January 20, 2020
Mapify More: Nature
Honey made in the Albanian highlands
albanianhighlands (Photo 0)

Small, tiny huts rush by as we drive down the coastline.
Small, tiny huts left and right of the street, slightly hidden by rich green grass.
Small, tiny huts, painted in bright yellow, ocean blue and in soft pastels.

Small, tiny huts - passing by. Albanias roads are curvy. With every turn we take, the car is flooded by wind, blowing in wafts of the peerless variety of Albania’s flora. We smell thyme, heather, ivy and all the wildflowers. Resinous and sweet.

Those tiny, colored huts are more than small wooden shoe boxes. They are bee hives and therefore might be the smallest and most natural factories on Earth. Supplied by the variety and widespread availability of nectars in Albania’s both mediterranean and continental mountainous outlands, apiculture has been an essential component in the country’s rural economy for over 2000 years.

And while elsewhere throughout the world, apiarists focusing on traditional farming seem to be on the brink of extinction, Albania’s beekeeping culture keeps growing constantly and has recently tripled in only ten years. Furthermore, various initiatives like the RASP (rural association support program) or the Honey Trail by {BeeAlbania^} which offers visitors an insight into the Albanian beekeeping tradition contribute to supporting rural farmers in order to stabilize the economical liveliness of Apiculture in Albania.

Providing local beekeepers with resources and knowledge on how to improve and complete their output they help them grow sustainably and build small scale businesses that they can eventually make a living from.

Leaving the city of Permet, we set out into the highlands, where we meet Bertie - one of many rural beekeepers in the south European Country. In between mountainous fields at almost 2000m of height, he introduces us to his colony of around 50 hives. As two thirds of Albanian beekeepers cultivate less than ten hives, this is a buzzing metropolis here.

Inside the hives, the combs are stacked for the bees to breed and create their fascinating and perfectly shaped honey ecosystem. Fragile and beautiful. Small amounts of smoke serve to keep the bees from the combs so the bar can be taken out safely by the apiarist.

In spring, the south Albanian honey unites the blooming variety of a wildflower bouquet and therefore tastes very sweet. Depending on the harvest time and the surrounding Flora in the farming areas, the sticky golden liquid takes on different tastes. The Albanian speciality of Arbutus honey - also called „mjalte mareje“ - is made from the strawberry tree and therefore strong and bitter, whereas the Chestnut harvest is characterized by an intensive, tart and aromatic note.

It seems that - out here in albanian highlands, flora, fauna and humans live together peacefully, working as one. Friendly and natural. Benefiting from one another:
Fields blossom and bloom and give nectar to the bees. In return, they benefit from the increased pollination that guarantees their continuity.
Bees produce honey, wax and propolis - products that give us precious nutrients and have antibacterial effects.
Farmers set up hives - providing bees with a safe place to breed in fruitful regions/areas and additional feeding when necessary.
Flora and Fauna give and take from each other.
Let us humans give back. Let us inspire and preserve.