BEE THEIR GUEST – MUSEUM OF APICULTURE RADOVLJICA
Composed of baroque and renaissance buildings with some stunning views of mountains and valleys the town of Radovljica is also home to Slovenia’s Museum of Apiculture. In a country where there are five beekeepers for every thousand people, the museum is well worth visiting to look into the rich history and art of local apiculture or beekeeping.
About history and bond between Slovenes and their bees
The museum is tucked away in the Linhartov Trg plazza in the Old Town area, housed in the magnificent Radovljica Manor. The story of beekeeping in Slovenia is very well documented with six or seven rooms of excellent displays, including historical beekeeping items, movies, beehive panels, and good and understandable descriptions.
Opened in 1959, the museum is the only specialised museum of its kind, and the fact that it exists is an important testimony of how much is the beekeeping in the heart of Slovenia.
No bees, no humans!
The first room of the museum is a historical-technical section presenting the long history of beekeping in Slovenia, which was in the 18th and 19th century one of the main agricultural activities here. You can learn who were some of the most renowned beekepers from that period, with Anton Janša (1734–1773), a local from the nearby village of Breznica, leading the list.
Much celebrated still today within the beekeeping community and regarded as an important country’s historic figure, Anton Janša was the first beekeeping teacher at the Viennese court, named by the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (ruling also the Slovenian lands at that time). His two books on beekeeping are still regarded as classical works on apiculture around the world. Following Slovenias’s initiative, May 20th – Janša’s (supposed) date of birth – has been proclaimed as World Bee Day by the United Nations in 2017.
Beehives, beehive panels and the history of apitherapy
We can see another important figure in this section – Filip Terč, a 19th century doctor and beekeeper from the town of Maribor, who was first using bee venom to treat rheumatism. Now widely known as apitherapy, this form of health therapy is today at the center of Slovenia’s bee or api-tourism, with people coming from all over the world for different apitherapeutic health procedures.
The central part of the museum is the collection of painted beehive panels. For beekepers, paintings on the wood panels of the hives did not only mean a decoration, but also a means of identifying of one’s hives. Beehive front boards (usually painted by self-taught painters) are telling us stories and showing pictures from the time in history, their motifs vary from religious themes to historical and cultural historical scenes.
Also, on display there are beehives presenting local folklore from every day life and satirical images, such as wife pulling husband away from playing cards in a pub, or the foxes outsmarting the hunter.
This really extensive collection includes Slovenia’s oldest known beehive panel, dating from 1758, with the image of Our Lady Mary on it. Taking in account that beehive painting is not only a unique characteristic of Slovenia beekeeping, but also an extraordinary legacy of Slovenia’s folk art, this part of the museum is worth visiting even as a stand alone exhibition.
While the bees are real icons of Slovenia, the Carniolan Grey Bee (Kranjska sivka) – Slovenia’s indigenous and protected breed of bee – is a real star. Therefore, the third part of the exhibition is devoted to this famous bee, which due to its biological specialities holds a special place for the population here.
Favored among beekeepers for several reasons – from its ability to defend itself successfully against insect pests to having excellent sense of direction and quickly adapting to changes in the environment – Carniolan Grey Bees (or short »Carnies«), can also live up to 12% longer than other breeds.
A relaxed stroll though the museum can be completed with tasting or purchasing of some honey products, which town of Radovljica boasts with. You can pick up some honey pralines and a jar of royal jelly with honey at the sweet Honey Boutique on your way back to the town’s center …
The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica is open throughout the year, except on Mondays; opening hours varying according to the month. A visit to the museum is especially interesting from spring to autumn where there is an observation hive where you can watch the industrious bees hard at work.
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Photo credits: Samo Šmarčan
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