Cascoly Travel -- Turkey: Beekeeping Journal
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Turkey: Beekeeping Journal

Journal of Beekeeping Tour

to Jerry Mixon and Dawn Corl for permission to publish this article We're a Washington State   Contact us for details on setting up your next trip


Irfan Kandemir was there to meet us as we got off the bus in Zonguldak and took us to his favorite café for lunch. We then met 2 of his beekeeping friends Selahattin Guney, the president of the Zonguldak Beekeeper’s Association and  Ali Cakir, the beekeeper who co-owned a lovely apiary with Salih Zeki Er of about 100 colonies and 50 queen rearing nucs not far from town. The bees are incredibly gentle. They are dark, some with black abdomen. We noticed the cool combination landing board entrance closure. The Turks like to use punky pine roots for smoker fuel - a good idea. Other good ideas that we picked up were using cloth for inner covers and Styrofoam nucs. The bees were mostly foraging ivy at this apiary. We ate hazelnuts and figs and pears, right off of the trees in the apiary. The figs were incredibly good. Selahattin cracked the hazelnuts by squeezing them against a tree branch. He made it look easy, but we could not manage it ourselves, being spoiled by things like nutcrackers in the USA. After the hive inspection and snacks, we sat down for Turkish coffee. It was the best Turkish coffee I have ever tasted – not bitter, just bubbly, thick and sweet. Ali Cakir and Salih Zeki Er were very generous and gave us a big bag of hazelnuts and a very large jar of chestnut honey. I, in turn, gave him and Selahattin a very small jar of Beauty and the Bees honey.

Irfan took us back to our hotel, which hung on the side of a cliff over the Black Sea with an amazing view.  The beds were really comfortable and there was a nice western toilet and very clean shower. We walked around town with Irfan and had tea (many cups) where folks gathered in the evening to play backgammon and talk. As we were talking to Irfan, a woman sitting at the next table kept looking at me and she asked Irfan if she could join us because I had such a happy laugh. Her name was Elmas, which means diamond in Turkish. She was very talkative but Irfan was a patient interpreter and we enjoyed learning about the life of a Zonguldak native.

We then went to a different restaurant where Irfan knew the owner and had fish soup made out of “poisonous” fish that was seasoned with peppers, oregano, mint, vinegar and lemon with lot of bread to sop up the flavor. I was skeptical, but the soup was delicious. This was just the appetizer. The main course was a huge plate of fresh deep fried anchovies and another fish that we cannot remember the name of, and of course the salad. We finished it off with halva. Throughout we had great conversation about bee research, families, and plans for tomorrow, as well as a few quirky things about Irfan (he loves peanut butter but can only buy it on trips to the USA).  Irfan also told us that Zonguldak is one of the most expensive towns in Turkey due to the wealth acquired by coal mining and their employees, who are paid very well.


We started off with a breakfast of leftovers from yesterday including simit and chestnut honey. The first taste of chestnut honey is sharp, but after your tongue no longer tastes the bitterness, it is delicious. Irfan picked us up at 9:30 and we went to Eregli (Er-ee-lee) to visit Selahattin’s office – – quite a nice place fitted out with lots of modern computer equipment that was donated by Mayor of Eregli-(ALAPLI-GULUC) provinces and the iron company (ERDEMIR). Selahattin gave us a taste of delicious pollen and then we visited the beekeeping supply store. They were busy making a fondant with pollen and sugar syrup (for feeding bees) that they put in plastic containers and placed inside the colony in the fall.  Jerry bought a front entrance pollen trap for only 5YTL. Selahattin made a quick run to the fish market and bought several fresh tuna that he planned to cook for our lunch. Both he and Refik Orhan were fasting for Ramazan. We sincerely offered to wait until sundown to eat, but he told us that he was eating when we were asleep and insisted that it was not a problem. Irfan was not fasting either, so we followed his example.

We then drove to Nevsat’s apiary. He makes several kinds of traditional hives out of Fagus (beech) logs and wicker and mud. Some of the wicker baskets were cylinders set on saw horses like the logs and others were more skep like. He had just passed his beekeeper’s test and I got to give him his certificate. He gave us a comb of honey and lots of hazelnuts. There were several differences in his apiary. Turkish beekeepers use fabric or feedbags for inner covers rather than wooden ones. They also save costs on foundation by putting foundation in every other frame in the brood chamber and let the bees draw out the alternate frames with natural comb. He said the honeycomb he collects from the traditional colonies is considered medicine. The comb he gave us was ivy honey (I am pretty sure) and tasted very strong. I could believe it was medicine. We stopped by a very old spring and filled our water bottles on the advice of Irfan (hoping that we would not be sorry later and we were not sorry. The water was delicious and no urgent trips to the tuvalets!). On the road, we passed 2 men who were hauling loads of sticks down from a very steep hill on horses outfitted with the old wooden saddles. One of the men rode the horse up the hill in the wooden saddle.

We got back in the car and drove deeper into the mountains. The forests were native Lindens, Chestnuts, Bay trees, and Rhododendron. We stopped at Adnan Ilik’s home and were served a wonderful lunch, including homegrown grapes, the fresh sautéed Black Sea tuna, the best lentil soup either Jerry or I have ever eaten, nettles with onion, garlic, peppers, rice with yogurt on top, salad, cornbread and wheat bread, baked filo with parsley and feta finished with many cups of tea. While we were waiting for the fish to cook, Adnan offered us some rhody honey. Rhode honey is known as “mad honey” from the legends of the Black Sea region in which an ancient war was won by offering gifts of “mad honey” to the enemy troops. More than a teaspoon at a time causes a rapid drop in both systolic and diastolic BP. Both Jerry and I tasted a little bit of it. No madness ensued. The patio was covered with hazelnuts that were inches thick and drying in the sun. There was also a bucket of green hulls of English walnuts, which repel wax moths in stored supers. Adnan also dries and uses the walnut hulls in his smoker to repel varroa. They also had a bush in their yard that Irfan told me was called Kara yenis (“Black Fruit”) that looks like it is related to Rhododendron but is a traditional remedy for diabetes..

After lunch we went into his bee yard and found ourselves opening colony after colony with no need for any protection at all. Most of his hives were like little houses with gabled roofs. He also uses a propolis paint to treat the outside of his colonies. The bees are most likely Caucasian and produce lots and lots of propolis. Jerry has also used propolis paint, so this gave them a nice comradery. He had well over 100 colonies. It was a wonderful apiary. He gave us gifts of a huge ball of propolis, another huge bag of hazelnut, apples and another large jar of chestnut honey. When we finally said good bye, Ilik gave me a big hug and double cheek kiss. She kissed Jerry's hand and pressed it to her forehead, a sign of respect in Turkey. It was very touching. These were VERY nice people. Selahattin had a hankering to RUN down the hill to the main road (about a quarter mile) so he did and pretty much kept up with the car. He has more energy than 10 people who were eating and drinking during the day.

On the way back to Selahattin's home we stopped at a reservoir. We saw a woman carrying a HUGE bundle of sticks on her back, a scene you would expect to see in a National Geographic magazine. There were also women driving a small herd of cattle back to their home pastures. After sundown, Selahattin invited us to join his family's "breaking the fast" evening meal. Just before dinner and just before dark, we took a quick look at his apiary on the hill behind his house. He is experimenting with making propolis extract for sale and with Styrofoam feeders. They were 10 yrs old and still in good shape. Selahattin's wife is also quite involved in beekeeping. Selahattin has 4 daughters, one (Tuba) who spoke very good English. We had lentil soup, rice, potatoes, meat, salad, peppers and yogurt and a traditional Ramazan sour cherry drink that was really good. After the meal, we were served Turkish coffee while Selahattin showed us the slideshow of the pictures he had taken the last two days, and also of a trip with the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Forestry . The director is a very important official since it is illegal to cut down a tree in the whole country of Turkey without his approval. Families will pass down a particular tree in the forest for its nuts, fruit, etc.

Before we left, Selahattin's wife gave me a gift of some warm knitted slippers. Selahattin's daughter also put the equivalent of about 6 CDs of Turkish music on the CD of pictures that Selahatttin made for us. The very old grandmother got up from her chair and sat next to me and put her hand on my knee. We had a big group picture taken. Again, it was very touching. We felt like royalty the entire time we were hosted by this wonderful and generous group of Turkish beekeepers.

Yesterday, on the way back to Zonguldak, we discussed the possibility of organizing tours of beekeepers to the Zonguldak area so that other beekeepers could enjoy what we were experiencing. Everyone in the car thought it was a great idea and “beecotourism” was born. I offered to run the idea by some friends of mine who organize tours in Turkey. By morning, Selahattin had already arranged for us to meet and discuss this idea with no less than YAVUZ ERKMEN, the Governor of the province, prior to our departure.

We got our bus tickets for Istanbul to depart at 12:30, then Irfan took us to Gokgul cave. It is a natural tube created by water running out from deep in the mountain, which dissolved the limestone over thousands of years, so it is really an ancient river bed. There is still running water, but only deep within the cave. It is about ½ mile to the end and goes through places where it has huge rooms with stalactites and stalagmites, and also places where it is a very small tube. Lights have been installed the entire route, as well as a walking trail/platform of wood.

We picked up Selahattin, then we were off to the government building. The room was packed with other people waiting to see the Governor of Zonguldak. We just waited while Irfan and Selahattin had lively conversations with the other people waiting and with the secretary (who, no doubt, controlled the visitor traffic). Within 15 minutes, we were ushered into a very plush office with a distinguished and dapper governor sitting under an imposing portrait of Ataturk and behind a beautiful desk. Irfan explained his plan in Turkish, and Selahattin took some more pictures. Irfan told us that the Governor was very supportive of beekeeping and would do whatever necessary to continue to be supportive, including our plan to increase tourism among beekeepers. He gave us some very nice gifts and we hurried to the bus station. While we were waiting for our bus to leave, Jerry noticed that someone had thrown a bucket of water on the back of a bus as it was leaving the parking lot. Irfan explained that this is a tradition that is supposed to ease the journey and speed the return of the traveler. Within a minute, Selahattin had a cup of water and threw it behind our bus when we left the parking lot too. Just before we got on the bus, Irfan kissed both of Jerry’s cheeks – the farewell of close male Turkish friends. We were off to Istanbul.


  • Join our BEEcotour


    ____Meeting with Yavuz Erkmen, the Governor of the province
    ____Miles of colonies on Datcha peninsula
    ____Opening a queen mating nuc
    ____Smoking the bees.
    ____Typical apiary
    ____Gentle bees
    ____Traditional log and wicker hives
    ____Inspecting a log hive colony
    ____Comb inside traditional wicker hive
    ____Spotting the queen
    ____Beekeepers sharing ideas
    ____Beautiful bees on a beautiful site
    ____"small" hill apiary
    ____Delicious meal with fresh Black Sea Tuna
    ____Colony inspection

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