Saturday, 13 October 2018
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.
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.
For high-end Hungarian wines pay a visit to
Cultivini Wine Cellars and Tasting
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.
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.
References on the web do often exist longer than shops and venues themselves. The following places I found abandoned when I stepped by.
[Budapest, organic, wine, grocery, market, supermarkets, vegetarian, vegan, zero_waste, lunch, breakfast, coffee, tea, books]
Friday, 07 September 2018
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.
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.
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.
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:
[Prague, Praha, Prag, organic, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, bodycare, household, hotel, accommodation, eatery]
Monday, 27 August 2018
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.
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.
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: Here the VG Biomarkt, an organic cooperative opened an entire organic warehouse on the premises of a former newspaper printing plant. Standing back from the main street the first floor is occupied by an organic convenience store supporting your zero-waste efforts: Apart from buying pre-packaged items, fruits and veges you can also fill dry goods into your own jars. On the second floor there's a well assorted organic fashion store mainly for babies, children and women, with a section offering organic body care, household chemicals, sustainably produced toys, stationary and more.
For members prices are lower, but the warehouse is open to everyone.
On weekdays the bistrot directly facing the street offers delicious lunch (only snacks on Saturdays), 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 opens at 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 also has branches in the neighbourhoods of Neustadt (Hechtviertel), Striesen, and Loschwitz, of which the one in Hechtviertel including its bistrot is members only.
The Loschwitz branch dubbed VG Balsamico is conveniently located
opposite the downhill station of the cable-run suspension railway ("Schwebebahn") next to
Körnerplatz at the northern end of Blaues Wunder ("blue wonder") bridge.
On the other side of the 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.
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.
The following (partially) organic supermarkets do no longer exist although you will still find references to them on the web:
[Dresden, Neustadt, organic, supermarkets, grocery, eatery, lunch, snacks, coffee, zero_waste, vegan, trainstation]
Monday, 16 July 2018
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.
When Markthalle Acht at Domshof square opened in 2017, the Kaemenas started to offer their ice-cream from a mobile ice-cream booth placed inside the market hall, a few meters away from the Schlüsselkorb tram stop in the city center.
The booth has disappeared since, but the ice-cream has not: Two or three flavours are now available from the Lütt Köök Huus day cafe which offers modern local lunch from noon to 3 pm, both vegan, vegetarian and omnivore, using organic milk and eggs.
[Bremen, organic, ice-cream, cafe, accommodation, farms, zero_waste]
Saturday, 30 June 2018
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.
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.
[Goettingen, Geismar, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, grocery, supermarkets, bodycare, household, tea, bakeries]