The Organic Traveller
Sunday, 03 January 2021

Organic Prague

The Bohemian kitchen serves a lot of (conventional) meat, and vegetarian places usually do neither use organic ingredients -- eating out can be quite a challenge in beautiful and historical Prague. My favourite restaurant from many years ago unfortunately does no longer exist, so I had to start almost from scratch, and my time in the city was limited. The good news: You have no longer to be a strict follower of a wholefood diet if you prefer organic food. But compared with capitals of neighbouring countries there's still a gap to close.

Country Life Melantrichova

Daily necessities

Founded in the 1990-ies the organic grocery Country Life has developed into a small organic supermarket chain since. The shops still look like small health food shops and concentrate on wholefood, but provide you with a sufficient selection of fresh and dry organic food, dairy products as well as vegan alternatives. Bread, rolls and pastries bought by the piece as well as fruits and veges aren't pre-packaged, and there is a good selection of dry food available from zero-waste dispensers, so come with your own bags and containers. Note that, except for the one in the old town, all Country Life shops are closed both, on Saturdays and Sundays, and all of them close as early as between 6 and 7 pm.

While fully organic supermarkets haven't taken off so far there's a increasing number of package-free groceries. However, only a smaller part of the products at these "bezobalu" are organic, so even here you have to watch out for the "bio" labels. Since my stay in Prague has been limited to a weekend I don't have reviews to offer, just had a glimpse at the shop windows of Jelen next to the Organic Sushi restaurant in Nusle where you can find dry food, herbs and spices, natural body care and more in a pleasant location. There's also a small chain of zero-waste shops simply dubbed Bezobalu.

As in other parts of Czechia you will also find a number of franchises of the German DM chemist's chain which will provide you with a good selection of organic dry goods and natural bodycare. Their own brands "DM Bio" (food) and "Alverde" (body care) are affordable even if your budget is tight.

In a meat-loving place like this I hoped to find an artisanal butcher's shop offering high-quality organic meat from ethical husbandry. The nearest I came is Naše maso ("Our meat") in Josefov (in the same boring mall like My Raw Cafe) which indeed is an artisanal butchery sourcing the animals from Czech farms keeping traditional breeds and using them from nose to tail -- but whether the animals are kept and slaughtered according to organic and animal-welfare principles I can't say (the shop was closed when I was there).

Restaurace Country Life

Eating out

If you found the Country Life grocery in the old town, Stare Mesto, head into the small alleyway to its left, where you find Prague's eldest still existing organic restaurant, the Restaurace Country Life. The interior resembles a typical Czech beer restaurant, and the place serves hearty Bohemian food indeed, however all vegetarian and dairy-free. Note that this self-service place -- just like the grocery -- is closed on Saturdays.

There is also an eatery on the premises of the Country life shop in Dejvice (Mind the quite restricted opening hours), and the convenience store in Jungmannova street will provide you with snacks.

My Raw Cafe

Maybe as a result of the meat-centric Czech cuisine Czechia has a thriving raw-vegan community, with successful producers in this niche sector. In Prague there's a number of raw vegan cafes, one of them My Raw Cafe in Josefov, located in a rather uninviting new mall. Don't be fooled -- despite the deserted feel of this mall on a Sunday it's open every day. While the personnel is kind service was extremely slow: All food is prepared while you wait and this can take a while even when the space isn't filled to the brim. The food was made with quality ingredients, some of them organic, but supporting the health food cliche of vegan raw: my Thai soup wasn't spiced at all tasting like pure coconut milk with curcuma and a few veges. My favourite: the Bohemian-style avocado tartar with raw bread which was exactly as umami-sour as its properly made meat equivalent.

Organic Sushi

My favourite restaurant is located off the tourist tracks, in the neighbourhood of Nusle, east of the Vyšehrad viewpoint over both, the city and the Vitava river. In a street with nicely restored bourgeois houses and sett pavement you'll find Organic Sushi, run with love for pure, unadulterated food. The comforting sushi comes nicely arranged on granite plates and is of highest quality, perfectly accompanied by the home-made matcha lemonade. The place is located in the basement and pleasantly decorated in lounge-style, perfect for unagitated conversation with friends or a romantic evening out.

Restaurants in the Jewish quarter naturally cater towards the culturally interested touristic clientele, and among the finer dining restaurants I'd expect a certain usage of organic ingredients. Promises for organic meat and pasta I found on the menu of established kosher restaurant King Solomon offering meat-centric traditional Ashkenazi food (which I haven't tried so far) and (for organic meat) at La Veranda. The Italian and French inspired kitchen here uses regional ingredients and serves good-quality, though neither exceptional nor exciting cuisine. The service was satisfiying, the staff nice (though not especially knowledgeable) and since the restaurant was quite empty in the covid-19 summer of 2020 we had a generally pleasant dining experience. Unfortunately there were no organic drinks available.

Puro Kaprova

Coffee and ice-cream

For the hip coffee bar cum ice-cream parlour head for one of the Puro shops in town who decidedly do not sell "zmrzlina" (ice-cream in Czech) but Italian-style "gelato". The one nearest to tourist tracks is located two street corners from tube stop Staromestska, where you almost cannot miss the red-white checkered window front which hides a pastell-coloured self-service cafe. Queue, order, pay and pick up your certified kosher ice-cream made from organic milk. A small scoop (one flavour) comes at 50 crowns, a medium one (two flavours) at 90 crowns. If you ordered coffee drinks, milk shakes made with organic milk or cakes they will be served later on the seat you choose. Coffee and chocolate unfortunately aren't organic, only certified by the Rainforest alliance, and it is not quite clear whether the shop also uses the organic brown sugar which is on sale as the sugar served with the coffee is not organic.

Fair&Bio obchod in Florenc for a fairly traded, organic coffee drink. The place is a classical fair-trace shop offering dry food, sweets, coffee, tea and spices as well as handicraft made by co-operatives.

A small selection of organic ice-cream flavours can also be had from a franchise of the upmarket French ice-cream company Amorino in Malá Strana, e.g. after you decent from the castle.

More to try

During my research I found the following places that seemed likely to sell or serve at least partially organic food and drinks, but I did not have the time to check them out myself. If you do I'd appreciate if you let me know whether they actually do so!

Where to stay

Want to stay in an eco-conscious place and wake up to an organic breakfast? I have to disappoint you -- so far I haven't been able to spot a hotel or hostel that I full-heatedly can recommend. However, here are my learnings: Hotel Josef

On their website the design hotel Josef in the city centre announces partially organic breakfast, but since I stayed there while covid-19 hygienic restrictions were in place I cannot report whether the regular breakfast buffet in the impersonal business breakfast room usually contains organic items. Breakfast was served instead at their newly renovated sister hotel Maximilian. Here nothing was organic, not even the eggs. When I asked for my cappucchino with organic milk I got one probably made with oat drink, but since I wasn't able to spot the package I cannot say for sure whether it actually was an organic variety -- for most people in Czechia the word "organic" seems to include conventional vegan. At the Josef hotel bar The Duke organic dry gin was the only organic option.

If you prefer to stay a little out of town Hotel Adalbert located in a former baroque monastery claims to be an eco hotel but confirmed not to serve any organic breakfast items. Ask for it in the hope that customer demand may have the power for change.

Ceased to exist

The following places are temporarily closed, shut down or were replaced by other, not organic ones, and are listed here as you still find them on the web:

2021-01-03 13:00:00 [Prague, Praha, Prag, organic, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, bodycare, household, hotel, accommodation, eatery, covid, corona] Link

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Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Munich: Organic Living Rooms

In theory we all love them: The small owner-driven shops that surprise us with their unusual selection or combination of goods and food made with love and care, vibrant places with a special and welcoming atmosphere or homely places of peace where we can sit and wonder and get inspired. Shops who's owners create a place from their ideas of a human world, who are ready for a chat if desired but not pushy in their sales attitude. Places that are somehow home away from home, places for a rest or for inspiration. Places where we hopefully buy stuff since we're not forcibly persuaded by aggressive marketing.

And yes. There are these places, and it doesn't come as a surprise that many of these shops offer organic items.

Books and more

Imagine the dry fruit and sweets display of an oriental bazaar stall, and put it in the middle of a crammed book shop filled with mediavistic, orientalistic and cooking literature. When it's possible again sit down in front of the shop or at the single bar table inside and order oriental-style coffee, tea, and mezze. Have a chat with the owner and scroll the book shelves while you wait -- you will find interesting media on medieval arts and crafts, food, biographies of historic persons, films, facts and fiction in German, English, and even French. Your meal -- the falafel, perhaps a soup -- will be fully organic as are the drinks and the home-made dried fruit.

Before covid-19 Saladins Souk in Haidhausen was also a reliable source of sweets imported from Damaskus, and along-side earthen oil lamps and artisanally produced soaps from both, the Provence as well as the now sadly destroyed soap shops in Aleppo, you will find (usually conventional) delicatessen from French supermarkets. The shop (also dubbed Haidhauser Oase as the blackboards in front of it have it) can be found in the beautiful and relaxed part of Haidhausen a few minutes North-West from Ostbahnhof station. Be prepared to find an always changing display of (not always organic) delicatessen often brought by the owner from his travels or made by his friends. The deep-fried lunch items are prepared healthily in a low-fat fryer, and birch sugar is used as sweetener throughout the menu. You can also order lunch delivery as long as you phone in between 10 and 12 am. During the corona year of 2020 the shop had been closed a lot, but the shop-owner confirmed the shop was to open again January 4th, 2021.

Love to sit down with a good book and a glass of good wine? No question, the two are a perfect match, and even if you're more into an organic softdrink (Bionade), the Buchhandlung Lentner bookstore near Rosenheimer Platz with its cosy cafe is a place where you can stay for hours sitting, watching, chatting with the staff and reading. If you're not able to read German shop of their carefully selected wines, some of them organic. They will also order English books for you (send e-mail, phone in or use their webshop in advance), but this may sometimes take longer than the usual overnight order service for German books. Unfortunately, neither the coffee nor the milk are organic, but if you ask they'll perhaps offer it next time.

Closed

2020-12-23 10:00:00 [Munich, Haidhausen, organic, cafe, coffee, tea, deli, books, lunch, delivery, fashion, French, falafel, shopping, covid, corona] Link

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Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Covid-19 and this (travel) guide

The current pandemic renders a lot of my reviews in this blog useless: Restaurants and cafes are closed completely or have restricted opening hours, are closed in the evenings and only offer food to take away during the day. Non-food shops are closed entirely, supermarkets may have both, longer and shorter opening hours than usual, and some use special regulations to open on Sundays. Although I will continue to update this blog the best I can I'm feeling incapable of keeping track with all changes even in my vicinity. Articles with covid-19 updates can be found here. But if you take the time at home to plan your next travel after the pandemic I'm afraid cannot guarantee that all reviewed places are going to survive. For the November being restaurants, eateries and cafes in Germany are restricted to take-away, so many will be closed completely.

Social distancing and enforced hygienic measures decrease our ability to minimise package waste: However, as smear infections with covid-19 are negligible most bakeries, butcher shops, meat and cheese counters within supermarkets and restaurant take-away resumed to fill their customers' purchase into their bags and boxes. Organic supermarkets and farmers' markets are selling unpackaged fruits and veges as usual, you can prefer deposit bottles and jars to one-way plastic ones, and you can refill your own jars and containers with dry food, oil, vinegar, toiletries, household chemicals and more at zero waste convenience stores. Buy local! For most of the independent shops this is a veritable crisis, and you help them survive when you buy and order from them directly.

2020-11-11 07:00:00 [organic, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch, restaurants, covid, corona] Link

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This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author: E-mail · Mastodon · Vero · Ello.

Friday, 21 August 2020

Schmilka near Dresden: An organic day out in Saxon Switzerland

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 National park.

Villa Thusnelda

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.

Schmilk'sche Mühle

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. However, due to renewal of the kitchen and restaurant facilities bar and restaurant will be closed until somewhen in September, 2020.

Usually 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, but until the refurbishment will be finished, the check-in is at the street corner just across the road. The villa itself houses historical Café Richter with the air of a classical spa coffeehouse, offering dinner from 5 am while the Strandgut restaurant is closed.

Mühlenstube

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. Due to covid-19 restrictions there's now an open air sales booth a few meters up the hill which also sells (conventional) whipped ice-cream when the weather is nice. 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.

Closed

2020-08-21 10:00:00 [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, corona, covid] Link

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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Augsburg: Organic Ice-cream

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 coffee, (three different) peanut and berry flavours I tried were more distinct than the flavours at Munich-based IceDate.

Juice'nCream

The scoop comes at 1.50 EUR, and you can choose between an eatable wafer cone or a paper-thin compostable bamboo cup. For an additional euro you can spice it up with a handful of organic toppings like cocoa nibs. The small shop uses renewable energies, and when hungry you may opt for a lunch bowl and a fruit juice. There's outdoor seating but not much space inside the shop.

If you prefer an artisanal confectioner's ice-cream with organic milk proceed into Ulrichsviertel where Augsburg with the canalised arms of the Lech river offers the air of a little Venice: The fare at Ertls Bittersüß coffee bar and confectioner's shop unfortunately isn't generally organic, though natural and predominantly made from regional produce. However, the Black forest cake ice-cream I had was overly sweet for my taste and not as delicious as what it could have been with organic sugar and cherries. The scoop on the go comes at a moderate 1.3o EUR, but you could also sit down to be served coffee, cake, and sundae.

Fully organic dairy ice-cream as well as sorbets can be had at Anna or the Malzeit coffee bar and shop in Bismarckviertel. Both do not make their own ice-cream but serve the produce of local fully organic confectionery Meisterhand making organic ice-cream, chocolates, and gingerbread. If you have a sweet tooth and are in town on a Thursday afternoon, make sure to attend their factory sale in the Martini-Park.

Meisterhand ice-cream also awaits the dweller in the Gögginger Wäldle city forrest at the Kulperhütte beer garden.

2020-07-29 17:00:00 [Augsburg, Augusta, organic, vegan, eatery, ice-cream, cafe, coffee, confectioners, beergarden] Link

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This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author: E-mail · Mastodon · Vero · Ello.