Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo

The best present I received on my first birthday in Kosovo was a hive full of bees.  It was the starting point for a fascinating apprenticeship, the beginning of a journey through the country's finest food, and the first chapter of a book.

The book is published by Signal Books and is available on Amazon.  It was
Digital Book World's 'most iconic book' selection for Kosovo. It was featured on Radio 4's Excess Baggage and following that interview, I was interviewed by

Geraldine Doogue on Australia’s ABC Radio National. She described the book as being ‘about bee keeping, belonging and the business of politics but it’s also a book rich with history and recipes, and insights about language and learning.’ You can hear the interview online.

The Times calls it ‘a sheer delight; a beguiling, bittersweet story of a lively love affair with a traditional world, as ancient as apiculture, in transition to new nationhood’  (read the full review)

There's also an interview with me about the book on the New Books in European Studies site and on the Signal Books blog.

The Oxford Times calls the book 'delightful' - 
read their review here.

An extract is available on the Arvon Foundation website and Wordle has produced a Word Cloud for the book.

There is a Google map to accompany the book.

[photo credit Paddy McEntaggart]


Other travel writing of mine this year won the Independent on Sunday/ Bradt travel writing competition. I competed in the Quark competition to be the travel blogger for an expedition to the North Pole and an article about the North Pole competition entry appeared on the New Kosova Report website.
Travels in Blood and Honey

I wanted to tell what I had learned about Kosovo, the war zone (‘is it very dangerous?’ was usually the first question people in the UK had asked me) – where Dardan’s uncle was killed at the roadside and Milosevic’s murders were still part of everyone’s emotional landscape; but also about Kosovo, the land of sweet, hospitable beekeepers, the land of strong tastes, farmer prime ministers, and the lush garden of my Serbian language teacher – the land of honey.

It was only later that I was told that I wasn’t alone in seeing this place as a land of such contradictions.  In Turkish, bal means ‘honey’ and kan means ‘blood’.  The story, almost certainly untrue, goes that when the Turks arrived in the Bal-kans, they immediately saw the potential of a fertile land where you can be happy sipping sweet nectar.  Only when they had discovered how hard they would have to fight to subdue, and eventually lose, the territory, did they understand its second syllable.  And that is how the region got its full name, the land of blood and honey.

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