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

 

 

Celebrating 25 Years of Lectar Inn, Radovljica

On Wednesday last week I was invited to a special lunch at Lectar Inn in Radovljica’s old town centre to mark the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its ownership in the hands of Jože and Lili.

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Theirs is a real rags-to-riches story. The couple told us a few stories about the past, including how when they first arrived in Radovljica to take over running Lectar Inn they initially had a lease to rent the restaurant for a 10-year period, however, it soon became apparent that it was to become their life’s work and that 10 years would be nowhere near enough so they enquired about the possibility of buying the property. At that time, they certainly didn’t have the financial means to do so as they additionally had to put a lot of money, time and effort into renovating the 500-year old house and also had 2 young children (which later became 4 children – including one set of twins). Lili recalled the day when 2 of the children came home from school in tears because they were the only ones amongst their classmates who didn’t have school slippers – they couldn’t afford them. Over time, all their hard graft began to pay off and nowadays, in addition to the family, they employ 17 staff across the restaurant, Lectar live gingerbread workshop and guest rooms.

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It is plain to see, that despite all the hard work they revel in what they do and have remained as hardworking and humble as ever, and more than deserve every accolade they have received. I must admit to having felt a lump in my throat listening to their stories of hardship and dedication to the business, the family, and each other. It also made me feel proud to be part of such and occasion and to live somewhere where such tradition is valued. Jože even went on to invite us all to the next big Lectar celebration – in 2022 – to mark 200 years of operation of the restaurant! The gingerbread museum has, however, been in operation even longer, since 1766.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay and enjoy the specially prepared lunch, though I did get a chance to sample some of the goodies on offer from some of the other Taste Radol’ce restaurants, among them the ever-delicious cake pops from Gostilna Kunstelj, sausages with tepka pears and chocolate-covered tepka pears from Vila Podvin, and the house dessert ‘Prešeren’s Cylinder’ from Chateau Lambergh. Although the main focus of Taste Radol’ca takes place annually during the month of November, all the participating restaurants also have Taste Radol’ca dishes as a permanent feature on their menus, denoted by little bee symbols, and made exclusively using local ingredients. There’s plenty more about this in the Taste Radol’ca section of this blog.

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This Sunday was a cultural public holiday in Slovenia, Prešeren’s Day, to mark the date of the death, in 1849, of Slovenia’s great poet, France Prešeren.  Unfortunately, as with last year, this year once again 8th of February fell on a weekend, meaning it was pretty much an ordinary day for most and the nation missed out on having a day off. I always find this a bit unfair as, unlike in the UK, if a holiday falls on a weekend here, as quite a few of them do in 2015, it’s just tough luck, and the following day in not given as a holiday in lieu.

I always like to visit the Prešeren Fair (Prešernov smenj) in Kranj which is a celebration of all things ‘Prešeren. This year I had been looking forward to it even more as I’ve not been outside of Radovljica for some weeks now due to not being able to drive because of my broken shoulder (it’s been 4 weeks now since my fall and I’m going for an x-ray on Tuesday and really hoping for some good news – wish me luck!). The fair includes music provided by organ-grinders, locals parading and dancing in traditional clothing, a market selling all manner of traditional, and some less traditional goods; homeware, clothing, etc. and plenty selling delicious cakes, biscuits, cheese, honey, dried meats etc. There are also demonstrations of traditional crafts, guided tours, exhibitions, workshops and more. Despite it being held in February, when it is often bitterly cold – as it was on Sunday – the day always draws a huge crowd and its nice to see the old town centre come to life and looking how it would have done in the early-19th century.

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This week I’ll be having a little celebration of my own as Wednesday marks my 8-year anniversary of moving to Slovenia! Gosh, where have those years gone! That’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my life, and its here where I intend to remain.

 

A cultural weekend in Slovenia

There’s been significant international media coverage about Slovenia during the past week, which is rare for this little country, but then the ice storm that hit the country last week was also a rare and freak occurrence which wreaked havoc throughout the country and whose after effects are still being, and will continue to be, felt for a long time to come.

Fortunately, by Friday, temperatures finally climbed above freezing and the thaw has now begun. Not that this isn’t also without its hazards as large lumps or ice and vast amounts of snow fall from rooftops and trees. The sheer scale of the devastation in the forests will only really become apparent once the roads can be cleared of fallen trees and debris and forest workers can obtain access to begin to assess the damage. Suffice to say it is great; initial estimates are that up to 40% of all the trees in Slovenia have been affected, though this could well turn out to be on the conservative side. As I write, its now pouring with rain, which also brings further troubles due to flooding and avalanches. However, power to most areas has now been restored, even if only temporarily due to the use of generators, and most of the trains are once again up and running, albeit using diesel instead of electricity. Hopefully, slowly, some kind of ‘normality’ will begin to reign. A word of gratitude, on behalf of all citizens, must be extended to the thousands of volunteer firefighters who have so selflessly given up their time to help, often using their annual holiday entitlement, and who don’t receive a single euro in return for their time, effort and sacrifice.

Saturday, February 8th, was a cultural public holiday, Prešeren’s Day, named after the great Slovene poet, France Prešeren, who died on this day in 1849 and the day was chosen as a holiday in his commemoration. In Slovenia, unlike in the UK, public holidays are determined by date and therefore when, as is the case this year, the holiday happens to fall on a weekend then people really miss out because they are not granted that day in lieu. In the UK, public holidays (other than Christmas and New Year) are always on a Monday – ‘Bank Holiday Monday’ – so people always get an extra day off work and a nice long weekend to look forward to. If only that were the case here too. I’m sure if that were put to the vote, as so many things here usually are, there would be quite a high voter turnout!

Slovenes are great lovers of culture and none more so than on 8th February when cultural events take place throughout the country. My home town of Radovljica, being one of the three best preserved medieval town structures in Slovenia, is a popular choice for lovers of culture as it is home to the grand Manor House (graščina), where regular concerts, events and festival are held. To mark the cultural holiday there was a ceremony held in the Baroque Hall and additionally free admission to the Museum of Apiculture, the Town Museum and the Šivec House Gallery.

In Kranj, the capital of the Gorenjska region, the Prešeren Fair, which is one of the most important cultural events in Slovenia, takes place annually on the 8th February; an event which I always like to attend. Kranj is synonymous with France Prešeren who, although born in the village of Vrba, lived and worked in Kranj during the 19th century. The Fair, which takes place in the Main Square, is home to most of the city’s most visited sights, galleries, museums and the Prešeren Theatre, featuring a large statue of its namesake (seen below).

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The streets and squares are transformed into an early-19th century experience featuring poetry recitals, dances, period music, demonstations of traditional crafts, costumed performers, a street fair and free admission and guided tours of all the cultural institutions. The weather even played along too, other than a few light showers one could almost, for a short blissful time, forget about the chaos and destruction outside of the confines of the town and they had achieved wonders in removing all the snow too! It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I had managed to, quite by chance, capture almost identical ‘then’ and ‘now’ photographs!

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Here are a couple more photos of the event (more to be added to my  Pinterest account-http://www.pinterest.com/adeleinslovenia/) and just one of the many poems that Prešeren wrote, which have since been translated into English.

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A Wreath Of Sonnets (1/14)
A Slovene wreath your poet has entwined,
fifteen sonnets is the chaplet bound,
And in it thrice the Master Theme must sound:
Thus are the other harmonies combined.

Now from his source like streams in order wind
The sonnets, and the head of each is found
By the last line of the last sonnet crowned;
This is a semblance of your poet’s mind.

From one love all by thoughts arise,
and lo! Whene’er I sleep at night they cease to flow,
But stir when darkness flees before dawn’s rays.

You are the Master Theme of my whole life,
Which will be heard when I have ceased my strife
– A record of my pain and of your praise.

© AdeleinSlovenia 2014