Sunday, 15 August 2021
Although located in the state of Lower Saxony the municipality of Lilienthal is not only the terminal stop of Bremen's tram no.4, it's also easily reachable by bicycle from Bremen, e.g. via the car-free Jan-Reiners-Wanderweg. This beautiful bicycle route through the Hollerland (a cultural landscape created by drainage by Dutch settlers around the year 1000) was opened as early as 1970 and partially runs in lieu of the former Jan Reiners train tracks, a steam train line from Bremen to Lilienthal through the moors which was operated between 1900 and 1956.
In Lilienthal make sure to stop by the wonderful farmshop of the
organic farm dairy Dehlwes with its milk and buttermilk vending machines. The milk is guaranteed to travel no longer that 10 kilometres on average and is processed here exclusively.
Although the shop isn't decidedly zero waste (in fact all other dairy products and the meat in the fridge and freezer are pre-packaged in plastics) the friendly shop assistant will happily fill your bags with bread, rolls and pastries and your boxes and jars with cheese and meat products from the sales counter.
All cattle, milk and bakery products as well as mindblowingly fresh veges, fruits and (in summer) berries come from the close region (there's a separate shelf for imported fruit and veges), and -- following the nose-to-tail approach -- you will also find ready-made meat and offal preparations in glass jars.
Just across the street you can pay a visit to the farm's own cows and hens.
There used to be a small cafe on the street, the Melkhus, which has been closed since the covid-19 pandemics started in 2020.
One supplying farm to the Dehlwes dairy is the one run by the Kaemena family which has their own 24x7 open milk vending machine.
New in 2021 Lilienthal also sports a spacious, light and clean package-free self-service supermarket, the
Kerngeschäft (a pun with the German translation of "core business") on the premises of the former bookstore a few steps off the town's main shopping street, Klosterstraße. During the summer the only fresh veges available were potatoes, but it is not unlikely that
There's everything you need of household chemicals (including dish washer tabs by the piece), products for personal hygiene, dry food and fresh dairy products (by the Kaemena farm). Some like locally produced caramels and ketchup aren't organic, clearly visible
by the missing word "bio". When I was there in the summer of 2021 the friendly shop owner told me that after the summer holidays opening hours would be increased to 8-18 Mon through Saturday, and there were plans to keep open until 8 pm at least one day per week, possibly on Thursdays.
[Lilienthal, Bremen, organic, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, Jan-Reiners-Weg]
When dedicated zero waste convenience stores started to bloom in bigger cities like Munich in the covid-19 spring of 2020 Bremen already had three established package-free shops, with a fourth one that opened its door early in 2020 and plans for two more. Back then some of the shop keepers were afraid that there might be too many to survive in a city of the size of Bremen, but a year later they are all alive and kicking. Even when you run out of food on a Sunday you can grab your jars and boxes and set out for refill.
All you need for the day
My favourite is crowd-funded L'Epicerie Bio in the Neustadt neighbourhood, just across Wilhelm Kaisen bridge. Lovingly decorated in the style of an old colonial shop you'll find an abundance of food, spices, sweets and wine, body care and household items here, including fresh fruits and veges and pet food by the gram. There's no separate customers' scale, instead the friendly shop owner wil take the tax weight of your boxes and jars. As you marvel at the interior you may buy a coffee or refreshment, but there's no real cafe corner.
In 2021 they even startes to sell frozen organic food by the gram: samosas, falafel, French fries, veges, berries and more.
While L'Epicerie is as far as you get from the carrots-and-dungarees cliche of a traditional organic grocery of the 1970ies, the second package-free shop in the Neustadt looks exactly like a traditional Bremen organic cornerstore 2.0: The dusty shop window of Füllkorn, with some wilted potted plants makes it difficult for passers-by to even spot the place. Inside everything is spotlessly clean of course, and there's also a coffee and refreshment option. Unfortunately the shop was closed when I was there, but I'm sure it's friendly and welcoming, too.
The newest package-free shop in town is
Die Füllerei in Findorff which opened in February 2020. With a beautiful flower-bed in front of it you cannot miss the shop even though I couldn't make it here during their opening hours. Unlike the two shops in the Neustadt there's a vending machine for fresh milk from the Blockland. The soap bars are produced in the very neighbourhood, by Martha's Corner, and the washable cosmetic pads and bags are made by a local plastic-free fashion label, Mamoana, with its the Oceanlovers concept store in nearby Admiralstraße. Just from the looks clearly my second favourite.
The tram stop "Am Schwarzen Meer", (in)famous for a fastfood-and-beer kiosk popular among the city's enthusiastic football fans has become a destination for conscious eaters: At the end of the Steintor road you'll find both, a Sunday-open package-free convenience store and a friendly CSA farm shop.
The first one, Selfair, has by far the most liberal opening hours of all package-free supermarkets I've visited so far. It's a pleasant combination of a traditional organic cornershop, a contemporary package-free supermarket and an immigrant shop with a good selection of oriental-style bread, baklava, pickles and mezze. The latter aren't organic, nor are about 3/4 of the fresh fruit and greens. However, there's an abundance of loose-weight and pre-packaged organic food items, spices, sweets, beverages and more. There's tinned food and preserved food and dairy products in glasses, and almost all beverages come in returnable bottles. They also have a section with zero-waste household items and sustainable toiletries, and in general the shop is free from plastic foil packaging. Many of the organic veges, bread and cheeses are bio-dynamic and local, and most of the conventional food is produced in the region, with little agrochemicals.
On the Northern side of the tram tracks you'll find
a small and inviting farm shop, the
Solawi-Hofladen. Despite the name it's not
only a pick-up point for the members of the community-supported organic Sophienhof farm, but a cosy farm shop run by two bio-dynamic farms, the Sophienhof and the Lütjenhof, and an artisanal fair-trade coffee roasters', all from the greater region. Needless to say that you can have a coffee after having filled local grains and pulses from gravity bins and bought meat, eggs, cheese, veges and more.
Package-free sale of bakery items and cheeses over the counter, loose fruit and veges as well as dairy products and drinks in returnable bottles and glasses are of course the norm in all traditional organic convenience stores like the city's oldest organic grocery Kraut und Rüben ("cabbage and roots") in the Ostertor neighbourhood, the co-operative Oecotop in the Neustadt or the Kornkraft supermarket in Habenhausen with its day cafe which is part of a small local supermarket chain.
Traditional co-operatively driven convenience stores in Bremen are all open to the general public by now, and so is Abakus in Steintor founded in 1998 which in 2020 repeatedly was voted one of Germany's best organic groceries. The shop which doesn't hide its political views doesn't have a working web site, but sells loose-weight grains and cereals. When I was there again in summer 2020 there was however an information that they wouldn't order more muesli unless the demand by members of the co-operative was bound to increase.
Specialist shops for body care
Opened 20 years later Martha’s Corner in Findorff is a heaven for body care addicts.
Don't be mistaken, the owner and mastermind isn't Martha, but Claudia, offering hand-made natural soaps, solid shampoos, deodorants, body and lip butters and more, made here on premise. Bring back the deodorant and cream jars for refill and keep in mind that the shop is closed on production days.
During the nice season Der Fährmann Antony ("Antony the ferryman") sells hand-made natural shea and cocoa butter from Ghana on a mobile booth on the Kaemena farm in Blockland. Come with your own jar, and he will happily fill it for you. The opening hours below should however be taken with a grain of salt -- when the weather is too cloudy Anthony may decide that the effort of his bicycle tour out into the Blockland wouldn't match his sales expectation.
Out of Bremen
If you take a bicycle tour to Lilienthal (which -- despite the fact that the Bremen tram no. 4 ends there --
isn't a part of Bremen, but a municipality in the adjacent state of Lower Saxony) you have even more options -- check out the Lilienthal post.
[Bremen, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, gifts, butcher, fashion, solawi, CSA]
Saturday, 14 August 2021
If you fancy a freshly made organic ice-cream in Bremen be prepared to work out -- hope for good weather, rent a bicycle and do as many locals do: Set out on a 15 kilometers ride, first in direction University, and then on the
dyke safeguarding the land against the river Wümme to a dairy farm run by friendly family Kaemena in Niederblockland.
On the embankment cars are allowed with a special permit only, but an astonishing number of locals come here by bicycle, foot or skating to enjoy an organic ice-cream (the scoop goes for 1.70 EUR in 2021), coffee or cold organic drink and enjoy the farm and the countryside.
The ice-cream is made right here on the farm: from the milking station to the ice-cream factory it's only about 25 metres, and another few metres to the cafe.
Don't miss the poppy seed ice-cream and the varieties based on buttermilk and yogurt.
Opening hours on pleasant summer days may be longer than announced, but when the cafe is closed you can still buy iced lollies from the 24x7 open vending machine at the farm.
While the vending machines are serviced throughout the year the ice-cream parlour is closed in winter.
The farm itself is driven according to the seven Bioland principles, with about 80 cows (which all have individual names) and calves who are fed by and kept together with their mothers until they eat grass and hay (which is at an age of about five weeks). The farm also keeps a few other animals like geese, two pigs, a couple of goats and chicken (both hens and cocks) and gives home to a lot of wildlife like a sparrow colony and swallows.
There's a nice playground for children, and if you want to stay longer (minimum one week) the family rents out several pleasant holiday apartments (but make sure to book well in advance for holiday seasons).
Throughout the covid-19 summers the stylish mobile coffee bar of Coffee Bike stops in the very city centre on Ansgarikirchhof Monday through Saturday and offers both, fully organic coffee drinks and Kaemena's ice-cream to passers-by. Unfortunately they do not have neither eatable ice-cream wafers nor ceramics cups for the coffee, so you're forced to enjoy your treat in non-compostable one-way cups unless you bring your own.
[Bremen, Neustadt, Blockland, organic, ice-cream, cafe, accommodation, farms]
Monday, 02 August 2021
If you are looking for pioneers in the German zero waste movement you'll find one of them in Dresden's Neustadt neighbourhood:
Pack a selection of glasses, containers and bags and stop by Lose ("loose-weight"), a cosy zero-waste corner store in Böhmische Straße. Unlike other package-free supermarkets this one does not only sell dry food, natural body care and household chemicals but also offers veges and has a cheese counter. Although most of the products are organic some are not, so you might want to check the labels on the suspenders for the bio keyword or ask.
The interior of the shop was refurbished recently and is now much lighter and seems spacier than before. The reason for this is that the coffee corner which had been there before the corona pandemic has decreased and the serviced counter for bakery products, cheeses, antipasti and coffee moved from the entrance area to the backpart of the shop. Mind you: like other package-free shops Lose does not have an illuminated window front, so be brave to try the door handle -- the place may look quite dark even when open.
In April 2019 a second zero waste supermarket opened its doors in the neighbourhood of Pieschen:
crowd-funded Quäntchen (the name of an old weight unit, denoting about 4 grams). Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to step by yet, but I'm sure it's a friendly and inviting place.
Supermarkets with zero-waste stations
Moreover all shops of the co-operatively organised local wholesale chain VG Biomarkt offer a good selection of loose-weight organic dry goods (in addition to an abundance of often locally produced fruit and veges and dairy products and drinks of all kinds in returnable glass bottles).
Their main shop is located near
Bahnhof Mitte train station, an entire organic warehouse on the premises of a former newspaper printing plant. Standing back from the main street the first floor is occupied by an organic convenience store supporting your zero-waste efforts. On the second floor there's a well assorted organic fashion store mainly for babies, children and women, with a section offering organic body care, household chemicals, sustainably produced toys, stationary and more.
For members prices are lower, but the warehouse is open to everyone.
On weekdays the self-service bistro directly facing the street offers delicious lunch (only snacks on Saturdays), and there's a cafe cum bakery shop featuring young local artists which (except on Mondays) opens half an hour before the supermarket itself, and closes at 7 pm on weekdays. Watch out on Mondays: The shop including its bistro opens at 1 pm this day. Opening hours on Saturdays before Christmas are extended to 4 pm.
VG Biomarkt also has branches in the neighbourhoods of Neustadt (Hechtviertel), Striesen, and Loschwitz, of which the one in Hechtviertel including its bistrot is members only.
The Loschwitz branch dubbed VG Balsamico is conveniently located
opposite the downhill station of the cable-run suspension railway ("Schwebebahn") next to
Körnerplatz at the northern end of Blaues Wunder ("blue wonder") bridge.
While these local groceries were early adopters a number of nation-wide operating organic supermarket chains have been following. In Dresden all branches of the Berlin-based supermarket chain Bio Company introduced dry food suspenders for use with your own jars.
In 2021 the Denns Biomarkt was the first branch of this chain where I found a dedicated shelf with fairly traded dry food in retour glasses and a few gravity bins with nuts, seeds, rice and noodles. A start at least, although I have my doubts that this small selection will be sufficient to nudge people towards the extra effort it takes to bring along glasses and jars.
When you take the Elberadweg bicycle route on the southern shore in direction Niederwartha you'll pass a nice old farmyard, the organic Bauernhof Franz in Niedergohlis. It runs a subscription scheme -- phone or e-mail your order until Wednesday and collect it from the farmshop on Fridays and Saturdays, but if you happen to step by on one of these days and there's someone around you may be able to buy vegetable oil and perhaps also potatoes or other produce from the farm.
[Dresden, Neustadt, organic, coffee, vegan, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, bodycare, household]
Saturday, 03 July 2021
My stay in Verona in the covid-19 summer of 2021 was short: The idea was to fill the time between two trains with a refreshment in form of an organic ice-cream in the old town. Unfortunately the plan didn't work out: 2 pm on a Tuesday afternoon turned out to be the wrong time.
My first stop was a fully organic ice-cream shop which must have been established somewhen between my first visit to Verona a few years ago and now. Unimaginably dubbed Come una volta ("Just like once upon a time") as many other organic shops in Italy it's situated on a street corner in the old town but unfortunately it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Hence I proceeded to known territory: The partially organic ice-cream parlour L'Arte del Gelato has been serving artisanal ice-cream since 2002 using organic sugar, chocolate, mint extract and fruit. The milk is produced by South-Tyrolean farms but not certified organic. I was really looking forward to taste their ice-cream again as it had been a lip-smacking creamy experience a few years ago, but unfortunately I met barred doors also here, with a display of tempting ice-cream cakes behind -- but closed on Tuesdays, too.
On the aforementioned day-trip to Verona I also tried to find Gelateria Natù in the neighbourhood of Santa Croce, with little success which again had to do with a train to catch too soon. However, since their website is kept up to date there's sufficient evidence that the place is alive and serving natural artisanal ice-cream made from organic milk and nuts.
Apart from the milk-based varieties there are also some vegan fruit flavours and a number of lactose and glutine free nut and chocolate flavours made with rice drink. Besides they use agave syrup instead of sugar.
You may also come here for a coffee, pastry or aperitif but I cannot say whether you have organic options here. Note that this place obeys the typical Italian closing time around noon.
[Verona, organic, biologico, vegan, ice-cream, cafe]