Did you know that Slovenia is the origin of modern beekeeping? We reveal all the secrets of this green country with unexpected qualities.

In Slovenia, honey is serious. We do not joke with this part of the culture or we quickly find ourselves with a Slovenian beekeeper in a passionate speech on the beauty of bees and their importance in the history of the country and for biodiversity. All the regions are concerned and some honey productions even benefit from controlled appellation of origin.

In spite of the passion of its inhabitants, it is a world of gentleness that surrounds beekeeping in Slovenia, to let the beautiful foragers work. This green country offers many beekeeping experiences between tradition and modernity, history and gastronomy, touristic experiences and well-being. In the rest of this article, we whisper to you all there is to discover about honey in Slovenia with a few surprises…

Biodiversity and benefits of honey

As you all know, bees are essential to our ecosystems to pollinate plants. These small hymenoptera are hard workers measuring only a few centimeters and yet they produce up to 20 to 30 kilos per apiary. The products of the hive have many benefits: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, healing, analgesic properties…A true natural pharmacy composed of honey, royal jelly, propolis, wax or pollen. Hardly impacted by human activity, especially pesticides, these insects, although essential, need to be in sufficient numbers to produce honey. It is crucial to protect them and the Slovenians have fully understood this. They started beekeeping centuries ago and contribute to the international promotion of bees.

Anton Jansa, the founder of modern beekeeping

Anton Jansa is famous in Europe and throughout the world as the founder of modern beekeeping. Born in Slovenia in the Carniolan region in the 1730s, he first developed a passion for painting. His talent led him to study in Vienna but he realized that his true passion was beekeeping. As his father owned more than 100 beehives, he was fascinated very early on by discussions about agriculture and beekeeping. Naturally, he started working as a beekeeper and then became the first professor of beekeeping, appointed by royal decree by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. From then on, Jansa traveled around the country to share his knowledge. His “Complete Guide to Beekeeping” also helped to spread his knowledge after his death.

He has helped to change the shape of the hives and their size to stack them like blocks, to put an end to certain groundless beliefs about bees and to move the hives to pastures. In addition, as an artist he decorated the frontons of his hives, starting a charming tradition in Slovenia. In short, he revolutionized 18th century beekeeping, laying the foundation for our modern practices throughout Europe and the world.

The Slovenian bee, queen among queens

The native Carniolan bee, Apis mellifera carnica, comes from Slovenia and is widespread throughout the world. It is the only native bee species protected by the European Union and the only species bred in Slovenia. It is sometimes called the “Italian Grey” because of its resemblance to its Italian cousin and its grey to copper hair bands. It has the quality to produce a lot of honey, to be gentle, to sting very rarely and to be resistant in mountainous areas.

A tradition carefully preserved

Slovenia has been campaigning for a long time for the recognition of the importance of bees and the promotion of honey consumption or the use of beeswax. At the instigation of Slovenia, there is a World Bees Day declared by the United Nations, which takes place every year on 20 May. This date coincides with the birth of Anton Jansa.

From an early age, Slovenian children are taught about the importance of saving bees and beekeeping. A campaign of “Honey breakfasts” has been held every year since 2007 in the country. Beekeepers offer honey to kindergartens and elementary school to make a traditional Slovenian breakfast containing black bread, milk, apples and honey. Besides, workshops are organized to raise awareness among the youngest and the first results are already visible. Since then, there is a more positive attitude of young people, teachers and the general public towards bees and nature, more participation in beekeeping clubs, more young beekeepers and support from local authorities. At Terra Balka we find the idea of beekeeping clubs excellent.

Today, Slovenia is one of the first countries in the European Union with the most beekeepers, with 5 beekeepers per 1000 inhabitants.

A certified sector

Slovenia is the only country to issue a certification for beekeeping professionals, based on strict criteria. They are judged on their professionalism, the innovation they demonstrate, the services offered such as training, accommodation, meals and of course the quality of their honey. Depending on their results, they receive one to three bees to distinguish them.

Now, you will discover our selection of activities related to honey, beekeeping, apitherapy. We have added a recipe of traditional cookies very simple to make and a real treat.

Exploring beekeeping in Slovenia, from tourism to the plate: our top 5 sweet discoveries around honey.

1 – The painted hives of the museum of beekeeping in Radovljica, near Bled.

This popular art called “Panjska končnica”, which consists in painting the pediment of the hives, still persists today. It can be found all over the country. The most famous apiary is located not far from Bled. Here you can see colorful and often satirical paintings about everyday life, love, the Bible or folk tales. For example, some panels depict animals, guns in hand, burying hunters. This bears witness to the bad relations between beekeepers at the time, due to the presence of apiaries in the forest. Hunters were mocked in this way.

These paintings are a means of artistic expression but not only. The different painted panels help the beekeeper to remember the particular colonies of bees contained in the hives and to differentiate them. At the time, beekeepers also wanted to place their bees under the protection of God, the Virgin or the saints through the paintings. This tradition has existed since the 18th century and we can see the evolution of the pigments used and the styles of drawings until today. The authors are professional painters, rural artists or even sometimes autodidacts. It’s fascinating to observe.

2 – Family guided tour of an apiary and more

Have you always dreamed of approaching a beehive as close as possible and seeing the inside of it? To initiate yourself and your children to beekeeping? A guided tour of an apiary may be the beginning of a new passion for you and an educational gem for all ages. Guided by a beekeeper, you will learn all about the life of a bee, the production of honey and its harvest. Of course, you will be able to taste honey and honey products made on site.

You can even take a walk through a garden designed entirely for bees and leave with the names of plants that bees like to plant in your home, or take part in a family workshop to design your own beeswax candle. It’s natural, simple and safe, for an unforgettable creative moment.

3 – Apitherapy by inhaling the air of the hives

In Dobrovo, in the wine region of Goriska Brda, an apiary is installed at the foot of the vineyards, on a hill with a breathtaking view. Sit inside, in a space designed for relaxation: an api-chamber. You breathe in aerosols from the hives with properties that help to fight respiratory problems, while the buzzing of the bees will appease your mind. This type of installation is widespread in Slovenia among beekeepers and in spas. Do you you want to try it ?

4-Stay in a beehive-shaped house and try out honey treatments in a thermal center

Stay in the kingdom of bees in original and comfortable chalets inspired by beehives, with honeycomb shapes. Inside, everything you need and more is present: kitchen, infrared sauna and whirlpool bath, in addition to one to two bedrooms. The most surprising is the royal jelly massages offered on site with detoxifying properties.

5 – To melt for honey gastronomy

The use of honey to make the sweetest delicacies is an ancestral tradition in Slovenia. For example, a family business has been producing cookies and sweets since the 1750s in the town of Slovenj Gradec. These include traditional honey gingerbread hearts, red gingerbread hearts (they are decorated with care and were usually the favorite gift of lovers to express their feelings). We share with you an extra recipe below.

The final word

Are you in the mood for honey, or even better, Slovenian honey? We hope this article has made you want to visit Slovenia and discover with your own eyes its honey tradition in all its forms. We are available to advise you and suggest the best itineraries adapted to your desires.

Find below the recipe of honey and spice cookies of Ana Ros, the best woman chef in the world in 2017 and holder of 2 Michelin stars. Her restaurant in Slovenia is worth a visit!

To prepare the cookies, you need the following ingredients:

500g of flour
150 g butter at room temperature
120 g powdered sugar
180 g Slovenian honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
4 teaspoons of a mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and aniseed (to be ground and sieved)

Preparation of the dough and baking :

Mix all the ingredients to form a smooth dough. With the dough, make cookies in the desired shape, with or without cookie cutters. Place the cookies on a baking tray and bake at 150 °C for 10 minutes. To make the cookies even better, involve your children who will have the most fun while making the gingerbread.


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