07/23/20 • 36 min
The word Kosovo brings to mind images of the Balkan War — a place of blood — but Elizabeth Gowing talks about it as a place of sweetness, a place of honey with wonderful food, welcoming people and a complex patchwork of religion that manages to get along together in a tiny country. She also explains how her unexpected move to Kosovo led to her love of beekeeping and a new direction helping local communities.
Elizabeth Gowing is the author of five books, including Travels in Blood and Honey: Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo. She’s also a professional speaker and co-founder of The Ideas Partnership, a charity that empowers and supports people in need in Kosovo.
- An unexpected transfer to Kosovo
- Exploring Kosovo and the hospitality of the people
- The dying art of silver filigree
- The religious buildings and their significance
- Is it safe to travel to Kosovo?
- The symbolism of the traditional Kosovo foods
- Working with the Roma and Ashkali communities to educate children
- Tips for sustainable tourism in Kosovo
You can find Elizabeth Gowing at ElizabethGowing.com
Elizabeth’s headshot photo credit: Jonada Jashari
Transcript of the interview
Jo Frances Penn: Elizabeth Gowing is the author of five books, including Travels in Blood and Honey: Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo. She’s also a professional speaker and co-founder of The Ideas Partnership, a charity that empowers and supports people in need in Kosovo. Welcome, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Gowing: Hi there.
Jo Frances Penn: It’s great to have you on the show. And as I was saying, I love the book, Travels in Blood and Honey. It’s just super original.
I want to just first talk about Kosovo because, in my mind, I know to a lot of listeners, Kosovo means war in our heads. That’s the only image we have. We don’t know much about it.
Could you explain, first of all, where Kosovo is and how it featured in the Balkans conflict?
Elizabeth Gowing: As you say, it’s the image that lots of people have, which is where I decided to start the title of my book with blood and honey because I realized that lots of people thought of it as a place of blood and I was really discovering it as a place of honey.
It’s a beautiful country with beautiful landscapes and hedgerows and all the things you’d imagine for a place that has great honey. And it’s also a very small country, which always surprises people because it did dominate so much in the headlines, less so now, thankfully. But in 1999 when the NATO initiative against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces was the huge news and the biggest initiative that was taken since the Second World War by NATO.
So people remember it for that war and can’t believe that it’s actually a country the size of Devon. So it’s a small country. Tucked in between other former Yugoslav countries like Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and it also has a border with Albania.
The people of Kosovo are a mixture of Albanians ethnically and Serbs ethnically with the vast majority of them now being Albanian. In terms of its climate, it has summers that are much hotter than the U.K.’s and winters that are much colder. So it veers between this very Mediterranean summer and then this really what people would probably think of as a Balkan winter.
Jo Frances Penn: And for any people who aren’t in the U.K., you said the size of Devon there. I’m trying to think of an American state that might be a similar size.
Elizabeth Gowing: Rhode Island always seems to get wheeled out as a comparator. But yes, I think it’s about the size of Rhode Island. I’ve never been to Rhode Island.
Jo Frances Penn: That is great because it is difficult to imagine the size. I guess the other question is what drew you to Kosovo and also Albania? And you speak Albanian, which is very cool.
Tell us how you came to work there and how bees helped you make a home.
Elizabeth Gowing: I didn’t intend to go to Kosovo. It was really a big surprise to me when it happened, but me and my partner were looking for some ki...
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