Travels in Blood and Honey: Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo - Elizabeth Gowing (2011)

Have you ever found yourself wondering how to make Albanian bread? Nope, me neither. Ever wondered what to take to the Kosovan Prime Minister when invited over for lunch? Neither had Elizabeth Gowing until she found herself in this new Balkan state for two years, and discovered her inner beekeeper, along with a fetish for old beehives. She fell for this hitherto unfamiliar world and this is her account of that time. In fact there isn't any blood - her husband's job was advisor to the new Prime Minister several years after the troubles between Serbs and Albanians had ceased. The mainly Albanian population of Kosovo, however, were clearly people who ate honey with everything. Beware: this book will make you feel slightly inadequate as you read about the inspirational Gowing flitting from one clever project to another. Not only does she learn all about beekeeping and honey, which provides a clever framework for the book - she also learns Albanian, promotes the Ethnological Museum, encourages women in remote villages to sell their traditional crafts, gets involved with a women's shelter and much more. This woman clearly never sleeps. Or never gets around to such trivial things as shopping for tights, which is why she ends up at the Prime Minister's house with holes in them. Our tiny glimpses into her quirky character are tantalising. It's not the lightest of reads as a whole, but there's certainly more fun and warmth and rural charm than the word Kosovo conjured in my mind before reading it. Plus there are recipes. It's a pleasurable taste of life in a place which few of us travel will travel to. (JB)

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