Honey production in Germany has for centuries been a profitable and favorite occupation of the German people. Few nations in the world today have more knowledge in regards to the economy, and management of the honey industry. The German’s have studied beekeeping more thoroughly than most other countries. It may be attributed to their propensity to be thrifty when it comes to handling money.
It is well thought that German apiculture was far advanced before the invasion of the Romans, the emissaries of continental culture. “Pytheas and Massilia” (after whom Marseilles was named), contemporaries of “Alexander the Great”, described that on a journey of exploration to Germany they found “meth” ( A form of honey-wine), often mentioned in the “Nibelungen Saga” (“The saga is dealt with not only in the Nibelungenlied, but also in Mediaeval sources such as “Thidrekssaga” (Old Norse based on Low German sources from around AD 1250″). It is folklore that in old Alemannia the men would covered their bread with honey. This old saga would certainly lead one to believe that it in itself would suggest that honey must have been in great abundance in that given era. Please keep in mind, this was four hundred years before the Christian era. “Pliny’s” (Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23 – August 25, AD 79), AKA” Pliny The Elder ” was a Roman author, philosopher, and naturalist. he also was a commander in the Roman Empires Navy as well as army. His real claim to fame, he was a close friend of the Roman Emperor Vespasian) reference to the enormous honeycombs of Germany. He would indicate in his writings that that hives would be removed from hollow tree-trunks and hoarded by the wealthy. There are many traces among the ancient laws of Germany that litigations concerning honey production, and use.
Charlemagne in his famous “Capitulares Karlomanni” gave strict orders to the honey industry that they were to take an inventory every year of any and all honey, and mead that they produced. Upon the introduction of Christianity, honey production increased greatly in Germany. One account of this increase was said to be for the demand of wax, that was used to make church candles. At this point Monasteries began to increase their production of honey. The beverage Mead must have also have been plentiful, judging from an ancient record that told of a fire in 1015 in the town “Meissen Germany”, that the fire was extinguished with the beverage mead, because the inhabitants were short of water.
Land-rule (dominium) was universal in Germany and the phrase in signum vel recognitionem dominii (in mark and acknowledgment of land-rule) was a traditional expression. The lands were mainly owned by princes, and the Church. Those who lived in such lands were obliged to pay taxes in honey, and wax. Honey and wax were considered royal or a princely gift, and religious folk freely contributed honey and wax to the Church.
The German honey industry was associated with the “Lüneburger Heide” ( Lunenburg Heath in English is a large area of heath, geest and woodland in the northeastern part of the state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany). These woodland areas of stormy historical background have been a real paradise for bees, and most likely a favorite topic of German poets. The province of “Hanover” in which these woodlands are located is famous for its honey. The level land, covered with primitive vegetation, mainly heather, is unusually rich with hives, and ultimately honey. This section of the country has been protected and preserved in its wild state, and still possesses its primitive beauty. The bees are known to keep watch over the prime area, and few men will ever approach the localities, fearing the proverbial anger of these bees. Narrow paths leads to the bee stands, for the beekeepers to collect the honey.
The honey market of Breslau, on “Maundy Thursday” (or Holy Thursday, is the Thursday before Easter), has always been kept by Germans for centuries, and the is celebrated still today with festivities. There were many mead breweries in Munich, Ulm on the Danube, Danzig, Riga, etc. According to old documents, “the judge sat in court with a jug of mead before him, so filled to the brim that a fly could drink from its border.”
Honey production suffered a noticeable decline at the end of the sixteenth, and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries due to the “Thirty Years War”. It was neglected for many years before, and after this long conflict. Germany also suffered a similar setback during the World War Two. It is noteworthy that in the course of the same period, beekeeping made a great advance in the United States, and Great Britain.