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Category: Albania

Albania’s passengers on the Ark of Taste: Strawberry Honey and more

Albania’s passengers on the Ark of Taste: Strawberry Honey and more

The Ark of Taste is an international project maintained by the global Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity which collects endangered heritage food products around the globe.  Albania has added more than 40 'passengers' to the Ark, including the strawberry tree honey.  The strawberry tree is flowering in late fall. Its Latin name  Arbutus unedo reveals all about its key characteristics: The Celtic „Ar” meaning “sour”, „butus” like the bush and finally „unedo”, which stems from the Latin „unum edo” and means „I only eat one”.

The strawberry tree honey or also called Arbutus honey has a very strong bitter flavor that is loved by gourmets worldwide - Arbutus honey goes very well with cheese. In Albania, the Arbutus honey is called „Malte mjare“ and since generations it is produced from October to November in der region of Përmet: The Vjosa Valley is one of the few areas in the country where the strawberry tree is widespread.  By the way, there is also an unusual raki made from the fruit of the strawberry tree

For an overview of all Albanian products listed in the Ark of Taste, click on the picture below:

Screenshot der Webseite der Slow Food Foundation

Sun and Shade in Përmet

Sun and Shade in Përmet

Close-up of bees on a frame
Close-up of a hive frame in the morning sun in Përmet                                                                            © E. Burdack / Honey Trail

Bees are creatures of the light.  Not only do they orient themselves using the position of the sun; research found that bees even navigate to and from a honey source by reading the pattern of polarised light in the sky.
The bees above are woken up by the morning sun in Përmet, getting an early start at foraging in the Vjosa valley.

Armbruster Beekeeping School 2020 – Discovering the North of Albania

Armbruster Beekeeping School 2020 – Discovering the North of Albania

Imker in Lezha
Beehive inspection in Lezha, a region that is well-known for its sage honey                                    © Honey Trail

Last year, we had the pleasure to welcome the Armbruster Beekeeping School with a group on a tour to the South of Albania. We are thrilled to announce that they will be back next year! The travel dates are from August, 29 - September, 6 2020 and planning of the itinerary is in full swing.

This time, the journey will take the group to the North of Albania: We will visit beekeepers in Shkodra, Lezha, Puka and Tropoja. The chestnut massif in the mountainous North is the largest of the Balkans, and the deliciously intense Chestnut Honey from Tropoja has been recognized last year as a unique Albanian trademark. Along the way, we go birdwatching on the Lake Shkodra, get an insight into Albania's weaving tradition in a small village close to Montenegro, enjoy one of the world's most beatiful ferry rides on Lake Koman, get to know the country's Slow-Food movement, go hiking in Albania's first UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sight, visit Vitor Shahinaj in Puka for a taste of the traditional Çiftelia and trace the Illyrian history on the island of Shurdhah, to name just a few of the destinations during the trip.

 

 

 

 

Honey Trail goes ITB

Honey Trail goes ITB

                                                                                                     © Sondor Travel

Each year in March, the ITB, the world's leading travel trade show, takes place in Berlin. Countries, regions, tour operators, travel agencies and many more present everything travel related. This year, we were very excited to have the opportunity to participate and present our Honey Trail at the ITB.

Thank you to everyone who visited us at the Albania stand and the stand of the RCC Western Balkans project! We were very happy about the interest in Albania as a travel destination and the Honey Trail in particular, as well as the many interesting conversations with both travelers and colleagues, and we took home a lot of new contacts and insights.

Albanian honey: Flower preferences of the honey bees

Albanian honey: Flower preferences of the honey bees

Albania's climate provides excellent conditions for beekeeping: Already Aristotle praised the wealth of bee forage plants and wildflowers in Albania. Recently, researchers from the departments of Biology of the University of Elbasan and the University of Tirana conducted a melissopalynological study to look into the preferred source plants and quality of honey in the country.¹ Melissopalynology, the analysis of pollen grains in honey, provides information about the floral choices of honey bees, which is used to determine the geographical and botanical origin of the honey. 

The analysis was carried out on 30 honey samples collected from localities across Albania, from Bajram Curri in Northern Albania to Sarandë in the South of the country. The study confirmed a great diversity of floral sources; the honey was pure and not thermally processed.

About half (14 out of 30) of the honey samples were found to be monofloral (predominantly from the nectar of one plant), mainly from Castanea, Arbutus, and Erica. 16 out of 30 honey samples were multifloral, with a great variety of up to 56 pollen types. With regard to the frequency of occurrence of pollen types, the honey bees favourites include Arbutus, Artemisia, Castanea, Erica, Lotus, Rosa, Rubus, Tilia, Trifolium.

The Honey Trail offers a most unique way to discover the beauty of Albanian honey and this floral diversity, for example on our South tour.

 

¹ Source: Pupuleku, B., Kapidani, G., Naqellari, P. & Gjeta, E. (2016). Melissopalynological Study of Albania’s Honey. Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 5(3), 261-268.

Albania among the top travel destinations for 2019 according to Harper’s Bazaar

Albania among the top travel destinations for 2019 according to Harper’s Bazaar

Word is getting out that Albania is a wonderful place to discover: Albania made the top ten travel destinations for 2019, put together by travel experts for Harper's Bazaar UK.

The magazine says: “The southern European country has long been in the shadows of neighboring tourist-attracting countries Greece and Montenegro, however, some travel experts are predicting 2019 to be the country’s year”.

Source: Harper’s Bazaar UK

The Honey Trail at RESET

The Honey Trail at RESET

We are very happy that the online platform for sustainable innovation RESET.org included the Honey Trail in their list of tips and providers for sustainable travel experiences.

Thank you!

For our German-speaking readers, here is the link to the website:

                                                                                                                        Source: RESET.org
Your unique travel experience for 2019: Honey Trail tailor-made

Your unique travel experience for 2019: Honey Trail tailor-made

Beehives in Gjirokastra
Bees in Përmet                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          © Honey Trail

You are a (group of) bee lover(s), hobby beekeeper(s), new-bee(s), nature enthusiast(s) or foodies and want to learn more about bees and discover Albania from a unique perspective?

You are a beekeeping association or a training provider and want to organise a study tour for beekeepers to get to know Albanian beekeepers, beekeeping tradition and practices?

You are a family looking for a holiday that offers kids unique and engaging nature experiences?

We are happy to plan your very special travel experience, a custom-made itinerary that combines beekeeping, culture and nature, depending on your interests: Visits with beekeepers, agricultural co-operatives and organic farms, expert round tables or the opportunity to get hands-on during honey harvesting, in a boat on the wild Vjosa or Lake Shkodra, on foot in the Ceraunian Mountains or the Albanian Alps, at UNESCO World Heritage sites like Gjirokastra or Butrint, over a nice cup of mountain tea or at a winery.

Our offer includes all inclusive (bus) tours with English-speaking tour guides, self-drive options, bee farm homestays during honey harvesting season, and day trips to beekeepers.

We look forward to realising the Honey Trail tour that fits you just right!

 

It was a great pleasure!

It was a great pleasure!

From September 15 to 23 the wonderful group of the Armbruster Beekeeping School was with us on the Honey Trail exploring the South of Albania. It was a great pleasure to have you all as our guests! We thank you for the beautiful experiences together and hope to see you again!

Honey Trail impressions from Përmet

Honey Trail impressions from Përmet

In June, a film crew of the Social Travel Network Mapify visited our partner beekeeper Robert in Përmet as part of their Albania-Macedonia film production. We are very happy that the production included the Honey Trail and a short clip featuring the Albanian beekeeping tradition and excited to share the outcome with you: Wonderful impressions from the bees in Përmet!

 

Tickled your wanderlust? Want to meet Robert and his bees yourself? We offer tailor-made Honey Trail experiences that fit your interests and expectations just right, including all-inclusive and self-drive options, bee farm stays during honey harvesting season and day trips to beekeepers.

The Honey-Trail bees and the camera

The Honey-Trail bees and the camera

We had very special visitors! The film crew of the Social Travel Network Mapify met with our partner beekeeper in Përmet as part of their Albania-Macedonia film production: The short film aims to inspire people to discover the beauty and rich culture of Albania and we are very happy that it will also feature the Albanian beekeeping tradition and the Honey Trail. The short film will be presented on the platform in July and we cannot wait to see the outcome!

Hello beautiful spring!

Hello beautiful spring!

Beehives in Gjirokastra
© Honey Trail / Taulant Pjetërgjokaj

 

Happy weekend greetings from this sunny spring meadow in the south of Albania!
Here in the Lunxhëria region in Gjirokastër County live and work the bees of a certified organic beekeeper

Meet Lejla Shehu – Chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association

Meet Lejla Shehu – Chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association

Lejla Shehu in Lezhe, Albania
Lejla Shehu - Chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association    © Sondor Travel
 

Lejla Shehu has been working with and for bees since more than 30 years. She is the chairwoman of the Albanian Beekeepers Association and works tirelessly to promote and support beekeeping in Albania.  She has been providing invaluable guidance and input to the planning of the Honey Trail and we feel so honored and grateful to have her on board. We are very happy to introduce you to Lejla Shehu who took the time to talk to Taulant Pjetërgjokaj about her passion for bees and beekeeping practices and trends in Albania:

 

When and how did your interest in bees and beekeeping begin?

My involvement with bees started after I completed my studies: In 1981, I graduated in biochemistry from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and started working at the silk-producing center. The center included a lab which later became a part of the bee and silk department under the umbrella of the Zootechny Institute. When the department closed in 1996, I started working at the former Veterinary Research Institute (now Instituti i Sigurisë Ushqimore dhe Veterinare - ISUV) until 2006. It was in the lab, that I began working on issues relating to honey bees and bee health, especially on varroasis and others diseases but also analyses of honey, wax and propolis. Over the years, I got involved in many collaborations and projects on these issues where there was a need for our laboratory.

 

In 1991, the Albanian Beekeepers Association was founded. It is based on different local associations.  From 1991 till 2007, I was the General Secretary of the association. During that time I learned a lot from working with beekeepers and their wealth of experience, the exchange of information during trainings and visits to bee farms. Since 2007, I am the Chairperson of the Beekeepers Association. This task has not always been easy, especially in view of limited resources, investment capacities and government support and other difficulties that are present in the beekeeping sector. On the other hand, adressing these concerns has made me love my job even more so!

 

Can you tell us what makes the Albanian honey so special?

We have about 365,000 beehives in Albania and produce 3,200 to 3,400 tons of honey per year. Farmers in Albania breed the Apis mellifera Carnica which fits well in our context: The vegetation in Albania is Mediterranean and Mid-European and 2/3 of the territory is hilly or mountainous. From the western coasts to the eastern borders, the vegetation blooms from January to December. We have 350 hours sunlight in winter and 980 hours in summer. The two climate extremes are in November-January and July-August.  

Beekeeping takes place all over the country. Some bees 'graze' up to 1,000m - 1,500m and find a great variety of medicinal and aromatic plants growing on the mountain slopes: Sage, thyme, oregano, winter savory, clover, small-leaved lime and other herbs or plants as well as trees like the acacia, the strawberry tree or the chestnut help our bees produce high-quality honey. Albanian honey is mainly polyphlore and offers delicious varieties in all parts of the country, for example in Tropoja, Malsia e Madhe, Mirditë, Dibër, Pogradec, Erseke, Përmët, Tepelenë, Vlorë, Sarandë or the mountains of Librazhd! Also, the lack of industrial plant propagation often containing GMOs adds to the quality of our honey. 

 

We notice that there is an increasing interest in honey production in Albania, which seems to continue in the years to come. But besides honey, Albanian beekeepers also produce royal jelly, which is in very high demand as well as propolis, pollen and wax. These bee products bring beekeepers increasingly an additional income and have been traditionally used as or included in medicines.

Lejla Shehu visiting beehives of Lezhe Beekeeper Association
Visiting the regional Beekeepers Association in Lezhe
 

What is your favourite home remedy using bee products?

Since ancient times, honey is also used as a medication. Creams with honey support the healing of burns and wounds. Other ingredients I use in creams are wax and olive oil which together with propolis offer so many healing values. Propolis contains abundant flonoloids and is anti-mold, antibacterial and antiviral. The propolis creams I prepare help improve various health conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or wounds. The combination of wax, olive oil and Lule Basani (Saint John’s Wort) has positive effects not only on skin conditions but also problems such as hemorrhoids. Other creams are made with propylene glycol ingredients to substitute alcohol for those people who for example practice Traditional Chinese medicine.

 

Thank you very much Lejla!

 

More information on our Honey Trail, itineraries and booking details is available here.  We will also be happy to plan your very own tailor-made Honey Trail experience for you!

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