Bees: Slovenia's Surprising Attraction

To bee or not to bee... This isn't a question for bee lovers! In this article, you'll learn how to enjoy apitourism – the tourism of bees – in Slovenia.

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Alenka Reza

20. September 2018

Take a deep breath and exhale. Imagine there's only you in the api-therapeutic chamber and hundreds of bees in the observation bee hive around you. You are completely relaxed, despite being surrounded by creatures that frighten many. Can you feel the hive fragrance of aromatic air, exerting a favourable effect on your body and soul? Inhale and exhale and close your eyes. This is what Slovenian api-tourism is all about. 

The bee's important place in history and culture

Beekeeping occupies a special place in Slovenia's economy as one of its oldest traditional crafts. In this small country of only 2 million inhabitants there are 10 thousands active beekeepers who produce about 4.000.000 pounds of honey per year. I am particularly impressed by the fact that many young people have taken up the tradition.

Bees flying near a buckwheat plant. A bee, circling around the flower of the buckwheat plant. 

It's a beautiful sunny day and I am thinking whether to stay at home, go for a walk or spend the day a bit differently. As soon as the decision is made, I jump on my bike and head towards Ljubljana, the capital city, which is around 6 miles away from my hometown Domžale. There is an exhibition in the Slovenian ethnographic museum, titled Kjer so čebele doma – Where bees are at home.

They say that when the last bee dies, the man will die as well. Bees and other pollinators are extremely important for life on Earth because as much as one third of food produced throughout the world depends on pollination.

The fact is that our ancestry from the stone age, and even more ancient folks, already knew bees, and that they inhabited the worlds of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Pythagoras claimed that he lived to such an old age because he ate honey every day. For thousands of years honey has been known as superfood. Today, we use it as a sweetener, food supplement, an ingredient for drinks and in medicine. I still remember how my grandmother used to give me hot milk with honey before sleep.

A man showing a family where the bees live. Colourful beehive houses are often visible from the roads. 

When visiting Slovenia, pay attention to the different types of beehive houses which are visible from the local roads, on the fields and meadows. They are characterized by colourful painted wooden front panels. These pictures help the bees in their orientation and make it easier for beekeepers to remember individual bee houses. Nowadays, new beehive panels are made in the antique style and are considered to be among the most original Slovenian tourist attractions. Numerous beekeepers in the country still like to decorate their bee houses, using modern motifs.

The beginnings of this unique art can be traced back to the middle of the 18th century when the pioneer of modern apiculture, the Slovenian beekeeper Anton Janša, was born. He was the first teacher of beekeeping at the school in Vienna, Austria, which was founded by Empress Maria Theresa. She, based on Janša's knowledge, established the first beekeeper's patent in the world. And now, 200 years later, Slovenia has become the only European Union Member state to have protected its native bee, the Carniolan honey bee. It succeeded in its wish that the United Nations proclaimed 20 May 2018 as the first World Bee Day, which is, by the way, Mr. Janša's birthday (20 May 1734).

The hive as a palace of beauty, well-being and health

Honeycomb-shaped chalets and a swimming pool at dusk. Honeycomb-shaped chalets at Beeland, close to the town of Mozirje. 

A man getting a massage. Apitherapy in the beehive. Photo: Jošt Gantar.

Slovenian climate, topography and diversity make the country a paradise for bees and thus is successfully turning its tradition into apicultural tourism. Modern beekeeping and the healing effects of honey are today becoming of interest to people who are not beekeepers but like bees and nature and travelers who want to enrich their life.

You can enjoy beeswax thermotherapy or visit an api-therapeutic chamber, listen to bee buzzing and just relax. Go to Api excursions and tours, take Api training sessions, Api experiences or enjoy in Api well-being programmes

Enjoy the honey products of Slovenia

A woman making ornaments for honey biscuits. The making of honey biscuits (gingerbread). 

Slovenian honey needs no additional processing. Beekeepers don’t add or remove anything. There are many honey products like bee pollen, Propolis, Royal jelly, Beeswax, Api mix and bee venom that you can use internally or externally. One of the most popular usage of bee is as an ingredient in honey bread, and people also make honey wine and honey facial mask.

Did you know that the life’s work of one worker bee is half a teaspoon of honey? For one pound of honey 40.000 bees must fly 87.000 miles. And in one hour, a worker bee looking for nectar visits about 800 flowers.

Museums that embrace bee culture