Tuesday, 07 September 2021
Leaving the train at Altona station does not bring you to the heart of the city but to the vibrant neighbourhoods of Altona (to the East) and Ottensen (to the West) offering a great choice of lively (partially) organic places. None of them are very posh as the distinguished bourgeouis citizens usually live and roam elsewhere, and there's a good chance to mingle with locals.
Where to stay
As long as you are satisfied with a basic yet clean and well-kept hotel room head for
the Schanzenstern. The name derives from its original location in the Sternschanze neighbourhood, but even though the hostel moved to its current location surely fifteen years ago references to its old address haven't vanished from the net completely. Most rooms are
equipped with bunk beds, and you are well advised to book in advance especially if not travelling alone.
The entire building is painted in clear basic colors, orange and blue the rooms, yellow the hallway. Since rain water is used
for flushing the toilets its colour can be explained easily, and the soap dispensers in the bathroom are filled with liquid organic hand wash.
If you're travelling by bicycle there's a locked shed where you can store it safely overnight. The hostel also has a handful basic three-gear bikes to rent, at a price tag of 10 EUR per day, not to go fast, but well suited for the sett surface streets around.
The hostel's 100% organic breakfast buffet keeps open daily from 7:30 to 10:30, but is not included in the price for the night. For additional 9.50 Euro you can order it until late the evening before. The restaurant also serves organic lunch on weekdays, and there are board games and journals to spend the time with.
Breakfast and lunch alternatives are located within five-minutes walking distance:
For one there's the Zeit für Brot ("time for bread") artisanal show bakery next to a branch of the Denn’s organic supermarket chain in Ottenser Hauptstraße (The chain has a second supermarket nearby which also serves snacks at their self-service cafe.) Through a window you can watch the Zeit-für-Brot bakers at work while buying German bread, fresh from the oven. If stepping by for a coffee or another non-alcoholic drink, a pastry, cake, savoury snack, or a light lunch (all organic) queue with the other customers and place your order at the till. When the pandemic restrictions are over you may again find a place at one of the tables inside and enjoy the gorgeous smell of real bread together with your snack.
For the time being you have to be lucky to find a spare seat outside under a sunshade also sheltering from the occasional rain shower.
The place serves El Rojito coffee, and this is always an excuse to come here.
Cafes and lunch restaurants
Another organic breakfast alternative is cosy cafe Lillisu offering 100% organic food and drinks. In addition to breakfast the women owners also serve sandwiches, filled pasta, spaghetti, soup and salads for lunch, both vegetarian and omnivore, prepared in the tiny kitchen in view of their guests.
Place your order at the counter
and add a home-made cake from the display.
You'll be served but are expected to return to the counter for payment.
Set breakfast plates are served on weekends only.
Decorated in pastel colours this is also the place to buy nostalgic presents and some organic delicatessen (chocolates, olive oil, coffee, ...) as well as "Glück in Gläsern" ("happiness in jars"), (in)famous 100% non-organic nostalgic sweets many Germans will remember from their childhood, sold by the piece.
As in the Schanzenstern restaurant a selection of magazines from Hamburg-based publishers are there to be read by the guests.
For a coffee break my tip is the cafe of a local coffee importer specializing in the coffee of South-American co-operatives,
El Rojito. Not all of them are organically certified, but the driving force behind is a registered society which has been supporting fair and social working and trading conditions for more than 30 years.
While pandemic restrictions apply you can have your coffee outside only: There's outdoor seating in the backyard, though not in the morning and on Sundays, and some space in front of the cafe. Their coffee is also served by the Schanzenstern hostel, and the shop sells the full range of their coffee beans as well as some other items such as organic honey.
For a sweet threat head back to Altona train station (where you by the way will find another organic supermarket, this time an Alnatura branch).
Since 1913 there has been an Italian ice-cream parlour in Ottenser Hauptstaße, which, after world war II became Eiscafe Venezia. Today, the owners are no longer of Italian origin, but use
organic milk for all of their about 20 flavours. Unfortunately the ice-cream isn't fully organic itself; the scoop goes for 1.40 EUR in 2021. Usually the cafe closes at midnight, but you may find it closing earlier on bad weather.
The place also serves Italian-style coffee drinks with organic milk from a proper Cimbali pressure machine, but I'd rather advise to take the extra meters to Zeit für Brot as their coffee is far better.
Package-free organic self-service supermarkets are also on the rise in Hamburg, and given the subcultural context of the neighbourhood you won't be surprised to find one here as well: Stückgut recently moved from its old address Am Felde 91 to a beautiful corner shop at Alma-Wartenberg-Platz. Apart from the usual product range common to all these groceries this one offers organic tea, fresh fruits and veges, antipasti and cheeses and a colourful range of liquid body care and household chemicals which make the shop a proper full-range retailer. There's a second branch in St. Pauli with a smaller product range, among others missing fresh greens.
More to try
Here's another organic cafe and a bakery I found during my research but did not have time to visit. I'll be happy if you'd share your impressions with me!
Closed during covid-19 pandemic
The following places do no longer exist although you might find them referenced on the web:
- Alohachérie, Weidenallee 2a (vegan)
- 2 B Bio-Kiosk, Juliusstrasse 2 b (late-open convenience store)
[Hamburg, Altona, Ottensen, St_Pauli, organic, coffee, ice-cream, zero_waste, unverpackt, supermarkets, grocery, eatery, lunch, breakfast, cafe, hotel, accommodation, bakeries, covid, corona]
Sunday, 11 July 2021
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.
The shop also used to stock the emission-free organic chocolate 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.
For fairly traded food, sweets and drinks, natural body care as well as colourful fashion accessoiries, gifts and household items pay a visit to the Fair-Weltladen in the very town centre.
As most of its kind it's run by local volonteers which makes it the perfect place for a chat with locals.
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 early July you can come here to harvest yummy organic strawberries from their strawberry field (the official 2021 season unfortunately is over, but if you have time to harvest some late berries, ring in advance). 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, fair]
Monday, 21 June 2021
Taste- and love-less, standardised conventional breakfast buffets are still league in Berlin, but if you have the chance to decide where to stay you can easily start your day in a way that's good for you and the planet: If you don't mind hotel chains the easiest bet are the hotels of the Motel One chain. All over Germany they offer partially organic breakfast for 11.50 EUR in addition to the room charge. They promise organic dairy products, plant-based drinks, jam, honey, apple juice, coffee, tea, apples and muesli at all hotels, and if you are lucky there may be more organic and fairly traded options.
But you can have it even more luxurious, at welcoming, owner-run boutique hotels striving for a fully sustainable overall experience.
Both of them are located in the city centre, and you may even be surprised to find that they aren't necessarily more expensive than the chain.
If you do yoga or adhere to a minimalist lifestyle Hotel Almodóvar in Friedrichshain is a must-go (but neither of the two is a prerequisite to feel at home here). The reduced geometric minimalist chic in white and dark-brown, with carefully selected design objects to light the room, beanbags, and yoga mats generate a very special, focussed room atmosphere.
All food and drinks here are organic: In the morning you wake up to a gorgeous
vegetarian breakfast buffet with lots of regional produce and tasty home-made spreads and preserves at Bistro Bardot; on Sundays you can have brunch until 3 pm, with (among others)
vegan curry "sausage" and scrambled "eggs". Given the pleasantly styled location it's sad that the bistro isn't a public bar in the evening, but as a hotel guest you can have a glass of
organic wine to quit the day.
While the Almodóvar building is quite new (opened in 2013) the Guldsmeden hotel Lulu
in the vibrant neighbourhood of Potsdamer Straße in Tiergarten/Mitte is located in a
beautifully renovated 1850’s building. Part of a small Danish family-owned sustainable hotel chain which carefully and individually decorates the rooms you can expect
the breakfast and bar service to be fully organic. The hotel restaurant and bar dubbed Sæson (Danish for "season") is currently closed.
I haven't had the chance to stay here yet but given my absolutely positive experience with the Guldsmeden hotels in Copenhagen and Oslo I'm pretty sure you won't regret your stay here. All body care products there are organic, so I expect them to be so at the Lulu, too.
Closed during the covid-19 pandemic
- Sæson restaurant & bar, Potsdamer Str. 67, breakfast Mon–Fri(Sat–Sun) 6:30(7:30)–10:30(11), lunch Mon–Sat 12–14:30, evening Tue–Sat 18–22
[Berlin, Oslo, organic, hotel, accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, bar, restaurant, covid, corona]
Monday, 04 January 2021
About an hours train ride from Dresden, the town of Děčín may be used as a starting point for walking tours in the rough countryside of Bohemian Switzerland. Directly located at the Elberadweg cyle route you can easily reach it by bicycle, most conveniently along the southern shore of the river on tarmac surface (except when passing the small towns of Bad Schandau and Königstein). Eco-conscious visitors to the castle which is still being restored and the baroque rose garden however face a problem not unknown to smaller cities: There's no 100 percent organic place in town.
West of the river: Bodenbach/Podmokly
There used to be a raw and predominantly organic cafe, Zdravá kavárna Emavík near the Synagogue on the left (western) side of the river on the grounds of the historical town of Bodenbach (Podmokly), but it seems to have moved to Varnsdorf.
If you do not want to compromise you'd better buy provisions for a picnic. You should find a good selection of pre-packaged organic (dry) food, sweets and drinks as well as natural body care at the city's branch of the German chemist's chain DM
located within the Pivovar shopping center in Letna, on the Western shore of the Labe river where also the main train station is located.
Products from farms in the vicinity you'll find at the farm and cheese shop U Pati at the train line next to the town museum of Podmokly. Some of them may be near organic, but it's hard to find organically certified products.
On your way along the train tracks towards the bridge you'll find a nice cafe with a focus on sustainability and support for local small-scale producers:
Kafe na mapě is furnished with recycled maps and pallets and offers home-made bagels, cakes and good Italian-style coffee drinks. Vegetarians and vegans are taken good care of; organic ingredients are used occasionally.
East of the river: Děčín/Tetschen
The best option in the old town is Bio Koko, a light and cosy
zero waste grocery around the corner of Masarykova place. It stocks a great selection of loose-weight dry food and a few preserves and oils in glass bottles and jars. There's also a small fridge with organic yogurt and gorgeous fresh milk, but no fruits and veges. Not everything is organic, but all organic items are clearly marked with a green dot.
The place has a play corner for small children, but unfortunately no serving. You may however order a coffee to take away in your own cup (and pay by volume).
For an organic tea proceed to Coffee & Books, a cosy corner cafe cum delicatessen serving yummy home-made cakes, breakfast and snacks of high-quality though unfortunately not organic ingredients. The place with its upcycled interior and book shelfs (and an outdoor seating area) used to have a range of organic tea bags of the Austrian Sonnentor brand, but exchanged them for a Czech brand, and since then only the English breakfast and the green tea have been organic. I decided to list this pleasant place here hoping that they may be convinced to introduce more organic items, perhaps organic milk for the coffee drinks as a start. The paper straws used here are a good start.
The tip for vegan Bistro Les on the foot of Děčín castle, located at the left-hand side of the bridge when crossing into the old town came from the owner of Bio Koko. It's not dedicated organic, but they are using unadultered produce of their own garden when possible. Due to the restricted opening hours -- closed, both, on weekends and in the evenings -- I could however not make it there.
Valdemar Grešík, a nation-wide supplier of health and wholefood is operating out of Děčín, so it does not come as a surprise that there's a natural wine and delicatessen shop near the castle. When I was there the shop was closed, however: Their webshop does not give much hope to find many organically certified products.
Out of town -- East of the river
If you want to know where the organic milk sold at Bio Koko comes from take a bicycle ride along the river and up the hills to the producers, Biofarma Hampl near Hrensko: Although there's no farm shop the organic farmer will happily sell you his milk and delicious cheese, a smile, Czech crowns and some sign language will do.
In opposite direction, South of Děčín, in the village of Březiny you'll find the local coffee roasters "Caffe08" which also run a pleasant on-premise cafe dubbed Kafárium. Unfortunately none of their coffees is organically certified, but the cafe advertises with organic lemonades and soft drinks of the Berlin-based "Proviant" brand.
Temporarily closed due to covid-19 measures
On the web I found customer testimonials claiming that the Burger Berg burger restaurant on the foot of the Pastýřská stěna ("shepherd's wall") climbing rock on the Western side of the bridge would use organic meat. The restaurant itself however would not confirm this, and the menu does not indicate a high level of eco-consciousness. Not unlikely that the reviewer was referring to the meat for the game burger when writing "organic".
That said: In the absence of restaurants with a focus on sustainability in town the place is one of the better choices.
[Decin, Tetschen, Bodenbach, Podmokly, Hrensko, Boehmische_Schweiz, Bohemian_Switzerland, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg, organic, vegan, coffee, lunch, snacks, cafe, bodycare, zero_waste, covid, corona]
Sunday, 03 January 2021
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
[Prague, Praha, Prag, organic, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, bodycare, household, hotel, accommodation, eatery, covid, corona]