All You Need To Know About Slovenian Honey and Beekeeping
Even if Slovenia remains a particularly unknown country, you may have recently heard about the nation that introduced the World Bee Day in 2014. It reminds of the importance of beekeeping but also of its long history in Slovenia. The country is indeed steeped into the honey tradition for centuries, but it also plays a significant part in its present activities.
Slovenia is one of the world’s major honey countries. It is the home of the Carniolan honey bee, one of the most spread species of its kind, and beekeeping is both a very proactive sector and an environmental indicator. Slovenia produces many products with different types of honey and is currently developing apiturism.
If you are a honey lover, Slovenia should definitely be your next destination. You will have the chance to learn more about the Slovenian honey tradition through an infinity of ways, from tours and museum visits with many art support to honey desserts and wellness treatments.
Historical Tradition of Honey and Present Role
Slovenia is the home of one of the essential bee species in the world. The Carniolan honey bee is indeed an autochthonous subspecies that has allowed Slovenians to become fine honey connoisseurs centuries ago. It left deep traces in the methods that are currently used by the almost 11,000 Slovenian beekeepers.
This unique tradition has left its most exciting and wonderful traces through its artistic features that have emerged three centuries ago, that we will develop later.
The principal figure of this Slovenian tradition is Anton Janša, the famous beekeeping pioneer. Born in 1734 during the Austro-Hungarian rule, he illustrated himself as the first beekeeping teacher. He officiated in Vienna, and its discoveries profoundly shaped and shifted the modern beekeeping as we know it.
Its birth date, May 20th, was chosen as a tribute to celebrate the World Bee Day. Thanks to Slovenia’s dedication, it was finally proclaimed by the United Nations in 2014. The aim of this was also to promote, in particular, the Carniolan honey bee.
Thanks to all of these efforts, Slovenia is considered to have one of the best beekeeping industries in the world. This distinction is also strengthened by the obtention of the label placing this country “heart and soul of beekeeping” in Europe given out by Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations.
Slovenia indeed assumes a leading position in Europe concerning the right measures to adopt. In fact, this is the only country of the European Union that took significant steps in order to protect its native bee, before also implementing controlled honey production as soon as 1999.
In 2011, the country also prohibited a range of pesticides known for threatening the existence of bees. It shows a great example that should be urgently followed by other European countries.
Slovenia is realizing an incredible amount of work to sensibilize the world but also its population about the necessity of preserving bees and the beekeeping tradition. It is indeed starting to come to fruition since a significant number of Slovenians are manifesting a growing interest in this field.
In fact, beekeeping is rising as an extracurricular activity, chosen by more and more students of about 170 different schools all around the country. Over the past decade, more than four thousand students have signed up for these beginner courses.
This work of sensitizing is then mainly directed towards the young generations, considering the imperative and urgent need to save bees that will belong to them during the next decades. Slovenia thus chose to implement numerous nation-wide campaigns with the help of the Beekeepers Association.
The state followed their idea of promoting a traditional Slovenian breakfast that includes local honey, among other products such as bread, milk, apples, and butter that was destined to Slovenia’s kindergarten and schools. In this behalf, the association donated tonnes of honey in order to sensitize the kids.
This operation was a massive success that contributed to an impressive rise of honey consumption but also the augmentation of the number of school’s beekeeping clubs, which evolved from 60 to 170. This progress was allowed by the donation of numerous honey plants by the same association.
Beekeeping is perceived by most Slovenians as a significant tradition and has then a central role in the country’s transition towards green. Beekeepers are allowed to work in the right conditions since they benefit from regular agricultural status. More importantly, the numerous efforts and the significative ancient tradition have permitted to raise awareness about the necessity to preserve bees and ensure their well-being.
This affinity for bees and honey translates into the development of an urban-type of beekeeping. This way, if you are visiting big Slovenian cities such as Ljubljana, you will have the chance to come across numerous beehives blooming on the roofs of many public buildings.
The most famous example can be found on the Cankarjev dom and on the Government building. All of these experiments are promoted by passionate people that forgather, with the recent creation of the Urban Beekeepers Association in 2014.
Slovenian Honey Production and Consumption
This affinity for honey also translates into the impressive production and consumption numbers registered each year. In fact, Slovenia’s 11,000 beekeepers are producing between 500 and 2,550 tonnes of honey each year, even if the average is about 2,000 tonnes. However, these numbers remain behind those of the national demand that can culminate up to 3,000 tonnes annually.
It would be interesting if Slovenia succeeded in matching the domestic demand and assured to be self-sufficient, and it seems essential to resolve the enormous variations.
Ever since Slovenia has to import some honey from Germany or other countries, the country exports a part of its renowned production, especially to Japan (at more than 70%) but also in Kosovo. It is considered by many as a beekeeping nation since one Slovenian in 200 is engaged in a beekeeping activity. It is the most important ration of the European Union.
Plus, those who do not produce honey sure love to eat it. According to the official statistics, each Slovenian consumes about 1.1 kilos of Slovenian honey every year, and the numbers are continually growing. It is even rising up to 1.4 or 1.5 kilos in the past few years.
The Large Range of Slovenian Kinds of Honey and Products
The richness of the Slovenian honey and its popularity mainly comes from its diversity. Indeed, the Slovenian honey, or Slovenski med, is known for its seven different main varieties that I will introduce you to.
- The Acacia honey: this nectar honey is one of the safest bets as it usually pleases everyone. It is a transparent or yellow liquid honey that has no particular odor, so it is mostly used plain. Indeed, acacia honey is the perfect bread spread and is also a great ingredient to sweeten your coffee or tea.
- The Pine honey: this one is denser, and you can recognize it immediately thanks to its resiny taste. It has a brownish or reddish color and has the upside of being rich in minerals. You can enjoy it at its most on sauces, milky dishes, or even as a spread.
- The Silver fir honey: the greenish-brown, quite dark color of the silver fir honey makes it really interesting. It has a pleasant mild taste with almost no odor. As it does not crystallize quickly, you better use it as a brown bread spread or to go with dried fruits or milk-based drinks.
- The Forest honey: this is a honeydew kind of honey that offers one of the most exciting tastes. It comes from the natural forest mixes and is found in a different range of browns. You must use it to pimp your sauces and curds.
- The Chestnut honey: you will definitely recognize this Slovenian honey thanks to its surprising bitterness, coming from its numerous pollen grains. It has a taste that almost feels like absinth and is then a little more challenging to use daily.
- The Flower honey: this nectar honey comes in different shades of yellow and eventually crystallizes. It is produced thanks to blooming flowers such as meadow flowers.
- The Linden honey: you must try this unique honey characterized by its lime taste. It will also provide many health benefits beyond its amazing and surprising flavor.
Labels and Awards
Beyond the intervention of the hard-working Carniolan honey bee, Slovenian honey particularly stands out thanks to the area’s distinctive pollen spectrum combined to pretty low water content. For instance, the uniqueness and quality of the Slovenian honey have been acknowledged throughout many international competitions but also by official labels.
First, Slovenia is becoming one of the fixtures of international honey competitions’ podiums. For the past few years, the country has recorded several gold medals at the occasion of the Apimedica & Apiquality worldwide honey competition.
Slovenia also grabbed many medals of the BiolMiel international organic honey competition organized in 2011 in Italy, where the forest and acacia honey came first. The chestnut honey also stood out and finished with a fourth place.
Among the impressive range of Slovenian honey, your choice can then be facilitated thanks to the several labels and indications. Three of the Slovenian types are protected: it means that their taste and quality are officially guaranteed.
Geographical indications protect the forest honey that can be found in the Karst and the Kočevje regions. The Karst kinds of honey are particularly interesting due to the microclimate of the plateau. They are declining in many types depending on the time of bee pasture and the location. Some innovative flavors include wild cherry and oak, for example.
A Wide Range of Delicious Edible Honey Products
Slovenians enjoy savoring their domestic honey on multiple formats that do not stop extending. If you are looking to come back home with a delicious souvenir that contains honey, know that you have a wide choice of treatments.
You can find there directly in the apiarist’s small shops if you are willing to go outside the main cities, but also have the possibility to buy many products from big Slovenian honey companies such as Honey House or Medex.
They propose, for example, a wide range of surprising honey spreads that mixes different tastes. You will then discover unique combinations that always include honey: it is often combined with coconut, blueberry, vanilla, or even orange.
It is also your shot to taste many honey candy or lollipops, but the main specialties are the various marmalades, and fruits, cereals, nuts, or dried fruits dipped in honey. The most adventurous ones should also try some liqueurs and schnapps that sometimes also include blueberry.
The Traditional Slovenian Recipes that Sublimate Honey
If all of these souvenirs and honey products have made your mouth water, I will guarantee that this overview of the honey-based Slovenian culinary specialties will leave you wanting more. Slovenia is known for its broad culinary tradition and especially for its amazing desserts and sweets that often put the emphasis on honey.
Used as a sweetener for more than ten centuries, honey is also part of many traditional recipes that are consumed all year long. One of the most representative honey pastries is, without a doubt, the famous gingerbread and the gingerbread biscuits and hearts.
They are cooked with homemade honey dough following the ancient Slovenian custom dating back to the Middle Ages. You can find them at the Gingerbread Living Museum of Radovljica, next to Bled Lake, or learn those stories at the Medeni raj Museum and Gallery, located in Slovenj Gradec.
Honey also appears in the ingredients list of Slovenia’s most typical dessert, the potica. The recipe for this primary Slovenian cake dates back to 1575, and it has become an inescapable institution in the country. It is now the national Christmas and Easter cake.
Beyond the delicious biscuits and pastries, honey started to be used as a base for traditional drinks ever since the Middle Ages, in the form of honey wine. With the beginning of the 19th century, brandy and liqueurs began to integrate honey into their major ingredients. Nowadays, it is also possible to taste many other honey-based alcohols, such as sparkling mead or honey beer.
You will have the chance to try all of these traditional delicacies at the corner of every Gostilna (the local restaurants) and souvenir shops, but what could be best than learning how to cook them yourself with the help of a professional Slovenian chef?
Many renowned Slovenian cooks such as Ana Roš, considered as one of the best chefs in the world, offer you the opportunity to learn, for example, how to create some fantastic gingerbread biscuits that will delight your families and leave you an unforgettable memory.
Apitherapy and the Slovenian Offer of Honey Wellness Treatments
Beyond the traditional honey-based products and recipes that you may encounter in your own cultures, Slovenia also proposes a rich offer of unusual and unique cosmetic products and wellness treatments that offer the best of honey.
Indeed, the Slovenian tradition will teach you everything there is to know about the natural positive effects of honey on your health, body, and well-being. Thanks to its molecular structure, honey is your best natural ally for simple remedies: you probably have already noticed that it can really help with illnesses such as coughs or colds, with simple tricks as a cup of tea or a drink of hot milk with honey.
Well, Slovenia wishes to offer you more of these amazing effects. Well known for its fantastic termes, you will have the chance to try honey wellness products in almost every one of them, such as the unusual honey sauna, but also more popular treatments. The honey massage is indeed an institution in the country, has it allows your body to detoxify.
Other cosmetic procedures like honey facial masks will stimulate your skin in order to make it more soft, glowing, and clear. Face creams also have anti-aging effects on the skin.
Hereafter these esthetic considerations, honey is considered by most Slovenians as a wonderful complement to traditional medicine. Indeed, beekeepers are seen as examples of longevity and health because the company of the bees offers them many upsides. In fact, the extended exposure to bee venom is thought to prevent rheumatic ailments.
Apitherapy is then developing actively in Slovenia since the last decades. The benefits of the beehives air on the respiratory system are deep beliefs here. You can experience them in many places all around the country, such as in Brda or Selo pri Bledu, and even at Dolenjska’s Pule Estate.
Inhalations are also believed to purify the spirit, increase your lung capacity, and reduce your respiratory issues such as asthma or pollen allergies. Some Slovenian beehouses are then turned into api-therapeutic chambers. All of these benefits can be extended with regular consumption of honey.
Apiturism in Slovenia
The passion of this beekeeping nation had to result in something that could be shared with the numerous tourists, proposing different kinds of experience to fulfill everyone’s needs and desires. During the past few years, Slovenia has put together a whole new trend for tourists and is now leading the world market of apitourism.
The main goal of these experiences and offers is to educate people and especially young tourists to the significance of bees, in line with Slovenia’s nomination as the first sustainable touristic destination in the world in 2016. Ever since, the country managed to create a playful environment that transmits Slovenia’s love for bees and the great experiences of tasting, learning, and even creating.
At the moment, more than 40 Slovenian beekeepers and operators are offering these kinds of extraordinary experiences. This provides terrific memories and also allows us to support the local economy and the activity of those passionate beekeepers.
In order to live the full honeycomb experience, you can even spend the night on the lovely honey village of Mozirje. You will spend “Api Holidays” in this honeycomb shelter while enjoying bee products and wellness treatments at every step of your journey.
Best Cultural Places to Experience Honey in the Country
Since the Slovenian honey tradition is all about education and learning, this seems very logical that some museums and exhibitions start to bloom all around the country. Let’s dive into what Slovenia has best to offer to its motivated and curious visitors.
The Beekeeping Museum of Radovljica
The museum of Apiculture, or Beekeeping museum, is one of the most unusual and exciting cultural places in Slovenia. This place is your chance to learn more about the Carniolan bee and its history. Still, its main showstopper argument is the part that explains more about the particularities of the Slovenian beekeeping specialties.
It is then fascinating to go back in time and observe how the beekeepers of the 18th century expressed their creativity by painting their beehives panels. Watching and admiring them is a unique chance: this museum actually houses one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. It might soon be added to the Unesco list of intangible cultural heritage.
There are about 250 pannels to look at in the Radovljica museum, but also an exciting observation hive where you can observe the bees working. Finally, you will also have the opportunity to see many documentaries in this fantastic museum that remains open since 1959 and is absolutely unique in Europe.
Do not worry, the guided tour of the museum and the exhibits’ labels are all available in Slovenian, English, and German, and Italian but exclusively for the tags. The entrance price is 2 euros for children and 3 euros for adults. Here are the opening hours of this beautiful cultural center:
From May to October: Open from 0 am to 6 pm – Closed on Mondays.
In March, April, November, and December: Open from 8 am to 3 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays – Open from 10 am to noon and 3 to 5 pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
In January and February: Open from 8 am to 3 pm from Tuesday to Friday.
The Gingerbread Museum
While visiting Radovjlica for the Beekeeping Museum or after your Bled Lake tour, you have to save a moment for a stop at the Gingerbread Museum. This is a live workshop that revolves around the traditional honey bread and is definitely worth the sight.
You will have the chance to see and but many adorable biscuits, shaped in the form of red hearts as the tradition wants it, but also as rabbits, stars, horses, or even harmonicas. You can even have names and cute logo printed in them. This experience is another unique way to discover the Slovene folklore that surrounds the honey tradition.
The place is absolutely lovely and authentic, and you can even eat in the adjacent two hundred years old restaurant, Gostilna Lectar. You will learn more about ancient fabrication processes, but most of all, you can have a taste of heaven it this amazing purely Slovenian place.
The “to Bee or not to Bee” Exposition
This exposition that is particularly made for children is one more example of Slovenia’s efforts to raise awareness about the worldwide bees issue. You can admire and learn from this international exhibition in the Polhov Gradec Mansion.
It is an exposition of 3D bees realized by children coming from environmentally friendly schools from all around the world. They had to create bees using only recycled materials, another way to alert and sensitize about the significant environmental issues that are threatening the world of today.
After the tour of this moving exposition, you will be invited to enjoy the delicacies of a culinary honey menu. As planned, you will have the opportunity to try fantastic honey burgers and ice creams but also honey beers and cocktails that will leave you unforgettable memories. Overall, this experience will make you more aware of the urgent bee situation.
Extensive Love for Bees and Honey
To conclude, there is a lot to say about the Slovenian honey tradition. This combination of history and great methods have allowed the country to become one of the major pioneers that are alerting the world about the significance of bees and the necessity to save them and develop this sector for the safety of the environment.
Thanks to this dedication, Slovenia is now able to produce many varieties of tasteful and delicious honey for all of its fans, but also to create a new world of possibilities for bee lovers. In fact, the country offers an impressive range of experiences that will teach you everything there is to know about beekeeping and honey production, but also show you techniques and habits to better your health and general well-being.
If you are interested in living the full Slovenian honey experience, you can even book a weekly tour where you will have the unique opportunity to assist in many excursions, experiences, tastings, conferences, and even more!