Žirovnica – The Place to Be(e) to Celebrate World Bee Day!

So, at last, the long-awaited first ever World Bee Day took place on Sunday 20th May and Žirovnica was the place to be(e)!

The celebrations were centred around Breznica, the birth place of Anton Janša and home to his memorial apiary, which, following recent renovation, has been further improved by the placing of a new memorial plaque to mark World Bee Day.

There were celebrations throughout the land to mark this momentous day, even more momentous since Slovenia, and in particular the President of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, was the initiator of the campaign to have 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša, Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper, proclaimed World Bee Day. After all, as we all know, or should all know, every third spoonful of food we eat is dependent on pollination by bees, thus ‘No Bees, No Life‘!

I don’t have the official numbers, however, it seemed as if the majority of Slovenia’s 10,000 beekeepers came dressed in their finest to celebrate. For a population of just 2 million, well, do the maths…!

A meeting of Slovenian beekeepers took place under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, whilst throughout the day there were bee-themed events and entertainment.

Visitors were able to watch a film presentation to find out more about the plans for the ‘Bee Park’ – a competition was held recently to come up a name for the new park. The winner has been chosen, however, as yet the name is still under wraps!

A honey market lined the streets and there were concerts, street entertainers and more!

To mark the day, a new stamp was issued by the Slovenian postal service, and Slovenia also launched a special 2 euro coin. Look out for the 2 euro coins in circulation throughout the euro area –  I’ve already got mine!

A great day was had by all and the future for Slovenia’s bees and beekeepers looks very bright. The nation sure did its bees proud!

Photo: Simon Senica

This summer you can take a ride on the Bee Our Guest Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus, which will take you on a journey through the surroundings of Bled, Radovljica and Žirovnica every Wednesday in July and August. Along the way you can visit some of Gorenjska’s beekeepers, Janša’s memorial apiary, Bee Paradise, the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska, and more!

For more information about apitourism in Slovenia see the Bee Our Guest website, and to find out more about the ‘Cradle of Slovenian Beekeeping‘ see the Visit Zirovnica website.

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Čebelji raj – A Real Bee Paradise!

The newly-opened Bee Paradise (Čebelji raj) in the hamlet of Selo in Žirovnica, is a great acquisition for Slovenian beekeeping, Slovenian tourism, the Municipality of Žirovnica, and last but not least, for Slovenia’s bees!

Bee Paradise is the brainchild of the president of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, who has been involved with beekeeping from an early age and is an exemplary example of a diligent and devoted ‘father’ to his numerous colonies of bees, as well as working tirelessly to preserve and promote beekeeping in Slovenia.

 

Indeed, it was Bostjan, together with other leading members of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association, that was the driving force behind Slovenia’s initiative to have 20th May, the birth date of the pioneer of modern apiculture, Anton Janša, declared as World Bee Day. And they succeeded in this not-insignificant achievement, when the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the first World Bee Day will be held on 20th May 2018.

Apitherapy has been the buzz word in alternative therapies of late, and at Bee Paradise you can sample its health benefits by taking a seat in one of the comfy loungers, listening to soothing music and the gentle buzzing of the bees and breathing in the intoxicating air. The benefits of bee products – honey, propolis, royal jelly, pollen – are combined in apitheraphy to prevent and/or heal numerous conditions and diseases.

Both inside and outside you can get up-close-and-personal with the Noč family’s bees. Suspended from the ceiling, this ingenious glass sphere allows the bees to come and go as they please, whilst providing a fascinating perspective for visitors.

Tasting sessions and special programmes can be arranged for groups upon prior arrangement, as well as various workshops, professional lectures, presentations etc. Contact details: Tel: 040 431 930 or https://www.cebelarstvo-noc.si/ (website in Slovenian only).

In the garden there is an area planted with special honeybee plants, and from April to October there is a viewing hive where you can watch the bees close-up.

A speciality is the uniquely-designed hive containing jars that the bees fill directly with honey – how ingenious and labour-saving is that!

In front of the family house there is a painted hive and a small shop where you can stock up on goodies and gifts!

And, of course, you can’t visit without tasting the fruits of the bees labour! There are 7 varieties of Slovenian honey to choose from, as well as 2 new products, available exclusively at Bee Paradise; bela medolada – a combination of white chocolate and honey, and temna medolada – cocoa and honey. Paradise indeed for someone with a sweet tooth like me!

The first World Bee Day is fast approaching, and Bee Paradise, as well as Anton Jansa’s memorial apiary, which is just minutes away, will be part of the numerous celebrations taking place throughout Slovenia, and indeed the world!

More information about Slovenian beekeeping and World Bee Day can be found on the Bee Our Guest website, and for more information about what else to see and do in the Žirovnica area, see the Visit Žirovnica website.

© Adele in Slovenia

Gostilna Knafel: Dine with the stars…in Žirovnica!

Through the years, the Žirovnica area has been home to numerous of Slovenia’s most well known talents. Of this, the most well known are the ‘famous five’ – Anton Janša, France Prešeren, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Janez Jalen and Matija Čop.

You can ‘meet’ these five by visiting their birth houses and also see bust statues of them outside the Žirovnica primary school at the Alley of Famous Men, which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

The Karavanke mountains form a backdrop to the villages and hamlets that form the Municipality of Žirovnica, and, on one of the first truly warm and sunny spring days this year, yesterday it was at last, after the long, bleak winter, time to get out exploring again- hooray!

 

Then it was time to ‘dine with the stars‘ at the Gostilna Knafel restaurant, which is in close proximity to the Alley of Famous Men, where you can enjoy a hearty meal in the company of Žirovnica’s famous men! Depending where you choose to sit in the restaurant, you can ‘dine’ with one of them, or rather in the knowledge they are watching over you as you eat!

France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet.

And read some of their words of wisdom…

Anton Janša – Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper and the pioneer of modern apiculture.

Not far from Gostilna Knafel you can also visit Anton Jansa’s apiary, which was reconstructed in 2017.

There’s a kid’s corner, where Fran Saležki Finžgar keeps a watchful eye!

The team at Gostilna Knafel strive to offer traditional Slovenian dishes such as buckwheat krapi (similar to ravioli) filled with curd cheese topped with pork crackling,

Take a peek into the kitchen and you can even see krapi being freshly made! The before…

And the after…

One of my favourite Slovenian foods is štruklji, so I was spoilt for choice with homemade savoury štruklji (a light dough filled and rolled like a swiss roll) with a porcini mushroom sauce.

As well as sweet buckwheat štruklji with curd cheese, honey and walnuts.

There is also a full a-la-carte menu, daily malice (light lunches from Mon-Fri), and pizzas – something for every taste!

The Visit Žirovnica website has more information about Gostilna Knafel and the other food and beverage outlets in the Žirovnica area, which I am looking forward to getting more acquainted with – and tasting too, of course!

© Adele in Slovenia

Experience Prešeren’s Day Along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage

Despite only living to the tender age of 49, the legacy of France Prešeren (1800-1849), Slovenia’s most famous poet, remains as strong today as ever. In fact, Prešeren was, or rather is, so important to Slovenian culture, that a national holiday is dedicated to him annually on 8th FebruaryPrešeren’s Day. 

Find out more about the life and times of Prešeren, as well as that of some of Slovenia’s other great literary writers, along the Walk along the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage.

Although you can visit the attractions along the path year-round, it is a particularly special experience to do so on Prešeren’s Day, when you can join hundreds of others visitors, locals and those from further afield, to walk the path, find out more about life in Prešeren’s time, and feel a part of Slovenia’s cultural heritage.

The 10km circular path leads through the villages beneath Mt. Stol – the highest peak in the Karavanke range – taking in Prešeren’s birth house in the village of Vrba, where there is a car park and information board about the path.

Opposite the car park there is a bust statue of the great man.

In addition to visiting Prešeren’s birth house, you can continue to the birth houses of Prešeren’s friend, the linguist and literary historian Matija Čop in Žirovnica, the writer Fran Saleški Finžgar in Doslovče, and the writer and priest Janez Jalen in Rodine. All the houses offer a unique insight into life in bygone days and you can see exhibits including an original black kitchen.

For many a particular highlight is a visit to the apiary of Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper and the pioneer of modern apiculture, Anton Janša (1734-1773)in Breznica. It’s easy to find, just follow the brown signs marked with a bee!

The apiary was carefully reconstructed in 2017 and this year will be the focal point of this year’s first ever World Bee Day, which will take place in Breznica on 20th May.

At the time of writing, there’s no snow here in the valley, but that could, of course, change by 8th February! Either way, there’s never a shortage of people joining the walk on 8th February, and there is also a rich accompanying programme on the day for all – regardless of whether you take part in the organised walk or not. It includes free entrance to all the birth houses, stalls along the way offering local food and drink, a honey market in Vrba and small farmer’s market in Rodine, entrance to exhibitions, and more! Find the full programme here (in Slovene only) – http://visitzirovnica.si/pohod-po-poti-kulturne-dediscine-zirovnica-8-februar/

But don’t worry – if you can’t make it on 8th February, you can visit the birth houses and walk, all or some of, the trail independently or, to get the most out of it, on a guided tour. The best time to do so is every fourth Saturday in the month from March to October when guided visits to all four houses are available between 10am and 5pm. For a really special experience on this day you can visit the houses by taking a ride on a traditional horse and cart which begins at the car park in Vrba at set times.

The Visit Zirovnica website has more information about this and all the other attractions in the area.

Come and find out more about why France Prešeren is Slovenia’s equivalent to Shakespeare!

© Adele in Slovenia

World Bee Day: The Anton Janša Honey Route

Much of the history of beekeeping in Slovenia can be attributed to Anton Janša (1734-1733) and still today barely a word is said about Slovenian beekeeping without his name being mentioned. Perhaps it was fate then that I moved to Slovenia, and particularly to the Gorenjska region, from where more than 150 prominent beekeepers hail, including Anton Janša, with whom I also share a birthday – 20th May – which is now (hopefully) to become World Bee Day! I live in Radovljica, home to the Museum of Apiculture and close to the village of Breznica where Anton Janša, was born.

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Slovenia is the only EU member state that has protected its indigenous bee, the Carniolan bee, which means that no other bee can be bred here. The Carniolan bee is the 2nd most widely used breed of bee in the world and originated in this region of the country.

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The initiative for a World Bee Day was started by the Slovene Beekeeping Association, who, rightly so, believe there should be a World Day in recognition of something that is of such vital importance to the world. I whole-heartedly support this movement, after all, there are World Days for pretty much everything these days, so bees more than deserve to be recognised.

To mark this, I went on my own little ‘bee adventure’, following part of the Anton Janša Honey Route, which takes in Radovljica, Bled, Vrba, and Škofja Loka.

I began by visiting Janša’s beehive in Breznica which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage that connects the birth places of many notable Slovenes including Dr. France Prešeren, Matija Čop, Franc Saleški Finžgar and Janez Jalen. More information here – http://bit.ly/1T26zxe

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As with the majority of hives in Slovenia, Jansa’s features original painted beehive panels, unique to Slovenia, each of which depicts a humorous or satirical story – this one shows animals taking over the role of humans.

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I also visited the Kralov med hives in the hamlet of Selo, near Bled, where beekeeper Blaž Ambrožič oozed enthusiasm when showing and telling me about the wonders of bees.

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I thought I knew a reasonable amount about beekeeping, however, Blaž told me so many astonishing facts about beekeeping that I can but recommend that you go and find out more for yourself! After all, it seems that barely a day passes when there isn’t more astonishing evidence about the importance of bees and the benefits of honey. It really is one of the best foods of nature as well as being credited with alleviating a range of medical conditions and lately has also become the latest trend in beauty products. You can also read about my recent experience of a bee sting facial here – http://bit.ly/1Spm1o2

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The star of the show at Kralov med is undoubtedly the hive that was painstakingly transplanted from a tree trunk and transported, bees and all, to where it sits today, and where the bees are still working diligently.

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As a measure of the calm characteristics of the Carniolan bee, Blaž encouraged me to put my hand inside the hive and the bees were completely unperturbed by my presence.

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I had a chance to try some of the honey and learn about the various characteristics and properties of the different kinds of honey and propolis.

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At the time of my visit a brand new hive had just been built which will also be available for apitherapy and visitors will even be able to sleep there, all the while inhaling the intoxicating scents of the bees, which is known to have beneficial effects, particularly for those suffering from respiratory diseases.

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Can you find out more about Kralov med here – http://www.kralov-med.si/en/home/

The Anton Janša route also includes:

  •  The Carniolan queen mating station in the Završnica valley
  • The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, which features, amongst other exhibits, hundreds of beehive front panels including the world’s oldest – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/
  • The hamlets of Combe and Bitnje in Bohinj, where the internationally renowned bee merchant Jan Strgar kept his bees and who, together with Mihael Ambrožič, was responsible for the spread in popularity of the Carniolan bee

You can also visit the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lescehttp://www.cricg.si/angleski-jezik/ and follow developments regarding the World Bee Day Initiative here – https://www.facebook.com/worldbeeday/?fref=ts

So, come on, let’s unite to support World Bee Day and Save the Bees!

© Adele in Slovenia