Saturday, 18 September 2021
The idea was simple: Instead of flying – why not travelling climate-friendly? Most certainly this would take some time, but travelling Oslo–Berlin–Paris took time for the famous painters, writers and artists more than a hundred years ago, too.
Upfront research showed that it would have been possible to reach Trondheim within a little more than two nights and a day during the summer 2021, but we were restricted to travel in the first half of September by the date of a family festivity, limited days off from work and the end of the Bavarian school holidays. With only 10 minutes connecting time in Hamburg and, in case of a miss, the next possible connection one week later due to change of timetables on the Swedish part, we gave up on the plan of the fastest possible route. Instead two additional nights, one in Hamburg, and one in Copenhagen, would not only give us a little leisure to re-visit these cities, it would also increase the amount of money to spend: If you decide to travel Europe by train and do not have all the time of a university break a reasonably priced Interrail ticket simply won't suffice.
Finally the travel itinerary came up to
Altogether four nights and about three and a half days involving six train companies – most of them not co-operating. Had we had the time and money for a return trip it would even have been possible to take bicycles on the tour (at least to the Norwegian border).
Amidst the covid-19 pandemic a new privately held German train company took the courage to re-establish over-night travel by train on the North-South line through Germany, one part of the train departing from Salzburg, another from Konstanz by the lake Bodensee to be united on their way to the island of Sylt via (among others) Munich and Hamburg. The train is operated two times per week and tickets can be booked online only. The company informed by e-mail that the departure of the train wouldn't be visibly announced at the train station, but sent time, platform and car location for all stations on the route.
With this information at hand I didn't get nervous when the display at platform 6 in Munich Ostbahnhof announced that all trains would depart from platform 11 or 12 (presumably due to the strike of the Deutsche Bahn train drivers in the summer of 2021). Some fellow passengers found out that this also applied to the Alpen-Sylt-Express, and the entire crowd moved over.
What didn't show up in time was the train by the time of arrival and not even by the time of departure, and as announced, there simply was no information. A helpful staff member of the Austrian train company ÖBB reassured us that the train would arrive here, and finally it appeared on the platform display and, by about half an hour delayed, arrived.
From now on everything went smooth (at least until we reached the Norwegian border). Due to the pandemic no strangers were booked into the former Deutsche Bahn couchette compartment which came at a price of 300 EUR for the two of us. The interior as well as the common wash and toilet facilities were clean, though a little worn. The almost doubly priced (or, in luxury class even more expensive) sleeper (with private room) is of French origin, and there's a very competitively priced seat car (starting at around 70 EUR).
On the train it would have been possible to order a pair of organic soft pretzls, organic tomato soup and organic porridge for dinner and breakfast, though no organic drinks.
Clean sheets were provided for all six sleeping places, and despite being a German train the proper way of sleeping was the Southern way wrapped into the sheet and covered with a blanket. Needless to add that in the couchette car you are expected to make your bed yourself. Complimentary drinking water to brush your teeth was not provided.
Hamburg–Copenhagen by DSB/DB
Danske Statsbanen (DSB) and Deutsche Bahn (DB) co-operatively run the city connection between Hamburg and Copenhagen via the Storebelt bridge, so buying tickets more or less spontaneously and without providing personal data, at a German or Danish train station usually shouldn't be an issue. The direct IC train runs four times a day to and fro and keeps waiting at the platform in Hamburg central station between arrival and departure. Unfortunately you aren't allowed on board more than fifteen minutes before departure – the train will be closed while the staff is having their break.
There are more connections where you have to change trains, but with almost all of them the journey takes around five hours.
The direct Intercity train is comfortable and – just as the night trains – has capacity for bicycles. Ticket prices vary, depending on whether you have a Bahncard discount card, as well as on how long in advance and where you buy it.
Copenhagen–Malmö by regional train
Effectively an urban train line over the Öresund bridge tickets for the Öresundtåg regional train can be bought from the ticket machines at København H – anonymously as long as you see away from the card payment which is the most comfortable payment method if your stay in Denmark isn't long enough to use Danish cash.
Since we travelled during the covid-19 pandemic passports had to be provided in the train which stopped but was closed during the border control.
Malmö–Åre/Storlien on the Snälltåget night train
As far as I know night trains between Stockholm and the Swedish-Norwegian border at Storlien have been running for ages, and quite recently the privately held Snälltåget has extended its network to Berlin (via Copenhagen and Hamburg).
During the summer we could have travelled Munich–Berlin with Deutsche Bahn, with four hours the fastest train connection within Germany, and taken the Snälltåget from there, but as the Swedish company changed to their autumn timetable this connection did not work out.
The ticket for two in a private couchette came at 4000 SEK (about 400 EUR) and had to be booked on-line. Due to covid-19 restrictions the remaining four beds weren't filled up, but we were given all six complementary packs of drinking water. The choice at the restaurant car dubbed "Krogen" was limited due to the pandemic, and did not include any single organic item.
Washing facilities in the couchette car are limited to the common toilet.
The beds are a little wider than on the Alpen-Sylt-Express which might have been the reason for that my sleep was deeper and less disturbed during that night. On this train we were given duvet covers.
The train is provided at Malmö C in good time before departure, so we were able to board almost an hour before.
By the way: The train company's name, Snälltåget, is a play on words. The Swedish word "snäll" means "nice" and is a false friend with the German word "schnell" meaning "fast". Before IC and ICE trains took over the city connections in Germany, the then faster trains were referred to as "Schnellzüge", "fast trains".
Åre/Storlien–Trondheim: The last miles
What should have been a 1.5 hours train ride with the Meråkerbanen regional train
from the Snälltåget's final destination Storlien to Trondheim, turned out to be a show stopper for climate-friendly travel as well as a tedious money sink.
When planning the journey in June 2021, the timetables of Meråkerbanen were still on-line, although we expected a rail replacement bus service due to the ongoing electrification work on the route (just like on our last train journey from Stockholm to Storlien in 2017). What we did not expect was that there was no public transport service at all!
Locals told us that the connection has not been operated for the entire covid-19 pandemic, mainly because the Norwegian and the Swedish side wouldn't agree on the test and vaccine control procedure at the border.
So we had to hire a cab from one of the taxi companies in Åre: Taxi Åre did not have any cars left, but Topptaxi was willing to drive us from the train station of Åre over the border to the nearest Norwegian village, Meråker, at the hefty price tag of 2100 SEK. Due to an initial misunderstanding on behalf of the taxi operator we ended up paying only 1700 SEK for the 1.5 hours ride which would have been the price from Åre to the border. Given the fact that Storlien–Meråker would have been much shorter, this was probably a fair deal for both parties.
Since it was raining (the expected weather) we asked the taxi driver to drop us in front of the Coop Xtra hypermarket in Meråker where we could wait inside the "cafe" corner for the bus to Trondheim. A little more than an hour later we were heading over to the bus stop at Meraker school from where the bus no. 670 would take us to Trondheim. (Mind you that this 1.75 hours public bus service does not run on weekends.)
[The_Conscious_Traveller, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Salzburg, Munich, Konstanz, Hamburg, Berlin, Copenhagen, Malmo, Stockholm, Storlien, Aare, Trondheim, eco, nighttrains, trains]
Wednesday, 08 September 2021
While organic lunch options aren't difficult to find (namely in the neighbourhoods around Altona station) the organic evening out requires more research, especially for Monday evenings. The list I am presenting here surely isn't exhaustive since it is the result of a two-days stay, so I'm glad for additional contributions.
Italian antipasti, oriental mezze, Spanish tapas or a simple pasta dish -- the organically certified wine restaurant Piccolo Paradiso serves vegetarian food from the Mediterraneans. The intimate, organically certified place breathes the atmosphere of an Italian trattoria, the home-made food owes its taste to the quality of the organic ingredients rather than the skills of an ambitious chef. So do not expect a fine dining experience, instead come to enjoy mother's versions of vegetarian starters.
Advanced booking is advisable, and you shouldn't arrive too late as the kitchen closes around 10 pm.
Note that the restaurant keeps closed on Sundays and Mondays.
A small chain consisting of two restaurants Edelsatt
is not an ordinary burger place: What you get here are tasty game burgers
served without bread or in organic buns from the Springer organic bakery. No smoke-ladden air as in many, also high-end burger grills, tasteful decoration and
reusable cotton towels in the bathrooms -- the restaurant in
the Karolinenviertel neighbourhood is most certainly a place for the extended evening out with friends or the romantic dinner.
A small assortment of organic softdrinks and beer (of the Stralsund-based Störtebeker brand) are being offered to accompany your meal, and if you don't feel for a game burger you may opt for a salmon, vegan quinoa or vegetarian aubergine-mozzarella one, or for a change, a game sausage.
The second (older) restaurant is located in Winterhude.
If burger means fast-food to you, head for Dulf's Burger a few minutes walk in Western direction. The burgers served here are made from organic beef, and the queue in front of the place was most impressive when I decided against waiting in the rain during the "Hamburger Dom" fun fair next door. If you come here I'd be glad to hear about your experience.
If your budget allows for the price tags of high-end cuisine you may opt for a dinner at organically certified
Landhaus Scherrer located directly at busy Elbchausee in Othmarschen, a short walk from the river promenade.
While covid-19 measures are in place the affordable bistrot is closed but its menu is available in the gourmet restaurant.
It mainly consists of fish, meat and offal dishes typical for the region, everyting of course refined and made with the best organic ingredients and accompanied with high-class French and German wines (if you decide for it). If you want to familiarise yourself with the bourgeois Sunday kitchen of the German north, this place decorated in country-house style is definitely worth it.
The typical audience however is probably not the crowd you may be used to mingle with: elderly and arrived in predominantly tasteless, yet expensive cars, though not necessarily dressed with Hanseatic style.
More to try
Here's a list of evening-open (partially) organic restaurants and eateries I found during my research but did not have time to visit. Your impressions are appreciated!
Ceased to exist
The following places shut down or were replaced by other, not organic ones, although you still find them on the web:
- Restaurant Olsen, Bellealliancestr. 45 (Mediterranean, German gourmet)
- Wakuwaku, Dammtorstr. 29-32 (Asian fastfood)
- Nat, Heuberg 1 (International)
[Hamburg, Altona, Othmarschen, Winterhude, organic, vegetarian, restaurant, burgers, lunch, dinner, takeaway, covid, corona]
Tuesday, 07 September 2021
Leaving the train at Altona station does not bring you to the heart of the city but to the vibrant neighbourhoods of Altona (to the East) and Ottensen (to the West) offering a great choice of lively (partially) organic places. None of them are very posh as the distinguished bourgeouis citizens usually live and roam elsewhere, and there's a good chance to mingle with locals.
Where to stay
As long as you are satisfied with a basic yet clean and well-kept hotel room head for
the Schanzenstern. The name derives from its original location in the Sternschanze neighbourhood, but even though the hostel moved to its current location surely fifteen years ago references to its old address haven't vanished from the net completely. Most rooms are
equipped with bunk beds, and you are well advised to book in advance especially if not travelling alone.
The entire building is painted in clear basic colors, orange and blue the rooms, yellow the hallway. Since rain water is used
for flushing the toilets its colour can be explained easily, and the soap dispensers in the bathroom are filled with liquid organic hand wash.
If you're travelling by bicycle there's a locked shed where you can store it safely overnight. The hostel also has a handful basic three-gear bikes to rent, at a price tag of 10 EUR per day, not to go fast, but well suited for the sett surface streets around.
The hostel's 100% organic breakfast buffet keeps open daily from 7:30 to 10:30, but is not included in the price for the night. For additional 9.50 Euro you can order it until late the evening before. The restaurant also serves organic lunch on weekdays, and there are board games and journals to spend the time with.
Breakfast and lunch alternatives are located within five-minutes walking distance:
For one there's the Zeit für Brot ("time for bread") artisanal show bakery next to a branch of the Denn’s organic supermarket chain in Ottenser Hauptstraße (The chain has a second supermarket nearby which also serves snacks at their self-service cafe.) Through a window you can watch the Zeit-für-Brot bakers at work while buying German bread, fresh from the oven. If stepping by for a coffee or another non-alcoholic drink, a pastry, cake, savoury snack, or a light lunch (all organic) queue with the other customers and place your order at the till. When the pandemic restrictions are over you may again find a place at one of the tables inside and enjoy the gorgeous smell of real bread together with your snack.
For the time being you have to be lucky to find a spare seat outside under a sunshade also sheltering from the occasional rain shower.
The place serves El Rojito coffee, and this is always an excuse to come here.
Cafes and lunch restaurants
Another organic breakfast alternative is cosy cafe Lillisu offering 100% organic food and drinks. In addition to breakfast the women owners also serve sandwiches, filled pasta, spaghetti, soup and salads for lunch, both vegetarian and omnivore, prepared in the tiny kitchen in view of their guests.
Place your order at the counter
and add a home-made cake from the display.
You'll be served but are expected to return to the counter for payment.
Set breakfast plates are served on weekends only.
Decorated in pastel colours this is also the place to buy nostalgic presents and some organic delicatessen (chocolates, olive oil, coffee, ...) as well as "Glück in Gläsern" ("happiness in jars"), (in)famous 100% non-organic nostalgic sweets many Germans will remember from their childhood, sold by the piece.
As in the Schanzenstern restaurant a selection of magazines from Hamburg-based publishers are there to be read by the guests.
For a coffee break my tip is the cafe of a local coffee importer specializing in the coffee of South-American co-operatives,
El Rojito. Not all of them are organically certified, but the driving force behind is a registered society which has been supporting fair and social working and trading conditions for more than 30 years.
While pandemic restrictions apply you can have your coffee outside only: There's outdoor seating in the backyard, though not in the morning and on Sundays, and some space in front of the cafe. Their coffee is also served by the Schanzenstern hostel, and the shop sells the full range of their coffee beans as well as some other items such as organic honey.
For a sweet threat head back to Altona train station (where you by the way will find another organic supermarket, this time an Alnatura branch).
Since 1913 there has been an Italian ice-cream parlour in Ottenser Hauptstaße, which, after world war II became Eiscafe Venezia. Today, the owners are no longer of Italian origin, but use
organic milk for all of their about 20 flavours. Unfortunately the ice-cream isn't fully organic itself; the scoop goes for 1.40 EUR in 2021. Usually the cafe closes at midnight, but you may find it closing earlier on bad weather.
The place also serves Italian-style coffee drinks with organic milk from a proper Cimbali pressure machine, but I'd rather advise to take the extra meters to Zeit für Brot as their coffee is far better.
Package-free organic self-service supermarkets are also on the rise in Hamburg, and given the subcultural context of the neighbourhood you won't be surprised to find one here as well: Stückgut recently moved from its old address Am Felde 91 to a beautiful corner shop at Alma-Wartenberg-Platz. Apart from the usual product range common to all these groceries this one offers organic tea, fresh fruits and veges, antipasti and cheeses and a colourful range of liquid body care and household chemicals which make the shop a proper full-range retailer. There's a second branch in St. Pauli with a smaller product range, among others missing fresh greens.
More to try
Here's another organic cafe and a bakery I found during my research but did not have time to visit. I'll be happy if you'd share your impressions with me!
Closed during covid-19 pandemic
The following places do no longer exist although you might find them referenced on the web:
- Alohachérie, Weidenallee 2a (vegan)
- 2 B Bio-Kiosk, Juliusstrasse 2 b (late-open convenience store)
[Hamburg, Altona, Ottensen, St_Pauli, organic, coffee, ice-cream, zero_waste, unverpackt, supermarkets, grocery, eatery, lunch, breakfast, cafe, hotel, accommodation, bakeries, covid, corona]
Monday, 08 January 2018
An inner-city district to be developed from scratch is the most exciting thing in the life of city planners, and Hamburg's Hafencity with its recently opened Elbphilharmonie concert hall is Europe's biggest inner-city development in modern times. When finished it will consist of ten often quite different neighbourhoods, with many sustainability aspects considered.
If you have the time take part in one of the guided tours (free of charge) or pay a visit to the Sustainability Pavillion Osaka 9. The latter houses a small fair-trade cafe bar dubbed Die kleine Elbfaire where you can have a coffee or soft drink and buy pre-packaged fairly traded sweets.
With its name drawing from the similarity of the words "fair" and "Fähre" ("ferry") the little coffee bar is a spin-off of
Elbfaire, a fair-trade lunch cafe and meeting place with a pleasant backyard run by the ecumenical association of 17 Hamburg-based churches. On weekdays you can come here for an organic vegetarian lunch between
12 am and 14:30 pm, or step by for a fairly traded organic coffee drink together with home-made organic cakes.
Another organic lunch option is the self-service day cafe of the nearby Alnatura supermarket.
When looking for healthy organic food in the Hafencity you may be guided to
Greenlovers, a lunch restaurant serving soups, stews, bowls and salads using predominantly locally sourced ingredients. Unfortunately the promising name is misleading since the place does not have an organic agenda. However, I was assured that tofu and eggs always were organic, and if you dare to ask you may occasionally find one or another organic vegetable used in the dishes. There's a second branch near the townhall with longer opening hours, keeping open Monday through Saturday until 7 pm.
[Hamburg, Hafencity, organic, fair, vegetarian, eatery, cafe, lunch, supermarkets, coffee]
Thursday, 15 January 2015
The Hanseatic city of Hamburg with its important seaport and press and media industry can easily and comfortably be reached by train, both, from most bigger cities within Germany with Deutsche Bahn as well as from the Danish capital of Copenhagen. You can also travel over-night, with direct night train connections, both from the South (starting in Salzburg/Austria and Konstanz/Germany) and the North, from Sweden.
[The_Conscious_Traveller, Germany, Hamburg]