The Organic Traveller
Monday, 26 December 2016

Nuremberg: Self-service cafes and eateries

As in most German cities addresses of organic groceries are an easy bet if you're on the lookout for an organic sandwich or coffee on the go during the day. But Nuremberg has more to offer: A good selection of casual organic restaurants and burger grills as well as some nice day cafes, all within walking distance from inside the walled city centre.

Gostenhof

The newest of them is The Green in the neighbourhood of Rosenau, a few steps west off the traffic machinery of Plärrer. You'll enter a cleanly designed vegetarian, predominantly vegan cafe cum eatery in black-brown-white optics perfectly suited both, to sit down and work or to meet friends. Their speciality are freshly prepared smoothies and super food drinks. In addition they offer a daily changing home-cooked lunch as well as coffee drinks. Between 80 and 90 percent of the fruit is organic, and the seasonal veges, predominantly sourced from a farmer in the vicinity, are so according to availability. Bread and lenses are organic, too, as is a selection of soft drinks (though the coffee and the pasta are not). The owners are happy to answer all your questions concerning the origin of the food, hence do not hesitate to enquire. Note that they are closed on Wednesdays.

Two corners away you'll find Bio und nah, the neighbourhood's only remaining (and fully organic) grocery, co-operatively driven on the premises of a former bakery. On weekdays they serve a simple (vegetarian) soup or stew at lunch time, and you can have a coffee drink and cake or sandwich throughout the day. Matching the atmosphere of a farm shop they are pioneering the zero waste approach in town with suspenders for dry goods. These are re-financed by the sale of organic cotton bags which you purchase to fill with legumes, corn, pasta, cerials, nuts and more, and re-use thereafter.

Located in south-western direction from Am Plärrer, in a neighbourhood with many nice Wilhelminian houses and a lot of Turkish and Arab shops right before the railway tracks you'll find an organic institution of old, the Lotos grocery and cafe. Their latest brainchild is a hole-in-the-wall 100 percent organic veggie döner and falaffel shop dubbed Falafelei next to the main entrance which was opened in March, 2016. The falaffel "extra" dürum I had was very tasty, just the prefab dürum bread would be better replaced with a freshly baked one.

You do not have to eat on the go -- simply tell them you're going inside and have it in the light and cosy winter garden in the back of the shop or on the roofed terrace during the warm season. Here you are also served coffee (or tea), cakes and, from noon, a tasty, daily changing hearty vegetarian or vegan meal inspired by ayurvedic principles (and not bland at all). All items of the set menu -- salad, main course and dessert -- can be ordered separately; you may also choose a small helping of the main course (which is just a small serving indeed). While you place your order for coffee and cake at the bakery counter (which will be served) you have to order and fetch your lunch from the kitchen window. Specify if you prefer the vegan version. You'll pay at the grocery's cash desk before you leave. They also offer breakfast in the morning and diner until 7:30 pm.

On your way back to the walled city centre, on Gostenhofer Hauptstraße you'll find a branch of the local organic supermarket chain, Ebl, a spacious venue with a street-facing self-service day cafe. Between 11 am and 2 pm they offer a vegetarian lunch on weekdays, and you can have a coffee or tea and/or cake or sandwich all day at one of the high tables.

Within the walled city

On December 7, 2016 the supermarket chain opened their newest branch, central Ebl city opposite the Germanisches Nationalmuseum which also incorporates a day cafe.

For the recreational sip of coffee you may prefer a walk through the pedestrian area in north-western direction to Josephsplatz. At the walk-through to Ludwigsplatz facing Weißer Turm you will find a branch of the Black Bean coffee chain where you're offered free wifi with your coffee at liberal opening hours perfectly suited for work. Unfortunately only the coffee itself and some of the softdrinks are organic. They have a second branch at Hallplatz with shorter opening hours.

A five minutes walk north off Josephsplatz, with a view of the river Pegnitz, you'll find the second branch of Lotos Unschlittplatz, another cosily crammed grocery with a vegetarian lunch kitchen opening at noon. At the entrance turn to the left to find your way to the kitchen where you place and fetch your lunch order (they share the menu with the eatery in Hessestraße). You can have it on high tables in front of the kitchen or move to the room to the right of the entrance where you can sit down and relax. Coffee and cakes have to be ordered from the bakery counter where you also pay.

Ceased to exist

The following places shut down and where replaced by other, not organic ones. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:

2016-12-26 15:00:05 [Nuremberg, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, grocery, supermarket, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, fastfood] link

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Friday, 16 December 2016

Nuremberg: Organic and partially organic pubs and restaurants

Each year Nuremberg plays host to what probably is the world's most important organic trade fair, Biofach, and the city has been wisely using the publicity that comes with the event. If you happen to be in Nuremberg around fair time you will see several communal events around organic food and agriculture. In 2016 the city organized an organic gourmet week during which participating restaurants and eateries offered fully organic gourmet meals at fixed prices even when they otherwise do so only partially. Visitors and citizens could download communally sponsored discount vouchers for these meals. Thanks to efforts like this Nuremberg has become a city where the extra effort to find organic lunch or dinner is comparatively small.

French

The first address in town is a cosy, almost 40 years old organic creperie, Ye'chet mad in the Südstadt neighbourhood. The audience is dominated by students, artists, theatre and cinema goers, professionals in art and culture and those interested in the resulting atmosphere. Many combine a visit with a movie in the adjacent arthouse cinema. You will be served a huge variety of fully organic whole-meal crepes, pleasantly thin, both sweet and savoury, as a main course and/or dessert. French salads, soups and appetizers round up the menu.

Franconian

A five minutes brisk walk from tube station Friedrich-Ebert-Platz you will find an organic pub of old, the Frankenstube. As you might expect they serve rustic local dishes, but there's a long list of vegan and vegetarian versions. Indeed, the vegan cabbage roll served with a hearty tomato sauce and pasta was very tasty, and not bland at all. All organic dishes are clearly marked as such on the menu but you should be aware (especially when it comes to meat dishes) that the ones without the bio keyword are conventional fare. The beer isn't organic (nor are the cakes), but the wine is. The place seems to be a favourite among locals, crowded even on a weekday evening.

Vegetarian

A vegetarian restaurant for many years the Chesmu (formerly known as Polidori) near the fortress has long been recommended as an organic restaurant. When I was there some years ago they were no longer committed to organic food, just used a selection of organic ingredients whenever it fit in. Hence I was pleasantly surprised to hear at my recent visit that they're back on track, gradually trying to re-increase the amount of organic ingredients in their food, so it's worth asking again. The place has a pleasant informal atmosphere, a mixture of eco and modern chic, with students as a main audience. Their home-made vegan and vegetarian food with a focus on local and seasonal crops is tasty though often a little boring, typical filling meals served at places with a predominantly collegiate audience. Apart from Sundays, they do no longer offer lunch. You can choose from a large selection of organic drinks -- both coffee drinks, yogi tea, beer, wine, local spirits, and soft drinks. Disappointingly the complimentary spice cookie served with warm drinks was cheap conventional supermarket fare.

Burgers

Shabby chic with comic and neon elements make the environment for Klein August in Sankt Peter south of the railway tracks. Unusually for a burger grill it's not self-service but a family-friendly pub popular with women. The kitchen closes at 10 pm, and the place is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Some beer and soft drinks are organic as are the burger buns which are made from spelt. Make sure you order organic beef which is a little more expensive. They have a good selection of vegan and vegetarian burgers, too.

If you have an hour to wait for your train cross the street and walk inside Künstlerhaus K4 north of the central station to have a delicious organic burger, sandwich, a hearty soup or stew or simply a coffee drink at Auguste. The entrance from outside is a little hard to find, enter from within Künstlerhaus (e.g. from Filmhauskino art house cinema) or from Königstorgraben. You will find a rustic pub with a nice wooden ceiling, wooden floor and upcycled wooden chairs and tables.

All meals are certified organic: German soups, lever, sandwiches, burgers, fries, and more. Organic coffee in your organic coffee drink costs an additional 30c. While the milk as well as many juices and softdrinks are organic, cakes and beers (except for the organically labelled crafts beer by Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe) are not. They also serve an organic single malt dubbed Ayrer's red distilled in town, as well as a selection of organic wines (labelled bio on the menu).

Expect to pay between 10 and 20 EUR for a filling burger (which on request is served without bun). Monday is veggie day when all vegan and vegetarian burgers go for 8.90 EUR. The kitchen closes at 10:30 pm, a time when you can expect to have a beer loving group of males on your neighbouring table.

During my chat with the waitress I got the impression that the owners mean what they tell you in their self-description -- to be fair to customers, employees, and farmers, aiming at sustainability, and CO2 compensating. She seemed to be happy to work at the place, positively emphasizing on the team and the working conditions.

Ceased to exist

The following places shut down and where replaced by other, not organic ones. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:

2016-12-16 20:00:04 [Nuremberg, organic, vegan, vegetarian, lunch, dinner, French, Franconian, German, fastfood, burgers, restaurant] link

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Friday, 28 October 2016

Munich: Organic Living Rooms

In theory we all love them: The small owner-driven shops that surprise us with their unusual selection or combination of goods and food made with love and care, vibrant places with a special and welcoming atmosphere or homely places of peace where we can sit and wonder and get inspired. Shops who's owners create a place from their ideas of a human world, who are ready for a chat if desired but not pushy in their sales attitude. Places that are somehow home away from home, places for a rest or for inspiration. Places where we hopefully buy stuff since we're not forcibly persuaded by aggressive marketing.

And yes. There are these places, and it doesn't come as a surprise that many of these shops offer organic items.

Books and more

Imagine the dry fruit and sweets display of an oriental bazaar stall, and put it in the middle of a crammed book shop filled with mediavistic and orientalistic literature. Sit down in front of the shop or at the bar table inside and order oriental-style coffee, tea, mezze, and -- most recently -- also organic Japanese fried chicken (karaage) or matcha cake, prepared by a Japanese chef. Have a chat with the owner and scroll the book shelves while you wait -- you will find interesting media on medieval arts and crafts, food, biographies of historic persons, films, facts and fiction in German, English, and even French. Your meal -- the falaffel, soups as well as the Japanese food -- will be fully organic as are the drinks and many of the dried fruit. Not everything else, but where in Munich will you find sweets imported from Damaskus? You will also find earthen oil lamps, soaps from the now sadly destroyed soap shops in Aleppo, home-made rose jams, aged Turkish Arak and more. Saladins Souk, also dubbed Haidhauser Oase as the blackboards in front of it have it can be found in the beautiful quarter of Haidhausen a few minutes North-West from Ostbahnhof station. Be prepared to find an always changing display of (not always organic) delicatessen often brought by the owners from their travels or made by their friends. (As of today the shelves are filled with French delicatessen, unfortunately most of them conventional produce.) The deep-fried lunch items are prepared more healthily in a low-fat fryer, and birch sugar is used as sweetener throughout the menu. You can also order lunch delivery as long as you phone in between 10 and 12 am.

Love to sit down with a good book and a glass of good wine? No question, the two are a perfect match, and even if you're more into an organic softdrink (Bionade), the Buchhandlung Lentner bookstore near Rosenheimer Platz with its cosy cafe is a place where you can stay for hours sitting, watching, chatting with the staff and reading. If you're not able to read German shop of their carefully selected wines, some of them organic. They will also order English books for you (send e-mail, phone in or use their webshop in advance), but this may sometimes take longer than the usual overnight order service for German books. Unfortunately, neither the coffee nor the milk are organic, but if you ask they'll perhaps offer it next time.

Fashion and design

In the vicinity of the Gärtnerplatz party hotspot step by Cafe Phasenreich, a lovingly curated organic fashion and design temple. You'll find t-shirts, trousers, shirts, jackets, underwear and accessoires for both, men, women, and toddlers, as well as sustainably produced bags, watches, radios, design objects, postcards and even confetti. Enjoy an organic coffee drink, smoothie, sandwich or cake before you take a second look to find the unexpected item that you always wanted to own. They moved recently, so don't be surprised if you find them listed elsewhere under their old address in Baaderstraße 33.

2016-10-28 12:00:03 [Munich, Haidhausen, organic, cafe, coffee, tea, deli, books, lunch, delivery, Japanese, French, shopping] link

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Sunday, 09 October 2016

Kerala: Eco-conscious backwater trips

A backwater trip on a houseboat is an almost obligatory Kerala travel itinerary, and the beauty of the landscape well worth to explore. However, as a matter of fact the waterways in and around Lake Vembanad are quite crowded even off-season (I do not really want to know how jammed it must be during the main season). With nearly a 100 procent diesel-fuelled boats (Most locals react with a disbelieving "What else?" when questioned upon this topic), most of them poorly mocking the look of traditional kettuwallams, and many of them disposing their waste into the water, this grand experience of an eco-system almost seems a no-go for the eco-conscious traveller today.

There is however a niche market for backwater trips on traditionally built houseboats. It requires some effort to find these tour operators, and they play in the upmarket price category.

Diesel driven

A pioneer in sustainable tourism in South India the luxury class hotel and resort chain CGH operates Spice Coast Cruises, offering backwater tours on diesel-fuelled one or two-bedroom boats. Electricity comes from solar panels, and the crew is carefully trained to not at any costs throw waste into the water. (Their relieved looks when it turned out that all we were throwing over board was water -- emptying a glass of drinking water where some insects had been caught -- were speaking for themselves.) There's of course room for improvement: Unlike in the Brunton Boatyard hotel in Kochi where the chain is serving drinking water from a hotel-owned drinking water plant in reused glass bottles, the drinking water on the boat came from plastic bottles, and after the crew had prepared the rooms for the night the AC was running on full power. (Since both, the power switch and the AC control were working we were able to adjust temperature and fan ourselves.)

When I enquired in advance on whether the boats were punted or diesel driven the sales person's argument for the diesel was that this way the crew would be able to sleep during the night. Since the boat was anchoring at the entrance to Lake Vembanad during the night you may question this argument, but in general we got the impression that CGH treats their staff well.

As the Spice Coast Cruises vessels are comparatively small the boats are also cruising some smaller waterways. Compared to all the other vessels on the lake, most of them poorly disguised tourist ferries, our boats were the most elegant ones, displaying mastership in the craft of traditional kettuwallam building.

The tour is easy to book from abroad, but don't be mislead by the information of the starting point -- it is not starting in the town of Alleppey as you may read the announcement. Instead plan for an about 25 km long car or rikshaw drive up north to get to the jetty in Puthanangadi.

Punting boats

Punted houseboats are hard to find, and I have neither seen nor taken one. Here is what I found out -- I'd be happy if you'd give me an account on your experience with the following operators in case you make use of them: Houseboat tour operator Coco Houseboats in Alleppey operates manually driven house boats (among other vessels) which can be easily booked from abroad. I got a quote for "a Deluxe 2 bedroom houseboat Alleppey to Alleppey round for 2+2 persons with tax and food Rs.15,000/- after discount" off season.

Fort Cochin based tour operator Wilson Tours seems to specialize in eco-friendly tours and offers houseboat trips on punted kettuwallams equipped with bio-tank toilets and solar powered light and fan. If you do not order in advance you can step by their office in Princess Street.

Just opposite the street Elite Hotel also advertises "eco-friendly houseboat near Alleppey". Whether they co-operate with Stanley Wilson or someone else I do not know.

2016-10-09 08:00:02 [Kerala, Alleppey, Alappuzha, Kochi, Cochin, accommodation, houseboats, hotel] link

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Wednesday, 07 September 2016

Kochi (Cochin): Conscious shopping

Tea and spices

On your way along the coast from Bellar Road via Calvetty Road and along Bazar Road you will find quite a few shops advertising organic spices and perfumes. In a country where adulteration of spices for profit is frequent one should take this with a grain of salt -- usually you won't find any organic certification. Use your wits and enquire, in the end you will have to believe or let go. Since Kerala still has a lot of farmers abiding to traditional agricultural principles there is however a good chance that some of the spices actually are grown organically.

The spice we were taught to be extremely picky about by an organic farmer we met at Thanal Organic Bazaar in Trivandrum is cardamom, a very demanding crop: In order to retain spotless green capsules almost all farmers who depend on selling their crops to make a living apply pesticides every 20 days, making it one of the most exposed spices. So when you shop for it check whether you can find capsules with sand coloured areas in the batch. If so the claim to be organic might hold true.

On the seaside of Bazar Road (left-hand when heading South) you will find Hi' Range Organic Spices (the spelling varies), a micro-loan financed cooperative of seven local women trading in a huge variety of Kerala spices, tea and natural body care products. They claim its all natural and organic, and since the prepackaged teabags in fact sport an organic label, I'd opt to believe it. I also liked that the woman I talked to did not try to persuade me into buying but instead explained which type of curcuma to use in cooking and which one for skin care, or demonstrated how to shell a nutmeg.

Books

By far the finest bookstore in and around Kochi is Idiom Booksellers in Bastian Street. Apart from a brilliant selection of contemporary Indian literature, classics, graphic novels, books on local history, art, culture and cooking as well as travel and children books and postcards you can buy beautiful notebooks, handmade from recycled paper. Even if you otherwise do your reading on electronic devices step by and let you inspire by the crammed shelves and their book-loving proprietor. She will even ship your purchase overseas. Idiom has never been a place handing out bags made from plastic foil but since plastic bags have been banned within the boundaries of Fort Kochi since spring 2016 you can carry your purchase home in a handmade coarse jute bag instead of one made from synthetic fabrics -- just like 15 years ago.

Fashion

With -- at the time of writing -- five outlets in the greater Kochi area Fabindia inevitably has an extravagant showroom near the North-Western shore of Fort Kochi.

Lesser known, although being a pioneer of fairly traded fashion in India is Rajastan-based Anokhi with its flower-printed signature designs mixing Indian and Western styles. In Fort Kochi they run an exquisite boutique near Parade Ground. If you happen to come to Jaipur step by their cafe serving predominantly organic international food.

Tribes India, a shop run by the government of India to support indigenious artisans next to Fort Cochin Post Office offers handmade clothes, fabrics, nice bags made from banana fibre and other artefacts made from natural materials as well as metal figurines and a range of other artisanal products. Although the billboards advertise organic items they do no longer trade in spices, preserves and other food items. Its a comfortable place to shop for fairly traded gifts, though.

2016-09-07 16:00:05 [Kochi, Cochin, Rajastan, Jaipur, organic, gifts, tea, fashion, spices, shopping] link

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This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author.