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Our very own Honey.(Credit: Lisa Ostrovska)

If you’ve recently set foot in the dorm gardens between W16 and K24, a few medium-sized boxes may have caught your eye. Once you approach, you’ll notice the signs that warn you not to get too close – you’re not supposed to disturb the bees that have been there since spring.

Responsible for them is Daniel Bauer, a local beekeeper who runs an apiary in the botanical garden in Blankenfelde, about 3 kilometers north of campus. I meet him in the office of the administration building to talk about his work with bees, the environment, and how the collaboration with BCB came to be one Friday morning in late August. Before we begin the interview, the beekeeper gives me a jar of honey as a sample, which I gladly take home to my apartment. By the time I sit down to type up the interview, the jar is already half empty and my fingers sticky, a result of my roommate and I shamelessly sneaking spoonfuls straight out of the jar while savoring the last days of summer.

By now the first big batch of honey has arrived at the school and is a part of our cafeteria’s breakfast buffet.

After Daniel Bauer sits down on the couch in the administration building and I have set up the recorder, he points to a small red dot above his left eyebrow that I would have otherwise overlooked: A bee sting. When I ask how often this happens, he shrugs it off with a smile and tells me that being stung is just inevitable if you’re a beekeeper, despite the fact that he wears a protective suit:

When I started, I just wore a sort of veil around my head, but the bees find a way to get through it everywhere. Then I had a jacket with a veil, and by now I’m wearing an overall, a closed suit to prevent the bees from coming through almost entirely. But it still happens occasionally, and I generally get stung around five times a day. The stinger stays in the skin, so you have to pull it out very quickly so you don’t get too much venom in the wound. But you get used to the pain.

Don’t get me wrong – every sting hurts just as badly as the first one, but you learn to look ahead and keep working rather than think about the pain. The thing about beekeeping is that you’re in nature a lot, and there is always something trying to distract you. Either it rains, or it’s cold, the bees buzz around, you get stung, but you just have to try and stay focused. And this way even being stung becomes a minor thing.

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Honey Bees

I took this photo of a wild beehive in an old wild-pear tree in a national park in the outskirts of Sofia. I learned that there is a legend, according to which a wild pear should never be cut. Rangers estimate the age of the tree around 500 years. Seems these ‘wild’ bees will have a home for a while.

Enter the cafeteria of ECLA of Bard: welcome to a miniature market of local and world’s finest gourmet dishes and organic fruits and vegetables. The line of hunger-driven students and faculty begins to shape itself as a veritable cavalcade of travelers and seekers of the ‘finer things in life’. On certain days the whole place is transformed so as to immerse you in a given state, in which the desire for exploration takes over the mere expectation of meeting your nutritional needs; on others––it’s up to you to see that cozy space as what, in a sense, it really is: an Aladdin’s Cave-like structure, which harbors objects of––granted, subtle and imperceptible––magic. (If at this point you imagine our chef, Stefan, clad in an embroidered silk robe, and offering you some exotic ‘spices’ with magic properties, you might have gone a bit too far). From a certain point of view, however, the cafeteria can become a ‘hyperspace’: every object allows for a journey into its creation and opens up a unique history ‘book’, whose pages might span for thousands of years.

My glance is drawn to that object which is so often the last one standing on the table after most people have left: the jar of honey. Little do the connoisseurs, who decide in the very last moment to indulge a bit in a self-made banana–peanut butter ‘split’ glazed with honey, realize that this jar of honey has traveled not only more than 1500 km, but also that it contains a microscopic geographical map made of pollen, and reveals the fascinating and complex political structure of the bee hive­­––which in itself is an inextricable part of the honey production. This summer I journeyed back those 1500 km, and decided to finally learn to ‘enter’ the ‘hyperspace’ of the jar of honey at Waldstrasse 70.

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