Sunday, 18 August 2019
The rough and picturesque sandstone hills of Saxon Switzerland did not only inspire painters and componists of romanticism, but have been valued for centuries by both, alpinists as well as walkers and ramblers. Located at the border to the Czech republic it takes an urban train ride from Dresden (or a bicycle tour along the Elberadweg cycle route) to get here, either for a wee day out in the countryside or for a vacation inside the
If you get off the S1 urban train in direction Schöna at the
stop Hirschmühle Schmilka, and take the ferry to the Northern shore of the Elbe river you'll reach the village of Schmilka which, to a large degree, has been developed into an organic resort during the past years. The ferry is operated on demand, so simply go down to the landing stage and wait until the coxswain will see and fetch you.
The nucleus of the organic village is Hotel Helvetia which you will find, turning West (i.e. to the left), after a five minutes walk along the river shore. Its organic cafe and restaurant dubbed Strandgut ("stranded goods") serves both, the high quality no-frills salad for passers-by on a bicycle or walking tour as well as fine seasonal food drawing from both, the kitchen traditions of the region and the mediterranean. Both, vegans, fish and meat lovers are catered for with care, and if you are in the mood for a dessert, try the "Kalter Hund" ("cold dog") pudding made from cookies and chocolate, a children's favourite in former East Germany (though back then made with inferior ingredients). Unfortunately the cafe does not own a real Italian coffee machine, so the quality of the Italian-style coffee drinks is not as good as one would expect for a hotel in this category. If you stay overnight the hotel bar will however be able to provide you with a fully organic nightcap.
The hotel reception serves as check-in for all
eco-friendly overnight options in the village, among others
Villa Thusnelda next to the ferry stop with its luxury rooms.
The latter houses historical Café Richter with the air of a classical spa coffeehouse, but unfortunately it can only be booked as an event location.
A sign at the cafe will guide you to the
village's operating water mill, the Schmilk'sche Mühle further up the road in the direction of the forest, with its rustic mill restaurant, the Mühlenstube of Gasthof zur Mühle at the right hand side. Hearty local stews and soups (one vegetarian, one omnivore), pizza, bread and cake from the artisanal organic bakery opposite and tasty, heavy beer from the Braumanufaktur brewery which you cross on the way from the river are served here, either inside or in the beer garden. Depending on the weather and season you will have to order at the bar inside or from the outdoor food stall. Here you also can buy beer, bread and cakes to take home when the bakery next door is closed.
If you stay overnight in one of the rustic and lovingly restored rooms at the mill -- they have double rooms as well as family appartments -- you will have your breakfast at the Mühlenstube.
The bakery opens at dusk, and what hasn't been sold on closing time will be sold by the Mühlenstube. Opening hours of the brewery are restricted to the guided tours on Wednesdays and Sundays. If you stay within the resort a small tour inside the mill and the brewery is included in the package.
[Dresden, Bad_Schandau, Schmilka, Saechsische_Schweiz, Saxon_Switzerland, organic, vegan, coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, restaurant, pub, cafe, bakeries, breweries, hotel, accommodation, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg]
Friday, 09 August 2019
One of the oldest cities in Germany, with roots back in Roman history, a rich medieval history -- including the world's oldest intact social housing project, the Fuggerei --, and the birthplace of Bertolt Brecht, one of the most influential writers in modern theatre, Augsburg is without doubt worth a visit. Conveniently located on the railway tracks between Munich and Nuremberg, urban trains ("Regionalbahn"/"Regionalexpress") from Munich central station depart twice an hour (at day time) and can be used with the Bayernticket flat-rate ticket for Bavaria which is the budget option if you plan to travel from and to Munich on one day (one way takes about 45 minutes). Augsburg is also an ICE/IC train stop: These high velocity trains will save you about a quarter of an hour on this route, but tickets usually come at a significantly higher price.
If you plan to stay overnight there's a pleasant fully organic hotel about three kilometers from the main train station, the
Bayerischer Wirt, a certified Bio Hotel
in the suburb of Lechhausen, yet easily accessible by tram and bus or bike.
Although the hotel is located directly at a noisy main road, the outdoor seating area in the backyard is a peaceful oasis. The hotel restaurant serves Bavarian meat and fish dishes as well as internationally inspired vegetarian ones -- with varying results: While the roasted meat was perfectly done (rare as requested, caramelized yet melting), and served with the most delicate onion crisps I've ever tasted, the strips of veal in mustard cream were quite bland and uninspired -- health food with boringly blanched veges and saltless (though home-made) spaetzle. Instead of ordering bottled mineral water you may fetch tap water from the water dispenser at no cost. Needless to say that all drinks are organic, too, and the aperitifs were a pleasant refreshment in the summer heat. The dessert menu is quite limited -- prefab organic ice-cream, home-made cakes and a parfait when I visited.
If a healthy local kitchen with liberal opening hours does not satisfy your expectations of a city vacation, there are two promising day cafes easily reachable for cyclists on the way from the main station to Lechhausen:
Café Himmelgrün near the
banks of the river Lech in Berliner Allee serves fully organic breakfast, lunch, coffee and cakes, and you can also find sustainable gifts and nice things. The cafe is run by Augsburg-based organic bakery Schubert -- you may have come across the name at the bakery counters of organic supermarkets, both in Munich, Nuremberg and elsewhere in Bavaria.
Augsburg's long history of textile fabric production, print and trade is reflected in the Bavarian State Textile and Industry Museum, less than 10 minutes from the inner city hotspot Königsplatz by tram no. 6. The museum's cafe dubbed
nunó (from the Japanese word for "cloth") is not only a charming spot in an impressive industrial building of a former spinning mill, but also predominantly and certified organic, serving light and internationally inspired lunch, breakfast and Sunday brunch, and of course a recreational coffee. Meat, bread, veges, and eggs are reliably organic and of regional origin if possible while drinks at the bar are still predominantly conventional. As most museums the place is closed on Mondays and -- except for special occasions -- in the evenings.
If you are so unfortunate to strand before closed doors the next organic supermarket with a small bistro -- a branch of the Denn's Biomarkt chain -- is located in walking distance.
In the backyard of St. Anne's church, the Annahof next to the fenced city market, the church parish gives host to a lively all-day cafe restaurant cum bar dubbed Anna with a great outdoor area, which is open in the evenings, too. The place serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch inspired by international kitchens. Once it was certified organic, but since it no longer is the restaurant is not allowed to advertise with organic ingredients. Nevertheless the managing director assured me that they were still using as much organic produce as before: both eggs, milk and most fruit come from organic
farms and distributors in the vicinity. On the menu
you'll find organic beer (Lammsbräu), on occasions organic wine (ask for it), lemonade (charitea) and ice-tea. For breakfast you can have
organic crunchy cereals, and
the bread comes from the Schubert bakery. Unfortunately meat products usually aren't organic. During the warm season the cafe sells organic ice-cream to take away in a biscuit cone, delivered by the Cramer's confectioner's. Only plain flavours like vanilla, chocolate, plan hazelnut and lemon were available in July 2019, the scoop at 1.50 EUR.
For 100 percent organic, crystal-sugar free, vegan ice-cream made with dates, cashew nuts and berries try Juice 'n Cream in the
Ulrichsviertel neighbourhood. The small shop uses renewable energies, and when hungry you may opt for a lunch bowl and a fruit juice.
For both, cooked and raw vegan lunch or dinner or a wrap, soup or salad in between head a little south to
Mom's Table, a fully organic vegan restaurant cum cafe. They also offer raw and no-bake cakes, freshly made juices, smoothies and plant-based shakes, coffee and tea as well as vegan organic wines. The
kitchen closes an hour before the restaurant.
For a no-frills coffee, snack or lunch you may also head for the self-service cafe at the city branch of the Basic organic supermarket chain
between the state theater and the cathedral.
Around the main train station -- bakeries
For last minute travel provisions you can buy an organic snack or sandwich at the Hofpfisterei bakery branch five minutes from the main train station. Unfortunately it's closed both on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you have ten more minutes you may also proceed to the
Schubert branch at the tram hub of
Königsplatz. There used to be a serviced day cafe but after some reconstruction work the area of the bakery shop has diminished to the sales counter and a small self-service area where you may sit down with a sandwich or snack. When the weather is nice there are also chairs and tables outside. The coffee drinks from the automatic machine could taste better, but everything is organic.
There's another Schubert branch inside the city market, around the corner from St. Anne's church (and you'll find another Hofpfisterei branch there, too).
[Augsburg, Augusta, organic, vegan, vegetarian, breakfast, lunch, dinner, Franconian, German, restaurant, eatery, hotel, accommodation, ice-cream, cafe, coffee, supermarkets, grocery, bakeries]
Thursday, 13 June 2019
Uneasiness with industrial agriculture often starts with the brutal reality of how we treat animals, and consequently eggs and meat often are the first ingredients restaurants use from organic farming. In many cities this means that conscious omnivores have a better chance to find a place to eat than vegetarians or vegans. With Padua this is different: All organic or partially organic restaurants I found within the city boundaries focus on vegetarian courses, and all of them are vegan-friendly.
Unfortunately my time in Padua has always been very limited, so all I could find out this time was that my favourite bar in the city centre ceased to exist. So here's a number of places I'd like to try but haven't had the opportunity yet:
Fully organic and vegetarian (needless to say these days: vegan-friendly) restaurant Vegetariamoci a little North-West and over the bridge from the Giardini dell' Arena park is the brainchild of organic pioneers in the region. Unfortunately closed Mondays through Wednesdays.
Also in the neighbourhood of Arcella, north of the main train station, the Osteria di Fuori Porta offers uncomplicated organic dinner, and, on weekdays, lunch, the latter also at a fixed price for 12 EUR including a beverage and coffee.
If you take the tram leave at stop "Borgomagno".
Food, art, and concerts -- that's the concept of the Ca'Sana cultural space offering organic brunch on Sundays, and apart from Mondays, late night food. The place is situated a little out of town, near the airport.
If you fancy a pizza Daltrocanto seems to be the place to go. There's more on the menu, all vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
[Padua, Padova, biologico, organic, vegetarian, vegan, eatery, restaurant, breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee]
Monday, 10 June 2019
Its lively main street, the Corso Palladio dates back to imperial Rome and, still today, is framed by buildings of the arguably most influential medieval architect, Andrea Palladio.
When feeling hungry while you stroll through the Unesco World Heritage head for spacious, wholesale organic supermarket Silene in a quiet side way a few meters North off Corso Palladio. As you enter you will notice the self-service coffee bar immediately, open for a coffee, healthy drink or snack even before the supermarket opens itself. But there's a real restaurant when you proceed into the building: At the left hand side you'll pass the open kitchen, and arrive at a water tap where you can refill your drinking bottle with both, plain and sparkling water. There you are: more tables to sit down, you will be served.
The small menu offers vegan and vegetarian Italian wholefood, tasty pasta and risotti of course, but also surprising twists as the hearty risotto-style oat porridge with spring vegetables I had, or carrot-based falafel (which I liked less). A refreshing surprise was the alcohol-free "sangria". Unlikely you can have the same, though, as the menu changes according to season and daily availability of fresh ingredients. Needless to say that the coffee was a delight, too, and the staff helpful and friendly. If you're looking for the toilets: They are hidden at the opposite, right wall of the supermarket, and open for guests.
The supermarket itself will provide you with all daily necessities, all types of fresh and dry food as well as organic household chemicals and a superb choice of organic body care. Unlike other groceries it keeps open throughout the day without an afternoon break. There's a second Silene supermarket a little further west, without a day restaurant though.
All days including Sundays (though not on public holidays) the Vicenza branch of Germany's DM chemist's chain will provide you with a great selection of organic food, drinks, natural body care and sustainable cleaning detergents. The spacious supermarket in Corso Andrea Palladio opened in 2018 and is a great source of eco- and climate conscious products at budget prices, but since the majority of the items still are conventionally produced be careful to check eco and organic labels.
For a treat of ice-cream follow Corso Andrea Palladio to its Western end and proceed straight ahead, past the Giardini Salvi park to the right. The less shiny neighbourhood San Felice hides a gem: Gocce di Bio ("gocce" meaning "drops"), a vegan-friendly fully organic ice-cream parlour. With its modest window front the spot-free place with its fresh-green painted walls is easy to oversee, but unlike other shops it sports a clearly visible organic logo over the entrance. On the premises of a traditional neighbourhood gelateria it's one of the ice-cream and no frills (not even coffee) places you'll rarely find outside Italy serving a mouth-wateringly creamy all-organic delight. Unless you avoid alcohol try the Malaga variety, and you will be cured for all time from that fake yellowy sweet and flavoured stuff with raisins and perhaps low quality alcohol going under this name elsewhere: The Malaga ice-cream here has distinct, melting flavours -- cream, grappa and raisins of highest organic quality, delightfully combined.
Unfortunately the place is closed on public holidays.
Ceased to exist
A few years ago the following gelateria served very nice organic ice-cream but unfortunately did not survive:
[Vicenza, biologico, organic, vegan, ice-cream, coffee, supermarket, grocery, eatery, restaurant, breakfast, lunch, bodycare, household]
Sunday, 09 June 2019
To find a self-respecting restaurant or supermarket snack bar not equipped with a restaurant-size Italian espresso machine can be difficult, and even the tiniest organic corner shop will try to offer you ubiquituous Italian-style coffee drinks. Likewise you can have organic tea bag teas and infusions of usually decent quality. But for the modern nomad on the job, the afternoon chat with friends or the traveller in search of a undisturbed place for a break or observations, the dedicated coffee or tea house is a far more appropriate place to spent hours.
Common for all the places listed here that they are closed in the evening – usually around 6pm, some keep open until 8pm. Note that weekend opening hours may be even more restricted.
Viennese style coffee houses
The headline is misleading – even if an increasing number of cafes see themselves in the tradition of Viennese coffee houses when it comes to the stuccoed interior, the dark wooden furniture, a selection of daily newspapers as well as the menu, they will usually serve Italian-style coffee drinks. The perfect place for breakfast and a coffee break at any time of the day, you will also be served lunch and snacks throughout the day. Expect however to order more of the deliciously handcrafted cakes than you initially intended to.
My favourite is Cafe Reichshof in Haidhausen, covered in detail in my ice-cream post.
Organic to a much lesser degree – they promise to serve organic milk and eggs throughout their menu, i.e. also as ingredients in drinks, cakes and dishes – is Kafehaus Karameel in Neuhausen, opposite the terminal loop near tram stop Neuhausen. Romantically decorated on two storeys connected by a flight of winding stairs it's the perfect place to have a look at their impressive selection of daily newspapers, let time pass by and have a Viennese-style coffee. Crowded on weekends, so book your table in advance. During the warm season a generous number of outdoor tables overlooking the tram tracks and a little park will increase your chances.
Oriental style coffee
The best Turkish coffee in town is arguably made on Orleansplatz in Haidhausen. Iunu is a perfect place to meet a friend for a chat or have a recreational coffee break including a chat with the friendly owner (she also serves espresso, cappuccino, and latte). Some of the coffee, the milk and a few staples like agave syrup are organic, but she is using fewer organic ingredients now than in the past, especially the veges for the vegetarian and ayurvedic lunch usually are no longer organic. With a small but carefully chosen range of delicatessen the place will also save you when in need for an unplanned last minute gift. On Saturdays Iunu is often unexpectedly closed due to arrangements, so check in advance.
If you happen to come in vain, take the short walk along Breisacher Straße where another hidden gem, Saladins Souk will quench your thirst for an oriental style coffee.
Italian style bars
Pop in, have a coffee, a chat, a sweet, and pop out again – the Italian bar is the hotspot of a neighbourhood. And so is the Emilo coffee bar in the self-proclaimed Northern-most city of Italy, run by a small scale local coffee roaster of the same name. Though it is situated only a little walk from Isartor or party hotspot Gärtnerplatz in the hip Glockenbach neighbourhood it's mainly frequented by regulars whom the barista, Mr. Filser with his rustic Bavarian charme greets personally. Since only a selection of their coffees is organic you may wish to order organic coffees explicitely. They use organic milk throughout the menu, and the eggs and spelt flour used in their rustic and extremely yummy Bavarian home-made cakes are all organic, too (the only exception are the croissants made by a French bakery). Apart from Italian style coffee drinks you can also order cold brews and shop from the roasters coffee specialities. An insider's tip all worth the detour from your usual route through the city. Recently they also opened a new branch in Munich's Westend -- an important destination for all Oktoberfest visitors.
In the middle of humming Viktualienmarkt market North of the crossing Reichenbachstraße/Frauenstraße there's Kaffeerösterei Viktualienmarkt, a vibrant market booth with bar tables under a roof. So even if the weather is bad and you're outside there's no reason to give up plans for an Italian style coffee drink made with sustainably sourced (though not organically certified), locally roasted coffee. The milk is organic and comes from traditionally working mountain farms in the Berchtesgadener Land district, packaged by the co-operatively driven Berchtesgadener Land dairy which, in 2017, banned the use of glyphosate for all its farmers, not only the organic ones.
(Almost) fully organic
If all you want is a place where you do not have to fine-read the menu to pick out the organic items your options are limited to the afore mentioned Café Reichshof, the Iss dich glücklich eatery nearby (both places are located near tram stop "Wörthstraße") -- and to Café Josefina in the legendary neighbourhood of Schwabing with its bohemian past, a few steps from tube stop Josephsplatz.
A cosy day cafe serving Italian-style coffee drinks made with real milk or a number of plant-based alternatives it's not only worth a coffee but also a lunch break. Although nearly all ingredients are organic there are a few exceptions when it comes to the cold cuts used in Italian-style sandwiches. As early as half past seven the place starts serving both, vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore breakfast on weekdays, and since it is quite small it's advisable to reserve a table if you plan to step by on a weekend.
Shabby chic and homely places
A small cafe of old, run as a social enterprise just a five minutes walk away from Rosenheimer Platz, Cafe Plaisir moved to a bigger and lighter venue in 2018 -- and stopped using organic ingredients for their home-made ice-cream, chocolates, cakes and cookies. Still, tea and coffee drinks and a few more items are marked on the menu with a little heart denoting organic, and eggs -- where marked -- come from organic farms raising both, the hens and their cockerel brothers. Be patient and kind if the serving personnel does not respond immediately -- the shop is a social enterprise run by longterm-unemployed persons.
Not far from Ostbahnhof station Kosy*s cafe promises to be "your second living room". As long as you have some tolerance towards cake stands filled with kitschy sweets guaranteed free from natural colourings and a decidedly vintage feel you can have an organic tea or soft drink, a coffee drink made with organic milk, organic eggs and cereals for breakfast or a hearty lunch often entirely made from organic ingredients in a leisurely atmosphere. The good thing is that organic ingredients aren't shamefully hidden – when it's organic they'll make it transparent on the menu. The bad news: their homemade cakes unfortunately are not organic, not even the eggs.
Another cosy living room dubbed Zimtzicke is tucked away in comparatively quiet Elsässer Straße, this also just a five minutes walk from Ostbahnhof. All their teas, coffees, the milk and eggs are organic. Their lunch dishes, although mainly not organic, are tasty. However, when I enquired about the ingredients of the individual dishes on the menu, the staff wasn't able to tell whether they contained organic ingredients. The tiny place smells lovely of home-make cakes, some of them vegan. A perfect location to warm up after a winter walk in the city, and a pleasant retreat to welcome spring or to enjoy a summer day in the city on a table in front of it. If you cannot find a spare seat, simply move to the sister restaurant Schneeweinchen & Rosenbrot next door.
Another option to mingle with natives is a homely shabby chic neighbourhood cafe cum gallery in the neighbourhood of Au, on the Eastern shore of river Isar near Deutsches Theater. The audience of Café Käthe is mixed, coffee, milk, tea, rolls and cakes as well as most of the softdrinks are organic. They don't serve hot food, but you can have breakfast, sandwiches, cereals, and salads all day. Many but not all ingredients are organic, so ask if you care but be prepared that the service personnel isn't prepared to answer on the spot. Summer-closed until September, 6th 2018.
Big enough to almost guarantee a free seat for the visitor-by-chance is Cafe Katzentempel in the Maxvorstadt university quarter. You must however not suffer from a cat allergy as this rather special vegan place is inhabitated by six cats, and the once nice wallpaper on the wall with the scratch pole facing the entrance has already become rather shabby. Most of the softdrinks are organic as are all soy products and the cow milk (on request used for non-vegan coffee and tea-based drinks). The place offers an impressive range of organic nuts and grain milks to be ordered for your latte. The food and home-made cakes may include additional organic ingredients, although they aren't generally organic, just of local origin if possible. Students and apprentices are entitled special prices Tuesday through Friday, and free wifi is available. Depending on your table you may find the slightly aggressive sales presentation of the Katzentempel brand t-shirts disturbing – overall a place to either love or detest.
Another, for my likings cosier place to have a vegan latte is Siggis near Isartor which I reviewed here.
Muesli and more
On the Eastern edge of Viktualienmarkt, a few steps from Marienplatz you'll find the Munich branch of a very special chain – MyMuesli, a web order shop for organic cereals and porridges which keeps opening offline branches throughout the German-speaking countries. No cakes to be had here but Italian style coffee drinks, juices, and of course mueslis, porridges and cereals in case you are a little hungry or in need for an organic breakfast. The major aim of the shop is of course to sell their products but for a quick WLAN or coffee break in the busy heart of the city the functionally styled place isn't a bad option. They also have a second shop (though without cafe) on ground floor of the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum mall.
If you happen to strand in the urban desert of office blocks between the tube stops of Karl-Preis-Platz and Sankt-Martin-Straße head for the Neue Balan campus, a former industrial area where in the past Siemens produced semiconductors. Quite centrally you'll find Balan Deli, a modern yet comfortably furnished day cafe run as a not-for-profit company providing fair employment for an inclusive team of people with and without handicaps. The cafe was founded by the nearby inclusive Montessori school and designed by a Hamburg based artist. You can have a healthy lunch, partially based on organic ingredients, or simply an organic coffee, tea, wine or soft drink, often sourced from local producers, in a pleasant environment. The bread for the sandwiches comes from a local organic bakery. Unfortunately the service staff is not very knowledgeable (yet) about organic and sustainably produced food (when I enquired about the milk they told me it was organic although they actually use the cheaper conventional product of the Berchtesgadener Land dairy which also offers an extended range of organic dairy products), but was happy to ask the kitchen staff about the origin of the chicken in the Thai curry (which was not organic).
For those seriously into tea the ultimate target in town is Tushita Teehaus in the Glockenbach neighbourhood, near the Western exit of tube station Fraunhofer Straße (and a five minutes walk South of Gärtnerplatz). To taste their around 150 organic and often fairly traded tea and tisane varieties (which aren't exhaustively listed on the menu) can take some time, but you can buy them to take with you. With every order the staff will hold a microscopic tea ceremony for you, and hot water for a second extraction is served in a small thermos aside. In the past they often used too hot water for some of their delicate green teas resulting in a bitter beverage, but this fortunately had changed to the better at my last visit. In addition they serve small vegan dishes as well as yummy home-made cakes, all organic, and there's a Japanese touch to both, the decoration, the food and the subtle focus on Japanese tea and matcha. Consequently the place is frequented by visitors of Japanese origin as well as the occasional Indian gentleman or the German hippie or university professor reading their daily. Given how frequented the place often is there's a quiet, pleasantly concentrated atmosphere to it.
The following places ceased to exist, although you still may find references to them on the web:
- Emilo am Odeonsplatz, Odeonspl. 14
- Emmi's Kitchen, Rosenheimer Str. 67 (vegetarian cafe cum eatery)
Fritz Brotbar, Nymphenburger Str. 154 (bakery cum cafe)
Fritz Mühlenbäckerei, Müllerstr. 46 (cafe cum eatery)
- Die Kaffee-Küche, Weißenburger Str. 6 (cafe)
- MyMuesli München-Pasing w/in Pasing Arcaden, Josef-Felder-Str. 53
San Francisco Coffee Company, Nymphenburger Str. 151 (cafe)
San Francisco Coffee Company, Riem-Arcaden, Willy-Brandt-Pl. (cafe)
San Francisco Coffee Company, Theatinerstr. 23 (cafe at Odeonsplatz)
- Himmelherrgott, Waldfriedhofstr. 105 (cafe)
- Kaffee Sonnenschein, Gietlstr. 17
[Munich, Au, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, Schwabing, Westend, organic, coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, snacks, fair, vegan, cafe, ice-cream, restaurant, Italian, Japanese]