Sunday, 18 November 2018
Eating out organic in Mannheim is different than in other cities: First it means vegetarian and vegan-friendly (almost) without exceptions. Second there seem to be no places serving national kitchens -- no German Wirtshaus, no French cuisine, no Turkish fastfood and not even a mock Italian place. And finally organic here means organic for everyone, not just for a wealthy, hip and urban clientele. As a result you may miss cleverly designed cool places as much as refined coffeehouses or classy gourmet restaurants. The good news is that Mannheim's organic restaurants and cafes are extremely affordable.
For breakfast (or a snack or coffee during the day) head for Bio-Bäcker Bihn on the ground floor of the Stadthaus housing the city library and other communal facilities and staging the city's part of the Mannheim/Heidelberg International Film Festival. Enter the complex from the north-eastern entry facing Paradeplatz, and you'll find the unpretentious bakery cum self-service cafe at the right hand site.
The breakfast options served on work- and Saturdays until noon are sufficient for two not too hungry ones; you can choose from a menu which also boosts three vegan varieties or combine yourself. Coffee or tea on the go is possible, but you should rather bring your own refillable cup (or buy one on the spot) as a one-way paper beaker righteously will be charged with 25 cents. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays freshly prepared sandwiches can be had at 3,90€ each; Tuesdays are (non-veg) hot-dog days where the hot dog goes at 2.50 €. The coffee comes from an automat, and the rather cheap-looking interior design maintains a low threshold. If you come with a family or friends pay together which will give you a small discount (10% above 20 €, 12% above 30 € and 15 percent of a total above 50€).
100 percent organic wholefood is being served at the Hellers self-service restaurant next to the organic Alnatura supermarket on the Kaiserring ringway from the main train station to the Wasserturm landmark. Take a tray and a plate, fill it from the various stations offering salads, mueslis, soups and warm dishes, proceed to the cash counter and find a place in the winter-garden like dining hall. During the busy lunch hours there's also a separate station offering the dish of the day in small or regular size. It's located next to the entrance and you have to pay there. The food follows the principles of health food, seasonal and low in spices (the "spicy" rice dish I had was rather bland).
At the entrance to the sitting area there's a coffee and cake bar also serving ice-cream (1.50 € the scoop).
The cake at around 3 € the piece and the coffee drinks compensate for the rather low lunch prices: 4.15 € for a large (that is: what elsewhere would be regular sized) latte and 2.50 € for a small espresso from a coffee dispenser is more than you'd pay in much more pricey cities.
The audience is quite different than in organic restaurants you may be used to: a lot of elderly people meet here for lunch and coffee.
Unfortunately the place doesn't serve breakfast -- the
kitchen opens half an hour after the cafe opens and closes one hour (on Sundays and public holidays two hours) before closing time. Also good to know: The soap dispenser in the bathroom contains organic handwash.
The hippest and most expensive place I found is the Rohkosteria in Lindenhof south of the railway tracks. This 100 percent organic raw and vegan restaurant opened in lieu of the former
"Bio-Stadel" eatery and uses preferably
biodynamic ingredients. What you get here:
salads, soups, burgers, wraps, falafel, vegetable "pasta", smoothies, shots, cakes and cookies -- no high-end raw gourmet food, rather driven by health ideology than made for connoisseurs: My zucchini spaghetti seemed to come right from the fridge which gave the otherwise tasty mock-bolognese style dish an unpleasant imbalance.
Although the place is open in the evenings no alcohol is being served here -- even the beer and wine is non-alcoholic.
The pleasantly designed interior and the unexcited atmosphere however make it an ideal place to stay for a while.
Note that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, a recent change which -- at the time of writing -- hadn't made it to their website yet.
Bicycle lovers must not miss out the city's first bike cafe in the Neckarstadt north of the river Neckar. The
Café Flamme Rouge (dubbed after the red flag displayed one kilometer before the end of a bike race) was established in 2005 and serves
organic bread and rolls from the
Lummerland organic bakery with biodynamic vegetarian spreads, partially organic coffee, home-made pesto, pancakes and a lunch dish (the menu changes on Mondays and Thursdays).
For an organic coffee, spritzer (of fruit juice and sparkling water) or wine head for the north-western neighbourhood of Jungbusch. The vegetarian, vegan-friendly gastro pub Kombüse serves Mexican-style fastfood as well as a daily changing soup and main course, on availability (but not reliably) using organic veges. It keeps open until late and may give you an impression of the city's subculture. The place also offers a take away service, but kindly invites guests to bring their own re-usable cups and jars. You will be charged the extra expense if you insist on one-way packaging.
More to try
I had two more places on my research list but did not have time to make it there. Here they are:
Of the following places you may find remnants on the web but be assured: They do no longer exist.
- Café Vogelfrei, C 3, 20
- O’ Dog Café, M 5, 8 (Hot dogs)
- Veggie-Stadel (formerly Bio-Stadel), Lindenhofstr. 62 replaced by Rohkosteria
- mundgrün veganerie, T3, 7 (vegan) (preceeded by Sonnenblume Naturkost)
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, M3 7(moved to Stadthaus)
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, Kurfürstenstr. 7
- envita Bio-Restaurant, Im Stadthaus N1, 1 (replaced by organic bakery Bihn)
[Mannheim, organic, breakfast, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant, bakeries, ice-cream]
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
The easiest way to get around in Heidelberg is by bicycle, and whether you need to repair your own bike, to rent or to buy (a cheap) one, you can do this right on arrival at the main train station: Follow the signs to the exit and descend the stairs at the right hand (eastern) side to track 1b. Here, in rather unpolished surroundings you'll find the Radhof bike repair shop, a socially responsible enterprise which will happily help you. To rent the bike at 15 EUR/day present your ID card or passport, hand them your mobile number and a deposit of 50 EUR, and off you go with a well-kept second hand bike. On return you will not only get your deposit back but also the paper copy taken from your ID. Unfortunately the workshop is closed on weekends.
Cocooning and body care
As a tourist you will most certainly head for the old town, walking down the Hauptstraße ("main street") pedestrian street. While the western part of this street is inhabited by the ever-boring major chains, the eastern part with its small-scale owner-run shops is definitely worth a shopping spree, preferably to enterprises striving to sell sustainable, often fairly traded goods. Looking for dedicated environment-friendly kitchen and bathroom utensils, toys, fashion accessories, stationary, gifts or design items you must not miss out the green design department store
GOODsHOUSE a little west of Schiffsgasse. The shop itself isn't visible from the main street -- walk down a little aisle into the backyard to find a lovingly arranged two-storey shopping paradise. The staff is friendly and helpful, yet not intrusive and will happily offer to order items not in stock.
A few steps further west, at the corner with Heumarkt an equally carefully designed cosmetics boutique dubbed Wolkenseifen ("cloud soaps") is the flagship store of a local near-natural cosmetics manufacturer. In addition you'll find
(certified) organic and natural cosmetics brands usually not to be found in your nearest organic supermarket -- among them Chia, Madara, or Khadi --, and a great selection of zero waste body care like hair and body soaps, solid shampoos or solid toothpaste.
Shoes and fashion
Fair and slow fashion seems to be quite strong in Heidelberg where even otherwise conventional clothes boutiques like
Bofinger in the main street trade in fair and organic labels like Armedangels. My stay was too short to pay a visit to all the places on my short list, but I managed to have a glimpse inside
Tutta Natura selling sustainably produced French shoes and women's clothes for lovers of classic eco-design in the Plöck running parallel with the main street.
A larger selection of natural shoes is to be found at Die Ahle Naturschuhe which can easily be missed with its modest shop-window front hiding a pleasant shoe shop in Sankt-Anna-Gasse linking Plöck and Hauptstraße at the western-most border of the old town. During the cold season you may also step by for knitted organic head and foot wear and other woolen accessories.
If you prefer German sculptural shoe design to French elegance Heidelberg also has a shop of the sustainably and socially responsibly producing Berlin-based shoe manufacturer Trippen. Their carefully designed store can be found at Heumarkt.
November 2018 will hopefully see the re-opening of former fair fashion store cum cafe Friedrich as a Glore concept store offering organic fashion for all, women, men and kids as well as a small selection of organic body care.
Fair trade shops
Unsurprising Heidelberg is home to a number of community-driven one-world shops selling fairly traded fashion accessories, household items, dry food, sweets, coffee and tea, the latter often certified organic. One of them is Una Tierra at the market place Neuenheim, another one
the Weltladen in the old town with a small cafe, offering fairly traded coffee drinks, cocoa or tea while you crawl the shop or let you inspire by the bookshelf.
More to try
Here's a list of shops which I had on my list for research but didn't manage to visit myself. Let me know about your experience!
[Heidelberg, shopping, organic, fair, fashion, spices, herbs, delicatessen, gifts, upcycling, bodycare, coffee, cafe, cycling, shoes]
Saturday, 10 November 2018
For being home to so many sustainable and organic shopping opportunities Heidelberg has surprisingly few places serving organic food. The two I found are both very well suited for both, vegetarians and vegans, and essentially self-service, but I wasn't able to spot a single proper dinner restaurant where you're actually waited.
Both, lunch, snacks, coffee and dinner can be had at
red buffet restaurant, next to the Alnatura organic supermarket on the premises of a former swimming pool opposite the Schwanenteich park. You can choose between two lunch dishes at a fixed price or serve yourself salads and warm one-pot dishes (all 100 percent and certified organic, vegetarian and often vegan) and pay by weight.
Order drinks (cold drinks, teas or Italian-style coffee drinks) and predominantly vegan cakes and dessert at the cash desk while you pay, take your tray and find yourself a seat. For being an vegan-award winning restaurant I found the food quite uninspiring, without accentuated flavours, just good ingredients cooked together. Even the perfectly looking vegan hazelnut-espresso cake I had was missing a distinctive coffee flavour -- good, but far from outstanding. Nevertheless the generally pleasant place was crowded (though not unpleasantly), perhaps due to missing alternatives. It's the only evening-open option for eating out, but closed on Sundays. You may also buy food to take with you.
For lunch (though not on Sundays) there's another alternative on the opposite shore of the Neckar river, a few steps North of Theodor-Heuss bridge: The
Fein Food eatery serves smoothies, oriental and ayurveda-inspired vegetarian, vegan and omnivore stews, pot-dishes, salads and wraps, though probably not a 100 percent organic.
The city of Heidelberg still lists the following place in its latest guide to organic and local food, but the place unfortunately closed two years ago:
[Heidelberg, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant]
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
If you still want to have an organic ice-cream on the go on a weekday in 2018, hurry up! The GelaTo Go on Hauptstraße pedestrian street in the old town is going to shut down for the winter on the 11th of November, to re-open February, 17th 2019. Despite its mock-English name it's a true Italian ice-cream parlour, also serving organic coffee drinks with or without cow milk or soy drink. About half of their ice-cream types are fully organic, among them a delicate after eight and a matcha green tea variety alongside more ordinary flavours. All scoops, organic and conventional, come at 1.30 EUR the scoop, both here and in the second branch in the Bahnstadt neighbourhood South of the main train station.
For German ice-cream head for the fully organic Bioeismanufaktur in the Weststadt. During the winter monthes they are supposed to keep open on Sunday afternoons when bakery and confectioner's courses are held on the premises, too.
[Heidelberg, organic, ice-cream, cafe, coffee]
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
To find a hotel serving at least partially organic breakfast is nowhere easier than in the Austrian capital -- a simple search on the web, and off you go. To book a room in the impressive ivy-covered zero energy building of the Boutiquehotel Stadthalle however, may prove more difficult. The certified Bio-Hotel serves 100 percent organic breakfast and offers rooms both, in a renovated villa and a modern
recently build passive house, right in the vicinity of the Westbahn train station.
For single travellers the three Ruby design hotels Sofie in the Weißgerber neighbourhood, Lissi in the inner city and Marie in Neubau offer predominantly organic breakfast, zeitgeist-compliant luxury and superb value.
Rooms can be booked on-line only, with credit cards as the only payment option. There are
no family rooms available.
A carefully yet sparingly decorated, not over-designed semi-eco conscious modern business hotel a few steps from the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), the Zeitgeist is for you if you prefer a professional, suitably semi-anonymous design hotel with a small outdoor workout space and garden in the backyard (the green lawn however is artifical).
The breakfast here offers organic bread, eggs, milk, coffee, tea and cheese (not the slices though, only the Austrian "bio" cheeses served in cubes) -- neither organic yogurt nor fruit nor preserves.
The Pergola hotel bar (open to the public between 12 and 23) allows you to combine four different gins and four different tonics, among them the Austrian O gin and the Red Bull Organics tonic which make for a 100 percent organic lightly herbal and refreshing combination. If you buy refreshments at the vending machines you'll find organic soft drinks of the Höllinger and Vöslauer brands.
There are free bicycles, but check the brakes before setting out for a ride as the staff does not seem to.
If you prefer to stay off the urban buzz in quiet surroundings head for the family-friendly Umwelthotel Gallitzinberg about 40 minutes from Stephansplatz if using public transport. Take tube no. 3 to Ottakring and change to bus no. 46b in direction Wilhelminenberg to Hansl-Schmid-Weg. The European ecolabel certified hotel's organic breakfast buffet is open not only for hotel guests but also for those heading out for a walk in the Wienerwald, from 6:30 on weekdays and 7:30 on weekends and public holidays.
[Vienna, organic, hotel, accommodation, breakfast, lunch, bar]