The Organic Traveller
Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Munich: Shopping organic stuff late and on Sundays

Bavarian opening hour regulations are far from liberal, hence your shopping options on Sundays and after 8 pm are limited to, uhmmm, petrol stations, more or less. Not the kind of place you'll expect to find organic food, toiletries or other necessities in eco-conscious quality.

But the times, they are changing, and for the organic Munich traveller or inhabitant, there's no reason to despair anymore. Your best bet are railway stations, namely Hauptbahnhof (main station) and Ostbahnhof.

Biokultur

On Hauptbahnhof enter the basement from Elisenhof in Western direction, following the S-Bahn signs (if you come from the trains head straight ahead to the Eastern exit to enter the basement). Opposite the entry to S-Bahn (urban trains) you'll find Biokultur, a full-fledged organic supermarket. It's you're only choice for fresh organic fruit and veges on Sundays and offers everything you'll expect from a full retailer (including wine, household cleaning items, toiletries, ...) as well as a pleasant shopping atmosphere. It keeps open daily until 9pm.

Next to it you find a branch of the local organic Hofpfisterei bakery chain. As all of their branches it also stocks a small range of organic drinks, dry and dairy products as well as organic cold cuts.

Unfortunately the Hofpfisterei branch at Ostbahnhof train station does no longer keep open on Sunday mornings, but a five minutes brisk walk from the station you'll find one of those family-owned bakeries that are becoming so rare these days. Leave the station at Orleansplatz exit, cross the square and follow the tram tracks along Wörthstraße. At the end of Bordeauxplatz square, corner Metzstraße, you'll find Cafe Reichshof run by the Neulinger family, a lovely coffeehouse cum pastry shop. Treat yourself with their delicious organic cakes, icecream or a savory organic snack like the traditional Bavarian Weißwurst (sausage) breakfast. If you don't feel intrigued to stay shop from a huge range of organic bread, rolls, and cakes. You can also buy a small selection of prepackaged cheese and meat cuts, butter, milk and jams from the fridge opposite the coffee machine.

Fritz Mühlenbäckerei Haidhausen

Everything you need for a sumptious breakfast or cold snack (except fresh fruit and veges) can be bought from Fritz Mühlenbäckerei near Rosenheimer Platz. Between 1987 and 2010 this cosy artisanal baker's shop was the headquarter of one of Munich's eldest organic bakeries. Now the scent of warm bread fresh from the oven is gone -- all the production takes place in modern facilities in the outskirts of Aying. The shop however is still here and open on Sunday mornings, including a small grocery section equipped with a large fridge.

Back at Ostbahnhof trainstation, directly at the southern exit of the U-Bahn station into the Ostbahnhof building you'll find the place that will save your life after 8pm: This branch of the DM-Drogeriemarkt chain does not only stock the usual excellent range of natural bodycare, organic dry products, vegan alternatives and eco-friendly household helpers, but boosts a capable selection of dairy products, eggs and even a freezer stocked with organic pizza, berries, icecream, ... Unfortunately -- and unlike other DM branches -- organic choices and certified natural cosmetics aren't clearly marked on the shelves, so watch out for organic and natural cosmetics labels, and brands.

If you need a really good bottle of wine or spirit or another gift on a Sunday, treat yourself with a real Italian coffee, snack or sumptuous meal at L'Amar organic restaurant in queer-friendly Glockenbach neighbourhood. The place features a few shelves from which you can shop along. All of their cakes and antipasti are to go, and everything is guaranteed a 100 percent organic and yummy.

2018-10-24 16:00:00 [Munich, organic, wine, coffee, gifts, snacks, lunch, breakfast, bakeries, grocery, supermarkets, trainstation] Link

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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Budapest: Sustainable shopping

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.

BioABC

Food souvenirs

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.

Cultivini For high-end Hungarian wines pay a visit to Cultivini Wine Cellars and Tasting in 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.

Massolit (the backyard)

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.

Closed

References on the web do often exist longer than shops and venues themselves. The following places I found abandoned when I stepped by.

2018-10-13 15:00:00 [Budapest, organic, wine, grocery, market, supermarkets, vegetarian, vegan, zero_waste, lunch, breakfast, coffee, tea, books] 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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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Munich: Organic Pizza

The good news: As long as your organic supermarket is equipped with a freezer (which applies to all exceeding the size of a corner shop) you will be able to find some frozen pizza, and even if you feel the urge while most shops are closed, don't dispair! But come on, who really wants to feast on frozen pizza?

Italian pizza

If a bar stool will do, head for Bartu in Schwabing, a short walk from Münchner Freiheit. It's actually an ice-cream parlour with a hole in the wall to a pizza kitchen. Gorgeous, 100% organic pizza, and if you are lucky enough to live no more than three kilometers away they also will deliver home.

Pizza Verde Those living in the Neuhausen neighbourhood may do the same with Pizza Verde delivering within a radius of two kilometers. The pizza of course tastes much better when eaten directly from the (Italian) pizza oven, either on a bar table or in the guest room cum wine shop next door which has a table for twelve. Book this table in advance if you plan to come in company, it's a pleasant place to chat away an evening. The impressive menu offers all the classics, in addition to seasonally changing specials and creations of the house. Among the latter is a delicate combination of gorgonzola cheese, pears and walnuts and a surprising, though less convincing Vitello Tonato variety. Since all ingredients (and all drinks) are of high, purely organic quality, and the pizze made with great skill (The pizza base is pleasantly thin and crispy made of dough that was allowed to rest for a minimum of 24 hours.) it's hard to be seriously disappointed. Even the "Nutella" pizza for dessert (of course made with superior organic hazelnut spread) is palatable for those who are beyond thirty. You may also have a classical tiramisu or panna cotta, or simply step by for an Italian coffee shot.

If you'd rather opt for a waiter approaching you in mock-Italian, and TV screens on all walls Lo studente in Maxvorstadt near tube-stop "Universität" is the best bet. Don't forget to specify that you want organic pizza bun made with emmer wheat for your pizza. The toppings -- apart from fresh basil -- usually are not organic, but you may order a bionade organic soft drink. The pizza is good home-made fare of the best quality you can hope for with partially non-organic ingredients.

Manouche

Lebanese Manouche

For the Lebanese version of a pizza head for the neighbourhood of Sendling. A few steps from tube station Implerstraße you'll find a tiny restaurant named after this Levantine breakfast special, the Manouche, where it can be had all day around, alongside Lebanese soups, savoury pastries, mezze, Lebanese wine and sweets. All meat is local and certified organic, and most of the vegetables come from farms in the vicinity which, although not certified, embrace organic principles. Some of the beer ("Neumarkter"), juices and soft drinks are also organic. Unfortunately the flour is not organic which explains the tastelessness of the bread when eaten on its own but fortunately the mezze are full of flavour and cover up for it. Place your order at the desk, and help yourself with drinks from the fridge; your food, wine and coffee will be served. It's advisable to book in advance when coming as a group, to enjoy a glimpse of oriental atmosphere and friendliness in Bavaria. Note that the place is closed on Sundays, just like the falafel restaurant Beirut Berut diagonally across the street, run by the same owners.

Alsatian Tarte Flambe

The Alsatian version of a pizza, Tarte Flambe or Flammkuchen is a popular fast food on street festivals like the biannual Streetlife on Leopoldstraße or the triannual Auer Dult fair where you will find boothes selling it in organic quality.

Shut down

The following (partially) organic pizza places can still be find on the web but forget about them: They do not exist any more.

2018-03-21 07:40:00 [Munich, Schwabing, Maxvorstadt, organic, fastfood, lunch, delivery, coffee, pizza, wine, Italian, Lebanese] Link

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Monday, 25 December 2017

Organic Namsos

For those of us living in big Western cities and metropolises and used to a stable supply with eco-conscious products small Norwegian towns like Namsos in Northern Trøndelag come as a shock: In this rich country with lots of well-educated people the individual has to take a big extra effort to source organic food and eco-conscious household products. It's not only about to know where to go, no -- you may simply not be able to find staples in organic quality. Planning ahead often is no option since you cannot rely on supermarkets to have organic sugar or cream all the time, flavoured yoghurt, gomme (traditional Norwegian dairy spread), durum pasta and ice-cream once where available, but no longer, yeast or mushrooms (to name a few) have never been seen here. Creativity is key: Shop what's available and hack your meals according to what is on offer.

There's no support for the zero waste approach, in fact the big chains usually sell organic vegetables and fruit pre-packaged in plastic foil to avoid accidental mixing with the larger conventional batches.

Forget completely about eating out -- in a town like Namsos which has dozens of branches of the cheaper supermarket chains, but not even a single branch of more upmarket chains like Meny (which was closed about eight years ago) or Coop Mega (which was converted into an inferior Coop Extra at about the same time) the general inhabitants' priorities obviously do not include quality food. (The region's organic farm-to-table delivery service, Økomat Innherred, stopped serving Namsos at about the same time owing lack of demand.)

Food and staples

The good news is that even Namsos is not completely ignorant of a certain trend towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and, to my surprise, after years of stagnation, I have been observing an improvement since 2016. By now there's a steady supply of organic apples, oranges, lemons, bananas, eggs, milk, wheat flour, whole-meal pasta, butter and oil, fresh herbs and a basic assortment of dried herbs and spices, tomatoes (both fresh and canned chopped), onion, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, salad, tortillas, ketchup, coffee, tea, chocolates, muesli, apple juice, kefir and sour-cream ("rømme"), cheese, crispbread, sesame and sunflower seeds, preserved olives, canned corn, peanut butter and chocolate spread, honey, baby food and usually also bread, potatoes, rocket in summer, and cauliflower (I may have forgotten some items). Hence vegetarians are quite reasonably catered for, and this is a vast improvement compared with the situation only two to three years ago.

Omnivores have a harder life: You may be so fortunate to find "Gilde økologisk spekepølse", a cured meat speciality similar to a salami, and if you scan pre-packaged meat products (both frozen and fresh) you may find minced meat, sometimes even beef cuts and before X-mas pinnekjøtt. In general scan carefully for the "økologisk" keyword and all organic labels you know of, especially the Debio label, the European one and the Swedish KRAV. You may be surprised to find a new type of cheese, pre-backed rolls or even Norwegian beer.

Coop Extra Bygg Spillum To keep frustration as low as possible shop from the Coop supermarkets -- the Coop Extra Verftsgata within the Storsenter mall and the Coop Extra Bygg in Spillum offer most organic options and often complement each other. All products of the Änglamark own brand as well as all dairy products from Røros meieriet are organic. Veges are often advertised as the Aroma variety, but to be sure check for organic labels. The branch on Verftsgata has had a stronger organic focus during the past years and still offers a better selection of veges, among them pears, fresh ginger and garlic, and sometimes even of non-mainstream varieties. But the bigger Spillum branch has kept up: They even showcased a surprisingly good selection of organic lemonades and light beer from Reins Kloster for the holiday season 2016/17, proudly sporting hand-written organic labels. By now organic fruit and veges have their own sales area, so it's been easier to find them. The Spillum branch has been offering organic parmesan cheese, frozen bread rolls, plain yoghurt and even organic cream since -- products I've never seen in town before. Still, there are quite a few product categories which are impossible to find in organic quality, among them Norwegian staples like sauerkraut, frozen pizza and (!) Italian-style pasta made from durum wheat.

For ice-cream stop by the (otherwise inferior but late-evening open) Rema 1000 supermarket opposite the Rock City cinema: The chain recently invested in Kolonihagen, a 100% organic delivery service, allowing them to develop and extend their own brand. Some of these products (like ice-cream and orange jam) can be found in Namsos as well.

To supplement baking ingredients, dried fruit, tea and sweets head for the small Life healthfood store within the Storsenter complex -- just follow the indoors aisle starting at the Coop branch and head for the second shop to the left. They offer a decent range of products of the Helios brand of organic and biodynamic quality and are the most reliable and exhaustive source of organic tea and tisane bags in town.

Organic wine and stronger beer can be sourced from the town's Vinmonopolet also located in the Storsenter mall -- they usually have a small selection of organic items in stock, but you're required to order more fancy stuff in advance.

If you happen to be in town on the few occasions a farmers' market (Bondens marked) is being held or during the annual Kulturmartna fair on the premises of Namdalsmuseet in August shop for organic cured meat smoked in the sauna of Brattlia farm in Namdalseid. If you call in advance you may also pay a visit to the farm itself and buy their products directly (leave the bus from Steinkjer to Namsos at Lyngen stop and follow the signs.) On both market occasions one or two other local organic small scale farmers will sell their produce.

The best source for smoked or fermented wild salmon as well as fermented char or trout ("rakfisk") and dried wild fish is the town's only real butcher cum delicatessen, Aakervik. On a few occasions they also stock organic meat, and they are a reliable source of Norwegian lamb chops: Even though usually not organically certified most Norwegian sheep spend their lifetime roaming in the mountains, feeding on what the countryside has to offer, and thus, a stress-free death provided, can be taken for almost organic.

In general a huge amount of the country's organically produced milk and meat is being sold undercover as conventional food. Where, you might ask, go all the Norwegian organic hens at the end of their lives as producers of organic eggs? As of today organic Norwegian chicken meat products have been unseen of in the country's supermarkets. While the countries largest dairy distributor, Tine, seems to give up its long-time opposition against organic products, egg distributor Prior and meat distributor Gilde often are not interested in marketing their products as organic claiming that consumers would refuse to buy them as they would be perceived as overprized.

Household and body care

Detergents and toiletries of Coop's Änglamark brand meet the requirements of the Nordic Ecolabel and are your best choice for household detergents usually free from artificial colourings and perfumes. Unfortunately this label, to name a few disadvantages, allows aggressive tensides such as SLS and SLES and does not require all natural or even organic ingredients.

For superior natural skin care or even organically certified body care products you have the following options: The Life healthfood shop stocks a basic selection of creams, lotions, soaps, toothpastes and hair care products. In addition the town's only natural care hairdresser's cum beauty parlour Art of Nature in the center of town will sell organic hair and skin care to passers-by. You will also find a very limited selection of natural body care at Namsos Bandasje opposite Storsenter. There's no supplier of natural or even organic decorative cosmetic products in town.

Fashion

Fashionistas should keep clear of Namsos, but the local H&M branches at Storsenter offer a reasonable selection of fast fashion items made from organic and sustainable materials. Look out for the "H&M conscious" brand with their green labels.

2017-12-25 13:00:10 [Namsos, organic, wine, supermarkets, grocery, market, fashion] Link

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