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]
Sunday, 20 August 2017
As you might have noticed from the restaurant reviews Stockholm is full of small-scale local food chains -- the majority of them with two or three branches when counting in the day-open cafes covered by this post.
When entering Stockholm C train station through the main entrance and immediately descending to the basement you'll notice the bright green signature colour of the Coop supermarket store (which, by the way, should be able to provide you with sufficient organic food for your trip). With its entrance in your back you'll easily discover a branch of the city's first and so far only fair-trade coffee chain
Barista. Fine when you're on the go, but they also have a real cafe in Söder. Coffee and milk are organic as is the yogurt you may have for breakfast and the majority of all ingredients used in salads, sandwiches and scones. Their aim is to have a fully organic store cupboard in the very near future but do not promise anything for fresh produce. If you stay in Stockholm for a while you may consider a customer card which entitles you for a ten percent discount on your purchase and an Ethiopian school child for a free meal.
If you're looking for a place to work alongside a tasty coffee drink (made with organic milk if not plain) head
Johan&Nyström coffee roaster's bar and co-working space in Kungsholmen. You can rent a working place
or meeting room by the
hour, day or month, and enjoy organic
juice or iced tea. Not all the coffees and teas you may want to buy for use at home are organic, and you have to ask about the ingredients of the (absolutely tasty)
toasted sandwiches and pastries. Note that the place accepts
There are two more Johan&Nyström cafes in town, one near Mariatorget (shop, class room, coffee and tea bar) and a coffee house in Östermalm. The latter will offer co-working space and meeting rooms starting autumn 2017.
Note that the opening hours given below apply in summer. In the dark season many shops including these open later and close earlier.
If you walk or cycle along Folkungagatan in Söder you might pay attention to a shop window filled with bicycles.
Bicycle shops aren't an attraction on its own right in bicycle-friendly Stockholm, but you may want to have a closer look at this one, as Café Le Mond isn't just a bicycle (repair) shop, but a cyclist cafe offering partially organic breakfast, soups, salads and sandwiches. On Tuesdays and Fridays there's a breakfast buffet (cyclists are entitled a discount), and on weekends you can have brunch.
On weekdays between 11am and 2pm there's free coffee with your meal.
Since I could not make it inside, I'm happy to hear about your experience.
In and around museums
If you're on a tourist's track you may find relieve in that an organic coffee drink at Moderna Museet on Skeppsholmen is easy to have -- not at the museum's cafe bar itself, but at the entrance to
Arkitektur - och designcentrum next door. Here you find Café Blom, a cosy self-service cafe with a serene outdoor terrace accessible without a ticket to the museum. Bread and pancakes, most lemonades and some of the ingredients of the tasty and nourishing salads or sandwiches are organic but stay away from shrimps, mayonnaise, chicken and meat products.
For an all organic coffee or lunch break head for Fotografiska cafe inside the museum of photographic art. Unlike the museum's restaurant it is however not accessible without a ticket to the exhibition.
Arriving early at Stockholm C and fancy a 100 percent organic breakfast? Take the short walk to
Café Genuin, a somewhat hidden organic bakery. For later on the day
lunch sandwiches, wraps and salads
are available, too, and of course a coffee or soft drink, roll or fancy pastry.
In the heart of Gamla Stan you'll find Naturbageriet Sattva, a holistic, predominantly vegan organic bakery, not using refined sugar. Step by for a soft drink, decent coffee (with organic cow's milk if you like) and a tasty cinnamon roll (kanelsnurra), but scan the organic labels on the pre-packaged beverages as not all of them are organic. In summer they also offer pre-packaged vegan organic ice-cream. Seating is limited, especially when the weather disallows for outdoor tables on the street.
When the weather is nice the island of Djurgärden is humming with locals and tourists alike, and all places covered in this section keep open only when a steady stream of visitors can be predicted.
In winter all of them are closed, and opening hours outside the light summer season quite restricted. Places inside the theme parks require the purchase of a ticket.
On the water-facing promenade inside Gröna Lund entertainment park the Boardwalk Café offers organic and fairly traded coffee drinks and tea on the go. Note that the cinnamon roll adverted as a package with the coffee is neither of both. The opening hours match those of the entertainment park.
Inside Skansen outdoor museum you'll find a self-service Koloni outdoor cafe covered by the eateries and restaurants section. Note that the opening hours of this predominantly organic place are more restricted than those of the museum itself.
Open to all tour goers on Djurgården is decidedly sustainable
Rosendals Trädgårdskafé. Unfortunately I couldn't make it there during their opening hours, so no review here (yet). Note that the place accepts cards only.
Waiting for a flight is tedious, and having an overpriced coffee at an uninspiring airport coffee bar an efficient way to kill the time. Fortunately Arlanda allows you to do this with a better conscience, with tea brewed from an organic tea bag or an organic, fairly traded coffee drink served with organic milk in a real ceramic cup instead of a one-way plastic or cardboard one. To do so
on international terminal 5 watch out for the Lavazza sign presiding over an otherwise boring place dubbed Food market. They also offer 0.2l tetrapaks with organic orange or pear juice.
There are also two Johan & Nyström coffee bars at terminals 2 and 4.
[Stockholm, organic, coffee, breakfast, lunch, snacks, fair, cafe, Arlanda, airports, trainstation]
Sunday, 13 August 2017
Restaurants in Stockholm may surprise the foreign visitor with practicalities: Most places have unisex toilets, and an increasing number of places trade entrepreneur safety against customer's data privacy and the right to pay her bill anonymously: They do no longer accept cash, only cards. Given the high resolution of current cameras which make it easy to spy your pin code it sounds fun when shop owners argue with customer safety here, but alas, it is the sad reality, so be prepared.
Eating out at lunchtime in Sweden often means "smørgås", in the restaurant version a slice of bread heaped with salads. Its modern interpretation with fusion influences can be found at fully organic Kalf & Hansen
at Mariatorget. Choose a set menu and organic, partially home-made drinks from the fridge, pay, sit down and be served. Five of the menus ("Oslo", "Stockholm", "Nuuk", "København", and the children version dubbed "Vimmerby") are variations of the same theme: Swedish "falafels" made of fish, meat or vegan -- you choose. What's different is the bread, the veges of the season and condiments to go with. If this is not what you're up to you may opt for the soup of the day or a cheese sandwich or simply step by for a coffee and (vegan) cake. Rhubarb lovers will be delighted by the rhubarb lemonade -- less sweet than elsewhere a refreshing delight. Note that the place does not have a public toilet and closes early in the evening. There's a second branch in Hammarby Sjöstad which keeps open during lunch hours only.
Summer nights may be long in Stockholm, and everybody is enjoying themselves outside. At this time of the year an evening with a light predominantly organic meal at a terrace overlooking the waterways is one of the most pleasant things to do. So head for Koloni Strömparterren, a summer only self-serving kiosk at the northern end of Helgelandsholmen next to Norrbro bridge. Have a refreshment, a sumptuous salad, smörgås, baked potato, or cake and coffee drink. If you are in the mood for a traditional shrimps sandwich: Here's the place to try. And if you insist you'll get a real drinking glass instead of a disposable plastic cup for your water or soft drink.
There's another self-service kiosk inside Skansen theme park, located next to the dance floor. If you can tolerate the musical accompaniment it's the best option to get decent food (including pancakes with berries and whipped cream) and coffee in the park, although everything is served in one-way dishes.
The third Koloni summer kiosk is located on Saltsjö beach, and they run three indoor branches all the year around, too.
For a posh evening out head for the Fotografiska museum's ambitious restaurant sporting a nice sea view to Djurgården and Skeppsholmen. It's a short (though ugly) walk from Slussen traffic hotspot which is currently being rebuild in a cyclist friendly and human way. The restaurant's focus is on 100 percent organic ingredients and zero food waste, although the first does not apply (yet?) to the contents of the bar. During the restaurant's summer break an informal and easy-going outdoor grill takes its place, the Veranda with a simple vegetarian set menu (one for children and a bit more elaborated one for grown ups) which you can complement with grilled sweet water fish (røding), a pork steak or sausages.
The aperitif cocktail ("grogg") was nicely balanced although based on inferior Beefeater (the bar has better gins on offer), and there's a non-alcoholic version, too. Wine and other drinks can be choosen from the bar's menu.
Unlike the museum itself the restaurant still takes cash.
It's easy to be vegan at the places mentioned above, but if you fancy a purely vegan restaurant playing with a bunch of cliches mount the flight of stairs behind Fotografiska to Hermans Trädgården. Before you take a seat in- or outdoors to adore the fine sea view be reminded that an all-you-can-eat place run with the slogan "Give peas a chance" most certainly is somewhat special. During rush hours (between 6 and 7:30 pm when I was there) you may find yourself confused in a crowd of people queuing inside. There are two queues: One for the organic self-service buffet, and one for the cash desk. Find the end of the last one (the one made of people without plates), tell the friendly staff how many grown ups, children and students you are, order your beverages and pay. During lunch hours (11-15) the set menu goes for 135 SEK, at dinner time and on weekends you pay 195 SEK per person, students are entitled a 50 percent discount (as long as they sport a valid student ID and buy a drink), and children pay according to age.
You are provided with a plate, so now it's the time to join the second queue which will lead you to a richly laid table offering soup, bread, warm and raw salads and dishes, a hearty mingle-mangle inspired by European and Asian cuisines. Organic tea, tisanes and coffee from a self-service side-board come free with your menu, with oat milk if you like. Help the staff to clean the tables -- as soon as the rush is over it's easy to have a small talk, and try a vegan cake for dessert.
In the heart of Gamla Stan, directly located at Stortorget with its bloody history you'll find Grillska hus which got its name after its former owners, the Grill family. Today it is run as a socially responsible enterprise and houses a cafe cum restaurant sporting a one star certification from KRAV ("matboden") as well as a bakery cum pastry shop ("brödboden"). The one star makes it the restaurant in this post scoring last in the percentage of total organic ingredients. If you don't mind the touristy buzz in general here's a responsible place for lunch, early dinner or coffee amidst the crowd.
More to try
Here's a list of (partially) organic restaurants I found during my research but did not have time to visit or found summer-closed. I'll be happy if you'd share your impressions with me!
Ceased to exist
The following places shut down and were replaced by other, not organic ones even though you find references to them on the web:
[Stockholm, organic, lunch, dinner, vegetarian, vegan, bar, restaurant, eatery, coffee]
Saturday, 12 August 2017
If you believe that ice-cream was something for sunny and warm weather places take a trip to Stockholm and learn about the Swedes love for "glass" (the word is derived from French "glace"). Since Texas-born (and Paris-trained) pastry chef Nicole Emson started her local ice-cream chain Stikki Nikki in 2008 your next organic ice-cream parlour is always just a few steps away.
The pink-coloured branches do not offer coffee or pastries, just delicious mouth-licking ice-cream on the go in generous helpings. Even the crunchy ingredients like caramel, cookie dough, or roasted coconut chips are prepared in the shop at Mariatorget. Mind you that the scoop (draped with a spatula the Italian way) for 35 SEK is huge, comparable with two scoops elsewhere. Which is sad as this makes it difficult to try all the tempting flavours available (fruity vegan options among them). Bigger helpings (55 SEK for two, and 65 SEK for three scoops) are available, or you buy by the (half) liter to take home. Unfortunately most places keep closed during the winter.
Open all year around is 18 smaker ("18 flavours") near Mariatorget, and the reason for this is that they share the venue with Cheesecake Palace. So it's up to you to decide whether you go for predominantly organic ice-cream or cheesecake. I did not try the latter, but the ice-cream is delicious and goes for 32 SEK the small scoop (you decide whether you want to have one or two flavours the scoop). Two big or three small helpings cost 46 SEK, and for 60 SEK you may decide upon three or four flavours. Some of them (like the Polkagris variety containing crushed red-and-white-striped candy) may contain conventional ingredients, but vegans can't complain about choice. Note that you pay first and specify the flavours afterwards.
When you feel for an ice-cream in tourist hotspot Gamla Stan
your second option besides Stikki Nikki is Lisa's coffee, tea and sweets shop offering prefab organic ice-cream of the Danish brand Hansens. Since 2017 all Hansens ice-cream pops have been certified organic, so this is a safe bet in convenience stores, too.
[Stockholm, organic, vegan, ice-cream, coffee, cafe]
Friday, 11 August 2017
Whether you arrive in Stockholm by train or the airport train Arlanda Express -- your next business hotel serving (partially) organic breakfast is just
a stone's throw away: When you exit Stockholm Central station using the Arlanda Express exit you'll find a sign pointing you towards Nordic Light Hotel promising a predominantly organic breakfast buffet. It's included if you stay overnight, otherwise adults pay 195 SEK and children between 4 and 12 years 110 SEK.
Turning right at the airport train exit you will find yourself at the entrance of Hotel C immediately. Given the size and the ugliness of this unpersonal building the interior of the rooms is surprisingly pleasant and the staff helpful and of a natural friendliness that suggests a fair working place. In the bathroom you'll find Natrue certified natural bodycare -- body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser and cream, and liquid soap with the (less strict) Nordic Eco label. There's also a complimentary selection of organic coffee (and milk for the coffee) on the room.
The large (included) breakfast buffet is certified by KRAV but since there are several levels of certification the organic label in this case means more than 25 percent organic or 15 items only. This is disappointing especially since all the cold cuts, warm breakfast items, fruits and veges were conventional while I stayed here. Black tea, coffee, milk (cow, oat, and soy), yogurt (cow and soy), cranberries, a cerial, some seeds, crisp bread, orange and strawberry marmelade and honey sported an additional KRAV or Eko label, and the herring was MSC certified.
[Stockholm, organic, hotel, accommodation, breakfast]