The Organic Traveller
Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Selvazzano Dentro and around

Those with a sweet tooth may feel in heaven when coming to the comparatively ugly urban sprawl which comprises the municipality of Selvazzano Dentro south-west of Padua and north of Abano Terme: In the neighbourhoods of San Domenico and Tencarola, devided by the crossing of the river Bacchiglione you will find a confectioner's shop cum bakery, an ice-cream parlour and finally a supermarket serving customers preferring organic food and delights.

When entering the municipality from the west following Via Euganea your first stop should be at a roundabout with an artisanal bakery, Viennese-style cafe cum confectioner's shop where all the main ingredients are organic. At Pasticceria Da Angelo you will find all organic and vegan options clearly marked, and the friendly staff will proudly and often unasked point out what's organic. If you do no feel like a delicate ice-cream or a gorgeous pastry along with an organic coffee drink (with organic soy milk if you prefer) have a tramezzino sandwich or toast together with a freshly made organic smoothie, or an organic soft drink from the shelf in the backmost corner of the shop. Vegan sandwich options are readily available, the meat items on non-veg versions usually aren't organic. A serving of ice-cream is 1.30 EUR, with each additional scoop for 1.10 EUR. You may also buy a bag of organic cookies to take home, and if you're lucky there's a vegan and 100% organic dinner special during your stay. Advanced booking by phone are required for such an evening.

Not enough ice-cream or arriving after half past nine in the evening? Well, you can be helped. Gelateria Soleluna a few meters east opposite Hotel Piroga uses more than 80 percent organic, and predominantly locally sourced ingredients for their granite, gelati, and ice cakes. A delight not to be missed, the first ice-cream scoop goes for 1.30 EUR, each additional one for 1 EUR. Again, vegan flavours are available, but -- making a difference from Da Angelo -- are restricted to fruit varieties. The granite are available in two sizes, for 2.80 or 3.50 EUR. On bank holidays the shop keeps open as on Sundays.

Groceries

To fullfill your everyday needs follow Via Euganea in eastern direction, cross both, the bridge over the river, and the street side. Here, on Via Padova (the street changes its name in Tencarola) you'll find a well assorted NaturaSi supermarket where you can get everything organic from fruit and veges over dairy products and vegan alternatives to dry food, natural cosmetics, and more. This would also be the place you had to do most of your organic shopping when living in one of the villages in the vicinity -- your next real options being the NaturaSi in Abano Terme or, naturally, the ones in the city of Padua (e.g. here).

With one notable exception north-west of Selvazzano, in the village of Montegalda half way to Vicenza. Surprisingly it has a small organic grocery, Alimenti biologici Come Una Volta, a few steps north of the gelateria on the central roundabout (which you'd better avoid). Here you find a decent choice of organic dry goods, vegan alternatives and body care, a small fridge with some refreshments, and a handful of seasonal fruit and veges, probably directly from the owner's garden. When cycling or driving through pay a visit to this friendly shop.

2018-05-29 06:30:02 [Padova, Padua, Selvazzano, Montegalda, organic, biologico, vegan, ice-cream, supermarket, coffee, bakeries, cafe, grocery] Link

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Organic Abano Terme

A classical spa town on the foot of the Euganean hills (the "Colli Euganei" in Italian), about ten kilometers south-west of Padua, Abano Terme still oozes of old grandezza. And with an audience interested in health and wellness I'd expected to find more places serving and selling organic food than in other towns of similar size (like nearby Selvazzano Dentro). So in fact this is a somewhat disappointed account on what I found during my half a day long visit -- no restaurants or (Italian) bars, only a spacious supermarket of the NaturaSi chain and a partially organic ice-cream parlour.

The first, a clean and welcoming place, covers all daily necessities, both in terms of eating, drinking, and hygiene, and offers an abundance of unpackaged fruit and greens. There's also a small number of dispensers for rice and pasta to take home in your own containers. Given that on the web the Padua-based organic restaurant Vegetariamoci can still be found under the same address I hoped for a small cafe, but unfortunately the listing is due to the fact that the Vegetariamoci people run the predecessor organic market dubbed "Bio Emporio" in this location. So no organic coffee or sandwich here.

Gelateria Panciera Fortunately the best ice-cream parlour in town is not far. Gelateria Panciera uses predominantly local and partially organic ingredients for its delicious artisanal ice-cream and granite (water ice slush). When I was there it turned out to be a coffee lovers dream: coffee granita, coffee ice-cream and a delicate, off-white coffee-cream variety along with many other vegan and dairy flavours. The granita (apart from coffee they offered lime and grapefruit) had a more solid consistency than in other places, and you can also buy organic tisanes. Unfortunately for the foreign visitor not yet fully adapted to Italian customs this family-run place usually won't open until after the traditional siesta. Be aware that also the organic supermarket usually is closed during the hottest hours of the day.

2018-05-23 21:30:02 [Padova, Padua, Abano_Terme, Colli_Euganei, biologico, organic, zero_waste, ice-cream, supermarket, grocery] Link

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Saturday, 07 April 2018

Leipzig: Sunday-open organic groceries

The Leipzig Hauptbahnhof (main station) is not just Europe's largest head train station with fine arched halls and a generous concourse, it's also home to a Sunday-open two-storey shopping mall dubbed "Promenaden". The shops are predominantly branches of the same boring chains as everywhere but since organic products have been entering the main stream this mall not only gives you the opportunity to replenish stocks when everything else is closed but allows the traveller to quickly shop for organic provisions while changing trains or while the locomotive of their train is being exchanged.

The mall is situated below track level, just walk right away to the arrival hall and take the escalator stairs down. All shops mentioned here are located on ground floor, i.e. one level below the long distance trains.

The Eastern-most part of the mall (to the right when facing the tracks) houses a branch of the DM Drogeriemarkt offering an abundance of certified organic dry goods, preserves, drinks, natural body care and eco-friendly household chemicals (see here for a detailed description), in short: everything you need while travelling except for fresh and frozen food.

Still in the East wing though more central you'll find a Vitalia wholefood market which in addition to dry goods, sweets and snacks, toiletries and detergents also sells fresh food: Here you can get organic bakery items and and sandwiches, fresh dairy products and a small selection of organic fresh fruit and veges. Prices here are more upmarket than at the DM branch, and you have to check for organic labels, too, though to a lesser extend. If in doubt the staff is more competent than the one in the drugstore superstores.

In the West wing of the Promenaden the Rossmann drugstore offers a good selection of organic dry goods, preserves, drinks and natural body care, though less than DM. If in a hurry you can buy the following brands without hesitation: "Alverde", "Lavera", "Weleda" and most of "Dresdner Essenz" (toiletries), "EnerBio" and "Veganz" (food, the latter is entirely vegan).

Finally a 100 percent organic supermarket is coming to the Western entry of the mall: A pop-up store of the nation-wide operating Alnatura chain is operating all days except Sunday where an Alnatura Express supermarket is to be opened April 19, 2018. This poses a difficult question to the eco-conscious traveller: Should I have an organic coffee on the go in a one-way cup from the Alnatura coffee bar or do I rather prefer a wasteless yet conventional espresso in the beautiful bookshop cafe Ludwig on track level? I'd love to recommend the latter in this blog but the only organic item on offer is organic syrup to flavour the coffee. The coffee bar used to have organic apple spritzer but unfortunately no longer. With its beautiful ceiling the well-assorted bookstore however is worth visiting in its own right.

2018-04-07 11:10:02 [Leipzig, organic, vegan, gifts, snacks, lunch, supermarkets, grocery, trainstation, coffee, books] Link

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Monday, 26 March 2018

Organic Trondheim

A university city and a cultural hotspot in Norway it does not come as a surprise that Trondheim offers sufficient opportunities to almost effordlessly adhere to a 100% organic and eco-conscious lifestyle. This hasn't been always like this, but during the past few years more and more shops and eateries offering organic items have opened, and the availability of organic products in general has increased dramatically.

Eating out

For a sandwich for breakfast or lunch head for the cafe in the backroom of the organic Godt Brød bakery near Nordre gate, one of the pioneers of organic food in Norway. Choose the filling of your sandwich or savory bread roll (most ingredients except the meat-based ones are organic), have a decent coffee drink (the milk is organic), tea, a sweet organic bread roll ("bolle"), and/or an organic juice (e.g. from the nearby Rotvoll juicery in Ranheim which has its own organic grocery on their premises). About half of the cold drinks are not organic, so check for the "økologisk" keyword. During the warm season, treat yourself with a pre-packaged organic ice-cream from Reins Kloster. Everything is offered to take away, too. What you probably would not expect: The dough for the sweet bread rolls is dairy-free, the bakery uses porridge made from oat and water and rapeseed oil instead of milk.

Heartier food like organic egg and bacon for breakfast or lamb burgers for lunch or dinner, together with organic softdrinks can be had at Ramp Pub and Spiseri at Svartlamon. Vegetarian options are available. Service at this shabby-homely place may be a little slow, and not all of the ingredients are organic. Formerly entirely furnished with formica tables and chairs the interior has improved since, but gentrification hasn't replaced the proletarian chic yet. The kitchen closes at 9 pm.

For pizza and beer head for Selma, one of the many pubs in the former ship repair workshops at Solsiden. Unfortunately none of the drinks (apart from a fresh cassis-flavoured nordic sour) is organic, and most of the food isn't organic either, but they use organic flour for the best pizza dough in town and have some organic ingredients among the toppings. Their store cupboard being a part of the interior you can see that they, among others, use both, organic and conventional tomatoes, organic vinegar and syrup. Some of the fresh herbs are organic, although the basil wasn't at my visit. The best pizzas here aren't the classical Italian ones but their own creations which go extremely well with beer. They happily omit the meat toppings if you ask so but expect to pay the full price anyway. Make sure to place your orders at the bar (and pay at once), taking with you the drinks. The food will be served.

Real organic food, vegan and vegetarian, is served at Cafe Stammen in Kongens gate. Unfortunately they are closed for refurbishment until January 18, 2018, so I am still unable to pay a visit. Let me know about your experience if you happen to eat there before me.

Fortunately an organic pioneer in the city, vegetarian eatery Persilleriet is not far away. It has been offering predominantly organic wraps and sandwiches since 2005, both to eat at the spot and to take away. There is a second self-service lunch restaurant on the premises of St. Olavs hospital which unfortunately is closed not only on Sundays, but also on Saturdays.

For a cosy, almost entirely organic and Sunday-open cafe take a stroll through the Bakklandet neighbourhood with its small and beautiful wooden houses on the Eastern shore of the Nidelva river. Kafe Soil on the premises of former "Annas Kafe" serves yummy organic cakes, cinnamon rolls, lemonades, juices, smoothies, tea and more. The coffee is often organic, too, and there's usually a vegan soup or stew for the hungry on the entirely vegetarian, generally vegan-friendly menu. When the cafe was opened it shared its venue with a micro brewery. The latter has moved since but as a result you still can come here for a beer (although the organic beer is imported from Germany). Also worth a note: The soap in the bathroom is organic, which takes an extra effort in Norway where certified natural body care isn't sold by conventional supermarket chains yet. Kafe Soil occasionally plays host to intimate concerts, vegan community arrangements, clothes exchange gatherings and other grass-roots sustainability arrangements. Closed for holidays until January 10th, 2018.

Food and daily necessities

The city's first address for zero-waste shopping is a cosy fair-trade grocery, Etikken: Bring along your own bottles and boxes to refill with organic detergents, grains, and dried fruit. This not-for-profit undertaking partially run by volonteers offers a good selection of organic food, drinks and sweets, along with household necessities like eco-friendly baking sheets and detergents. They offer a decent selection of preserves and vegan alternatives, but no fresh fruit and veges. The shop is also a reliable source of organically certified make-up, skin and hair care, organic wipes, tampons and menstruation cups.

In 2016 Etikken moved to a new and bigger venue in Olav Tryggvasons gate between Nordre and Søndre gate (next to the Norwegian handicraft shop "Husfliden"), but many sources on the web still list its old address in Fjordgata.

Helios

For fresh food head for the city's organic pioneer, the Helios convenience store in Prinsens gate. At the end of 2016 the shop closed down but was taken over by new owners immediately and is now as reliable as before. You will find all daily necessities -- food, toiletry, detergents etc. -- in organic quality, including frozen pizza, ice-cream, unhomogenised fresh milk and Norwegian caramelized brown cheese. The frozen "lefser", Norwegian "pancakes" topped with butter, cinnamon and sugar and folded together, are not organic but nevertheless worth trying -- simply defrost and enjoy.

At Trondhjem torv a farmers' market, Bondens marked is being held every second week on Saturday. Local small scale farmers sell their produce, but it takes a little effort to find the organic ones.

When it comes to conventional supermarkets, a quite impressive range of organically certified food is on offer at the Meny hypermarket Solsiden and the various Coop supermarkets with their Änglamark own brand (see also here). To avoid green-washed products and misleading marketing while cherry-picking through these markets check for the "økologisk" keyword and organic labelling (mainly Debio, KRAV and the European organic label, but you will also find Soil Association and USDA certificates). Dairy products by Røros meieriet, meat products by Grødstad Gris, ice-cream and beer from Reins Kloster, "Helios" and "Manna" products as well as "Go green" grains and pulses are all safe. Some of them can also be found in Sunkost or Life healthfood shops.

Shopping

A few steps from Godt Brødt the Miss Organic perfumery offers the city's biggest selection of natural and organically certified body care and cosmetic products in a styled shopping environment.

For fashionable clothing and yarn made of organic wool take a stroll to Baklandet where you find Nøstebarn. As the name hints babies and toddlers were the original focus, but the product range has extended since to cater for adults, too, and not only for those who enjoy knitting. So here's the place to look for woollen underwear and other accessories for the Nordic winter.

Where to stay

The hotels of the Choice chain advertise with organic breakfast items and are certified with the Debio label in bronce which is awarded to food places offering at minimum 15 percent organic items. In the case of the otherwise boring conference hotel Augustin at the corner of Kongens and Prinsens Gate this allowed for an organic breakfast consisting of apple juice, crispy oat-cerials with a tasty type of sourmilk ("tjukkmjølk") or low-fat milk from Røros meieriet, alternatively soy milk, crispbread with honey, peanut butter, brie and a blue-mould cheese as well as hard-boiled eggs a few years ago. On a recent stay at Comfort Hotel Park at the corner of Prinsens gate and Bispegata the 15 percent mixture consisted of all organic coffee and fat-free cow milk (but conventional oat and soy milk), organic Earl Grey tea, dark rye bread and one type of crisp bread, a good selection of organic cerials, raisins, apples, orange marmelade, peanut butter, honey, and boiled eggs. The Park hotel bar's fridge next to the entrance offered organic lemonade and cola (of the "Oskar Sylte" brand) as well as canned organic iced coffee mixes.

Unfortunately the city's hotel institution Britannia in Dronningens Gate, once a certified eco lighthouse is closed for renovation until minimum spring 2018. During my last stay a few years ago they offered a small selection of organic veges and bread at the breakfast buffet, and I'm confident that they will do even better after reopening.

Just a few steps west, crossing Nordre and Jomfrugate you will find Hotel City Living Schøller a budget option which was recommended to me by Alicia from Portland, Oregon after reading this blog. She described her room as having "zero perfume -- none on the sheets nor in the cleansers. The room felt fresh and healthy, if quite simple." The hotel provides guests with a 15 percent discount at nearby Godt Brød bakery cum cafe for breakfast, and offers a kitchen for guest use.

At the airport

If you happen to strand at Trondheim Airport Værnes spend your airline food vouchers at Caffè Ritazza between gate 31 and 32 (behind security) which uses organic full-fat milk for their coffee drinks. They also offer a selection of fair-trade (though not organic) chocolates.

Permanently or temporarily closed

The following places are closed, with references remaining on the web, or ceased to offer organic items:

2018-03-26 22:40:03 [Trondheim, organic, fair, vegetarian, vegan, zero_waste, bakeries, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, takeaway, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, dinner, hotel, accommodation, pizza, fashion, airports] Link

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Monday, 12 March 2018

Munich: Chains good enough not to be boycotted

Organic and fair is going mainstream, and you will have to go a long way to find a big food retailer not stocking at least some appropriately labelled items. As long as you avoid the cheapest textile retailers you will also be able to needle-pick organic cotton fig leaves covering up for otherwise not exactly fair, social and environmentally conscious behaviour in many fashion outlets.

So even if you happen to be stranded in darkest suburbia, you will be able to survive somehow. In the Munich metropolitan area however, you have the choice of leaving your money at retailers more conscious than average. Some of them are local chains, others have outlets or franchise takers everywhere in Germany and sometimes even abroad.

Food and necessities

There's a wide range of organic full retailers as well as smaller organic supermarkets, so chances are good that you will find one in your vicinity. Most malls however, with their exchangeable shops and brands, stick to conventional supermarkets, and -- here's your choice -- a smaller health-food store (Reformhaus), often of the Vitalia chain. Larger and newer branches even offer a coffee or snack bar. Although some stores are up to 80 percent organic, check for organic labels, as up to half of their goods on sale may be conventional.

The DM Drogeriemarkt drugstore chain is being managed according to anthroposophical principles in such a successful manner that new branches have been popping up in almost every newly or re-opened shopping complex during the past years. It has always had a focus on organic and eco-friendly products (alongside the conventional stuff) and is most certainly the reason for that its competitors Müller and Rossmann now also stock a wide range of organic dry food products, sweets and drinks, as well as natural cosmetics. While the big Müller branches stock an impressive selection of natural cosmetics brands and recently stepped in for DM as a reseller of the Alnatura food brand, DM has a broader focus, with a series of eco-friendly household items such as nappies, detergents, dishwasher tabs, or organic cotton pads of the "nature" own-brand alongside the own-brands "DM Bio" (food), and "Alverde" (cosmetics and toiletries). In addition DM branches sell a growing selection of reputable organic and eco cosmetics brands, such as "Weleda", "Lavera", "Sante", "I+M Berlin", "Dr. Bronner" (all products fully natural) or "Eos organic", "Dresdner Essence" and "Kneipp" (watch out for eco labels). Products of the "Alnavit" brand for nutrition and allergene avoiding food and sweets are usually organic, as are the own brand of the vegan supermarket chain Veganz. Since they kicked out Alnatura as their exclusive organic food brand a variety of products by various organic producers has been showing up in the shelves. For detergents stick to products of the "Ecover" and "You" brands. Also a word of warning towards the nature washing detergent: It's labelled with the Blue Angel environmental label, but nonetheless contains synthetic perfumes which accumulate in your clothes.

Thus said: Fresh food aside you will find everything you need for a daily eco-conscious lifestyle. It should however not go unnoticed that DM own brands comply with minimum standards for organic food and natural bodycare only. Food products complying with higher organic standards such as the biodynamic corn products by Alnatura were replaced when the chain rearranged their product selection. DM is said to treat its employees fairly, though this may of course vary with the branch management. And if you are not satisfied with a product (like I was with the washing liquid) or simply bought the wrong one they guarantee that you may return it in any chain store, opened or sealed, even without receipt. I did it, and it always worked like a charm.

Lunch, snacks and coffee

All branches of the Basic supermarket chain have a self-service coffee and lunch bar, but the entrance area of a supermarket might not be the place for a read or chat while having a coffee. In the latter case you might opt for a franchise of the San Francisco Coffee Company coffee house chain, offering organic coffee, tea and soft drinks in several of the central Munich neighbourhoods. Their cakes usually are not organic but sometimes there is an organic option on offer, and recently organic croissants and pains au chocolate were added to the menu. Always on sale are organic and vegan nut and fruit bars of the Foodloose brand which make a good (uhm, and healthier) replacement.

The second franchise-based coffee house chain serving exclusively organic coffee is Black Bean. Unfortunately only the coffee itself (and some soft drinks) are organic -- no organic milk or pastries. For early birds in the Schwabing/Maxvorstand area they are a good option to aim for as branches usually open as early as 7 am on weekdays, and they are open on Sundays and bank holidays, too, with (comparatively) liberal opening hours. Both, Black Bean and San Francisco, offer free wifi.

Interestingly one of the major bakery chains in Munich is an organic one: Hofpfisterei branches will usually sell you organic sandwiches (made of typically German sourdough bread) or pretzl with butter ("Butterbrezn" is not just a children's favourite), but on less frequented locations they may be outsold by early afternoon. In this case you may still shop organic spread (cheese or vegetarian) or sausages along with your breadrolls or opt for a sweet pastry. Most shops offer organic coffee-to-go, mineral water and softdrinks, and the bigger ones usually have a bar table or two. Both Hauptbahnhof and Ostbahnhof train stations have a Hofpfisterei outlet, although the latter one is closed on Sundays. An hour before closing Hofpfisterei offers a discount on breads, breadrolls and pastries, and many branches cater for the early bird, often opening at 7am.

For hearty Mexican fast food head for one of the Pureburrito branches.

Clothes

Both, the C&A and H&M fast fashion chains have been extending their range of products made from organic cotton, recycled and eco-friendlier materials in the past years. C&A shops label their sustainable collection clearly visible on the price tag (look out for small hearts and the "Bio Cotton" string), but the product range is restricted to basic items such as t-shirts and underwear, and apart from this unreliable. Kids and teens are better catered for than adults. Since they are only randomly presented together you may find yourself fine-reading labels.

H&M covers a broader range of sustainable products -- you will even find the occasional dress for women. Products of the "H&M conscious" brand can be distinguished by their green tag. They are presented together in separate areas, both, within the women, kids, and men stores, and hence easy to find. According to Greenpeace both companies are taking serious measures to reduce hazardous chemicals in the production process and to introduce fairer production.

2018-03-12 18:00:03 [Munich, Schwabing, supermarkets, coffee, snacks, lunch, bakeries, grocery, fashion, bodycare, household] 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.