Sunday, 08 September 2019
Hauptbahnhof (main station) is not just
Europe's largest head train station with fine arched halls and a generous concourse, it's also home to
a Sunday-open two-storey shopping mall dubbed "Promenaden". The shops are predominantly branches of the same boring chains as everywhere but since organic products have been entering the main stream this mall not only gives you the opportunity to replenish stocks when everything else is closed but allows the traveller to quickly shop for organic provisions while changing trains or while the locomotive of their train is being exchanged.
The mall is situated below track level, just walk right away to the arrival hall and take the escalator stairs down. All shops mentioned here are located on ground floor, i.e. one level below the long distance trains.
Your first option is a 100 percent organic supermarket near the Western entry of the mall: The nation-wide operating Alnatura chain is running one of the smaller Alnatura Express convenience stores easily reachable from the tracks around track 8 for last minute provisions. Take the escalator stairs downstairs and turn right (facing away from the tracks), and there you'll easily spot the fresh-green coloured shop - a provider not only of all daily necessities, but also of fully organic snacks and coffee on the go. Unfortunately opening hours on Sundays are limited to the afternoon.
When you find it closed do not despair: Next to it a Rossmann drugstore offers a good selection of organic dry goods, preserves, drinks and natural body care, though less than the DM branch mentioned below. If in a hurry you can buy the following brands without hesitation: "Alverde", "Lavera", "Weleda" and most of "Dresdner Essenz" (toiletries), "EnerBio" and "Veganz" (food, the latter is entirely vegan).
The Eastern-most part of the mall (to the right when facing the tracks) houses a branch of the DM Drogeriemarkt
offering an abundance of certified organic dry goods, preserves, drinks, natural body care and eco-friendly household chemicals (see here for a detailed description), in short: everything you need while travelling except for fresh and frozen food.
Still in the East wing though more central you'll find a Vitalia wholefood market which in addition to dry goods, sweets and snacks, toiletries and detergents also sells fresh food: Here you can get organic bakery items and and sandwiches, fresh dairy products and a small selection of organic fresh fruit and veges. Prices here are more upmarket than at the DM branch, and you have to check for organic labels, too, though to a lesser extend. If in doubt the staff is more competent than the one in the drugstore superstores and they are two hours longer open on Sundays than the Alnatura.
If in the mood for a good coffee a difficult question might bother the eco-conscious traveller: Should I have an organic coffee on the go in a one-way cup from the Alnatura snack bar or do I rather prefer a wasteless yet conventional espresso in the beautiful bookshop cafe Ludwig on track level? I'd love to recommend the latter in this blog but the only organic item on offer is organic syrup to flavour the coffee. The coffee bar used to have organic apple spritzer but unfortunately no longer. With its beautiful ceiling the well-assorted bookstore however is worth visiting in its own right.
If you have the time to take a stroll into the city centre, make sure to pay a visit to the bakery of the Macis restaurant a little south of the Thomaskirche yard with the famous Bach memorial, if only to marvel at the mouth-watering fully organic and skillfully decorated cakes and club sandwiches in the shop window. Unlike the organic convenience store next to it the bakery keeps open on Sunday mornings, and if you buy of their artisanal breads some organic butter is absolutely sufficient for a gorgeous picnic.
[Leipzig, organic, vegan, gifts, snacks, lunch, supermarkets, grocery, trainstation, coffee, books, bakeries]
Thursday, 29 August 2019
Pirna, a nicely restored small town a little east of Dresden and the entire surrounding district Eastern Erzgebirge/Saxon Switzerland
may be best known for its bad reputation as a stronghold of outer right-wing extremists, neo-fascists and populists. But fortunately the town also has a strong civil society which cleans up the spitted at windows and works for a humane neighbourhood and the integrity of creation. So whether you're on the road with your bicycle travelling the Elberadweg or take the urban train from Dresden -- have a break to support these brave people and marvel at the town with roots in the stone age, its rich medieval and modern history.
For a coffee break head for Café Bohemia
a little off the market place, located in a restored
renaissance house built in 1480. When the weather is nice you may take a seat outdoors, on the pleasantly quiet cobblestones of Schmiedegasse ("blacksmith's lane"). The Italian-style coffee drinks are made with organic milk, and the rich and lipsmacking home-made cakes contain organic eggs and milk as well as organic fruit and herbs, both home-grown or collected from meadows in the surroundings with scattered fruit trees. As the Saxon cake tradition has it the friendly owner will serve the cake with a dollop of cream.
Unfortunately the cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
On these days, in the morning or if you prefer a hearty lunch proceed to the Vorwerk Podemus organic supermarket you may know from Dresden, with its fully organic bistro.
Another option for a cake or snack is the town's only artisanal organic bakery Spiegelhauer near the train station. The family also had an organic cafe cum ice-cream parlour in nearby Heidenau but this does no longer exist.
Small German towns with beautiful old city centres often have a small traditional organic corner shop in one of the historic lanes, and Pirna is no exception: However, the owners of the former organic greengrocery Naturkosten closed their shop near St. Mary's city church a few years ago and turned it into a beautiful organic bodycare shop, boringly dubbed
There's still another small-scale organic grocery in the south, a little out of town, the Bioladen in Pirnas Grünem Haus.
[Pirna, Heidenau, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg, organic, coffee, lunch, snacks, cafe, supermarkets, grocery, bakeries, bodycare]
Sunday, 18 August 2019
The rough and picturesque sandstone hills of Saxon Switzerland did not only inspire painters and componists of romanticism, but have been valued for centuries by both, alpinists as well as walkers and ramblers. Located at the border to the Czech republic it takes an urban train ride from Dresden (or a bicycle tour along the Elberadweg cycle route) to get here, either for a wee day out in the countryside or for a vacation inside the
If you get off the S1 urban train in direction Schöna at the
stop Hirschmühle Schmilka, and take the ferry to the Northern shore of the Elbe river you'll reach the village of Schmilka which, to a large degree, has been developed into an organic resort during the past years. The ferry is operated on demand, so simply go down to the landing stage and wait until the coxswain will see and fetch you.
The nucleus of the organic village is Hotel Helvetia which you will find, turning West (i.e. to the left), after a five minutes walk along the river shore. Its organic cafe and restaurant dubbed Strandgut ("stranded goods") serves both, the high quality no-frills salad for passers-by on a bicycle or walking tour as well as fine seasonal food drawing from both, the kitchen traditions of the region and the mediterranean. Both, vegans, fish and meat lovers are catered for with care, and if you are in the mood for a dessert, try the "Kalter Hund" ("cold dog") pudding made from cookies and chocolate, a children's favourite in former East Germany (though back then made with inferior ingredients). Unfortunately the cafe does not own a real Italian coffee machine, so the quality of the Italian-style coffee drinks is not as good as one would expect for a hotel in this category. If you stay overnight the hotel bar will however be able to provide you with a fully organic nightcap.
The hotel reception serves as check-in for all
eco-friendly overnight options in the village, among others
Villa Thusnelda next to the ferry stop with its luxury rooms.
The latter houses historical Café Richter with the air of a classical spa coffeehouse, but unfortunately it can only be booked as an event location.
A sign at the cafe will guide you to the
village's operating water mill, the Schmilk'sche Mühle further up the road in the direction of the forest, with its rustic mill restaurant, the Mühlenstube of Gasthof zur Mühle at the right hand side. Hearty local stews and soups (one vegetarian, one omnivore), pizza, bread and cake from the artisanal organic bakery opposite and tasty, heavy beer from the Braumanufaktur brewery which you cross on the way from the river are served here, either inside or in the beer garden. Depending on the weather and season you will have to order at the bar inside or from the outdoor food stall. Here you also can buy beer, bread and cakes to take home when the bakery next door is closed.
If you stay overnight in one of the rustic and lovingly restored rooms at the mill -- they have double rooms as well as family appartments -- you will have your breakfast at the Mühlenstube.
The bakery opens at dusk, and what hasn't been sold on closing time will be sold by the Mühlenstube. Opening hours of the brewery are restricted to the guided tours on Wednesdays and Sundays. If you stay within the resort a small tour inside the mill and the brewery is included in the package.
[Dresden, Bad_Schandau, Schmilka, Saechsische_Schweiz, Saxon_Switzerland, organic, vegan, coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, restaurant, pub, cafe, bakeries, breweries, hotel, accommodation, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg]
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]
Friday, 09 August 2019
One of the oldest cities in Germany, with roots back in Roman history, a rich medieval history -- including the world's oldest intact social housing project, the Fuggerei --, and the birthplace of Bertolt Brecht, one of the most influential writers in modern theatre, Augsburg is without doubt worth a visit. Conveniently located on the railway tracks between Munich and Nuremberg, urban trains ("Regionalbahn"/"Regionalexpress") from Munich central station depart twice an hour (at day time) and can be used with the Bayernticket flat-rate ticket for Bavaria which is the budget option if you plan to travel from and to Munich on one day (one way takes about 45 minutes). Augsburg is also an ICE/IC train stop: These high velocity trains will save you about a quarter of an hour on this route, but tickets usually come at a significantly higher price.
If you plan to stay overnight there's a pleasant fully organic hotel about three kilometers from the main train station, the
Bayerischer Wirt, a certified Bio Hotel
in the suburb of Lechhausen, yet easily accessible by tram and bus or bike.
Although the hotel is located directly at a noisy main road, the outdoor seating area in the backyard is a peaceful oasis. The hotel restaurant serves Bavarian meat and fish dishes as well as internationally inspired vegetarian ones -- with varying results: While the roasted meat was perfectly done (rare as requested, caramelized yet melting), and served with the most delicate onion crisps I've ever tasted, the strips of veal in mustard cream were quite bland and uninspired -- health food with boringly blanched veges and saltless (though home-made) spaetzle. Instead of ordering bottled mineral water you may fetch tap water from the water dispenser at no cost. Needless to say that all drinks are organic, too, and the aperitifs were a pleasant refreshment in the summer heat. The dessert menu is quite limited -- prefab organic ice-cream, home-made cakes and a parfait when I visited.
If a healthy local kitchen with liberal opening hours does not satisfy your expectations of a city vacation, there are two promising day cafes easily reachable for cyclists on the way from the main station to Lechhausen:
Café Himmelgrün near the
banks of the river Lech in Berliner Allee serves fully organic breakfast, lunch, coffee and cakes, and you can also find sustainable gifts and nice things. The cafe is run by Augsburg-based organic bakery Schubert -- you may have come across the name at the bakery counters of organic supermarkets, both in Munich, Nuremberg and elsewhere in Bavaria.
Augsburg's long history of textile fabric production, print and trade is reflected in the Bavarian State Textile and Industry Museum, less than 10 minutes from the inner city hotspot Königsplatz by tram no. 6. The museum's cafe dubbed
nunó (from the Japanese word for "cloth") is not only a charming spot in an impressive industrial building of a former spinning mill, but also predominantly and certified organic, serving light and internationally inspired lunch, breakfast and Sunday brunch, and of course a recreational coffee. Meat, bread, veges, and eggs are reliably organic and of regional origin if possible while drinks at the bar are still predominantly conventional. As most museums the place is closed on Mondays and -- except for special occasions -- in the evenings.
If you are so unfortunate to strand before closed doors the next organic supermarket with a small bistro -- a branch of the Denn's Biomarkt chain -- is located in walking distance.
In the backyard of St. Anne's church, the Annahof next to the fenced city market, the church parish gives host to a lively all-day cafe restaurant cum bar dubbed Anna with a great outdoor area, which is open in the evenings, too. The place serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch inspired by international kitchens. Once it was certified organic, but since it no longer is the restaurant is not allowed to advertise with organic ingredients. Nevertheless the managing director assured me that they were still using as much organic produce as before: both eggs, milk and most fruit come from organic
farms and distributors in the vicinity. On the menu
you'll find organic beer (Lammsbräu), on occasions organic wine (ask for it), lemonade (charitea) and ice-tea. For breakfast you can have
organic crunchy cereals, and
the bread comes from the Schubert bakery. Unfortunately meat products usually aren't organic. During the warm season the cafe sells organic ice-cream to take away in a biscuit cone, delivered by the Cramer's confectioner's. Only plain flavours like vanilla, chocolate, plan hazelnut and lemon were available in July 2019, the scoop at 1.50 EUR.
For 100 percent organic, crystal-sugar free, vegan ice-cream made with dates, cashew nuts and berries try Juice 'n Cream in the
Ulrichsviertel neighbourhood. The small shop uses renewable energies, and when hungry you may opt for a lunch bowl and a fruit juice.
For both, cooked and raw vegan lunch or dinner or a wrap, soup or salad in between head a little south to
Mom's Table, a fully organic vegan restaurant cum cafe. They also offer raw and no-bake cakes, freshly made juices, smoothies and plant-based shakes, coffee and tea as well as vegan organic wines. The
kitchen closes an hour before the restaurant.
For a no-frills coffee, snack or lunch you may also head for the self-service cafe at the city branch of the Basic organic supermarket chain
between the state theater and the cathedral.
Around the main train station -- bakeries
For last minute travel provisions you can buy an organic snack or sandwich at the Hofpfisterei bakery branch five minutes from the main train station. Unfortunately it's closed both on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you have ten more minutes you may also proceed to the
Schubert branch at the tram hub of
Königsplatz. There used to be a serviced day cafe but after some reconstruction work the area of the bakery shop has diminished to the sales counter and a small self-service area where you may sit down with a sandwich or snack. When the weather is nice there are also chairs and tables outside. The coffee drinks from the automatic machine could taste better, but everything is organic.
There's another Schubert branch inside the city market, around the corner from St. Anne's church (and you'll find another Hofpfisterei branch there, too).
[Augsburg, Augusta, organic, vegan, vegetarian, breakfast, lunch, dinner, Franconian, German, restaurant, eatery, hotel, accommodation, ice-cream, cafe, coffee, supermarkets, grocery, bakeries]