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

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

Visit Žirovnica: The Sunny Path to St. Lawrence

Welcome to my first blog of 2018 and my first one about a new destination that I will be highlighting this year – Žirovnica! The area has a wealth of natural and cultural attractions, about which I will be endeavouring to write as much as possible in my regular blog posts.

Though not so well known among visitors to Slovenia, pretty much every Slovene knows, and has visited, Žirovnica; specifically to Vrba, to visit the birth house of one of Slovenia’s most famous men and greatest poet, France Prešeren (1800-1849).

At this time of year, when the days are short and sunlight is at a premium, I like to take a walk on the aptly-named Sunny Path (Sonča pot) from Žirovnica to St. Lawrence’s church (sv. Lovrenc).

You can join the path and reach the church from several places. I like to park in Žirovnica then take the path that leads towards the steps that go up towards the distinctive water surge tank. Don’t go up the steps but just to the right the path, though not marked, is easily visible as it traverses the grassy meadows above the villages of Žirovnica.

As the name suggests, on a sunny day the path is bathed in sunlight throughout the day and also offers fantastic views over the wide Radovljica plains and towards the high mountains of the Julian Alps.

You pass a small shrine then continue on the slightly undulating terrain.

On reaching a small wooden cabin a flight of steps lead up towards St. Lawrence’s church which is nestled into the slopes above the hamlet of Zabreznica.

Although usually locked, you can take a peek into the church through the windows of the main entrance door, and with a bit of nifty camera/phone angling, get a great view of the church’s ornate interior which is adorned by the Stations of the Cross.

Other than its particularly unique and serene location and wonderful panoramic views, a particular feature of the church is its presbytery which has painted pictures of the flowers that are found in the area surrounding the church.

On the outside wall there is an unusual mosaic of St. Christopher.

A church was first built here during the time of the Turkish invasions, but was later abandoned in 1821 when a new parish church was built in the village of Breznica. In the 1990s volunteers built a new church on the foundations of the original one.

There are plenty of well-positioned benches for soaking up the rays and enjoying the view!

Even on a slightly hazy winter’s day, the views are pretty good, I’m sure you’ll agree!

You can choose to return along the sunny path, or take the path that descends steeply and directly down from the church through the forest. On reaching the bottom you can walk back through the hamlets of Breznica and Zabreznica to return to the start.

Find out more about the Sunny Path and other similar walking and hiking paths in the Zirovnica area here – http://visitzirovnica.si/en/

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

 

Slovenian Beekeeping: Bee our Guest!

This week I’d like to bring you some exciting news about a great new initiative and book – both on the theme of beekeeping – something at which Slovenia excels. Despite not being a beekeeper myself, since living in Slovenia I have become acutely aware of the importance that bees play in the world and, I believe, it’s something that should be of great importance to us all. Read on…!

Photo: S Senica

The Radovljica area has long been known for its ‘sweet’ traditions, primarily beekeeping-related, as well as chocolate in recent years thanks to the very popular Radovljica Chocolate Festival! Radovljica’s old town is home to the Museum of Apiculture, whilst the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska is situated in nearby Lesce.

Now, a new initiative has been launched to unite and promote Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska regionBEE OUR GUEST!

Photo: S Senica

BEE OUR GUEST is a collaboration between the municipalities of Bohinj, Bled, Gorje, Žirovnica, Radovljica and Kranjska Gora, and its aim is to acquaint visitors with Slovenian beekeeping in the Upper Gorenjska region, as well as offer information, tours and packages that combine beekeeping with the region’s other numerous sights and attractions. Thus, Bee Our Guest offers something for all those who want to see and experience a different side of the area’s natural beauty – whether you are a beekeeping enthusiast or just a lover of nature and all things ‘sweet’!

The Museum of Apiculture is located in the magnificent Radovljica Mansion in the heart of Radovljica’s old town centre, where, amongst other exhibits, you can see a rich collection of hand-painted beehive front panels, including the oldest in the world; each of the panels tells its own story!

You can also observe the bees busy buzzing about their business in the observation hive! More information can be found here – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/

You can pay a visit to Lectar Inn, where in the cellar you can visit the workshop and museum where they have been making traditional Lectar honeybreads for centuries. You can buy gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones or for special occasions or, upon prior arrangement, join in a workshop and have a go at making one yourself.

On the website (http://www.beeourguest.eu/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BeeOurGuest.Slovenia/) you can also keep up-to-date with all the latest developments regarding World Bee Day, which has now been officially declared as 20th May, the birth date of Anton Janša (1734-1773), considered Slovenia’s greatest beekeeper.

“Every third spoonful of food on Earth depends on bees or, more precisely, on pollination. The more the meadows are polluted and the more frequently they are mown, the smaller the number of bees. Do we even realise what that means for our future and for us?” This comes from the authors of the newly-published book No Bees, No Life, available in English and Slovene, and is something we should all most definitely be aware of.

Written by the President of Slovenia’s Beekeeping Association, Bostjan Noč, the head of the breeding programme for the Carniolan honey bee, at the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, Peter Kozmus, and author of many books in the fields of ethnology and apiculture, Karolina Vrtačnik, as well as 66 contributions from 32 countries, the book has been receiving wide acclaim. You can find out more and/or order a copy here – https://beebooks.si/en/

I’ll be bringing you plenty more on this subject, and exploring it in more depth in the not-too-distant future, but for now, I’m off for for some quiet contemplation – oh and a cup of tea with Slovenian honey!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

Like Beekeeping? Love Radovljica!

Those interested in beekeeping should definitely make a beeline for Radovljica!

The Radovljica area has a wealth of beekeeping-related sights of interest, all within close proximity, thus making it ideal place to visit for beekeepers or those with an interest in beekeeping.

One such example is the group of 38 beekeepers from Estonia who I helped with their plans to visit Radovljica.

Whilst the main purpose of their trip was beekeeping-related activities, they also managed to find time to do some sightseeing in Ljubljana, took a traditional pletna boat to the island on Lake Bled, and visited Vintgar Gorge.

The main beekeeping day began with a visit to Kralov med in the hamlet of Selo near Bled, where owner Blaž Ambrožič told them everything, and more, that they could possibly want to know about beekeeping in Slovenia. I wrote more extensively about my visit to Kralov med in a previous blog, also about World Bee Day, which you can read here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/05/17/world-bee-day-the-anton-jansa-honey-route/

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The undoubted highlight, whether a beekeeper or not, is the chance to see and experience up close the hive found on a nearby tree trunk and transported to its current home. The fact you can get so close is testament to the calm nature of Slovenia’s Carniolan grey bee.

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Next the group came to Radovljica, beginning at the Tourist Information Centre where they tasted local honey and chocolate, and had the chance to buy some gifts to take home. They even brought us some of their own Estonian honey, which, as you can see, the staff enjoyed tasting!

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We then took a stroll through the medieval old town to see the main sights of interest – the Šivec House Gallery, the Radovljica Mansion, St. Peter’s Church, and the other wonderful frescoed buildings.

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Then it was on to the viewpoint for wonderful views of the Julian Alps, the Jelovica plateau and the Sava river.

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The next stop was to Lectar Inn to watch the process of making and decorating the traditional ‘lectar’ gingerbread’ hearts, made with honey, of course!

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And a chance to buy souvenirs and/or gifts for loved ones.

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Having seen Radovljica, it was then time to Taste Radol’ca, with a traditional Slovene lunch, also at Lectar Inn, one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants. During lunch, the owner Jože entertained us with a few of his favourite songs played on the harmonica – never something to be missed!

The final stop in Radovljica was to the Museum of Apiculture, housed in the Radovljica Mansion, where visitors can learn all about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia, watch a video (narrated in English by me!), and in summer watch the bees hard work diligently in the hive.

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The group’s very last stop on the jam-packed, or should I say honey-packed, day, was to the Gorenjska Beekeeping Development and Education Centre in Lesce. You can read more about the centre and its wide-ranging activities here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

So, as you can see, the Radovljica area really is a beekeeper’s paradise!

If you’d like any more information about Slovenian beekeeping, or are interested in taking a tour of the town and/or visiting some of the above-mentioned sights, feel free to get in touch or contact Tourism Radol’ca – http://www.radolca.si/en/

© 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