Friday, 19 June 2020
The epicentre of co-operative organic agriculture in Bavaria is surely the small town of Dorfen in the municipality of Erding, within half an hour easily reachable by local train from Munich. Departing from Ostbahnhof train station you can take your bike with you once per hour to reach a small Bavarian town that has been the home of the organic Tagwerk co-operative of local organic farmers since 1984 and prides itself to be a bee-friendly municipality. Though finally in vain a significant part of the population had been standing united against the environmentally harmful federal state infrastructure project of the A94 Isentalautobahn for about 40 years and is currently opposing the plans for the new B15 highway of the Bavarian state government.
The train station in Dorfen is the starting point of the Veldenbahn bicycle route (as part of the Vilstal bicycle route) on the rail trail of the historic line linking Dorfen with Velden (Vils).
To get from the train station into the beautiful town you have to surpass the hell of highly frequented Jahnstraße, and right before the nice and pedestrian-friendly bicycle route starts you may stop by the Tagwerk-Laden supermarket which demonstrates how a faceless interchangeable supermarket building in a car-centric environment may be turned into a human-friendly place. Usually this spacious organic supermarket with friendly employees and a relaxed atmosphere not only offers a lot of organic products from the region but also coffee drinks, snacks and cakes in its self-service cafe area, but unfortunately not during covid-19 restrictions. From mid of September 2020 they plan to offer lunch again each Thursday from 12 pm.
From here follow by all means the bicycle route through the
beautiful alley of Bahnweg where you'll come by an art&crafts shops offering all kind of things made from the exceptionally aromatic wood of the Swiss pine ("Zirbe"): Das Aromaholz Zirbe keeps open on Thursdays, Fridays and the first Saturday of each month.
When you arrive in town on one of these weekdays pay a visit to
Power Plant Ape for music, skateboards, and fair and organic fashion.
In autumn 2020 the shop is also going to stock the emission-free organic chocolate which will be delivered by the Schokofahrt cyclists.
The shop is located in baker's lane, and there is in fact an organically certified artisanal baker just around the corner: The flour used by Martins Backstube is daily ground from the corn of Tagwerk farmers. As for most modern bakeries there's a day cafe where you can have a coffee, cake or snack, and if you cannot make it here do not dispair: As many other Tagwerk products you can buy their bread from all Vollcorner supermarkets.
Bypassing the very town centre for a bicyle tour on the Skulptour II bicycle route which links seven wood sculptures commissioned by local artists in 2015, you'll reach Biogärtnerei an der Isen, a beautiful organic market garden. The place doesn't have a farm shop but in June and July you can come here to harvest yummy organic strawberries from their strawberry field. To buy their produce step by the Bauernmarkt farmers' market which is being held every Friday in Dorfen town - or find their market booth in Munich, at Mariahilfplatz on Saturdays and at Rotkreuzplatz on Thursdays.
The Tagwerk co-operative run a low-budget family and bicycle friendly hotel just a few steps from the train station but since they re-organized and moved the Tagwerk wholesale activities to a bigger location in Garching it does no longer exist although you still find the place mentioned on the web.
[Munich, Dorfen, Tagwerk, organic, fair, market, fashion, cycling, farms, accommodation, supermarkets, bakeries, coffee, lunch, snacks, Skulptour, Skulptour_cycle_route, Vilstalradweg, Vilstal_cycle_route, Veldenbahnradweg, Veldenbahn_cycle_route, covid, corona]
Wednesday, 06 May 2020
Organic and fair is going mainstream, and you will have to go a long way to find a big food retailer not stocking at least some appropriately labelled items. As long as you avoid the cheapest textile retailers you will also be able to needle-pick organic cotton fig leaves covering up for otherwise not exactly fair, social and environmentally conscious behaviour in many fashion outlets.
So even if you happen to be stranded in darkest suburbia, you will be able to survive somehow. In the Munich metropolitan area however, you have the choice of leaving your money at retailers more conscious than average. Some of them are local chains, others have outlets or franchise takers everywhere in Germany and sometimes even abroad.
Food and necessities
There's a wide range of organic full retailers as well as smaller organic supermarkets, so chances are good that you will find one in your vicinity. Most malls however, with their exchangeable shops and brands, stick to conventional supermarkets, and -- here's your choice -- a smaller health-food store (Reformhaus), often of the Vitalia chain. Larger and newer branches even offer a coffee or snack bar. Although some stores are up to 80 percent organic, check for organic labels, as up to half of their goods on sale may be conventional.
The DM Drogeriemarkt drugstore chain is being managed according to anthroposophical principles in such a successful manner that new branches have been popping up in almost every newly or re-opened shopping complex during the past years. It has always had a focus on organic and eco-friendly products (alongside the conventional stuff) and is most certainly the reason for that its competitors Müller and Rossmann now also stock a wide range of organic dry food products, sweets and drinks, as well as natural cosmetics. While the big Müller branches stock an impressive selection of natural cosmetics brands and recently stepped in for DM as a reseller of the Alnatura food brand, DM has a broader focus, with a series of eco-friendly household items such as nappies, detergents, dishwasher tabs, or organic cotton pads of the "nature" own-brand alongside the own-brands "DM Bio" (food), and "Alverde" (cosmetics and toiletries). In addition DM branches sell a growing selection of reputable organic and eco cosmetics brands, such as "Weleda", "Lavera", "Sante", "I+M Berlin", "Dr. Bronner" (all products fully natural) or "Eos organic", "Dresdner Essence" and "Kneipp" (watch out for eco labels). Products of the "Alnavit" brand for nutrition and allergene avoiding food and sweets are usually organic, as are the own brand of the vegan supermarket chain Veganz. Since they kicked out Alnatura as their exclusive organic food brand a variety of products by various organic producers has been showing up in the shelves. For detergents stick to products of the "Ecover" and "You" brands. Also a word of warning towards the nature washing detergent: It's labelled with the Blue Angel environmental label, but nonetheless contains synthetic perfumes which accumulate in your clothes.
Thus said: Fresh food aside you will find everything you need for a daily eco-conscious lifestyle. It should however not go unnoticed that DM own brands comply with minimum standards for organic food and natural bodycare only. Food products complying with higher organic standards such as the biodynamic corn products by Alnatura were replaced when the chain rearranged their product selection. DM is said to treat its employees fairly, though this may of course vary with the branch management. And if you are not satisfied with a product (like I was with the washing liquid) or simply bought the wrong one they guarantee that you may return it in any chain store, opened or sealed, even without receipt. I did it, and it always worked like a charm.
Lunch, snacks and coffee
All branches of the Basic supermarket chain have a self-service coffee and lunch bar, but the entrance area of a supermarket might not be the place for a read or chat while having a coffee. In the latter case you might opt for a franchise of the San Francisco Coffee Company (SFCC) coffee house chain, offering organic coffee, tea and soft drinks in front of the Ostbahnhof public transport hub. Their cakes usually are not organic but sometimes there is an organic option on offer, and recently organic croissants and pains au chocolate were added to the menu. Always on sale are organic and vegan nut and fruit bars of the Foodloose brand which make a good (uhm, and healthier) replacement. By August, 2020 the company however was insolvent, and we'll see what will happen to the remaining SFCC cafes.
SFCC cafes open up and and close down quite regularly, and unfortunately their website usually lags behind -- so before you head to a place listed on their website you may check whether I have it on my list of closed places.
The second franchise-based coffee house chain serving exclusively organic coffee is Black Bean. Unfortunately only the coffee itself (and some soft drinks) are organic -- no organic milk or pastries. However, since the Maxvorstand branch closed spring 2020 I am not aware of the status of the second branch in Schwabing. Both, Black Bean and San Francisco, offer free wifi.
The third Munich-based coffee chain franchise is Coffee Fellows, and they offer their coffee drinks both, in creamware, returnable Recup coffee cups and, from June, 2020, in home-compostable one-way cups (at present they still use plastic-coated paper cups).
The chai latte is fully organic as is all the milk and if you watch out for the "bio" label you will also be able to have an organic softdrink, unfortunately from one-way plastic bottles.
This chain has been expanding a lot recently and you will find them preferably in the vicinity of transportation hot spots like train stations, airports, fuel stations and shopping malls.
Interestingly one of the major bakery chains in Munich is an organic one: Hofpfisterei branches will usually sell you organic sandwiches (made of typically German sourdough bread) or pretzl with butter ("Butterbrezn" is not just a children's favourite), but on less frequented locations they may be outsold by early afternoon. In this case you may still shop organic spread (cheese or vegetarian) or sausages along with your breadrolls or opt for a sweet pastry. Most shops offer organic coffee-to-go, mineral water and softdrinks, and the bigger ones usually have a bar table or two. Both Hauptbahnhof and Ostbahnhof train stations have a Hofpfisterei outlet, although the latter one is closed on Sundays. An hour before closing Hofpfisterei offers a discount on breads, breadrolls and pastries, and many branches cater for the early bird, often opening at 7am.
For hearty Mexican fast food head for one of the Pureburrito branches.
Both, the C&A and H&M fast fashion chains have been extending their range of products made from organic cotton, recycled and eco-friendlier materials in the past years. C&A shops label their sustainable collection clearly visible on the price tag (look out for small hearts and the "Bio Cotton" string), but the product range is restricted to basic items such as t-shirts and underwear, and apart from this unreliable. Kids and teens are better catered for than adults.
Since they are only randomly presented together you may find yourself fine-reading labels.
H&M covers a broader range of sustainable products -- you will even find the occasional dress for women. Products of the "H&M conscious" brand can be distinguished by their green tag. They are presented together in separate areas, both, within the women, kids, and men stores, and hence easy to find. According to Greenpeace both companies are taking serious measures to reduce hazardous chemicals in the production process and to introduce fairer production.
[Munich, Schwabing, supermarkets, coffee, snacks, lunch, bakeries, grocery, fashion, bodycare, household, covid, corona]
Wednesday, 29 January 2020
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]
Thursday, 14 November 2019
Eating out organic in Mannheim is different than in other cities: First it means vegetarian and vegan-friendly (almost) without exceptions. Second there seem to be no places serving national kitchens -- no German Wirtshaus, no French cuisine, no Turkish fastfood and not even a mock Italian place. And finally organic here means organic for everyone, not just for a wealthy, hip and urban clientele. As a result you may miss cleverly designed cool places as much as refined coffeehouses or classy gourmet restaurants. The good news is that Mannheim's organic restaurants and cafes are extremely affordable.
For breakfast (or a snack or coffee during the day) head for Bio-Bäcker Bihn on the ground floor of the Stadthaus housing the city library and other communal facilities and staging the city's part of the Mannheim/Heidelberg International Film Festival. Enter the complex from the north-eastern entry facing Paradeplatz, and you'll find the unpretentious bakery cum self-service cafe at the right hand site.
The breakfast options served on work- and Saturdays until noon are sufficient for two not too hungry ones; you can choose from a menu which also boosts three vegan varieties or combine yourself. Coffee or tea on the go is possible, but you should rather bring your own refillable cup (or buy one on the spot) as a one-way paper beaker righteously will be charged with 25 cents. For breakfast, lunch or in between freshly prepared sandwiches are available, too (though no longer in the evening). The coffee comes from an automat, and the rather cheap-looking interior design maintains a low threshold. If you come with a family or friends pay together which will give you a small discount (10% above 20 €, 12% above 30 € and 15 percent of a total above 50€).
100 percent organic wholefood has been served for almost 30 years now at the Hellers self-service restaurant on the Kaiserring ringway opposite the Wasserturm ("water tower") landmark. Take a tray and a plate, fill it from the various stations offering salads, mueslis, soups and warm dishes, proceed to the cash counter and find a place in the winter-garden like dining hall. During the busy lunch hours (usually between noon and 2 pm) there's also a separate station offering a pan-fried dish of the day in small or regular size. It's located next to the entrance and you also have to pay there. The food follows the principles of health food, seasonal and low in spices (the "hot" components I had were rather bland).
At the entrance to the sitting area there's a coffee and cake bar also serving ice-cream (1.50 € the scoop).
The cake at around 3 € the piece and the coffee drinks compensate for the rather low lunch prices: 4.15 € for a large (that is: what elsewhere would be regular sized) latte and 2.50 € for a small espresso from a coffee dispenser is more than you'd pay in much more pricey cities, and
given that the adjacent Alnatura supermarket has a decent Italian pressure coffee machine (though only one chair and table for in-house consumation) better take a coffee next door.
The audience at Hellers is quite different than in organic restaurants you may be used to: a lot of elderly people meet here for lunch and coffee.
Unfortunately the place doesn't serve breakfast -- the
kitchen opens half an hour after the cafe opens and closes one hour (on Sundays and public holidays two hours) before closing time. Also good to know: The soap dispenser in the bathroom contains organic handwash.
If you fancy a better coffee in the Schwetzingerstadt neighbourhood you may step by Eddie's, the city's zero waste grocery store.
For an organic coffee, spritzer (of fruit juice and sparkling water) or wine head for the north-western neighbourhood of Jungbusch. The vegetarian, vegan-friendly gastro pub Kombüse serves Mexican-style fastfood as well as a daily changing soup and main course, on availability (but not reliably) using organic veges. It keeps open until late and may give you an impression of the city's subculture. The place also offers a take away service, but kindly invites guests to bring their own re-usable cups and jars. You will be charged the extra expense if you insist on one-way packaging.
South of the main train station
Interestingly the hippest and most expensive places aren't located in the very city centre but south of the railway tracks. The first one is the Glückstein in Lindenhof south of the railway tracks, a short way from the banks of the river Rhine. This organic vegan restaurant took over from Frankfurt-based raw eatery Rohkosteria.
You can choose from the menu which still contains a lot of raw dishes
(bowls and salads, burgers, wraps, falafel, vegetable "pasta", smoothies, shots, cakes and cookies), and two warm and filling daily specials at 8 EUR (I had a simple, yet very tasty lentils-based lasagna).
Although the place is open in the evenings no alcohol is being served here, and you can also have caffeine-free lupin-based "coffee" drinks.
The pleasantly designed interior and the unexcited atmosphere make it an ideal place to stay for a while.
If you have a bicycle take the chance to visit the neighbourhood of Neckarau where you will find two real gems: The first one opened in 2019: Hedonist is another modern, thoroughly designed eatery, friendly, but less homely than Glückstein, rather the type of place where you expect busy business people to have a recreational and healthy lunch break (but no worries, the audience isn't that uniform). You can buy everything to take away, much of it in returnable glass jars with a deposit of 2 EUR -- salads, desserts, falafel and burger sandwiches, pasta, but also German-style pork and fish main courses. On weekdays a set menu consisting of a main course and a dessert is available at lunch time. On the Thursday I was there it was (very filling and quite dry) falafel with some salad, a spoon of pickled beetroot, a small amount of lentil salad, prefectly crisp potato chips and tasty (though too cold) potato salad. While the food is being served guests may collect the generous glass of dessert from the fridge. I had the so-called cheesecake which wasn't actually a cake but a cheese cream with oranges and sponge biscuits. There were also tiramisu and blueberry or raspberry mascarpone cream. The entire vegetarian meal came at 8 EUR, if you choose a fish or meat main course the price tag increases to 11 or even 15 EUR.
There's also a rack of selected wines, pickles and condiments to buy home. The place is fuelled by renewable energies.
Right next to the Hedonist you'll find the second place, a carefully curated and decorated cafe cum wine shop cum organic delicatessen dubbed Bittersüß ("bitter sweet"). Too beautiful to call it an owner-run organic grocery store you can buy all daily necessities here -- fresh fruits and veges, and dairy products as well as organic bodycare. But on top of all this you'll find French sweets, selected cognac and other spirits, an abundance of wine, delicate chocolates, and last but not least the delicious products of the organic ginger bread bakery Friedmann in the same neighbourhood. Between noon and 2pm vegetarian lunch is being served on weekdays -- the daily changing menu you'll find on a hand-written piece of paper at the cashier desk.
North of the Neckar river
Bicycle lovers must not miss out the city's first bike cafe in the Neckarstadt north of the river Neckar. The
Café Flamme Rouge (dubbed after the red flag displayed one kilometer before the end of a bike race) was established in 2005 and serves
organic bread and rolls from the
Lummerland organic bakery with biodynamic vegetarian spreads, partially organic coffee, home-made pesto, pancakes and a lunch dish (the menu changes on Mondays and Thursdays).
Also located in Neckarstadt Ost the
has a focus on regional, but unfortunately not organic ingredients. Organic products are used in the kitchen here and there, and the milk is always organic, though neither the (locally roasted) coffee or tea.
More to try
The following place I had on my research list but could not make it there:
No longer organic
The Wohnhunger gifts and things shop does no longer offer organic soups or stews for lunch, and does not use organic milk for their coffee drinks. The coffee itself may occasionally be organic (as they also sell organic beans) but usually isn't.
Of the following places you may find remnants on the web but be assured: They do no longer exist.
- Café Vogelfrei, C3, 20
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, M3, 7(moved to Stadthaus)
- envita Bio-Restaurant, Im Stadthaus N1, 1 (replaced by organic bakery Bihn)
- O’ Dog Café, M5, 8 (Hot dogs)
- mundgrün veganerie, T3, 7 (vegan) (preceeded by Sonnenblume Naturkost)
- Veggie-Stadel (formerly Bio-Stadel), Lindenhofstr. 62 replaced by Rohkosteria
- Rohkosteria, Lindenhofstr. 62, replaced by Glückstein
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, Kurfürstenstr. 7
[Mannheim, organic, breakfast, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant, bakeries, ice-cream, delicatessen, wine]
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", "N.A.E.", "Lavera", "Weleda" and most of "Dresdner Essenz" (toiletries), "EnerBio" and "Veganz" (food, the latter is entirely vegan). In 2020 you'll also see the range of environmentally friendlier household items on the rise here: now you'll find the entire list of grandma's cleaning chemicals in the shelves, both citric and acetic acid as well as soda, beeswax food wraps and more.
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]