The Organic Traveller
Monday, 16 July 2018

Bremen: Organic Ice-cream

If you fancy a freshly made organic ice-cream in Bremen be prepared to work out -- hope for good weather, rent a bicycle and do as many locals do: Set out on a 15 kilometers ride, first in direction University, and then on the dyke safeguarding the land against the river Wümme to a dairy farm run by friendly family Kaemena in Niederblockland. Biohof Kaemena On the embankment cars are allowed with a special permit only, but an astonishing number of locals come here by bicycle, foot or skating to enjoy an organic ice-cream (the scoop goes for 1.50 EUR), filtered coffee or cold organic drink and enjoy the farm and the countryside. There's a nice playground for children, and if you want to stay longer (minimum one week) the family rents out several pleasant holiday apartments (but make sure to book well in advance for holiday seasons). Opening hours on pleasant summer days may be longer than announced. Don't miss the poppy seed ice-cream and the varieties based on buttermilk.

On the farm you can also tap raw or pasteurized milk into your own bottle, the liter for 1.20 EUR. If you did not bring one you can buy a returnable 1 l milk bottle for the price of 80 cent. While the milk vending machine is serviced throughout the year the ice-cream parlour is closed in winter.

When Markthalle Acht at Domshof square opened in 2017, the Kaemenas started to offer their ice-cream from a mobile ice-cream booth placed inside the market hall, a few meters away from the Schlüsselkorb tram stop in the city center. The booth has disappeared since, but the ice-cream has not: Two or three flavours are now available from the Lütt Köök Huus day cafe which offers modern local lunch from noon to 3 pm, both vegan, vegetarian and omnivore, using organic milk and eggs.

2018-07-16 19:00:00 [Bremen, organic, ice-cream, cafe, accommodation, farms, zero_waste] link

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Monday, 18 June 2018

In and around the Euganean Hills: Organic farmstays

An hours' bicycle ride from Padua or one and a half hours from Vicenza gets you to La Buona Terra near the village of Cervarese Santa Croce, an organic farmstay, popular party location with families, educational farm for kindergardens and farm restaurant. You can stay either in one of the clean, rustic guest rooms and holiday homes located inside various farm buildings (advanced booking required), or on the camping site on the farm. A popular place with children -- there are not only pigs, cows, chickens, horses, donkeys, dogs (not cats), rabbits, goats, and frogs here, but also a spacious swimming pool. (Less popular among the kids: to ask the farmers, Luisa and Domenico, to remove the cleaning robot in the mornings.) If you do not come by bicycle you can lend one to explore the surroundings, or to have an ice-cream or coffee in Selvazzano Dentro.

La Buona Terra

After breakfast (organic with a few exceptions, and usually with freshly home-made crostata cakes) you may pre-order lunch and/or dinner (around 8 pm), except on Mondays. Expect hearty home-made farmer's kitchen, home-made pasta, left-over soups, a grilled chunk of home-made bread topped with olive oil and an equally thick slice of sopressa salami from the farm's own pigs, freshly grilled vegetables, rustic meat courses from the farm (you may even be served a hearty stew of chicken necks) and (often) organic wines from nearby wineries. On weekends the farm restaurant is open to the public, but you are asked to phone in in advance (+39 328 077 0977). Vegans will probably stay away, but vegetarians are gladly catered for: The vegetarian four-courses dinner ("menu verde") comes at 25 €, the omnivore "menu rosso" at 28 € (prices without wine), and children pay 15 €.

There's also a farmshop selling the farm's home-made products: eggs, sopressa, preserves and liquors. Officially it keeps open on weekends between 15:30 and 19:30, but unless there's a bigger party of visitors around take this with a grain of salt and ask Luisa or an employee if you want to buy something.

One of the bicycle tours may lead you to the South-Western slopes of the Euganean Hills, to Ca' Orologio in Baone. Among vineyards and olive groves you will find Maria Gioia Rosellini's dedicated organic winery, producing natural wines of exclusive taste. You may enter the 16th century Venetian villa to taste and buy, or decide to rather stay in these magical surrondings and make use of the bed-and-breakfast offer (better book in advance, though). The breakfast itself is only partially organic, depending on the availability of organic products in the village supermarket (which is rather limited). You have the opportunity to cook lunch and dinner yourself, and serve it with a glass of Ca'Orologio wines.

2018-06-18 07:10:01 [Italy, Veneto, Colli_Euganei, Euganean_Hills, Padova, Padua, Cervarese, Baone, organic, biologico, accommodation, farms, agriturismo, camping, cycling, wine, breakfast, lunch, dinner, restaurant] link

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Friday, 26 August 2016

Kerala: Eco homestays

Near Alappuzha (Alleppey)

Once an important port, now an ordinary Indian smalltown berieved of most of its historical buildings, with its formerly famous waterways overgrown by pernicious water hyacinth Alleppey most certainly is no longer worth the title "Venice of the East". If you come to stay over a 15 minutes auto-rikshaw ride outside town will however bring you to Sylviander House, a pleasant eco-consciously built homestay cum art gallery run by a German-Indian couple, writer designer Sylvie Bantle and painter Alexander Devasia. Airy and spacious double rooms with traditional beds equipped with mossie nets and a fan, and curcuma-washed walls expect the guest. All doors and furniture were recycled from traditional torn-down houses. Adjacent to each room you will find a roofed outdoor space with a handwash, and next to it a bathroom equipped with a traditional bucket bath (fill the bucket sink with water and use the stainless steel mug to shower yourself), and a (Western) toilet with a shower for your bottom. Toilet paper is provided but must not be thrown into the toilet to spare the house's eco-friendly bio-filtering system (there's no communal sewage).

Sylviander House, Alleppey

For breakfast and dinner you will be served home-cooked South-Indian food, vegetarian and -- if you want to please Alexander -- fish, freshly catched by local fishermen which he shops from the market and fries deliciously. The hosts put a lot of effort in sourcing ingredients grown according to organic principles, be it certified or from home gardens ('nadan') kept the traditional way without use of industrial chemicals. Some veges will also come from the Sylviander eco-garden, coffee, cocoa and pepper from their own organic farm in Kumaly, yoghurt from the neighbour's cow fed on Sylviander house grass. The water used in the house is collected rain water, filtered for drinking. A night in a double room including breakfast and dinner is Rs. 2000 off season. This is the only place listed in this post not offering a discount for children.

Near Kochi (Cochin)

South of Kochi, directly situated at the backwaters in the village of Kumbalangi you'll find Gramam Homestay, a quiet, eco-friendly homestay which allows you to escape busy Indian city life. Its sustainably kept coconut garden by the water makes the surroundings for an old, nicely restored spacious farmhouse equipped with two twin beds and fans. The openness of the house allows you to experience all the noises of a tropical night. An outdoor bathroom attached to the cottage provides you with a roofed Western toilet and handwash as well as two showers under open sky. You'll stand on natural stones within some small bushes, and the used water from the shower percolates through the sand beneath the stones. Warm water is heated by the sun on the rooftop.

Breakfast (homemade Kerala food and/or prefab toast/"cereals") is complimentary, and lunch or dinner in the eating room next to the kitchen of the main house where your hosts, Jos and Lyma, live can be arranged on request. Some of the veges used in cooking may be nadan, but there is no emphasis on organic food or drinks. Staying in the cottage you however have a kitchen at your disposal. An off season cottage night for two is Rs. 4000 (the two extra beds Rs. 800 each), but if you are on budget there are also two cheaper rooms in the main house.

Jos will happily arrange a tour on a punted boat, a visit to a shrimps farm, or a car with driver for you. For our trip to Abhayaranyam wildlife shelter with its elephant camp and well-kept botanical gardens he arranged an organic breakfast (Rs. 600) at a friendly brahmin family's of teachers who showed us around their traditional house, well and organic garden where we learnt about nutmeg, macis, Indian basil, curry leaves and other spices (as well as some useful Malayalam phrases).

Near Thodupuzha

Far bigger than the aforementioned ones -- almost a simple hotel with 11 single and double rooms -- is the farmstay of Dewalokam Organic Farm, run by a friendly family of teachers and their staff from neighbouring villages. The farm has been a family estate for about hunded years, and after serving as a rubber plantation for the last generation, todays owners Jose and Sinta have been reconverting it into an almost self-sustaining organic farm following circular principles. While the entrance to the modern, though traditionally built main house is opposed by a spacious park, the land around the houses are now being used as spice, coffee, cocoa, vegetable and fruit gardens interspaced by some fish ponds. Chickens, ducks and turkeys range freely in the Souther-Eastern part of the gardens next to the cow, buffalo and sheep sheds. The cows' mock is collected and fermented in an underground tank producing fertilizer and the gas burnt in the kitchen stoves.

As we were lucky to observe during our stay newborn lambs are kept together with and fed by their mothers. All the cows were born on the farm itself, and none of the animals was deprived of their horns.

The double rooms in the first floor of the main house are simple, but spacious, clean and light, with an adjacent dressing room next to (Western) toilet and shower. There are more rooms in the adjacent older house. A night for two comes at Rs. 10,000 (8,000 off season) including four meals a day and activities like yoga in the morning, walks in the garden and in the vicinity, or cooking demonstrations. The house and the rooms are always adorned with fresh flowers.

The swimming pool is filled by fresh (rain) water, and you can also have a swim in the river. Jose and Sinta will also provide you with well-maintained bicycles for a village tour.

Most ingredients in the home-cooked meals (North and South Indian, with a continental style soup without spices to start lunch and dinner with) come from the farm itself (if you travel with children: The french fries are prefab and not organic). Guests usually are served seafish instead of fish from the ponds as the bones of the latter may be an obstacle, but if you insist you will be served a truly locally sourced fish curry. You may also purchase spices grown on the farm.

A side note: Before you start criticising any of the aforementioned places for burning paper and plastic waste on their land hesitate a minute and think about what you were going to do without communal waste collecting and separating facilities which generally are not available in rural areas.

(Temporarily?) closed

Their website was gone, their phone number no longer operating, and they did neither answer e-mails nor Skype messages. Finally I got an automated answer that they were closed due to monsoon repair and would reopen in August. We tried to call again from India mid of August 2016, and still the phone was gone. So some doubts may be raised whether the following eco retreat in Varkala is still operating:

Mind you, there's a place with a similar name, the "Eco Bohemian Masala" which tries to fool tourists into believing it was the aforementioned eco stay. Don't fall for it -- according to Tripadvisor posts it seems to be a place to be avoided. If you happen to actually stay at the real Bohemian Masala, let me know.

2016-08-26 17:00:01 [Kerala, Alleppey, Alappuzha, Kochi, Cochin, Thodupuzha, Varkala, organic, accommodation, farms, cycling] link

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Organic Pesaro

Missing the mondane reputation of neighbouring Rimini eating out in Pesaro is not about posh restaurants. All the organic places I found offer simple, home-made food that suits both, lunch and dinner: pizza and the local variety, piadina (a warm wrap made of thin bread and a veg or non-veg pizza fill), simple pasta dishes, risotti and main courses.

A few meters from Teatro Rossini in Centro storico, the old city center, the small friendly Pizzeria Bio al Teatro serves pizza to go along with organic soft drinks, beer, prosecco and wine by the bottle. All pizze are a 100 percent organic and vegetarian if not vegan, pre-baked on trays in the kitchen behind the sales counter, sold by the piece and re-heated while you wait. Decent fast food, although their pizza base resembles an airy foccacia rather than the thin, crispy traditional pizza round baked in a wood-fired stone oven. There are some bar chairs and tables inside to sit and eat on the spot as well as a couple of recycled wooden benches outside. The place opens only in the evening.

For lunch (or dinner) head for Da Peppe Pesaro Centro, approximately five minutes away located in a traffic-calmed street connecting busy Via 11 Febbraio and Viale Donato Bramante. This local restaurant chain uses organic flour for their home-made pasta and piadine, offers grain-based organic salads, and some of the veges as well as the olive oil are also organic. Unfortunately drinks, non-vegetarian and some other ingredients are not. When ordering pasta you have to specify the pasta shape and the sauce to go with. The food is simple and tasty, and since it is prepared on the spot requires a little patience. The staff is friendly, but expect the service to be relaxed.

A further five-minutes walk East-North-East leads you to Chiccoteca, a cosy, simply-styled certified all-organic restaurant cum cafe open daily all day, with an arbour in front facing (comparatively) silent Via Buozzi. It will serve you both, breakfast, and simple meals for lunch and dinner (including -- you guess it -- home-made pizze and cascioni, pizza pockets similar to a calzone), and of course the obligatory coffee (tisane if you prefer) cum cake. Very unusual for no-frills eateries in Italy you will be served glass and earthenware, no plastics.

Supermarkets

Just around the corner you will find the Chiccoteca supermarket, a small, pleasantly furnished organic full-retailer, closed on Sundays. If you are in need for organic food items on a Sunday make sure you arrive near Teatro Rossini before 1 pm, in time for the nearby Coop supermarket branch stocking a decent selection of organic veges, dairy products, cookies and other food items.

Ice-cream

Apart from Coop supermarkets, there's a second chain in Italy you can trust to offer real fare: the ice-cream makers of Grom. In Pesaro, however, there is no Grom branch, so you have to rely on the following rule of thumb: Avoid gelaterie where the ice-cream is piled up and heavily decorated to attract customers from a distance. Real ice-cream presented this way would melt, not to mention hygienic reasonings. So stick to the ones where the ice-cream is hidden in steel containers buried in the freezer and preferably covered with a lid.

The one I found is Panna & Cioccolato near Teatro Rossini. Apart from generally yummy all-natural ice-creams, ice-cakes and smoothies (centrifughe) they also have one organic ice-cream variety on offer: Mascarpone. As with other gelaterie making artisan all-natural gelato the interior is cleanly furnished in lab-style, the workshop proudly presented, and you may have a glimpse on the ice-cream makers at work through the shop's window front.

The beach

Although overpriced low-quality fast-food on the beach promenade still is the norm, Pesaro beach offers better options: For the full-fledged beach experience including organic cocktails head for Bottega Beach within Bagni Alfredo right in front of the lower building of the Hotel Excelsior. During the high season you can party day and night indulging in vegan organic ice-cream, piadine, pizze, salads, alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic beverages and small meals. During the low season starting with a party at 3pm on the last Saturday in April this beach shack keeps open on weekends and public holidays. All food and beverages are also available to take away.

The only organic place in town calling itself a restaurant is Da Peppe Pesaro Mare located a short walk westwards next to Bagni Tina. Noisy with efficient, though not overly polite staff it serves basic, but delicious seafood dishes which are not on offer in other Da Peppe branches in addition to the regular Da Peppe fare consisting of partially organic home-made pasta, piadine, soups and salads.

Acommodation and bicycles

About half an hour by bicycle, west of Pesaro Centro a pleasant family-driven organic farm, Badia, offers bed and partially organic breakfast in clean and simply furnished rooms under the roof of the farm house. The owner, Federica, will happily help you to rent reasonably priced bicyles from the compentent Pesaro Bici workshop.

In case you plan to stay for a longer period you may try to register for the city's free bike sharing scheme C'entro in bici in the comunal information desk (Sportello Informa&Servizi del Comune di Pesaro) behind piazza del Popolo. You are required to fill in a form available from their website, pay a 10 Euro deposit and will receive a personal key for the bikes.

Both, the bike shop and the information office will provide you with a cycle map covering the Bicipolitana in Pesaro, a nicely constructed and signposted network of dedicated bicycle lanes. Number 3 (in Openstreetmap marked as Pista ciclopedonale Umberto Cardinali) leads you from the city center alongside the banks of the river Foglia -- crossing allotments, abandoned factory buildings and a maze of six-foot tall reed -- to Centro Rossini, halfway to the Badia farm.

2015-08-28 12:35:09 [Pesaro, organic, biologico, pizza, ice-cream, supermarkets, coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, fastfood, vegetarian, vegan, farms, accommodation, vegan, takeaway, cycling, Italian, agriturismo] link

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