“I don’t have a rational explanation for why I got into beekeeping,” Gorazd Trušnovec says, as we tuck into an apple tart sweetened with honey from the bees he keeps on the roof. So, if it’s not a decision based on logic, how does someone go from magazine editor to professional urban beekeeper? In Gorazd’s case, it started with a Proustian moment. In his mid-30s (he’s now 45), he caught the sweet-smelling whiff of bees, he says, and it took him back to his childhood, and a time when his great uncle produced acacia honey at his grandmother’s home.
“The whole house smelled like one giant beehive — this very sweet aroma,” Gorazd says. And once he’d experienced it again, he knew what he had to do. After consulting with another Ljubljana beekeeper, he invested in some hives of his own. Today, he has around 50 of them at 15 sites across the Slovenian capital, including on the balcony of his apartment and on the roof of the Cankarjev Dom cultural centre. Here at Hotel Park, just outside the old town, his hives are home to between 15,000 and 20,000 bees for most of the year, with the population swelling to 50-60,000 in summer.
There’s a long tradition of beekeeping in Slovenia, and Gorazd tells me the honey here is special — “denser, more viscose” — as it has a lower water content than other varieties. Plus, he says, Ljubljana is an especially good place to keep hives. “The city is surprisingly rich in biodiversity,” he explains. “Every street has a lot of trees — the most important source of nectar.”
The people who host Gorazd’s hives around the city buy most of his honey, but he does sell at fairs and in a few shops. And he saves plenty for himself; he and his family eat it almost daily. “In everything that would contain sugar, we use our honey instead,” he says.
Published in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food