The Organic Traveller
Tuesday, 07 January 2020

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 historial 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 on both, on Saturdays and Sundays, and all of them close as early as between 6 and 7 pm.

Also in Prague you will 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.

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.

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" but "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.

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 had 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:

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. 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:

2020-01-07 10:45:00 [Prague, Praha, Prag, organic, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, bodycare, household, hotel, accommodation, eatery] Link

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Monday, 06 January 2020

Paris: Organic creperies

What would a visit to Paris be without tasting a crêpe? These thin pancakes come in two varieties -- galettes with savoury toppings make a perfect lunch while sweet teeth will prefer a crêpe with sweet toppings. For the real thing head for a crêperie, a specialized small restaurant serving no other food (apart from perhaps a salad), and you should do this for lunch as the better owner-run shops will usually close early in the afternoon.

Crêpe de la Joie

My favourite place is Crêpe de la Joie, a family-friendly 100 percent organic owner-run crêperie near tube stop Censier Daubenton. The buckwheat-based galettes have savoury fillings, often with an egg on top, while the sweet crêpes are made of wheat. All crêpes and galettes (except the one of the day) are dubbed after mythological figures like elves, gnomes and fairies and all of them are vegetarian or even vegan. The friendly owner prepared food for us even though we arrived ten minutes before her closing time. This will surely not be the rule but a little broken French and a friendly smile helped us to get a perfect start for our visit. The shop also sells Hildegard of Bingen food products.

Breizh Cafe

Hip, professional Breizh Cafe within the Marais does not observe the usual French rules for opening hours but serves crepes and galettes all day. The place with its rough wooden interior does not use organic ingredients as a rule, but the flours for both, the galettes and the crepes are always organic.

More to try

The following organic creperies I found in preparation of my stay but did not have time to visit. If you come there I'd love to hear about your experience.

2020-01-06 16:15:00 [Paris, organic, lunch, creperie, restaurant, coffee, French, vegan, vegetarian] Link

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Saturday, 16 November 2019

Mannheim: Sustainable Shopping

If you prefer to set out on a shopping spree on a bicycle and prefer a rented bike that is not tracking you pay a visit to Fahrrad Schieber, a more than one hundred years local bicycle workshop located a few steps from the Wasserturm landmark within the squared part of town, the "Quadrate". For 10 EUR a day you will be provided with a well maintained used bike. If it against all odds breaks during your trip, do not hesitate to step by, it will be fixed promptly.

HautNah

Founded almost 25 years ago your first stop could be HautNah, a fashion boutique specializing in ecologically and fairly produced clothes made from natural materials. The shop is a member of the International Association of Natural Textiles (iVN) and aims at those looking for classical long-living cuts rather than at cutting-edge fashionistas (for trending fashion you may try the shops listed below). Needless to say that HautNah also offers an assortment of healthy outfits for babies and toddlers.

For shoes proceed a few steps along the Kaiserring to Fußspur ("foot trace"), a small local chain specialising in environmentally friendly produced and European-made shoes.

Leaving the ring road and entering the Quadrate through Kunststraße you'll find a tea shop of the Tee Gschwendtner franchise. Although this specialist chain is selling conventionally produced teas and tisanes in the first place its shops have proved to be a trustworthy source of organic teas and herbal infusions for years. You can buy all kinds of loose teas and herbal infusions as well as high quality tea bags and even pre-fab iced teas, and there will usually be organic options. Although most teas will be filled into bags before your eyes there's always a minimum quantum you have to buy (usually 50 or 100 grams), and you have to buy standardized packages (bigger sizes being 250 or 500 grams).

Umgekrempelt

Even longer west in the Quadrate area, located between the castle and parade square the new Umgekrempelt ("rolled up" and/or "turned inside out") clothes boutique offers both, fairly traded and organic slow fashion as well as a repair service and upcycling workshops. In addition you'll find a lot of accessoiries and gifts here, and even plastics-free degradable glitter. Note that this likeable shop keeps closed both, on Mondays and for a (rather late) lunch break.

Wohnhunger

Leaving the Quadrate for the eastern part of town the Wohnhunger gift shop next to Eddie's zero waste supermarket offers a selection of organic delicatessen like coffee, soups, chocolates, liquors, herbs and spices, some zero-waste items like natural soap and cotton dish washing clothes and a lot of other cosy things. Unfortunately the organic coffee isn't used at the coffee bar, and the milk for the coffee drinks isn't organic. About three years ago the shop also offered an organic soup or stew for lunch, but these are songs from the past.

On your way you'll also pass Weinrefugium, an upmarket, carefully designed wine shop offering a good selection of natural and organic wines. (For more and only organic wines visit the Bittersüß delicatessen in Neckarau.)

More to try

Here's a list of shops which I had on my list for research but didn't manage to visit myself. Let me know about your experience!

Greenwashed

The city's online tourist guide suggests to get yourself a "bio" picnic basket for a stroll at the embankments. Don't fall for it! The only organic items that come with this "Wellness-Korb für Vegetarier" are two bottles of the organic bionade soft drink:

Closed

The following places do no longer exist, although you still might find references to them on the web:

2019-11-16 14:15:00 [Mannheim, organic, shopping, organic, fair, fashion, shoes, spices, delicatessen, gifts, bodycare, coffee, tea, cycling, zero_waste, wine] 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.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Mannheim: Cafes, gastro pubs and restaurants

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.

Inner city

Bio-Bäckerei Bihn

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€).

Hellers Vegetarisches Restaurant & Café<

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.

Kombüse

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.

Glückstein

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.

Hedonist

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.

Bittersüß

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 Café Pfau 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.

Closed

Of the following places you may find remnants on the web but be assured: They do no longer exist.

2019-11-14 20:45:00 [Mannheim, organic, breakfast, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant, bakeries, ice-cream, delicatessen, wine] 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.

Mannheim: Zero Waste

Light and spacious instead of small and crammed -- Mannheim's package-free vegetarian supermarket Eddie's with its large shop window front is easy to find between two tram stops of line 6, Werderstraße and Pestalozzischule. Not everything here -- some herb blends to give an example -- is organic, but everything organic (which is the majority of items) is clearly marked "bio" on the shelves. In addition to a small selection of fruit and veges and all you need of dry food the shop's section of plastic-free household items offers alternatives when you need to replace plastic boxes, toothbrushes, drinking straws and the like. The bodycare and household chemicals section is very well assorted and -- unlike other zero waste shops which usually restrict themselves to liquid detergents -- also offers washing powders and soda by the kilogram. Students will get ten percent discount on Wednesdays, and the place has also gotten itself a decent coffee machine -- for a coffee at the spot or into the mug you provide. (If you buy a reusable mug the first shot is free.)

Eddie's

By now all supermarkets of the Basic chain should be equipped with at minimum one dry food refill station, and allow you to take home cheese, antipasti, cured meat and sausages from the meat and dairy counters in your own containers. That's exactly what the Mannheim branch at the tram stop Schloss offers -- partially supplementing but certainly not replacing the selection at Eddie's.

For coffee or ready-made meals head for the Kombüse gastro pub in the Jungbusch neighbourhood. Everything on their menu is available to take away, and they kindly ask you to come with your own jars. One-way packaging will be charged with a small surplus.

And last but not least: Naturally the organic bakery Bihn will happily put your purchase in the bags and boxes you provide.

2019-11-14 18:00:00 [Mannheim, organic, zero_waste, unverpackt, grocery, supermarkets, vegetarian, vegan, takeaway, coffee] 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.