Sunday, 26 June 2022
Ever wanted to stay in a bicycle-friendly hotel that produces its electricity itself with its own water power plant? Surrounded by
the Esslingen university campus on the entrance side and the Hammerkanal, a side channel of the Neckar river, at the back the
EcoInn makes a perfect over-night stop for cyclists on the Neckar valley bicycle route running from Mannheim to Villingen-Schwenningen. It is not only a sustainably driven hotel (with many certificates and memberships in organisations for the common good), but, for groups and families, also offers its services as a eco hostel at special conditions on request.
For my stay I got a
basic, easy to (steam-)clean room in the part of the house which probably is given to hostel guests, painted with organic colours and decorated with a climate-neutral photo wallpaper. Despite its austerity the room, among others due to the absence of synthetic carpets and cushions and the use of healthy, sustainable materials felt comfy and welcoming. The towels are made from organic cotton.
Unfortunately the breakfast is not fully organic: You can have organic eggs, tea (though no green variety), chocolate and fruit spread, bread, milk and soy yoghurt, inside or on an outdoor terrace over the Neckar channel.
The hotel does not have a regular restaurant but welcomes external guests for breakfast and opens a pop-up buffet restaurant every third Friday of a month: The vegetarian Delicantina partially uses organic ingredients, though the overall focus is on regional produce.
In general city life seems to begin on Wednesdays in Esslingen: When I came hereMonday through Tuesday with a small itinerary of partially organic (day) cafes,
I found most of them closed, so unfortunately all descriptions below (except for one) are based on upfront research and a view from the outside, confirming the existance and general appearance of the place.
Prior to arrival, I was especially looking forward to have organic coffee and cake or tart at
Fräulein Margot, and indeed, on another day of the week it would probably have been fun to watch passers-by in the pedestrian area.
Second on my list was the day cafe
Entenmanns on Rathausplatz, an
organically certified place offering salads, bowls, and Swabian Maultaschen.
This filled local pasta originally is a vegetarian dish, at times using left-overs of Sunday meat. Locals lovingly refer to it as "Herrgottsb'scheißerle" ("little Lord God's fuck over"). The name refers to when the meat-containing version was eaten during the meat-prohibit of lent.
I would have loved to have this dish here,
simply to do justice to it as its inferior (and throughout Germany omnipresent) industrial version comes with highly processed usually industry-meat based fillings.
Much of the ingredients they use at Entenmanns are produce of their
own market garden which currently is in the conversion period to certified organic agriculture.
To the rescue on Mondays and Tuesdays comes
Brot & Cafe. However, don't expect
gourmet coffee from this self-service eatery
to the right of the Naturgut: Despite the separate entrance it also serves as the supermarket's bakery till. Given the vicinity to the university campus I expected to see a lot of students, but as the campus itself seemed deserted (probably due to pandemic online courses) the cafe was, too.
Since the reason of my stay didn't leave me with the opportunity to eat out on my own I did not have time to try one of the first organically certified restaurants in the greater Stuttgart region, simply dubbed
Kitchen. Wholeheartedly catering to both, omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans using predominantly regional produce according to the season, they also describe themselves as zero-waste supporters. So I really would have loved to eat out here (or in their
sister restaurant in Böblingen) – if you have the chance let me know about what you think.
Monday, 30 May 2022
Window shopping in Esslingen's city center is fun – due to an abundance of lovingly curated boutiques and owner-run specialist shops. However, during off-work hours, the nice pedestrian areas and small streets seem almost deserted: Many of these shops do not have employees and, consequently close at 6 pm, many also for a lunch break. However, if you come here during work hours or on a Saturday morning til early afternoon, you will find a lot of assorted goods and handicraft that anonymous malls and stream-lined shopping districts wouldn't care to offer.
Take the Greek specialist shop in the Küferstraße shopping street, opened in autumn 2021 during the covid-19 pandemics:
Odysée Feinkost attracted my attention by presenting an assortment of organic pre-packaged snacks in its shop window. The day after I came around and found an owner who was both, knowlegeable about his goods and which of them were organic – and glad to have a chat. There are not enough organic preserves, herbs, wines, oils and dry food to satisfy all needs, so better come here for inspiration rather than with a fixed shopping list.
For fairly traded exotic dry food, spices and beverages walk a few steps to the Weltladen (almost) next door which also has a decent assortment of loose-weight food and sweets.
Opposite the fair-trade shop you'll find a real gem:
Die rote Zora is not just a
fair and slow fashion boutique, it's a small tailor start-up: The three young women working in the workshop in the back of the shop design and make the original and robust clothes that you can buy here or via their webshop. The feel of the garments and the quality of the seems should be sufficient to cure you from cheap fast fashion. The prices are really fair, too: good to make a living and absolutely affordable given the almost timeless, yet lively (to some probably: naughty) designs, repairability and longevity. For an air of Berlin in Swabia, I highly recommend both, the shop and the label, dubbed after the militant West-German feminist group – or their fictional name-giving character, a female leader of a gang of young orphans fighting injustice.
Interestingly, Esslingen has more than one local fashion designer cum tailor-shop cum fashion boutique:
own label Aleksarah also focusses on natural and sustainable materials, with flowing and colourful, but more conventional designs. Also this shop is a female enterprise, but unlike the Zoras, offers a small selection of other fashion labels aside their own designs. Needless to say that all clothes will be adapted to your fit if necessary.
Wednesday, 11 May 2022
A serious university city Esslingen sports a small package-free self-service supermarket where you can fill your boxes, bottles, bags and jars yourself, and any pre-packaged item either comes in glass or paper packaging.
Ohne Ebbes (the Swabian dialect word "ebbes" refers to "anything", hence the name can be translated as "without anything") is located near Hafenmarkt, with its entrance facing Milchstraße. Missing a glossy window front it can appear nearly invisible. The clean and welcoming shop offers dry food, sweets, cleaning detergents, household items, and sustainable body care. All non-packaged items are organic, but since the shop is missing an organic certification it is not allowed to advertise this. Only some pre-bottled regional beverages are not organic. The shop follows a German tradition among organic shops in university cities to offer a 10 percent discount to students on Thursdays.
For fairly produced gifts, fashion and dried food fair-trade world shops always are a good bet. But the
Weltladen in Esslingen is even better: At its left-hand site it has a small zero-waste shop-in-shop with
gravity bins containing nuts, cereals, pasta, sweets, coffee and more, not all of them certified organic, though. Bring your own jars, boxes or re-use clean paper bags from previous shoppings. As long as covid-19 requires stricter hygiene ask one of the helpful volunteers who are running the shop to fill them for you – and use the time for a chat. The shop also offers a small assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables.
To buy loose weight tea take a stroll over Germany's next to oldest stone bridge, the
Innere Brücke ("inner bridge") over the Neckar canals and the Maille park: In a beautiful pavilion integrated into the bridge you'll find Esslingen's branch of the
Tee Gschwendtner franchise. If you present your tea box to the shop assistant before you decide on the tea of your choice they are happy to fill customer receptables.
A few steps north of the train station you'll find a
branch of the nation-wide operating
Alnatura supermarket chain inside the ES shopping mall. It's far from being dedicated zero-waste but offers a basic assortment of preserved food, wine, beer, juices and soft drinks, dairy products and vegetable alternatives in retour glasses or bottles as well as package-free bakery products (provided you sport a bag), fruits and veges.
If you prefer a regional chain of organic supermarkets head for the
Naturgut branch inside the old fire warden. Apart from diary products and beverages there's no focus on returnable deposit bottles and glasses, but you may of course buy package-free fruit and greens. For bakery items turn to the right at the entrance: The bakery counter is located inside the attached self-service day cafe, Brot & Cafe.
Although Germany's arguably largest organic bakery chain, Munich-based Hofpfisterei ("bakery with appointment to the (Bavarian) court") traditionally restricts its branches to Bavaria (and the German capital Berlin), there's a
Hofpfisterei shop in the pedestrian area of Esslingen's old town, too. As in all Hofpfisterei branches, there's not need to argue with the shop assistants when you present a bag or box to take your breads, rolls and pastries home – they will happily comply.
Outside the city, in Sulzgries, you'll find the organic farmshop of the
Eglisenhof farm, a grower of both, veges and grapewine. They also have a (local)
delivery service. Unfortunately the vinification of their grapes by a local co-operative does not (yet?) seem to happen according to organic standards, at least I was not able to find any organic local wine and even met strong resistance when I asked for it at local wine specialists.
The farm also has a booth at the farmers' market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
However, you have to rise in time to get there as the market closes already around noon.