Even though you’re traveling in a modern, efficient, EU-member country with a pocketful of easy-to-exchange (and spend) Euros, you’re still going to find quaint traditions and customs that are uniquely Slovenian. This is particularly true as you travel in small towns, rural areas, and in the Alpine region—It’s part of the fun of traveling in Slovenia.
Here are a few to cultural traditions to watch out for:
Beekeeping is one of the oldest and most enduring parts of Slovenia’s cultural heritage. In a country of two million people there are 5 beekeepers per thousand inhabitants. One Slovenian beekeeper from the 18th century, Anton Janša, was the first teacher of beekeeping in the world. His birthday, May 2, is now celebrated as World Honey Bee Day. Slovenia also boasts a museum of apiculture in Radovljica.
The traditional Slovenian bee species is the Carniolan honeybee (Apis mellifera carnica), which Slovenians proudly extoll as having an excellent sense of orientation, a non-aggressive nature, a good work ethic, long life span, fast comb builders, hygienic, and less prone to some diseases. Wow!
There are Slovenian sayings related to beekeeping. For example, if someone is a hard worker, they say “you work as hard as a bee” (Priden kot čebela). Or if you have some bad luck you could say “The ax has fallen into the honey.” Beekeepers even have their own patron saint, St Ambrose.
Painted Beehive Panels
In Slovenia, the wooden front panels of beehives are painted in an array of bright colors which makes a group of beehives out in the field look like an open-air art gallery. Beekeepers believe painting the panels makes it easier for the bees to distinguish between colonies and find their way home. Replicas of these beehive panels are painted with traditional, often amusing, folk art. Painted beehive panels are available in many gift shops and are a popular souvenir to take back home.
With all this beekeeping, you’d expect Slovenia to be a land flowing with honey—and it is. Tiny Slovenia produces an astounding 2500 tons of honey per year. Still, with all this honey production, Slovenian domestic honey consumption consistently outstrips supply, and so Slovenia is a net importer of honey. The EU has granted a protected status to three types of Slovenian Honey, and you’ll find these and other local favorites available in grocery stores and gift shops.
The first time you drive through a Slovenian agricultural area you’ll be introduced to roofed hayracks—something you’ll see nowhere else in Europe. It seems that because of the frequent rains during the hay season, hayracks are covered by a roof so that the hay dries properly. But all this drying hay a wooden rack underneath a shingle roof can quickly become a raging fire with one stray bolt of lightning. So many farmers are converting to concrete posts and fiberglass or corrugated metal roofs. Not so quaint, but safer.
Bobbin lacemaking in Slovenia is a traditional handicraft of making lace by crossing and twisting thread wound on special wooden sticks known as bobbins. Using patterns, some small and simple and others very large and elaborate, bobbin lacemakers attach the pattern to a cylinder pillow in a wicker basket or on a wooden base and start their work. The lace is frequently seen on clothing, and in decorative home and religious settings, In Slovenia there are around 120 bobbin lacemaking societies which not only preserve the tradition, but which train a younger generation in learning the art. But for the most part bobbin lacemaking skills are passed down from grandmothers to grandchildren. You’ll find bobbin lace for sale in gift shops and in specialty lace and sewing shops in many cities and small towns.