Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gingerbread cookies and Beekeeping

Another great breakfast at our pension. We had hoped to ride bicycles to the nearby (5 miles) town of Radoviča, but there is light mist and the pension owners advised against it.

We altered our day's plan by walking around Lake Bled (Blayd), about 3.5 miles...it seemed longer than going around Keyser Lake in NH even though it's a similar distance. At the far end of the lake, the "church island" is fairly near the shore, making a good photo opportunity. Seeing swans on the lake is a plus.

A short side trip brought us to Vila Bled, a hotel now, formerly Jośip Broz Tito's summer villa (one of 40 residences he maintained for different purposes). The exterior lacks any architectural interest, and the interior is pretty staid. There is some interesting wall art, in particular a mural covering the upper part of two walls, depicting Slovenia's involvement in World War II...a definite political statement to pacify the Russian communist government.

This hotel has a huge chunk of real estate and know how to charge. A standard room starts at 220 Euros. A very nice man that showed us around said a couple from "the states" (he didn't know exactly where) was having a wedding reception there next week after being married in the church on the island. Great setting and I'm sure huge price tag.

We then took a short bus ride to Radoviča, a couple towns away. Timing was good and had an interesting tour of the small old town. Actually had another couple with us who are from Ljubljana. This town is known for a famous playwright, Anton Tomaz Lindhart. It also has a well preserved moat, several medieval homes and a number of late gothic and renaissance buildings. It is a working, lived in town with interesting fresco paintings and our guide did a good job explaining it's existence since 1333.

We ate at the 500 year old Lectar family restaurant where we sampled several traditional, local dishes. The Lectar (the name means "gingerbread baker") museum is a clever small ginger bread workshop that's been around since 1766. They make cookies (some heart-shaped) covered with deep red, hard frosting and decorated, sometimes with a love note, a poem, or a company logo. If not eaten, they can be used as ornaments. Gingerbread is an important part of Slovene culture.

Then we took the tip from Rick Steves and visited the museum on Slovene beekeeping. It was fascinating. Elaborate beehive houses built in the 19th century are on display. Also, naive artwork painted on the front panel of beehives.

Wow, bees are smart little things! They have great social structure. (Dave Brazier should see this museum!) Do you know that male drones die after fertilizing the queen's eggs? The queen lays from 1,500 to 2,000 eggs, daily? And, some worker bees only clean the comb cells? While others only use their wings to remove heat from the hive? Or, after a few years the queen is "asked" to leave; she takes some drones and workers with her in a swarm to start a new hive. This is complicated stuff.

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