Delightful golden honey, aromatic bee wax candles, and the traditional mead are the best souvenirs which can be brought home from Lithuania. The mead is considered to be one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in the world. Lithuanians, from the earliest medieval times, produced mead in a distinctive way. The beekeeping in Lithuania started to thrive from the 16th century and began with the beekeeping in the natural tree hollows. Later on, the beginning of the 20th century brought innovation, and people started using beehives. This testifies of beekeeping traditions in Lithuania having fascinating and unique roots. The Museum of Ancient Beekeeping, situated in Aukštaitija National Park, helps us to preserve and understand them.
As many of essential daily life activities in Lithuania, the beekeeping, from its beginnings, was surrounded by myths and legends. Moreover, it left a broad footprint in the traditional folklore. From ancient times, people believed that there is the God of Bees called Bubilas and his wife, the Goddess of Bees, named Austėja. These gods were widely presented in various myths, songs, and poems of Lithuanian folklore. However, the most well-known tradition (a little bit cruel, I would say, hence not so popular anymore) was challenging for young wives. If during the first evening spent in the husband's house, a bee stings the bride, the bride will be considered to be a poor wife and a lousy choice. It was believed that bees sting only bad people. Of course, these traditions originated a long time ago, and have no merit today. Anyway, you can find the statues of Bubilas and Austėja in the Museum of Ancient Beekeeping.
The Museum of Ancient Beekeeping is located in Stripeikiai village – the oldest community in the whole Aukštaitija National Park, known from the middle of the 15th century. The museum there was established in 1984, by the beekeeper Bronius Kazlas. The museum is divided into four zones, presenting different beekeeping traditions throughout the years. Also, the museum invites visitors to participate in one of the nine education programs. In the first zone, the culture of beekeeping in tree hollows is presented. The second zone consists of an exhibition of hives used until the 20th century. The third zone shows the beekeeping as it is today and the fourth zone presents sculptures which reflect the beekeeping traditions in Lithuanian mythology. For the more entertainment during your visit, join one of the educational programs – from the wax-candle-making workshops to the honey tasting. Also, the museum has the glass-sided hives that enable visitors to watch the bees working inside the colonies.
The honey is still a top-rated product in Lithuania. Almost in every house, you can find a small jar of honey which is used with tea, pancakes, or traditional Lithuanian white cheese. Also, the mead production is widely spread across the country; more than 100 tons of honey is used every year for the creation of this delicious drink. Preserving Lithuanian traditions of beekeeping is a vital role for the Museum of Ancient Beekeeping; hence, the honey is valuable not only for the taste but also for gaining more knowledge about the culture.
Cover picture © Credits to iStock/grafvision
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