The scenic paths connecting small villages in northeast Turkey have been trod for centuries by nomadic herders. This summer, small groups of adventurous travelers will follow in their footsteps, tasting artisanal honey all along the way.
The walking tours, the first of their kind, are part of an inspiring new social venture that combines small-scale eco-tourism, local food, traditional culture, and rural development. Called "Balyolu" (Honey Road), it is the brainchild of Cat Jaffee, a 25-year-old Colorado native who fell in love with the wild landscape and warm people around the remote Turkish city of Kars.
Endless Varieties of Local Honey
Stunningly beautiful but little-visited, this part of northeast Turkey has largely been spared from the over-development that plagues much of the country. People still live much as they always have, herding livestock, cooking traditional food, and tending bees. Thanks to the wide variety of plants and variations in altitude and climate in the area, the taste of local honey varies widely too -- some types redolent of chocolate, others of clover or sweet cheese.
The Balyolu team plans to lead its first tasting tours of honey-producing villages around Kars this summer. Travelers on the week-long walking trips will stay in yurts, cabins, or village homes; taste different types of honey and other local foods; and explore the area's rich natural and cultural heritage, with opportunities to birdwatch or learn to make traditional village bread.
Help Build The Buzz On Kickstarter
Profits from the tours will be funneled back into the communities that host the trips, used to help local female organic beekeepers boost their businesses with better equipment, training, and marketing skills, and even to start their own entrepreneurial projects.
Bee swarms can be thought of as the original form of crowd-sourcing, so it's fitting Balyolu has turned to the online "crowdfunding" site Kickstarter to drum up its first round of financing. With eight days to go until its Feb. 25 deadline, Balyolu has raised more than half the needed funds. Backers can pledge $2,100 to book a spot on one of the inaugural tours, or donate much smaller amounts for fun "rewards" such as bee-themed recycled-bottlecap earrings. Buzz on over and help push this worthy project over the top.