Thursday, 20 December 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 (usually between noon and 2 pm) there's also a separate station offering a pan-fried dish of the day in small or regular size. It's located next to the entrance and you also have to pay there. The food follows the principles of health food, seasonal and low in spices (the "hot" 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.
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.
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).
More to try
I had two more places on my research list but did not have time to make it there. Here they are:
No longer organic
The Wohnhunger gifts and things shop does no longer offer organic soups or stews for lunch, and does not use organic milk for their coffee drinks. The coffee itself may occasionally be organic (as they also sell organic beans) but usually isn't.
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, 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]
Sunday, 04 November 2018
While buying organic requires little effort in Salzburg, minimizing waste is an entirely different issue. If you wish to carry home your purchases in your own re-usable containers you depend on the cooperation of the shop, which even in organic supermarkets can be surprisingly little. Support usually comes from smaller, owner-driven groceries just as
Frau von Grün five minutes south of Mirabellplatz. Here you can fill your jars and boxes with grains, rice, cereals, nuts, dry fruit, tea and other dry food from gravity bins. Dairy products and prefab beverages are sold in deposit bottles, you won't find pre-packaged fruit and veges, and you can even refill detergents and other household chemicals. If you come without your own containers you can buy returnable jars.
The place is pleasant, spacious with the air of a practical farmer's shop where the occasional sin of buying a plastic bag of sweets is possible, too. On special occasions local artisans (like an Easter egg painter before Easter) are invited to demonstrate their craftmanship on premise, and seminars on eating trends are held from time to time.
Have a smoothie, freshly made juice or tea, breakfast, cake, a soup or a sandwich at the bar to chat with Frau von Grün herself, and don't be
surprised that the place keeps open on weekdays only.
To add Italian-style antipasti and other mediterranean and vegetarian delicatessen to your shopping bag take your jars to the Medousa market booth at the Grünmarkt opposite Fabi's Frozen Bio Yogurt within Mozart's birthplace, and politely ask to fill them. Unfortunately this was the only organic booth at this daily farmer's market I spotted during my visit, and it's there on Fridays and Saturdays only.
Offsite tourist tracks but on your way to Hellbrunn castle or zoo you'll find the only Salzburg branch of the organic supermarket chain Basic which allows you to shop almost all daily necessities without producing non-compostable waste.
To refill milk around the clock head for the milk vending machine at the Erentrudishof farm in Morzg, a pleasant bike ride from the city. There's also a farmshop, of course with more restricted opening hours, where you also can buy eggs, spelt, wheat and rye produced by the farm.
[Salzburg, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, deli, market, breakfast, snacks, farms]
Saturday, 13 October 2018
At the first glance Budapest is full of organic health (food) shops, Bio Bolt in Hungarian, however, most
of them predominantly deal in pills and powders. So unless dietary supplements (including super foods, plant-based milk alternatives, flours, nuts and other ingredients to prep up your cereals) are what you're looking for or the shop (like the recently opened Bio Egészség Biobolt
behind the Synagogue) is on your track anyway, it's much easier to stick to one of the many
branches of the German DM chemist's chain for travel supplies like organic dry goods, fruit juices, vegan alternatives, eco detergents and natural bodycare. Check for organic labels as (especially for cosmetics and toiletry products) there's increased green-washing in conventional product lines which also are available here. The DM own brands "DM Bio" (food) and "Alverde" (body care) are both good value and safe if your budget is tight or you're in a hurry.
What you won't find there are typical food souvenirs from Hungary: paprika, salami and wine. To buy these you need to find a proper biobolt or farmers' market, and these aren't as easy to find as one might expect.
A reliable source is BioABC, a small, yet well assorted organic supermarket in Belváros,
located between Astoria and Kálvin tér. They have only a small selection of wines (above the fridges), the salami is tucked away in a separate fridge in the right-most corner next to the shop's window front, and you can choose from several types of Hungarian paprika powder. Apart from this they stock local fresh produce, dairy products, sweets and cookies, preserves as well as natural body care, both of local origin as well as imported goods, in short all daily necessities. Bring your own containers for buying loose-weight dry goods.
A second option is the
Mennyország Szíve Bio Bolt a few steps from the Keleti Palyaudvar train station. Here you can also have a coffee, breakfast or vegan lunch just after arrival or before departing. However, the place is closed on weekends as well as public holidays which is why I cannot give an account of the quality of neither the food nor the range of goods sold here.
For high-end Hungarian wines pay a visit to
Cultivini Wine Cellars and Tasting
Belváros (5th district). The place is very upmarket, with the opportunity for wine tasting, and specializes in Hungarian wines. If you ask for organic and natural wines the sommeliers will competently advise and answer questions, but you have to be bold on your interest in organic wines as they will point you to conventionally produced wines in the course of the discussion if you aren't firm.
Books, coffee and tea
The classical bookstore you know from French movies does still exist -- and has adapted to modern times by becoming a cafe and co-working space
in Erzsébetváros: The English language bookstore cum cafe
Massolit does not only sell hand-picked English literature, a few tourist books, a small selection of stationary and fairly-traded coffee drinks or organic tea, but also offers quiches and cakes for both, a breakfast or the casual snack in between. While the milk for the coffee is organic (though not certified), the origin of the ingredients of the bakery items isn't easy to tell, for a good reason: Both, the bagels, cakes and quiches are hand-made by friends of the shop owner from the neighbourhood who earn an additional income this way. While some of them will certainly use eggs or milk from a properly working local farmer, conventional supermarket supply is also part of the game. If you want to stay here for work buy a co-working card, take a seat in the pleasant backyard or at some of the wooden tables inside. Water and wifi is for free but note that the place is closed on Mondays.
More to try
When I asked locals about where to buy organic fruit I was directed to the Fény utcai piac marketplace near Széll Kálmán tér.
Unfortunately, none of the market stalls showed signs of the key words "bio" or "öko", or of any organic labels or certificates. Since I don't speak Hungarian (and the command of foreign languages among the farmers was limited, too), the topic was too difficult to handle -- let me know if you're able to find out more. On weekends there are two dedicated organic or at least partially organic farmers' markets, pay a visit -- I'm glad if you'd share your experience with me.
References on the web do often exist longer than shops and venues themselves. The following places I found abandoned when I stepped by.
[Budapest, organic, wine, grocery, market, supermarkets, vegetarian, vegan, zero_waste, lunch, breakfast, coffee, tea, books]
Saturday, 30 June 2018
Cities with major universities have had organic shops long before the arrival of the big organic supermarkets, and Göttingen doesn't make an exception:
Probably the eldest still existing organic cafe in town is
serving tapas, sandwiches and small dishes with a Bolivian touch to it, or at least what a students' cafe is offering as such: good and filling due to proper organic ingredients, but far from any ambition for authenticity. The "Inti-Tasche" for example isn't a corn tortilla wrap but a plain white ciabatta-type roll filled with Italian-style antipasti. Needless to say that they offer Italian-style fairly traded coffee drinks and yummy cakes, and what's even better: They serve breakfast until 2pm. A welcoming place all day around if you like places with a liberal collegiate atmosphere whereof there are quite a number in the city.
Another one of them is
Dabis Kaffeestube, an alternative cultural hotspot and meeting place a few steps longer East. Among others, this cafe cum tea room serves
organic cakes from Das Backhaus.
If all you want is a coffee shot head for the city's only organic coffee roasters', the
Contigo. This fair-trade shop cum cafe also sells colourful gifts, fashion items, organic coffee and chocolates.
A fully organic dinner restaurant I wasn't able to spot during my shorter than one-day stay, but
lokal neun, directly located at the market place Am Wochenmarkt serves organic burgers and steaks, and is a pleasant place to enjoy a summer evening outside.
[Goettingen, organic, fair, coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, dinner, cafe, restaurant, gifts]