Monday, 26 August 2019
Forget about sushi, pizza, pasta, burgers, curries and other globalized commonplaces -- in Dresden it's much easier to find hearty home-cooked dishes made from locally sourced ingredients rooted in local and regional food traditions. This does not necessarily mean German -- mind you that the borders with Czechia and Poland are close, so many menus reflect influences rather from Eastern than Western or Southern European cuisines.
Many dishes include meat, yes, but all the places I am covering here have a decent selection of tasty vegetarian options readily available.
Old town and university campus
The most sophisticated ones in town may be had at Lingner restaurant on the premises of the neoclassical German Hygiene Museum ("Deutsches Hygienemuseum") marking the Western end of the 1x2 kilometres spanning inner-city park areal of Großer Garten ("Great Garden"). While you can step by for an Italian-style coffee drink (made with organic milk) and organic cake or a snack after a visit to the medical museum this is ways from the usual low quality self-service refectory to be found in many museums. They serve simple but decent lunch, all meat and meat products come from a local organic butcher's, the bread (though not the ice-cream which isn't organic) from an organic bakery in town, and many veges are also locally sourced and organic. Dinner starting at 5:30 pm is more sophisticated, and often thematically extending a current exhibition at the museum. While the outdoor terrace is popular during the warm season, dinner time during the winter season featuring a stylishly presented all-you-can-it buffet is perfect if you prefer it less crowded. When it comes to drinks
both tea, milk, juices and some soft drinks as well as all spirits printed in dark-green font on the menu are organic.
There's however no organic wine on offer (although a good selection of local ones).
Due to the somewhat remote location call in advance if you plan to arrive after 9 pm.
About ten minutes brisk walking from Hygiene-Museum will lead you to Cafe Aha (just across Kreuzkirche) which is covered here. Even longer west, facing the modern building of the University of Music in Schützengasse you may be surprised to find a small island of baroque buildings with a wild garden, housing the city's environmental centre, and a great disappointment: The cosy rustic wholefood restaurant on ground flour dubbed Brennnessel ("stinging nettle") once used organic ingredients and still can be found listed as an organic restaurant, but alas! -- no more.
South of the main train station however, on the campus of the Technical University the fully organic students' refectory
Biomensa U-Boot ("submarine") offers
one vegetarian and one omnivore meal at a very competitive price -- as a guest you pay 3.20 € on top of the student's price which -- depending on the dish -- ranges from 3.50 to 6.50 EUR. All food and drinks are also certified organic.
During the warm season outdoor seating is available. The bad news: The place is closed on weekends.
For rustic food and surroundings head for one of the oldest independent pubs in town, the Planwirtschaft ("planned economy") in the Neustadt neighbourhood, popular since its beginnings as an illegal pub in the late GDR. On mezzanine level they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as coffee and cake while the basement houses a pub which opens in the evening. When it comes to their supplies they focus on buying from local farms and enterprises as the (unfortunately not organic) independent butcher's directly across the street or a tea shop next door from which they also source the organic teas on offer. The goat cheese is always organic. They used to have an organic meat dish (which was marked as "bio" on the menu), but unfortunately no longer. Have a tasty organic apple cider (no more organic beers at my last stay), and ask about organic ingredients.
Young German kitchen is the promise of the Lila Soße ("purple sauce") gastro bar within the eccentric
Kunsthofpassage with its small boutiques and lovely places. Apart from daily changing main courses (most of them meat or fish) you can order German "tapas" to your liking -- warm, cold and sweet -- served in a glass as well as dips and bread. None of the courses are fully organic, but many ingredients are, and chances are high that you can combine cleverly if you ask.
Out of town
If you take the urban train number 2 from the Neustadt train station, either on the way to the airport or to a stroll in the woods of Dresdner Heide, get off Bahnhof Klotzsche (one stop before the airport) and have breakfast, lunch, tea or a snack in its 110 years old railway station. Since the folks of Vorwerk Podemus took over and restored the historical building in 2015 it has been home to a bicycle shop, an artist's studio, an organic supermarket, and the now fully organic station restaurant dubbed Bio-Bahnhofswirtschaft with its pleasant beergarden.
On Friday evenings from 5 pm the place also serves dinner or, May through September, a barbecue. Make sure to arrive well before 9pm as the kitchen keeps closing at this time. Travellers and ramblers may be glad to hear that they can fetch an organic breakfast or packed lunch on the go, though
unfortunately not on Sundays as the restaurant is closed that day.
The vineyards on the slopes of the river Elbe around Dresden form Europe's smallest, most northern wine region, and fortunately the Saxon state winery of Hoflößnitz in Radebeul turned organic. The small town located west of Dresden on the northern shore of the river is famous for the writer of travel fiction, Karl May and its Museum of North American Indian Culture and can be reached easily, both by urban train, tram no. 4 and bicycle. Follow the Elberadweg cycle route on the southern shore, cross the bridge at Niederwartha and turn back east on the northern shore cycle route through Radebeul until you find signposts pointing to the vineyards on the hill.
The Hoflößnitz winery has a small self-service restaurant, the Hoflößnitzer Weinschänke, with an outdoor seating area shaded by horsechestnut trees from where you have a great view over the grapewines and the valley while tasting the local wines. All wines, but not all the food are organic: Your best choice is the "Winzerplatte" -- home-made white bread with pickles, a little salad and a number of spreads of your choice of which the bread and the vegan spreads are organic.
There's also a small museum with information on all Saxon wineries and a wine shop where you can buy their products, mainly white and sparkling wines. Stick to Hoflößnitz for organic ones.
The following places ceased to exist, although you still may find references to them on the web:
Lilisou, Louisenstr. 58 (vegetarian, burgers, soups, curries)
ElectricLotus, Louisenstr. 58 (vegetarian, ayurvedic, Indian)
- Abutheke, Alaunstr. 68a (Middle-Eastern)
- roots, Hauptstr. 35 (vegan fast food)
[Dresden, Radebeul, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg, Neustadt, organic, coffee, lunch, dinner, snacks, restaurant, pub, wine, beergarden]
Thursday, 22 August 2019
About an hours train ride from Dresden, the town of Děčín may be used as a starting point for walking tours in the rough countryside of Bohemian Switzerland. Directly located at the Elberadweg cyle route you can easily reach it by bicycle, most conveniently along the southern shore of the river on tarmac surface (except when passing the small towns of Bad Schandau and Königstein). Eco-conscious visitors to the castle which is still being restored and the baroque rose garden however face a problem not unknown to smaller cities: There's no 100 percent organic place in town.
There used to be a raw and predominantly organic cafe, Zdravá kavárna Emavík near the Synagogue on the left (western) side of the river on the grounds of the historical town of Bodenbach, but it seems to have moved to Varnsdorf.
If you do not want to compromise you'd better buy provisions for a picnic. You should find a good selection of pre-packaged organic (dry) food, sweets and drinks as well as natural body care at the city's branch of the German chemist's chain DM
located within the Pivovar shopping center in Letna, on the Western shore of the Labe river where also the main train station is located.
The best option in the old town is Bio Koko, a light and cosy
zero waste grocery around the corner of Masarykova place. It stocks a great selection of loose-weight dry food and a few preserves and oils in glass bottles and jars. There's also a small fridge with organic yogurt and gorgeous fresh milk, but no fruits and veges. Not everything is organic, but all organic items are clearly marked with a green dot.
The place has a play corner for small children, but unfortunately no serving. You may however order a coffee to take away in your own cup (and pay by volume).
For an organic tea proceed to Coffee & Books, a cosy corner cafe cum delicatessen serving yummy home-made cakes, breakfast and snacks of high-quality though unfortunately not organic ingredients. The place with its upcycled interior and book shelfs (and a less pleasant outdoor seating area) used to have a range of organic tea bags of the Austrian Sonnentor brand, but exchanged them for a Czech brand, and since then only the English breakfast and the green tea have been organic. I decided to list this pleasant place here hoping that they may be convinced to introduce more organic items, perhaps organic milk for the coffee drinks as a start. The paper straws used here are a good start.
The tip for vegan Bistro Les on the foot of Děčín castle, located at the left-hand side of the bridge when crossing into the old town came from the owner of Bio Koko. It's not dedicated organic, but they are using unadultered produce of their own garden when possible. Due to the restricted opening hours -- closed, both, on weekends and in the evenings -- I could however not make it there.
Probably not organic
On the web I found customer testimonials claiming that the Burger Berg burger restaurant at the foot of the rock on the Western side of the bridge would use organic meat. The restaurant itself however would not confirm this, and the menu does not indicate a high level of eco-consciousness.
[Decin, Tetschen, Boehmische_Schweiz, Bohemian_Switzerland, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg, organic, vegan, coffee, lunch, snacks, cafe, bodycare, zero_waste]
Friday, 16 August 2019
For an organic day out into the countryside around Munich you might as well choose a destination with plenty options for organic food and even an overnight stay with organic breakfast at the destination: The Panoramaweg Isar-Inn bicycle route starting at Marienplatz allows you to reach such an area by bike in only 30-40 kilometers. Simply follow this route to Moosach and from there to the organic hamlet of Herrmannsdorf as part of the municipality of Glonn.
Don't expect a bicycle highway -- the parts of the route shared with cars have a tarmac underground,
but the rest are sufficiently wide gravel pathes with occasional pitholes. Nevertheless it is much more pleasurable to go here and marvel at the moraine landscape instead of using the main roads where you may be scared for your life as cars will frequently overtake you too fast and often with too little margin. It's also advisable to have a navigation app or map with you as the signage especially within build-up areas is sometimes insufficient.
Public transport isn't much faster -- an up to 1.5 hours affair (one-way) by public transport from Ostbahnhof station. Take a regional (faster) or urban train (S4) to Grafing Bahnhof, and continue with bus no. 440 to Westerndorf stop. You may take your bike on the train when buying a separate MVV-Fahrrad-Tageskarte bicycle day ticket, but not on the bus.
The Herrmannsdorf organic farm
From Westerndorf its only an about ten to 15 minutes walk (or a few minutes on bike) over the fields to the Herrmannsdorf farm, founded by meat-industrialist-turned-organic-farmer Karl Ludwig Schweisfurth and now run by his family. In addition to the organic farm with pigs and chicken roaming before the eyes of the visitors the hamlet houses an artisanal bakery, brewery and butchery, a coffee roaster's shop cum cafe dubbed Merchant & Friends, a kindergarden for the employees and a cooking and practise school offering day courses for visitors who want to learn the basics of the trades practised here at the farm. There's also an organic farm market, the
Herrmannsdorfer Hofmarkt with an outdoor garden café open when the weather is nice.
In the entrance area to this beautiful delicatessen store cum upmarket supermarket you'll find the market booth of nearby organic market gardener Gärtnerei Schmid. Depending on the season you may walk over to pick organically grown flowers from their fields and pay into the provided cash box.
The farm also has its own upmarket 100% organic restaurant, the Wirtshaus zum Herrmannsdorfer Schweinsbräu, for meat lovers definitely worth the troubles of getting here. The rustic and newly refurbished restaurant offers high-standard traditional Bavarian and Austrian cuisine based on the freshest ingredients including the farm's famous own beer and assorted spirits. The elaborately hand-written menu may be difficult to decipher, and even if you can read it you may have difficulties to understand what you read as it is deliberately flavoured with Austrian food terms. So better ask if you don't feel adventurous. It is also advised to book your table for the restaurant (ring in on your way here if you forgot to do so a few days in advance), and mandatory if you plan to come on weekends or on public holidays.
The restaurant which also has an outdoor sitting area is closed 30th December through 14th January, 2020.
If you are wondering what you are going to eat stroll through the farm and greet the pigs and piglets. During the warm season you can also sit outside under horse chestnut trees: There are food stalls, but as the Bavarian tradition of beer gardens goes you may also bring your own food (not the drinks though!). For the home-made ice-cream in a cone (only available in the warm season) walk upstairs to the restaurant. A single serving comes at 1.80 EUR.
In May, before Easter and Christmas the farm gives host to its traditional arts and crafts markets. Especially the advent market is a pleasant alternative to commercial Christmas markets in town. On these days a free bus transfer is provided from and to Grafing Bahnhof, and you may book a tour through the farm or one of the workshops. There are also special tours for kids. All tours and workshops (also outside the festivals) can be booked in advance at the website.
If you feel that a day tour isn't sufficient turn to the right instead of to the left at the bus stop Westerndorf, and follow the way to Gut Sonnenhausen, an organic and sustainably driven Bio-Hotel located in a carefully and tastefully restored manor. Although conferences, weddings and other celebrations are their main business bed and breakfast guests are welcome, too.
More to try: Westerndorf, Piusheim, Glonn and Grafing
If you’re looking for a cheaper place to stay the Schmiedhof organic farm in Westerndorf has a guesthouse where you can enjoy eggs and cheese (and most certainly also milk) from the farm for
breakfast. Simply let the farmers know in advance that you wish to have breakfast.
For something different take a bicycle ride to Piusheim: On Fridays, weekends and public holidays the Glonntaler Backkultur organic cafe cum restaurant keeps open and serves 100 percent organic lunch, dinner and snacks using the gorgeous products of their artisanal bakery as well as other locally produced delicacies like the
cheeses of the local organic dairy Hofkäserei Stroblberg. Each Friday it's pizza evening starting at 5 o'clock, and if you're lucky you may step by while one or another cultural arrangement is taking place.
During the warm season there's also a spacious beer garden.
The bakery shop itself is located across the street, and on weekday mornings you may head for the bakehouse in Mühlenweg ("mill lane").
Glonntaler Backkultur also runs two Sunday-open bakery shops in Glonn and Grafing which are closed on public holidays that are Monday through Saturday. Both have in- and outdoor seating for a snack or coffee break. Next to the shop in Glonn there’s a small fair-trade gift shop dubbed Handfairlesenes. On occasions you may find it open outside the quite restricted official opening hours, so step by for handicraft and other fairly traded products.
[Munich, Glonn, Grafing, Herrmannsdorf, Westerndorf, Piusheim, organic, fair, lunch, dinner, market, bakeries, deli, coffee, hotel, accommodation, cafe, restaurant, pizza, ice-cream, Bavarian, German, cycling, farms]
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]