THE MONK-SHAPED beehive is a reminder of the origins of beekeeping in Slovakia.
"The place is the largest open-air museum of its kind in central Europe," says Peter Štiglic, a beekeeper of eight years and the one-man show keeping the Beekeeping Museum buzzing along.
"There are around 370 beehives in the area, some of them 150 or even 200 years old. Most of them were collected from all around the country, but there are also some from Germany, Hungary, Belgium, and Yugoslavia," he says.
The size and shape of the beehives, plus what they are made out of, varies greatly. Some are carved out of the trunk of a linden tree; others, which look like breadbaskets turned inside out, are made of straw. Each is decorated differently, and almost every one has a name.
The one at the entrance, which is in the shape of a life-size Native American, is called the Museum's Guardian.
Another looks like a bear stealing honey. The tallest one, which is over two meters high, is a tree trunk carved into the shape of the symbol of Slovakia - the double cross. The smaller straw beehives have all kinds of faces painted on them, mainly inspired by fairy tales.
The Beekeeping Museum sits on what used to be Včelárska paseka (Beekeepers Meadow), which was established by the Union of Beekeepers in 1930.
"Before this place was created, beekeeping was only a hobby. The aim of the project was to bring beekeepers together and teach the skills of beekeeping," says Štiglic.
The first known beekeeper in what is now the territory of Slovakia was a priest named Juraj Fándly, who wrote books about and lectured on beekeeping in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the Beekeeping Museum a large beehive in the shape of a priest is dedicated to his memory.
In the past, the place has housed up to 300 colonies of bees. Today, the only active beehive at the museum is one that is pressed up against a pane of glass that allows visitors to see inside.
The museum also displays beekeepers' tools, literature, and bee products that were once produced there, such as honey, mead, beeswax products, and medicines derived from honey. According to Štiglic, the museum hopes to return to producing such items soon.
How to get there from Bratislava:
By car - follow signs to Senec, then to Sládkovičovo to get to Kráľová pri Senci. From there it is around six kilometres to the Múzeum včelárstva (Beekeeping Museum).
By train - take the train to Pusté Úľany and ask someone how to get to the museum. It is only a three-kilometre walk from the station.
By bus - from the bus station Mlynské Nivy take another bus to Kráľová pri Senci, get off in Veľké Úľany and walk the rest of the way.
The museum is open every day from 7:00 to 15:30 from the beginning of May until the end of September. However, it is more or less open all the time because the gate is never closed and admission is free. Štiglic also gives guided tours and lectures on the history of beekeeping, but only in Slovak.
12. May 2003 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová