The Organic Traveller
Friday, 07 September 2018

Organic Prague

The Bohemian kitchen serves a lot of (conventional) meat, and vegetarian places usually do neither use organic ingredients -- eating out can be quite a challenge in beautiful and historial Prague. My favourite restaurant from many years ago unfortunately does no longer exist, so I had to start almost from scratch, and my time in the city was limited. The good news: You have no longer to be a strict follower of a wholefood diet if you prefer organic food. But compared with capitals of neighbouring countries there's still a gap to close.

Country Life Melantrichova

Daily necessities

Founded in the 1990-ies the organic grocery Country Life has developed into a small organic supermarket chain since. The shops still look like small health food shops and concentrate on wholefood, but provide you with a sufficient selection of fresh and dry organic food, dairy products as well as vegan alternatives. Bread, rolls and pastries bought by the piece as well as fruits and veges aren't pre-packaged, and there is a good selection of dry food available from zero-waste dispensers, so come with your own bags and containers. Note that, except for the one in the old town, all Country Life shops are closed on both, on Saturdays and Sundays, and all of them close as early as between 6 and 7 pm.

Also in Prague you will find a number of franchises of the German DM chemist's chain which will provide you with a good selection of organic dry goods and natural bodycare. Their own brands "DM Bio" (food) and "Alverde" (body care) are affordable even if your budget is tight.

Restaurace Country Life

Eating out

If you found the Country Life grocery in the old town, Stare Mesto, head into the small alleyway to its left, where you find Prague's eldest still existing organic restaurant, the Restaurace Country Life. The interior resembles a typical Czech beer restaurant, and the place serves hearty Bohemian food indeed, however all vegetarian and dairy-free. Note that this self-service place -- just like the grocery -- is closed on Saturdays.

There is also an eatery on the premises of the Country life shop in Dejvice (Mind the quite restricted opening hours), and the convenience store in Jungmannova street will provide you with snacks.

Puro Kaprova

Coffee and ice-cream

For the hip coffee bar cum ice-cream parlour head for one of the Puro shops in town who decidedly do not sell "zmrzlina" but "gelato". The one nearest to tourist tracks is located two street corners from tube stop Staromestska, where you almost cannot miss the red-white checkered window front which hides a pastell-coloured self-service cafe. Queue, order, pay and pick up your certified kosher ice-cream made from organic milk. A small scoop (one flavour) comes at 50 crowns, a medium one (two flavours) at 90 crowns. If you ordered coffee drinks, milk shakes made with organic milk or cakes they will be served later on the seat you choose. Coffee and chocolate unfortunately aren't organic, only certified by the Rainforest alliance, and it is not quite clear whether the shop also uses the organic brown sugar which is on sale as the sugar served with the coffee is not organic.

More to try

During my research I found the following places that seemed likely to sell or serve at least partially organic food and drinks, but I did not had the time to check them out myself. If you do I'd appreciate if you let me know whether they actually do so!

Eco but not organic

The following hotel, located in a former baroque monastery claims to be an eco hotel but confirmed not to serve any organic breakfast items. If you intend to stay there ask for it in the hope that customer demand may have the power for change.

Ceased to exist

The following places are temporarily closed, shut down or were replaced by other, not organic ones, and are listed here as you still find them on the web:

2018-09-07 08:00:00 [Prague, Praha, Prag, organic, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, bodycare, household, hotel, accommodation, eatery] Link

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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Göttingen: Zero Waste

Wunderbar unverpackt

Arriving in a university city you will no longer be surprised to learn there's a crowdfounded organic zero-waste shop in town. And what's even better -- the Wunderbar unverpackt ("Wonderfully devoid of packaging") grocery that opened May 2018 is (to my knowledge) the next organic supermarket when coming from the train station. Directly opposite St. Marien church you'll find all kinds of organic dry food, sweets, dairy products and beverages in retour glass bottles, organic body care and household detergents in this beautifully furnished corner shop. They even have a cheese counter, but no fresh fruits and veges. Weigh your empty jars on the scales by the window, put down the weight, and fill them on the self-service dispensers. Re-usable jars can also be bought on the spot, and the friendly owner will help you promptly when approached.

The tip for "Wunderbar unverpackt" came from the Naturalia grocery at Wöhlerplatz which itself offers a small assortment of dry food (pasta, cereals, nuts, rice and the like) in self-service dispensers, and apart from this is a friendly traditional crammed organic wholesale shop where eggs, bakery items, fruits, veges and cheese can be taken home in your own jars and bags. In addition it is also a tea shop -- so bring your tea boxes for refill.

Naturalia

Loose-weight fruits and veges can of course be bought in all organic groceries, so support the small local dealers who will happily support you when you ask them to put bread, eggs, cheese and more into the bags and boxes you present. One of them is Das Backhaus, an organic bakery turned neighbourhood grocery next to Cafe Inti. This organic "baking house" in fact is a branch of a bakery based in Klein Lengden with shops both there and in Göttingen, delivering to many organic markets in the greater region.

Another one is the Gemüseladen in the Western suburb of Geismar, near the church of St. Martin, an organic greengrocery offering lots of regional produce. Of course, there are many more, but these were all I managed to visit on my one-day stay.

Household items supporting a package-free lifestyle can also be found at the factory outlet of the eco postal order shop Waschbär near Geismartor.

2018-06-30 09:10:01 [Goettingen, Geismar, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, grocery, supermarkets, bodycare, household, tea, bakeries] Link

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Friday, 01 June 2018

Organic Rovigo

Half an hour by local train from Abano Terme or about 40 minutes South of Padua the City of Rovigo (first mentioned about 800 ad) invites for a self-guided stroll or at least a visit to its main sight, the octagonal Church of the Rotonda. City life starts at 15:30 pm, and this is exactly the time when the church opens its door to visitors.

Ice-cream parlours

Fantasy Accademia

If you arrive earlier Gelateria Fantasy Accademia comes to the rescue, a 100 percent organic ice-cream parlour. A serving of ice-cream consists of two flavours, beautifully shaped into a heart, and comes at 2.50 EUR, but you can also have a single flavour on demand at 1.80 EUR. You can also mix a scoop of traditional ice-cream with a scoop of ice-cream mousse (the ricotta mousse -- contrary to the tiramisu one -- is a mouth-watering delight). Another original twist are the vegan ice-cream flavours made with olive oil. The gelateria also sells home-made iced lollies (ghiaccioli), brioches and crepes filled with ice-cream, granite (slushes), and, of course ice-cream cakes.

Fantasy Accademia in fact is the second branch of Fantasy Bio which opened in lieu of a gelateria with a longer history in town but currently is closed due to refurbishment.

Daily necessities

For food, fresh and dried, and other daily necessities head for the local branch of the fully organic NaturaSi supermarket chain.

For more organic body care, cosmetics, detergents and other bathroom items there's a small and well-assorted specialist shop in town, EcoSmile on the way from the train station to the city center.

Eating out

I could not find any organic bar or eatery open during the day, but in the evening you may try Pizzeria Mucho Gusto. They use organic flour for the pizza dough, and you can choose between four types: wheat, kamut, spelt and multi-grain. They also sell dry organic pasta for your home cooking. Instead of eating out you may phone in for pizza delivery, either here or at their second branch a little out of town which is delivery and take away only.

2018-06-01 05:30:02 [Rovigo, biologico, organic, vegan, ice-cream, supermarket, grocery, bodycare, household, pizza] 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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Monday, 29 August 2016

Organic Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

Perhaps even more than in Europe an environmentally friendly lifestyle seems to primarily concern (a fraction of) the more affluent, and hence you will not be surprised that buying organic is best done in the well-off neighbourhood of Kowdiar. It's here that the city's only fully organic grocery, the Organic Bazaar, is located. Climbing the stairs to the first floor you will find a neat and clean farmer's shop driven by friendly staff and backed by an NGO, Thanal. Good for the traveller: Everything on sale can be carried home safely since none of the items needs cooling. Apart from a huge selection of pulses, grains (among others types of rice the average European has never heard of), flours, sugar, cereals and spices from all over India you will find honey, chutneys and other preserves as well as locally grown fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables. They do not offer juices or other refreshments since these would need the addition of preservatives, but you will find a sufficient selection of household detergents, washing powder, toothpaste, shampoo, soap bars and skin care. As local customers tend to shop their veges on Wednesdays be prepared to find a diminished selection of greens on Wednesday afternoons. If you stay long enough to consume your purchase make sure to return the plastic packing to the shop (fresh veges will be packaged in bags made from recycled newspapers). In case you happen to go wild and, in search of the place end up in Thanal's office in OD-3, Jawahar Nagar (the former home to Organic Bazaar) don't hesitate to ask for the way -- we were even accompanied the ten minutes walk to the shop.

More spices, pulses, grains, dried and candied fruit, teas and tisanes as well as natural body care products can be found a 15 minutes walk away at upmarket Fabindia, with upmarket price tags. Fabindia specializes in handmade Indian fashion and home textiles made from natural Indian fabrics -- very colourful and of high quality, but -- apart from some clothes for babies -- these are not (yet?) made of organically produced cotton or silk. A pleasant and quiet shopping retreat, one wonders howewer how fairly the profit of this exquisite boutique is distributed among the growers and makers of these beautifully and tastefully done textiles. Note that their "Organics" trademark for food items does not guarantee certified organic ingredients, for these to find you have to watch out for the keyword "organic" on the labels and ingredients lists.

Another -- local -- chain supposed to trade in pesticide-free, partially organic grocery is Aroma Fresh which also operates a branch near Kowdiar. Let me know if you can give an account on it.

As always in India you cannot always trust in names. Also in Kowdiar you will find Organic One cafe, but although they serve very tasty milkshakes, ice-cream, lassis and juices made of natural ingredients only, they are not serving anything organic.

Pathayam A five minutes walk from the State Secretariat of Kerala (go Y.M.C.A road to Southern block and swing to the left) you'll find what appears to be the city's only organic restaurant, purely vegetarian (predominantly vegan) Pathayam. Take the outside stairs to the right of the entrance to Hotel Navaratna Upendra, and you'll find a South-Indian eatery where you can have a traditional South-Indian meal and freshly pressed fruit juices. Boiled herb water is being served as a complementary refreshment if you ask. The Organic Special Meal consists of cut fruit and a veges salad, a soup, a chappati plus rice blended with veges served together with chutneys and curries of the day as well as three small cups of rasam, payasam and (in our case ginger-)flavoured buttermilk. The Ordinary Meal omits the salad (which also can be had separately) and fruit starter while the Chapati Meal consists of soup, four chapatis, curries, condiments and a slice of fruit. When you finish off your curries and chutneys a second helping is promptly filled onto your tray. The place focusses on health food, with one of their slogans being "taste comes second" which explains the rather bland taste compared with other Kerala food.

The restaurant consists of two rooms -- an A/C cooled room with a hand wash in the back and a lively non-A/C entrance hall where you can eat watching the fruit juices being prepared. The latter also houses a small organic grocery where you can shop all the ingredients used in the restaurant kitchen. Most supplies come from a Coimbatore farm, and the place is supplied by KADA, an organic online delivery service operating out of Trivandrum.

Another organic delivery service in town (which I haven't used though) is Sabarimala. Not only does it act as a grocery but also as a pizza delivery service. I did not have the time to visit neither their nor KADA's locations within Technopark (near train stop Kazhakootam) and hence am unable to tell whether they have shops on premise. Let me know if you happen to be there!

Closed

Thanal also operated a Zero Waste Centre in Kovalam which, apart from organic food, body and homecare products, offered recycled artisanal stationary and other items made from handmade paper, textiles, bags as well as household items made from coconut shell, natural fibres, cane and bamboo. This office cum shop was however shut down in April 2016 and is now working out of Thanal's office:

2016-08-29 16:00:10 [Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum, Kovalam, organic, grocery, supermarkets, fashion, bodycare, household, restaurant, pizza, zero_waste, vegan] Link

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