The Organic Traveller
Saturday, 20 July 2019

Out of Munich: Organic Glonn

For an organic day out into the countryside around Munich you might as well choose a destination with plenty options for organic food and even an overnight stay with organic breakfast at the destination: The Panoramaweg Isar-Inn bicycle route starting at Marienplatz allows you to reach such an area by bike in only 30-40 kilometers. Simply follow this route to Moosach and from there to the organic hamlet of Herrmannsdorf as part of the municipality of Glonn. Don't expect a bicycle highway -- the parts of the route shared with cars have a tarmac underground, but the rest are sufficiently wide gravel pathes with occasional pitholes. Nevertheless it is much more pleasurable to go here and marvel at the moraine landscape instead of using the main roads where you may be scared for your life as cars will frequently overtake you too fast and often with too little margin. It's also advisable to have a navigation app or map with you as the signage especially within build-up areas is sometimes insufficient.

Public transport isn't much faster -- an up to 1.5 hours affair (one-way) by public transport from Ostbahnhof station. Take a regional (faster) or urban train (S4) to Grafing Bahnhof, and continue with bus no. 440 to Westerndorf stop. You may take your bike on the train when buying a separate MVV-Fahrrad-Tageskarte bicycle day ticket, but not on the bus.

The Herrmannsdorf organic farm

Merchant and Friends

From Westerndorf its only an about ten to 15 minutes walk (or a few minutes on bike) over the fields to the Herrmannsdorf farm, founded by meat-industrialist-turned-organic-farmer Karl Ludwig Schweisfurth and now run by his family. In addition to the organic farm with pigs and chicken roaming before the eyes of the visitors the hamlet houses an artisanal bakery, brewery and butchery, a coffee roaster's shop cum cafe dubbed Merchant & Friends, a kindergarden for the employees and a cooking and practise school offering day courses for visitors who want to learn the basics of the trades practised here at the farm. There's also an organic farm market, the Herrmannsdorfer Hofmarkt with an outdoor garden café open when the weather is nice.

In the entrance area to this beautiful delicatessen store cum upmarket supermarket you'll find the market booth of nearby organic market gardener Gärtnerei Schmid. Depending on the season you may walk over to pick organically grown flowers from their fields and pay into the provided cash box.

Schweinsbraeu

The farm also has its own upmarket 100% organic restaurant, the Wirtshaus zum Herrmannsdorfer Schweinsbräu, for meat lovers definitely worth the troubles of getting here. The rustic and newly refurbished restaurant offers high-standard traditional Bavarian and Austrian cuisine based on the freshest ingredients including the farm's famous own beer and assorted spirits. It is advised to book your table for the restaurant (ring in on your way here if you forgot to do so a few days in advance), and mandatory if you plan to come on weekends or on public holidays. The restaurant which also has an outdoor sitting area is closed 29th July through 13th August, 2019, and 30th December through 14th January, 2020.

If you are wondering what you are going to eat stroll through the farm and greet the pigs and piglets. During the warm season you can also sit outside under horse chestnut trees: There are food stalls, but as the Bavarian tradition of beer gardens goes you may also bring your own food (not the drinks though!).

In May, before Easter and Christmas the farm gives host to its traditional arts and crafts markets. Especially the advent market is a pleasant alternative to commercial Christmas markets in town. On these days a free bus transfer is provided from and to Grafing Bahnhof, and you may book a tour through the farm or one of the workshops. There are also special tours for kids. All tours and workshops (also outside the festivals) can be booked in advance at the website.

Sonnenhausen manor

Sonnenhausen

If you feel that a day tour isn't sufficient turn to the right instead of to the left at the bus stop Westerndorf, and follow the way to Gut Sonnenhausen, an organic and sustainably driven Bio-Hotel located in a carefully and tastefully restored manor. Although conferences, weddings and other celebrations are their main business bed and breakfast guests are welcome, too.

More to try: Westerndorf, Piusheim, Glonn and Grafing

If you’re looking for a cheaper place to stay the Schmiedhof organic farm in Westerndorf has a guesthouse where you can enjoy eggs and cheese (and most certainly also milk) from the farm for breakfast. Simply let the farmers know in advance that you wish to have breakfast.

For something different take a bicycle ride to Piusheim: On Fridays, weekends and public holidays the Glonntaler Backkultur organic cafe cum restaurant keeps open and serves 100 percent organic lunch, dinner and snacks using the gorgeous products of their artisanal bakery as well as other locally produced delicacies like the cheeses of the local organic dairy Hofkäserei Stroblberg. Each Friday it's pizza evening starting at 5 o'clock, and if you're lucky you may step by while one or another cultural arrangement is taking place. During the warm season there's also a spacious beer garden. The bakery shop itself is located across the street, and on weekday mornings you may head for the bakehouse in Mühlenweg ("mill lane").

Glonntaler Backkultur also runs two Sunday-open bakery shops in Glonn and Grafing which are closed on public holidays that are Monday through Saturday. Both have in- and outdoor seating for a snack or coffee break. Next to the shop in Glonn there’s a small fair-trade gift shop dubbed Handfairlesenes. On occasions you may find it open outside the quite restricted official opening hours, so step by for handicraft and other fairly traded products.

2019-07-20 07:40:00 [Munich, Glonn, Grafing, Herrmannsdorf, Westerndorf, Piusheim, organic, fair, lunch, dinner, market, bakeries, deli, coffee, hotel, accommodation, restaurant, pizza, Bavarian, German, cycling, farms] Link

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Monday, 31 December 2018

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.

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).

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 two years ago the shop also offered an organic soup or stew for lunch, but these are songs from the past.

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:

  • Die Metzgerei, Rheinparkstr. 4 (bistro in the Lindenhof neighbourhood)

Closed

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

  • Fairbrothers, C8, 18 (fairly traded organic fashion)

2018-12-31 19:55:00 [Mannheim, organic, shopping, organic, fair, fashion, spices, delicatessen, gifts, bodycare, coffee, tea, cycling, zero_waste] Link

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Sunday, 18 November 2018

Heidelberg: Sustainable shopping

The easiest way to get around in Heidelberg is by bicycle, and whether you need to repair your own bike, to rent or to buy (a cheap) one, you can do this right on arrival at the main train station: Follow the signs to the exit and descend the stairs at the right hand (eastern) side to track 1b. Here, in rather unpolished surroundings you'll find the Radhof bike repair shop, a socially responsible enterprise which will happily help you. To rent the bike at 15 EUR/day present your ID card or passport, hand them your mobile number and a deposit of 50 EUR, and off you go with a well-kept second hand bike. On return you will not only get your deposit back but also the paper copy taken from your ID. Unfortunately the workshop is closed on weekends.

Radhof

Cocooning and body care

As a tourist you will most certainly head for the old town, walking down the Hauptstraße ("main street") pedestrian street. While the western part of this street is inhabited by the ever-boring major chains, the eastern part with its small-scale owner-run shops is definitely worth a shopping spree, preferably to enterprises striving to sell sustainable, often fairly traded goods. Looking for dedicated environment-friendly kitchen and bathroom utensils, toys, fashion accessories, stationary, gifts or design items you must not miss out the green design department store GOODsHOUSE a little west of Schiffsgasse. The shop itself isn't visible from the main street -- walk down a little aisle into the backyard to find a lovingly arranged two-storey shopping paradise. The staff is friendly and helpful, yet not intrusive and will happily offer to order items not in stock.

Wolkenseifen

A few steps further west, at the corner with Heumarkt an equally carefully designed cosmetics boutique dubbed Wolkenseifen ("cloud soaps") is the flagship store of a local near-natural cosmetics manufacturer. In addition you'll find (certified) organic and natural cosmetics brands usually not to be found in your nearest organic supermarket -- among them Chia, Madara, or Khadi --, and a great selection of zero waste body care like hair and body soaps, solid shampoos or solid toothpaste.

Shoes and fashion

Fair and slow fashion seems to be quite strong in Heidelberg where even otherwise conventional clothes boutiques like Bofinger in the main street trade in fair and organic labels like Armedangels. My stay was too short to pay a visit to all the places on my short list, but I managed to have a glimpse inside Tutta Natura selling sustainably produced French shoes and women's clothes for lovers of classic eco-design in the Plöck running parallel with the main street.

A larger selection of natural shoes is to be found at Die Ahle Naturschuhe which can easily be missed with its modest shop-window front hiding a pleasant shoe shop in Sankt-Anna-Gasse linking Plöck and Hauptstraße at the western-most border of the old town. During the cold season you may also step by for knitted organic head and foot wear and other woolen accessories.

If you prefer German sculptural shoe design to French elegance Heidelberg also has a shop of the sustainably and socially responsibly producing Berlin-based shoe manufacturer Trippen. Their carefully designed store can be found at Heumarkt.

November 2018 sae the re-opening of former fair fashion store cum cafe Friedrich as a Glore concept store offering organic fashion for all, women, men and kids as well as a small selection of organic body care.

Fair trade shops

Unsurprising Heidelberg is home to a number of community-driven one-world shops selling fairly traded fashion accessories, household items, dry food, sweets, coffee and tea, the latter often certified organic. One of them is Una Tierra at the market place Neuenheim, another one the Weltladen in the old town with a small cafe, offering fairly traded coffee drinks, cocoa or tea while you crawl the shop or let you inspire by the bookshelf.

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!

Closed

2018-11-18 20:00:00 [Heidelberg, shopping, organic, fair, fashion, spices, herbs, delicatessen, gifts, upcycling, bodycare, coffee, cafe, cycling, shoes] Link

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Monday, 18 June 2018

In and around the Euganean Hills: Organic farmstays

An hours' bicycle ride from Padua or one and a half hours from Vicenza gets you to La Buona Terra near the village of Cervarese Santa Croce, an organic farmstay, popular party location with families, educational farm for kindergardens and farm restaurant. You can stay either in one of the clean, rustic guest rooms and holiday homes located inside various farm buildings (advanced booking required), or on the camping site on the farm. A popular place with children -- there are not only pigs, cows, chicken, horses, donkeys, dogs (no cats), rabbits, goats, and frogs here, but also a spacious swimming pool. (Less popular among the kids: to ask the farmers, Luisa and Domenico, to remove the cleaning robot in the mornings.) If you do not come by bicycle you can lend one to explore the surroundings, or to have an ice-cream or coffee in Selvazzano Dentro.

La Buona Terra

After breakfast (organic with a few exceptions, and usually with freshly home-made crostata cakes usually made with the farm's own organic flour) you may pre-order lunch and/or dinner (around 8 pm), except on Mondays. Expect hearty home-made farmer's kitchen, home-made pasta, left-over soups, a grilled chunk of home-made bread topped with olive oil and an equally thick slice of sopressa salami from the farm's own pigs, freshly grilled vegetables, rustic meat courses from the farm (you may even be served a hearty stew of chicken necks) and (often) organic wines from nearby wineries. On weekends the farm restaurant is open to the public, but you are asked to phone in in advance (+39 328 077 0977). Vegans will probably stay away, but vegetarians are gladly catered for: The vegetarian four-courses dinner ("menu verde") comes at 25 €, the omnivore "menu rosso" at 28 € (prices without wine), and children pay 15 €.

There's also a farmshop selling the farm's home-made products: eggs, sopressa, preserves and liquors. Officially it keeps open on weekends between 15:30 and 19:30, but unless there's a bigger party of visitors around take this with a grain of salt and ask Luisa or an employee if you want to buy something.

One of the bicycle tours may lead you to the South-Western slopes of the Euganean Hills, to Ca' Orologio in Baone. Among vineyards and olive groves you will find Maria Gioia Rosellini's dedicated organic winery, producing natural wines of exclusive taste. You may enter the 16th century Venetian villa to taste and buy, or decide to rather stay in these magical surrondings and make use of the bed-and-breakfast offer (better book in advance, though). The breakfast itself is only partially organic, depending on the availability of organic products in the village supermarket (which is rather limited). You have the opportunity to cook lunch and dinner yourself, and serve it with a glass of Ca'Orologio wines.

<-- Vini naturali, appartments in a manor, and stunning swimming pools Castello di Lispida, https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/84833152">Via 4 Novembre -->

2018-06-18 07:10:02 [Italy, Veneto, Colli_Euganei, Euganean_Hills, Padova, Padua, Cervarese, Baone, organic, biologico, accommodation, farms, agriturismo, camping, cycling, wine, breakfast, lunch, dinner, restaurant] Link

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Friday, 26 August 2016

Kerala: Eco homestays

Near Alappuzha (Alleppey)

Once an important port, now an ordinary Indian smalltown berieved of most of its historical buildings, with its formerly famous waterways overgrown by pernicious water hyacinth Alleppey most certainly is no longer worth the title "Venice of the East". If you come to stay over a 15 minutes auto-rikshaw ride outside town will however bring you to Sylviander House, a pleasant eco-consciously built homestay cum art gallery run by a German-Indian couple, writer designer Sylvie Bantle and painter Alexander Devasia. Airy and spacious double rooms with traditional beds equipped with mossie nets and a fan, and curcuma-washed walls expect the guest. All doors and furniture were recycled from traditional torn-down houses. Adjacent to each room you will find a roofed outdoor space with a handwash, and next to it a bathroom equipped with a traditional bucket bath (fill the bucket sink with water and use the stainless steel mug to shower yourself), and a (Western) toilet with a shower for your bottom. Toilet paper is provided but must not be thrown into the toilet to spare the house's eco-friendly bio-filtering system (there's no communal sewage).

Sylviander House, Alleppey

For breakfast and dinner you will be served home-cooked South-Indian food, vegetarian and -- if you want to please Alexander -- fish, freshly catched by local fishermen which he shops from the market and fries deliciously. The hosts put a lot of effort in sourcing ingredients grown according to organic principles, be it certified or from home gardens ('nadan') kept the traditional way without use of industrial chemicals. Some veges will also come from the Sylviander eco-garden, coffee, cocoa and pepper from their own organic farm in Kumaly, yoghurt from the neighbour's cow fed on Sylviander house grass. The water used in the house is collected rain water, filtered for drinking. A night in a double room including breakfast and dinner is Rs. 2000 off season. This is the only place listed in this post not offering a discount for children.

Near Kochi (Cochin)

South of Kochi, directly situated at the backwaters in the village of Kumbalangi you'll find Gramam Homestay, a quiet, eco-friendly homestay which allows you to escape busy Indian city life. Its sustainably kept coconut garden by the water makes the surroundings for an old, nicely restored spacious farmhouse equipped with two twin beds and fans. The openness of the house allows you to experience all the noises of a tropical night. An outdoor bathroom attached to the cottage provides you with a roofed Western toilet and handwash as well as two showers under open sky. You'll stand on natural stones within some small bushes, and the used water from the shower percolates through the sand beneath the stones. Warm water is heated by the sun on the rooftop.

Breakfast (homemade Kerala food and/or prefab toast/"cereals") is complimentary, and lunch or dinner in the eating room next to the kitchen of the main house where your hosts, Jos and Lyma, live can be arranged on request. Some of the veges used in cooking may be nadan, but there is no emphasis on organic food or drinks. Staying in the cottage you however have a kitchen at your disposal. An off season cottage night for two is Rs. 4000 (the two extra beds Rs. 800 each), but if you are on budget there are also two cheaper rooms in the main house.

Jos will happily arrange a tour on a punted boat, a visit to a shrimps farm, or a car with driver for you. For our trip to Abhayaranyam wildlife shelter with its elephant camp and well-kept botanical gardens he arranged an organic breakfast (Rs. 600) at a friendly brahmin family's of teachers who showed us around their traditional house, well and organic garden where we learnt about nutmeg, macis, Indian basil, curry leaves and other spices (as well as some useful Malayalam phrases).

Dewalokam, Thodupuzha

Near Thodupuzha

Far bigger than the aforementioned ones -- almost a simple hotel with 11 single and double rooms -- is the farmstay of Dewalokam Organic Farm, run by a friendly family of teachers and their staff from neighbouring villages. The farm has been a family estate for about hunded years, and after serving as a rubber plantation for the last generation, todays owners Jose and Sinta have been reconverting it into an almost self-sustaining organic farm following circular principles. While the entrance to the modern, though traditionally built main house is opposed by a spacious park, the land around the houses are now being used as spice, coffee, cocoa, vegetable and fruit gardens interspaced by some fish ponds. Chickens, ducks and turkeys range freely in the Souther-Eastern part of the gardens next to the cow, buffalo and sheep sheds. The cows' mock is collected and fermented in an underground tank producing fertilizer and the gas burnt in the kitchen stoves.

As we were lucky to observe during our stay newborn lambs are kept together with and fed by their mothers. All the cows were born on the farm itself, and none of the animals was deprived of their horns.

The double rooms in the first floor of the main house are simple, but spacious, clean and light, with an adjacent dressing room next to (Western) toilet and shower. There are more rooms in the adjacent older house. A night for two comes at Rs. 10,000 (8,000 off season) including four meals a day and activities like yoga in the morning, walks in the garden and in the vicinity, or cooking demonstrations. The house and the rooms are always adorned with fresh flowers.

The swimming pool is filled by fresh (rain) water, and you can also have a swim in the river. Jose and Sinta will also provide you with well-maintained bicycles for a village tour.

Most ingredients in the home-cooked meals (North and South Indian, with a continental style soup without spices to start lunch and dinner with) come from the farm itself (if you travel with children: The french fries are prefab and not organic). Guests usually are served seafish instead of fish from the ponds as the bones of the latter may be an obstacle, but if you insist you will be served a truly locally sourced fish curry. You may also purchase spices grown on the farm.

A side note: Before you start criticising any of the aforementioned places for burning paper and plastic waste on their land hesitate a minute and think about what you were going to do without communal waste collecting and separating facilities which generally are not available in rural areas.

(Temporarily?) closed

Their website was gone, their phone number no longer operating, and they did neither answer e-mails nor Skype messages. Finally I got an automated answer that they were closed due to monsoon repair and would reopen in August. We tried to call again from India mid of August 2016, and still the phone was gone. So some doubts may be raised whether the following eco retreat in Varkala is still operating:

Mind you, there's a place with a similar name, the "Eco Bohemian Masala" which tries to fool tourists into believing it was the aforementioned eco stay. Don't fall for it -- according to Tripadvisor posts it seems to be a place to be avoided. If you happen to actually stay at the real Bohemian Masala, let me know.

2016-08-26 17:00:10 [Kerala, Alleppey, Alappuzha, Kochi, Cochin, Thodupuzha, Varkala, organic, accommodation, farms, cycling] Link

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