Some corners of the world entice visitors by establishing self-guided wine-country routes, but Slovenia wants you to take a road trip along a trail of beekeeping sites.
Dubbed beekeeping tourism, this relatively new initiative invites travellers to drive across the Central European countryside, stopping along a trail of specialty farms for a behind-the-scenes look at the honey industry.
In Slovenia, the art of beekeeping is so celebrated that its referred to as “the poetry of agriculture.” Its one of the area’s oldest rural activities, and with an estimated four beekeepers for every 1,000 Slovenians, it remains an integral part of the nations culture. “To be Slovenian is to be a beekeeper,” goes a popular saying.
While there are plenty of agricultural farms and bee-related museums to visit, the best place to start your tour is the 130-year old beekeeping association, just an hour’s drive from the capital city. There, I met Janes Gregori, a 66-year-old former biologist and member of the Slovenian Beekeepers Association, who shared a swarm of information about his craft.
In the mid-1700s, he says, beekeepers started painting the front of their hives to help distinguish between colonies. Hive panels have intricately decorated wooden fronts that depict historical events, religious iconography and satirical village life. It’s a tradition that continues today.
I learned that Slovenia is home to its own race of bees called the Carniolan. This endemic species (now exported all over the world) is legally protected and is known for its gentle character, and hard-working nature.
Janes explained that global bee populations are dwindling. But while colonies may be in jeopardy elsewhere in the world, they sure seem to be flourishing in Slovenia.
Flying frantically around Janes, the bees didn’t seem too pleased that he was disturbing their hive. He held out a panel covered with vibrating bees, dancing in perfect figure-eights around the rims of their hexagon home. Bees can smell fear so “it’s important to be very calm when handling them,” Janes told me, admitting that he’s been stung thousands of times.
Catch the second season of Word Travels, a documentary series that follows the real-life adventures of travel writers Julia Dimon and Robin Esrock. It airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. EST on OLN.
– Julia Dimon is co-host of Word Travels, airing Sundays at 8:30 p.m. EST on OLN; www.juliadimon.com.