by Marian Draganov
MOGILITSA, Bulgaria, June 21 (Xinhua) -- The Second Wildflowers Festival kicked off in the Bulgarian village of Mogilitsa in the Rhodope Mountains on Saturday, showing the natural and cultural richness of the region.
The nine-day event, held also in the villages of Smilyan, Momchilovtsi and Gorna Arda, some 280 km southeast of Bulgarian capital Sofia, includes various activities such as bike tours, photo-fests on the beauty of the Rhodope flowers, cookery courses, aromatherapy and herbal cosmetics, and folk singing.
Antonia Chilikova, project manager, told Xinhua the festival is part of an international initiative that aims to promote wild flowers, their meaning and traditions in this regard.
"On the other hand, we want to attract visitors, tourists, in this really beautiful moment in the Rhodopes where the diversity of wild flowers in the meadows and fields of the Rhodopes is impressive," she said.
Rhodopes is the richest of higher plants and flowering plants mountain in Bulgaria and one of the richest in Europe, Chilikova added.
Asya Sarieva from the village of Smilyan is among the people who know the power of the Rhodope flowers and herbs, because she has been making various natural medicines for many years.
She told Xinhua that an ointment used for the treatment of wounds, burns of the skin, for massage, cracked heels and hemorrhoids, is one of her most popular medicines.
To make it, she mixes a variety of herbs such as calendula, cilantro and basil, adding also pine resin, incense, lard and olive oil, and boils the mixture in a water bath for two days, she said.
From a basket, she took and showed a dozen of jars with many of her natural medicines, such as marigold with olive oil, which is believed to be effective to heal refractory wounds and ulcer.
A combination of garlic and brandy functions like antibiotic, according to Sarieva. "If for 40 days you take one coffee spoon of the liquid every morning, you don't need to buy antibiotics," she said.
She also shows ginkgo biloba in brandy and red centaury in brandy, which are believed to be good for the nerves and blood supply to the brain, and for stomach and gastritis, respectively.
Sarieva said she learned the craft from her mother and her aunt.
However, she added, "Nobody gives their craft, and you have to steal it." She also read a lot of books.
To learn interesting things about another application of Rhodope plants, in cooking, the Xinhua correspondent went to the nearest regional center Smolyan, to meet with Milena Yurukova, a manager and chef of a small hotel.
On the green meadows above the town, she said that in the kitchen she most used silene vulgaris, sorrel, nettles, wild mushrooms, and various herbs, such as thyme and wild mint.
"So, from early spring, when we start to pick something at the meadows, we always have something green on the table -- for salads and soups," Yurukova said.
She said that herbs have "the greatest power" in June, especially in midsummer, which is June 24, preferably in the morning.
Looking at the dozens of herbs in the meadow, Yurukova said about a typical dish of the region -- sarma with leaves of sugar beet.
"Here it is a specialty. It is very popular, very much. And in any garden with potatoes and beans, people grow beet because of its leaves," Yurukova said. Sugar beet leaves are very tender and very tasty, she added.
Minutes later, the most popular Rhodope dish, called "patetnik", was done. "The original recipe contains grated potatoes, one onion, one egg, dry mint, put a little olive oil or vegetable oil, and that is," Yurukova said.
She also added black pepper, salt and a little sugar, kneaded the mixture, turned it with a pastry crust, and then baked in a pan, covering it with a lid.
She also cooked other dishes with fresh herbs. Herbs were the most in the salad, where she put arugula, parsley, mint, lemon balm, sorrel and violets, while vegetable soup contained nettles, sorrel, silene vulgaris, parsley, mint, mint, thyme and garlic.
The popularity of her soup has been proven. Manuel, a guest from Switzerland who has visited Yurukova's restaurant several times, drew an image of a bowl of hot soup with a superman taking off and described it as "Milena's Super Soup" in the guest book of Yurukova's restaurant.