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]
Sunday, 23 June 2019
Whether you're after a noisy beach holiday at the Adriatic coast or want to escape the buzz of Venice but stay within the Venetian magic -- the former fisher town of Chioggia with the suburb of Sottomarina and its beach is definitely worth a visit. It's easy to reach by local train from Rovigo -- a travel back in time with noisy cars, some of them without air conditioning, where you open the windows in the vain hope that the hot summer wind will refresh you --, bicycle or bus no 11 from Lido SME. The latter travels on board of a ro-ro ferry at the south-end of the Lido di Venezia at Alberoni over to the isle of Pellestrina. At the ferry terminal next to the Pellestrina graveyard, Cimitero Pellestrina, the bus ends and you go on board of the waterbus ferry with the same name, to Chioggia.
If coming by bicycle from Venezia Santa Lucia train station take the ferry no. 17 from Tronchetto to Lido San Nicolo (from the train station you must carry your bike over the steps of the Ponte della Costituzione bridge), and simply follow the direction of the bus (the bicycle route over the islands is properly marked). You will also take the ro-ro ferry from Alberoni and later the waterbus from Pellestrina to Chioggia. For persons the ferries are covered by the ACTV day, two-days and three-days passes bought in Venice but you have to buy additional bicyles tickets at one EUR per bike and ferry ride.
Where to stay
Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any places to eat and stay with a throughout trustworthy eco-conscious mindset. The nearest you get for a sustainable overnight stay is Hotel Mediterraneo, directly located at Sottomarina's beach promenade, the Lungomare Adriatico. The hotel with its pleasant rooftop terrace carries the Legambiente ecolabel for sustainable tourism. However: The promised organic breakfast was predominantly conventional, with the notable exceptions of -- unfortunately prepackaged -- rice wafers and rusk (the latter was also available in a conventional variety), organic honey, and two types of (yummy) organic biscuits. Neither the tea bags, the bread nor the milk were organic, and the coffee from the automatic machine completely undrinkable for Italian standards. The hotel itself certainly fullfills higher eco demands than average, but they easily could do better introducing waste separation, re-usable toothbrush tumblers and natural body care on the rooms, and of course by raising the number of organic products notably.
Having said this, the hotel manager, Sonia, was cordial and helpful, the room clean and suitable for a family, with actual sea view, and sufficiently isolated against the noises of the beach party places -- off-season. The washing and cleaning detergents used on the room as well as on the bed linen and towels did not leave disturbing remainders of artificial perfumes. The a la carte menu on the hotel's restaurant, Saporoso, was done by a skilled chef which should better have had organic ingredients at hand, to enhance the taste to very good.
Where to eat
Sad to say but if you really want to eat organic you have to buy your own food for a pic-nic -- at least I wasn't able to spot at minimum predominantly organic eateries or restaurants. Let me know if you find one!
Your next best bet may be
Pizza Fantasy, a beach shack pizza restaurant next to the Astoria Village pleasure ground at the Lungomare. On occasions they seem to use organic wholemeal flour and olive oil for the dough, and this may point to a generally more conscious mindset. However I wasn't able to confirm the general use of organic ingredients.
For lunch you may also check out the sandwiches at Tentazioni Tipiche in the old town of Chioggia a few steps from the ACTV ferry stop, but again I cannot say how reliably they contain (or rather: not) organic produce.
The tour through the ice-cream parlours near Sottomarina beach starts with a case of greenwashing: L'Arte del Gelato da Marco e Giulio
advertises to use organic milk, but take this with a grain of salt: The 10 liters milk boxes by Parmalat delivered to the place were without doubt not lavelled organic. The ice-cream and the frozen yogurt are nevertheless smooth and easily palatable, though too sweet for my taste. None of the toppings for the frozen yogurt were organic. They take 1.80 EUR for a generous small serving of ice-cream, and 2.50 EUR for a small frozen yogurt with two toppings. The queue during evening hours makes it easy to identify this place on Piazza Italia.
A few steps along the roundabout, and you'll find L'Oasi del Gelato. The ice-cream here still looks very conventional, but for 2019 the owners promised to start using organic products -- organic milk in general, but also (on occasions) organic strawberries. How far they've already embraced this path I cannot say, but: Keep on going!
The Grom chain of ice-cream parlours stopped promising organic ingredients in 2019 (except for the milk in the milk shakes), but for the records: Yes, there's a Grom branch at the Lungomare.
The best source of organic food I could find is just around the corner from the ice-cream parlours at the Piazza Italia roundabout: Nuovi Sapori da Laura e Elena is a small, Sunday-open convenience store offering organic milk (the very lattebusche milk promised by the L'Oasi gelateria), juices, cheese, cookies, jam, wine, a good selection of dry food, and more -- you'll have to check for organic labels and ask at the cheese-and-meat counter.
The traditional Italian Tentazioni Tipiche delicatessen at the northern end of Corso del Popolo
next to Palazzo delle Figure in the old town of Chioggia is another small
grocery offering a -- rather limited -- range of organic (dry) food.
For organic and fairly traded bodycare (though no sun cream), dry food, sweets, preserves, wine, soft drinks, fairly traded fashion accessoiries and gifts head to the southern end of the corso: The Altromercato Commercio equo e sociale also stocks (not always certified organic) products of territories freed from the mafia, under the Libera Terra ("freed land") label.
More organic body care, using hemp as an ingredient, and other (partially organic) hemp products can be found at Canapa for you in Sottomarina which I did not have time to visit.
Some organic products are also available from the Supercoffeeshop coffee bar in Sottomarina. The coffee probably isn't organic, and I cannot say anything about the milk since I could not make it there.
If you are adventurous try to find Le verdure di Marco e Camilla in the old town of Chioggia, supposedly a quite new full-blown organic grocery also selling
fresh organic fruits and veges. I did not have the time to find the place, so please let me know if you know where exactly it is located.
More to try
[Chioggia, Sottomarina, biologico, organic, ice-cream, supermarket, grocery, bicycle, hotel, accommodation, fair, gifts, shopping, bodycare, coffee, cafe, hemp]
Thursday, 20 June 2019
To no surprise Padua has a branch of the
artisanal ice-cream parlour chain
Grom: Located directly at Piazza dei Signori the main branch in the very city centre
serves natural ice-cream and milk shakes made from organic milk. There's a second branch in Via Roma, but since the chain stopped to advertise the use of organic ingredients I can no longer whole-heartedly recommend it.
But fortunately there's an alternative: About 50 meters to the right from the Grom at Piazza dei Signori you'll find the city's only fully organic ice-cream parlour,
Gelateria Gnam Gnam.
I was amazed how much delight one can add to natural artisanal ice-cream when restricting oneself to 100 percent organic ingredients. The Gnam Gnam fare is extremely delicate, with a lot of surprising flavours such as "cinnamon and ginger" or "pineapple and ginger", about one third of them vegan. The smallest serving with one flavour comes at 1.80 EUR, a small one with two flavours at 2.70 EUR, three flavours at 3.60, and each additional one adds one EUR to your bill. For extra 60 or 80 cents you can choose the flavour of your wafer cone: plain of course, or perhaps ginger, cinnamon, liquorice...? The (vegan) slush goes here under the name Venetian ghiacciate, and can be had in eight different flavours, small, medium, and large (small for 2.70 EUR, medium for 3.80, large for 5.20). My coffee ghiacciate was a deliciously melting dream, ways better than the extremely tasty one I had a couple of years ago at a Grom branch in Florence. Apart from this you can have a freshly pressed fruit juice or a chocolate-coated ghiacciolo (iced lolly).
If you find it difficult to part buy a package of organic meringues or a small glass of the organic spices they use (like cinnamon, liquorice, curcuma or ginger) for you or as a small gift.
Just for the records: Directly opposite Gelateria Gnam Gnam you'll find yet another ice-cream parlour focussing on all natural ice-cream: The Al Bancale at Piazza dei
Signori, 2 uses Galatea products to make their ice-cream, a brand that also offers an organic product line. However, no organic ice-cream here.
For a change you may also try ICream.it north of Prato della Valle. Their ice-cream is hidden in locked containers instead of openly presented, an important sign for high quality ingredients and no fuzz processing. Flavouring ingredients like basil or matcha often are organic and play the most important part in extremely smooth non-diary ice-creams (I had an intense yet delicate lemon-basil which unfortunately isn't always available). The milk used in the non-vegan flavours is not organic, but feel free to enquire about the origin of the ingredients: When I was there the staff was both friendly and knowlegeable. In 2018 a single scoop went for 2 EUR, and I did not have the time to check whether the place still exists in 2019. Let me know if you do.
[Padua, Padova, biologico, organic, vegan, ice-cream, gifts]
Right after arrival at Venezia Santa Lucia train station, you may arm yourself for the queueing at the waterbus ticket office with a delicious ice-cream, milk-shake or granita from Gelateria Grom fronting the entrance hall towards Canal Grande. Until recently they promised to use organic milk, some organic fruit, only natural ingredients and of course no additives, and had in general an eco-conscious agenda. However: In 2019 the promise was reduced to "natural ingredients", and the only thing they promise to use in organic quality is the milk for the milk shakes ("frappe"). All hints to the former supplier of organic fruit, the Mura Mura farm, have been deleted. Nevertheless -- the ice-cream is still gorgeous, and a favourite of the locals, too, as can be seen by the increasing number of often crowded Grom branches in Italian cities.
For the ice-cream you have to specify a size -- small, medium or large -- and can choose a suitable number of varieties; up to two varieties for the small size (at a hefty 2.60 EUR), and up to three for medium size (3.20 EUR). For something different (or if you are vegan) try a granita water ice slush (small at 3 EUR, medium at 4 EUR or large at 5 EUR).
Grom has more, in fact older branches in Venice, one of them on Campo San Barnaba square. If departing the waterbus at Ca' Rezzonico stop you can't miss it when following the only way into the open of the square and keep an eye on the left side.
On local websites the owner of Gelateria Alaska, a small whole-in-the-wall shop near Campo Santo was dubbed "king of organic ice-cream in Venice", so I went there to try and ask. While the all-natural ice-cream itself was perfectly palatable he told me that the main ingredients, milk and sugar, were too expensive, but he would occasionally use organic fruit and spices. Unfortunately he couldn't tell me whether any of the flavours on display contained organic ingredients that day.
If you read my post on Rovigo you may be tempted to try Gelato Fantasy in Calle dei Fabbri. DON'T! They are not connected with the Gelateria Fantasy in Rovigo, and they definitely do not use organic ingredients.
Ceased to exist
The following place does no longer exist, though you find still find references on the web:
[Venice, Venezia, organic, ice-cream]
Tuesday, 11 June 2019
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 day bar, 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 Italian day bar cum Viennese-style cafe cum confectioner's shop where the main ingredients are organic.
At Pasticceria Da Angelo you will find organic and vegan options clearly marked, and the friendly staff will proudly and often even unasked point out what's organic. If you don't 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. Vegan sandwich options are readily available, with organic "cold cuts", while the meat items on non-veg versions usually aren't organic. A serving of ice-cream comes at 1.40 EUR, with each additional scoop for 1.10 EUR. Vegan varieties aren't restricted to fruit flavours, you can also choose among a number of flavours made with rice or almond drink. Buy a bag of organic cookies to take home if you like, and if you're lucky there may be an organic lunch, dinner or ice-cream special during your stay. Advanced booking by phone is required for such an event.
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,
one ice-cream scoop goes for 1.40 EUR, each additional one adds approximately 1 EUR to your bill. Personally I prefer the delicate, creamy dairy flavours to the vegan fruit-based ones. The granite are available in two sizes, for 2.80 or 3.50 EUR -- the refreshing lime-mint or coffee varieties will get you going in a minute on a warm summer day. Unfortunately the granite are served in one-way plastics cups, each with one-way teaspoon and straw, so you will produce a lot of waste.
On bank holidays the shop keeps open as on Sundays.
To buy everything you need organic, from fruit and veges over dairy products and vegan alternatives to dry food, natural cosmetics, the forgotten towel or household detergents 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 which also has a small section of self-service zero waste dispensers for grains, nuts and a few other dry foods. 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.
There's 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 ("organic food as once upon a time"), 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 refreshments, and a handful of seasonal fruit and veges, probably directly from the owner's garden. When cycling or driving through make sure to pay a visit to this friendly shop.
[Padova, Padua, Selvazzano, Montegalda, organic, biologico, zero_waste, vegan, ice-cream, supermarket, coffee, cafe, grocery, bodycare, household]