The Organic Traveller
Friday, 06 April 2018

Dresden: Organic supermarkets and groceries

Organic wholesale in the capital of Saxony (which is governed by a red-red-green coalition) used to be dominated by the local economy, but since the oldest organic supermarket in town, Biosphäre, became part of the nation-wide Denn's chain in 2018, the picture has been resembling the one in other German metropolises: The market is devided between two local actors, a regional one and two of the nation-wide operating grocery chains, with a hand-full of smaller corner shops filling niches.

The largest density of organic supermarkets can naturally be found in the vibrant Wilhelminian style quarter of Neustadt north of the river Elbe with its -- gentrification aside -- still predominantly left-wing population of artists, students, activists, tourists, hipsters and bourgeois green-party voters.

Neustadt

It hasn't been always this way, but walking the old streets of Innere Neustadt with open eyes will present you with an abundance of shops and eateries boosting of vegetarian and vegan products. Many of them use organic produce, but won't advertise it -- partially because they blend with conventional products, and use of organic ingredients will vary, partially in fear of being prejudged as expensive. Fortunately it is nowadays easier to find an organic supermarket in this neighbourhood than a conventional one, so if you're tired of asking just walk to the next crossroad, and there you are.

The former Biosphäre markets are located here: the older one on Königsbrücker Landstraße opposite Schauburg theatre, and an even larger one in Alaunstraße a few metres from Albertplatz which replaced a conventional supermarket. Both have a self-service area where you can have coffee, cakes, pastry, sandwiches at any time of the day, and soups for lunch. Students are entitled a 10 percent discount on Wednesdays.

Berlin-based organic supermarket chain Bio Company has a branch a little south along the tramway tracks on Königsbrücker Landstraße. Just like the Denn's branches it closes at liberal 9 pm.

If you despair in face of the piles of plastics and paper wrappings you've been collecting while doing your regular shopping, re-use your glasses, containers and bags and refill them at Lose, a cosy zero-waste corner store in Böhmische Straße. You will be charged by weight. They do not limit themselves to selling dry food but offer veges and have a cheese counter as well. Since not everything is organic be careful to check the labels on the suspenders for the bio keyword or ask. The coffee corner is a nice place to recreate while your kids are busy in the playing corner. Mind you: like other zero waste shops they do not illuminate their window front, so be brave to try the door handle -- the place looks quite dark even during opening hours.

Altstadt

With the train stations as landmarks you can't miss your way to the next organic supermarket in the heart of the city: The Vorwerk Podemus grocery beneath track 3 in the eastern aisle of the central train station, Hauptbahnhof, is the only Sunday-open organic supermarket in town, with early and late opening hours. They will also sell you a coffee drink and sandwich to eat on the spot or to take away.

Bahnhof Mitte train station is your second chance: Directly opposite of the greenish-blue tower of the local newspaper's headquarter Pressehaus you'll find VG Biomarkt, an organic cooperative on the premises of the former newspaper printing plant. For members prices are lower, but the market is open to everyone. On weekdays they offer delicious lunch, and there's a cafe cum bakery shop featuring young local artists which (except on Mondays) opens half an hour before the supermarket itself, and closes at 7 pm on weekdays. Watch out on Mondays: The shop including its bistrot is open from 1 pm this day. Opening hours on Saturdays before Christmas are extended to 4 pm.

The Denn's Biomarkt chain not only took over the two former Biosphäre markets in the Neustadt but also opened a new supermarket within the Altmarktgalerie shopping mall.

Striesen, Blasewitz, Loschwitz, Johannstadt

VG Biomarkt has also branches in the neighbourhoods of Neustadt (Hechtviertel), Striesen, and Loschwitz (next to the downhill station of the cable-run suspension railway, Schwebebahn), however the one in Hechtviertel including its bistrot is members only.

A few meters from Blaues Wunder bridge south of the river Elbe, local butcher's chain Vorwerk Podemus has one of its pleasant wholesale supermarkets. First address for shortly travelled organic meat of animals which had a decent life. They also have branches in the neighbourhoods of Gruna, Neustadt, Alttolkewitz as well as a farmshop.

Another option in the neighbourhood of Blasewitz is the second Bio Company branch in town. Just like in the Neustadt branch the bakery disk caters for the early bird from 7:30 am.

The only branch of a nation-wide operating organic grocery chain so far is Alnatura on tram hub Straßburger Platz which many locals still refer to by its old name from GDR times, "Fucikplatz".

Bühlau, Weißer Hirsch

To find fully organic groceries on top of the hillside North of the Blaues Wunder bridge, in the elegant residential area of Weißer Hirsch and adjacent Bühlau interestingly proves to be more difficult. What I found instead was the shop of a small-scale vegan manufacturer, Vegannett (a pun made of the words "vegan" and "nice", while the second part of the name also refers to the name of the owner-founder, Annett). On the premises of a former partially organic butcher's shop she prepares vegetable spreads which you can buy in many of the aforementioned supermarkets. But if you happen to be there on a Wednesday afternoon, pay a visit, taste and shop. In addition to the spreads you can also buy local honey.

Klotzsche

If you fancy a stroll in the woods of Dresdner Heide or are on the way from or to the airport make sure to have sufficient time to visit the beautifully restored historical train station Klotzsche with its Vorwerk Podemus supermarket and the organic station restaurant, both catering for the early bird.

Closed down

The following (partially) organic supermarkets do no longer exist although you will still find references to them on the web:

2018-04-06 16:00:01 [Dresden, Neustadt, organic, supermarkets, grocery, lunch, snacks, coffee, zero_waste, vegan, trainstation] 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.

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.

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 accessoires 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 22:30:00 [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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This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Munich: Zero Waste

Organic supermarkets may introduce a larger audience to sustainable organic produce and thus spare the environment, but do not necessarily help to reduce the amount of one-way packaging, save plastics. As a conscious consumer you will of course prefer non-prepackaged fruit and veges, available from all organic groceries, supermarkets and market boothes, and hand your bag over the bakery counter, making it verbally clear that you do not need a paper bag, to avoid paper waste when buying bread and rolls.

You're also safe if you restrict your shopping of dairy products, juices and soft drinks to returnable glass bottles. Some organic shops (such as Vollcorner) offer a small selection of wine in deposit bottles. But what about sweets, baking ingedients or detergents? Until a couple of years ago Mutter Erde in Maxvorstadt had been offering refill for cleansing agents and washing liquids, but no longer. For quite some time your only option was to find your way to a decidedly zero-waste shop, but in 2017 the picture started to change, and some organic supermarket chains have introduced measures to reduce packaging.

Unless stated otherwise all shops in this post will help you out with reusable glas jars or organic cotton bags to buy on the spot, as well as deposit glass jars if you forgot to bring your own.

Farewell to plastics

The zero-waste pioneer in town is Naturlieferant, usually referred to as Plastikfreie Zone, a pleasant intimate shop in Haidhausen near Max-Weber-Platz where you won't find any plastic item but a lot of sustainable alternatives. The focus of the shop is an ever increasing range of sustainable household items, ranging from tooth brushes and toilet paper to glasses, lunch boxes and jute strings, but you may also shop a selection of food items like potatoes, pulses, nuts, flour, jelly-gums or the best Indian pepper in town. If you forget to bring your own jars your purchase will be packed in paper bags, or you can choose from re-used glass containers for free. You may also refill washing-up liquid, shampoo and liquid laundry detergent.

No wrappings

February 20th, 2016 the city's first and only zero-waste supermarket Ohne ("without") opened its doors in the neighbourhood of Maxvorstadt. Pleasantly furnished with wooden benches and self-made dispensers this modern version of a generously spaced mom-and-pop store gives you a pleasant vacation from brands and logos. It is offering bread, rolls and sweet pastries from a local artisanal bakery, dairy products and vegan alternatives in returnable bottles, a small selection of fresh fruit and greens, spices and dried herbs, a huge selection of pasta, legumes, flour and cereals, but also baking powder, coffee, tahin, honey, locally distilled gin and bitter, oil, toothpaste tablets and solid shampoo. There are also refill stations for washing liquids and cleansers, and you can shop from a small range of household and bodycare products (including environment-friendly condoms which are the only items in shop prepackaged in non-reusable wrapping). Preserves (like mustard, pestos and pickles) are sold prepackaged in reusable glass containers.

Your shopping starts by measuring the weight of your glasses, boxes and bags on the scales next to the entrance door. Now you can fill them from the dispensers and finally pay by net weight.

This crowd-funded supermarket is strictly organic and vegetarian. When the shop is crowded waiting time at the till is a little longer than you might expect, but take your time and have a coffee and home-made cake in the small cafe corner. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 am.

Supermarket chains to follow

In autumn 2016 the local Vollcorner supermarkets received an official permit by the Munich Department of Public Order (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) to fill their customers' jars and boxes with cheese, antipasti, processed meat products or cake. The Basic supermarket chain followed in summer 2017, and independent convenience stores often have done so anyway. So take appropriate containers with you when you go out to shop for food.

To avoid misunderstandings it is advisable to clearly point to your box before placing your order at the sales counter and tell the staff to tape the receipt to it. Otherwise you may end up not sparing any waste: In the beginning the staff at the Basic butcher's disk would use the sheet of plastic-covered paper they'd usually wrap the purchase with to hand it over to you, along with the receipt taped onto the paper bag they otherwise would have used as outer packaging. In the mean time they got used to the procedure but were ordered to decline customer requests to buy meat this way.

At the Basic self-service cafes you may lend a Recup coffee cup for a deposit which you can return at any other shop participating in the retour scheme. The supermarket chain also introduced dispensers reliably offering a selection of pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, and grains. Individual markets (e.g. Basic Bogenhausen) have coffee, tea and more. Basic supermarkets selling toiletries and household chemicals may have dispensers for detergents of the eco-friendly Sodasan brand. (The one in Bogenhausen does so.) These dispensers allow only to refill the standard volumes the choosen detergent is sold by when pre-bottled, i.e. you cannot refill smaller than the original bottles. So make sure you have at minimum a 1 l or 2 l bottle with you. If not refilling original bottles take one of the empty bottles from the shelf and scan its label before tapping to your own bottle.

To buy dry goods the procedure varies from branch to branch: Some like Basic Bogenhausen have prominently placed scales where you measure the tax weight of your containers before filling them. The scales will print out a receipt which you must hand in at the cash desk for tax weight detraction. Others like the one near Isartor expect you to fill provided scaled measuring jugs from the dry-goods dispensers, pay, and refill the content to the packaging you brought along (which can be quite tricky as they do not provide funnels). In the case of the latter you may not use your own containers for loose-weight dried fruit from the cardbox displays in the green-grocery section. Recycle small plastic or paper bags to buy these or bring small, light-weight cotton-bags.

Neighbourhood groceries

In Haidhausen the Lebascha neighbourhood grocery offers to fill all loose-weight products (cakes and bread, eggs, cheeses, olives, olive oil, jelly gums and liquorice -- only the latter is not organic) in bottles, jars and boxes you bring along. Ask for a deposit box (1 or 3 EUR according to size) in case you forgot to bring your own, and make sure to return it thoroughly cleaned. When buying eggs don't forget your own container as there will be a small surplus for a cardboard one filled on the counter. Also for the olive oil refill you must bring a clean bottle yourself.

Coffee to take away

Most cafes serving organic coffee are sufficiently aware of the coffee beaker waste issue that they will fill your own cup without hesitation. Some like Die Kaffee-Küche and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a discount for sparing the environment, and there is an increasing number taking part in the recup.com retour scheme.

2018-03-17 08:00:00 [Munich, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, lunch] 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.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Bremen: Organic Ice-cream

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

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

Since April 2017 a mobile ice-cream booth has been placed inside newly opened Markthalle Acht, located just to the right when you enter from Domshof square, a few meters away from Schlüsselkorb tram stop. It will continue to sell yummy organic ice-cream until the end of August, 2017, and there's hope that Kaemena's fresh Snuten lekker ice-cream will be served here after this date, too, probably from a different shop keeper.

2017-08-25 09:00:01 [Bremen, organic, ice-cream, cafe, accommodation, zero_waste] 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.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Organic Abano Terme

A classical spa town on the foot of the Colli Euganei hills, about ten kilometers south-west of Padova, 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 Padova-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.

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.

2017-06-17 21:00:02 [Padova, Abano_Terme, organic, zero_waste, ice-cream, supermarket, grocery] 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.