or not. Grab a couple of jars for those compatriots who’ve never tried. Confused which one to pick? Check out our article “Lutenitсa recipe & story”. “Chushka burek” fans will be into sun-dried peppers, likewise sun-dried tomatoes are quite a good bargain here.

Honey is preferably to be bought directly from the bee-keepers on the farmer’s market. Engaged with not only bee products sellers are spotted to deal with sugar syrup instead. Farmers usually suggest tasting, so please make sure you’re purchasing the same jar you’ve just checked. Find more details about Bulgarian honey’ varieties and features in our previous article.

If you enjoy local pastry banitsa but haven’t managed to cook this authentic treat yourself so far may be you should take away a couple of packages of puff dough “tocheni kori”. It can be transferred in a cooler-bag and please welcome here for the recipe.

“Tocheni kori” puff for the banitsa and dried vegetables “Susheni zelenchutsy”

There are spices, but Bulgaria is not Turkey and there is nothing so special that you wouldn't find at home: dried basil, garlic, thyme, thyme (masherka), cinnamon (canela). Unless "sharena sol" (colored salt), which is more likely to be suitable as a decor, since the taste is quite controversial. However, it is worth paying attention to the mixture of dried vegetables “Susheni zelenchutsy”.

A few tourists aware of a wonderful fruit and herbal tea produced in Bulgaria. They are represented in a wide range and all have lovely mild taste and natural rich aroma. They package tea bags here rather weird as if string and tag is an extraneous matter. And though teabags are identified with low grade tea dust by many people, Bulgarian non-encumbered bags are filled with good quality tea leaves. Handy to know that “laika/лайка” is the Bulgarian for “chamomile”, “shipka/шипка” means “roseship” and “planinskiy/планински” is a mountain detox tea. Besides, you may have spotted Mursalski or Pirin Tea in the convenient stores. These are named after mountain ranges and are gathered high up in peaks to be sold as sun-dried bunches. This herbal tea is believed to be a universal cure-all.

Not to mention Greek goods: cosmetics based on oliveoil, olive oil (“zekhtin” in Bulgarian) and of course their majesties preserved olives. Greek jewelry is also worth attention simply because it’s way cheaper than in Greece.

5. Handmade

Respect to Bulgarians for keeping their time-honored traditions in everyday life. They nevertheless aren’t identified with the scrupulosity and meticulousness, how typical of Southern people. Those of the foreigners and out-of-towners who’ve been living here for a while, learned to stand sympathetic towards it. But keep your eyes open in souvenir shops stuffed with traditionally painted pottery and ethnic decor items with antique finish. Every little thing should be closely examined before purchasing.

Bulgarian textiles and ceramics

Bulgarian ceramics is rather weighty and needs to be carefully wrapped. Things like tablecloths and fabric napkins with traditional patterns, wooden kitchenware, mortars made of solid stone, asymmetric chopping boards – all in plenty choices might come in handy for any housewife. Handmade wool socks with ethnic pattern may please you in winter. The life hack is to stay away from the souvenir shops without price tags especially if you have no idea of approximate cost.

Everybody knows most of the souvenirs nowadays are made in China and Bulgaria isn’t an exception. So if you are into original and unique souvenirs with Bulgarian distinctiveness’ vibes set off to one of the rural markets. Here you can find charming handmade cattle bells, horseshoes, kuker outfit décor, festive, carnival and ceremonial little things like “martenitsa/мартеница” (a small piece of adornment,  symbolizing the wish for good health), “survachki/сурвачки” (a decorated dogwood twig that is believed to bring vital energy on Survak Day), “kysmeti/късмети” (luck predicting tiny papers hidden in pastry).

Last but not least: if you want to bring a really special, unique and memorable thing from Bulgaria, it can be a small rock from a mountain peak, as a proof that you’ve reached the top. Many hikers are too bothered with the breathtaking views and are usually too tired to just remember to grab a little reminder from the ground. A detailed hike tutorial to Polezhan, Todorka eyes, Vihren, Bezbog, The Seven Rila Lakes we shared earlier in our articles.

All right, now let’s review what trophies to find in Bulgaria:

  1. Rose products. Oil, water, cosmetics, jam, wine, delight, home fragrance.
  2. Lavender products. Cosmetics, bath salt, car freshener, tooth paste, lavender-flavoured sugar candies, macaroons, chips.
  3. Alcohol. Wine, liqueurs, bitters, raki, mastika.
  4. Food. Lyutenitsa, sun-dried peppers and tomatoes, spices, herbs, honey, puff dough “tocheni kori”, herbal tea, Greek olive oil-based products.
  5. Handmade. Bulgarian ceramics, tablecloths, fabric napkins, kitchenware, wool socks and all kinds of local handmade.
  6. Distinctive items. Things made by Bulgarians and for Bulgarians, available on Sunday rural market. Cattle bells, horseshoes, traditional festive and ceremonial accessories.
  7. Little natural reminders picked on the mountain peak.

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