Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Hauptbahnhof (main station) is not just
Europe's largest head train station with fine arched halls and a generous concourse, it's also home to
a Sunday-open two-storey shopping mall dubbed "Promenaden". The shops are predominantly branches of the same boring chains as everywhere but since organic products have been entering the main stream this mall not only gives you the opportunity to replenish stocks when everything else is closed but allows the traveller to quickly shop for organic provisions while changing trains or while the locomotive of their train is being exchanged.
The mall is situated below track level, just walk right away to the arrival hall and take the escalator stairs down. All shops mentioned here are located on ground floor, i.e. one level below the long distance trains.
Your first option is a 100 percent organic supermarket near the Western entry of the mall: The nation-wide operating Alnatura chain is running one of the smaller Alnatura Express convenience stores easily reachable from the tracks around track 8 for last minute provisions. Take the escalator stairs downstairs and turn right (facing away from the tracks), and there you'll easily spot the fresh-green coloured shop – a provider not only of all daily necessities, but also of fully organic snacks and coffee on the go. Unfortunately opening hours on Sundays are limited to the afternoon.
When you find it closed do not despair: Next to it a Rossmann drugstore offers a good selection of organic dry goods, preserves, drinks and natural body care, though less than the DM branch mentioned below. If in a hurry you can buy the following brands without hesitation: "Alverde", "Sante", "Lavera", "Weleda" (toiletries), "EnerBio" and "Veganz" (food, the latter is entirely vegan). Since 2020 the range of environmentally friendlier household items has been on the rise: now you'll find the entire list of grandma's cleaning chemicals in the shelves, both citric and acetic acid as well as soda, beeswax food wraps and more, and in 2021 the company launched their own brand of environmentally certified range of cleaning products, "ecofreude".
The Eastern-most part of the mall (to the right when facing the tracks) houses a branch of the DM Drogeriemarkt
offering an abundance of certified organic dry goods, preserves, drinks, natural body care and eco-friendly household chemicals (see here for a detailed description), in short: everything you need while travelling except for fresh and frozen food.
Still in the East wing though more central you'll find a Vitalia wholefood market which in addition to dry goods, sweets and snacks, toiletries and detergents also sells fresh food: Here you can get organic bakery items and and sandwiches, fresh dairy products and a small selection of organic fresh fruit and veges. Prices here are more upmarket than at the DM branch, and you have to check for organic labels, too, though to a lesser extend. If in doubt the staff is more competent than the one in the drugstore superstores and they are two hours longer open on Sundays than the Alnatura.
If in the mood for a good coffee a difficult question might bother the eco-conscious traveller: Should I have an organic coffee made by the coffee automat of the Alnatura snack bar or do I rather prefer a properly pressure-made yet conventional espresso in the beautiful bookshop cafe Ludwig on track level? I'd love to recommend the latter in this blog but organic ingredients are limited to organic syrup to flavour the coffee and iced tea of Coca Cola's organic brand "Honest". The coffee bar used to have organic apple spritzer but unfortunately no longer. With its beautiful ceiling the well-assorted bookstore however is worth visiting in its own right. While the book shop keeps open longer the cafe is closing at 6 pm.
If you have the time to take a stroll into the city centre, make sure to pay a visit to the bakery of the Macis restaurant a little south of the Thomaskirche yard with the famous Bach memorial, if only to marvel at the mouth-watering fully organic and skillfully decorated cakes and club sandwiches in the shop window. Unlike the organic convenience store next to it the bakery keeps open on Sunday mornings, and if you buy of their artisanal breads some organic butter is absolutely sufficient for a gorgeous picnic.
[Leipzig, organic, vegan, gifts, snacks, lunch, supermarkets, grocery, trainstation, coffee, books, bakeries]
Monday, 20 June 2022
To no surprise Padua has branches of the
artisanal ice-cream parlour chain
Grom in the very city centre. They are located at Piazza dei Signori and in Via Roma. But since the formerly Italian chain was acquired by Unilever in 2015 and turned into their natural ice-cream brand all promises to organic ingredients have disappeared.
Fortunately there's an alternative: About 50 meters to the right from the Grom at Piazza dei Signori you'll find the city's only fully organic ice-cream parlour,
Gelateria Gnam Gnam, and in 2022 it was definitevely more frequented by locals than the Grom next door!
It is amazing how much delight one can add to natural artisanal ice-cream when restricting oneself to 100 percent organic ingredients. The Gnam Gnam fare is extremely delicate, with a lot of (changing) surprising flavours such as grappa or "cookies and cream", about one third of them vegan. For an extra surplus you can choose the flavour of your wafer cone: plain of course, or perhaps ginger, cinnamon, liquorice...?
The (vegan) slush goes under the name Venetian ghiacciate, and can be had in surprisingly many different flavours. The one dubbed "exotic" with peach and mint was extremely delicate and not overly sweet. The coffee ghiacciate is a deliciously melting dream, ways better than the extremely tasty one I had many years ago at a Grom branch in Florence. In 2022 the large ghiacciate serving comes at 6 EUR.
Apart from this you can also have freshly pressed fruit juices or chocolate-coated ghiaccioli (iced lollies). The coffee for the caffe affogato (espresso with ice-cream) unfortunately is made from coffee capsules and -- like the ghiacciate -- served in one-way paper cups.
If you find it difficult to part buy a package of organic meringues or a small glass of the organic spices they use (like cinnamon, liquorice, curcuma or ginger) for you or as a small gift.
For a change you may also try ICream.it north of Prato della Valle. Their ice-cream is hidden in locked containers instead of openly presented, an important sign for high quality ingredients and no fuzz processing. Flavouring ingredients like basil or matcha often are organic and play the most important part in extremely smooth non-diary ice-creams (I had an intense yet delicate lemon-basil which unfortunately isn't always available). The milk used in the non-vegan flavours is not organic, but feel free to enquire about the origin of the ingredients: When I was there the staff was both friendly and knowlegeable. In 2018 a single scoop went for 2 EUR, and I did not have the time to check whether the place still exists in 2022. Let me know if you do.
No longer organic or no longer existing
[Padua, Padova, biologico, organic, vegan, ice-cream, gifts]
Monday, 13 June 2022
Dresden's Wilhelminian neighbourhood of Neustadt is dominated by independent shops and venues, many of them run by female entrepreneurs as recently documented by an art project of local photographer Christine Starke. So it comes as little surprise that it is here where you have the best chance to discover a lot of gems, driven in accordance with the personal principles of the shop keeper which often include social and environmental aspects. Keep your eyes open, and you will discover a lot more than I have to suggest here.
Herbalists and beauty
The old town does not have much to offer in terms of independent and surprising shops, and the Altmarkt-Galerie mall is as boring as these shopping centres usually are. A notable exception is the Sonnentor shop directly located at the mall's entrance at Postplatz, next to the tram-stop at Wallstraße. Franchises of this Austrian producer of organic and fairly traded herbs, teas, condiments, bodycare products and spices are usually located in malls or main shopping areas, neatly designed heavens offering products that are good for both, you, and the farmers and producers involved when you're in the mood for shopping.
If you're on the outlook for herbs, remedies, bodycare and food items based on ingredients described by medieval healer nun Hildegard of Bingen pay a visit to the Marone herbalist shop on Bautzner Landstraße directly located at the east-bound tram stop Pulsnitzer Straße. Not all of the products on sale (which among others include chestnut products and a small selection of biodynamic wine) in this small specialist shop are certified organic though.
Leaving the tram tracks and entering the more pedestrian-friendly quartier natural and organic bodycare products can be found at the
Touch of Nature beauty parlour cum shop in Böhmische Straße east of Rothenburger Straße. Note that this shop is
closed on weekends.
If you take a little detour into Rothenburger Straße -- near the crossing with Bautzner Straße you'll find O'Shea, the factory outlet of a small local manufacturer of vegan natural lip care. But it's more than that: In addition to their own products the shop sells and nicely presents natural body care products of other small-scale producers who use organic and fairly traded ingredients. A real gem to discover new products!
For Indian-style and ayurvedic tea, chai mixtures or herbal teas head for the Indian Shop next to the organic fashion boutique Populi described further down. Unfortunately this owner-driven Indian convenience store isn't generally organic.
A few steps from Touch of Nature there's a second hand bicycle shop cum workshop, Elbcycles, where you can buy a used or recycled bike if you're staying longer, or get your own one fixed.
If you follow Böhmische Straße until it ends at Alaunstraße. A
luminous blue wall indicates the location of the Geldschneider & Co. steam-punk workshop. Among others you will find beautiful jewellery made from recycled parts of abandoned analog wrist watches. The place has somewhat erratic opening hours, so step by when nearby (if you need to plan ahead: Saturdays seem a safe bet). If closed during regular German shop opening hours you may call the phone number given on the entrance door.
As in many other German cities the first address for colourful gifts as well as organic sweets, spices and condiments are fair-trade shops founded as grassroots activities by Christian parish members in accordance with the conciliar process of mutual commitment (covenant) to justice, peace and the integrity of creation (JPIC). As the host for pioneering regional ecumenical plenums in 1989 and 1990 the city of Dresden has been playing an important role in this process. The spirit of this movement lives on in local fair trade initiatives like Quilombo which for almost 25 years had run a fair-trade shop in the entrance area of Dreikönigskirche in Hauptstraße which played host to the first democratically elected local parliament in Saxony after East Germany's peaceful implosion in 1989. Today the initiative still has a shop in the neighbourhood of Löbtau while their former place in the "Haus der Kirche" ("house of the church") has been converted into fair-trade
Sharing their roots with the Quilombo NGO the team of
Cafe Aha opposite Kreuzkirche runs a fair-trade shop in the heart of the city. It is located in the basement of the cafe and offers an impressive selection of fairly-traded gifts, body care and dry goods. This initiative also runs a fair-trade ...
... boutique, Aha Naturtextilien, on Hauptstraße, offering a great selection of fairly traded fashion made from natural materials. Here you will also find a good selection of stationary, jewellery, eatable fair-trade goods and more. By the way: the name "Aha" is an abbreviation for "trade/act differently" ("anders handeln" in German), and implies a huge effort in not only selling fairly traded goods but offering fair conditions to their own employees.
Another centrally located fair-trade shop specializing in fashion and household accessories as well as coffee and chocolates is Contigo near the central train station.
For more ethically produced and sustainable cocooning items visit Tranquillo, a likewise colourful fashion-and-things boutique cum fashion label in the Neustadt neighbourhood, at the crossroad Louisenstraße/Rothenburger Straße. They produce their own women fashion entirely made from organic textiles focussing on basic colours -- if you like Aha Naturtextilien don't miss this one. There's also an outlet in Louisenstraße where you can find bargain buys and (even further west, behind the Äußere Neustadt) a sustainable furniture store which opens on Fridays and Saturdays only.
Dresden's first fashion boutique exclusively selling fairly produced clothing from fairly traded, organically grown materials is dubbed
can be found at the Western end of Louisenstraße, just before you reach the tram tracks of Königsbrücker Landstraße.
Both, streetware, denim and designer labels can be found here, for men and women. The interior of the shop is to a great deal made from upcycled furniture.
Students and nerds find fairly traded organic cotton t-shirts and sweaters with unique scientific prints at Unipolar, and everyone else organic streetware for both, men and women, aside fairly traded and sustainably produced accessories and kitchen items. This small, Dresden-based fashion label is the brain-child of a former physics student, and has two outlets (in addition to the on-line shop). The original store is located between the Bahnhof Mitte train station and the "Carl Maria von Weber" College of Music, next to the VG warehouse with its well-assorted organic fashion section upstairs. The second Unipolar shop is located in the Neustadt neighbourhood and can easily be found by spotting a bath tub opposite a tram stop in Rothenburger Straße. Note that both Unipolar stores are closed on Mondays.
Ever fancied a nice custom-tailored dress, blouse, skirt or shirt made from natural materials? On Bautzner Straße at tram stop Pulsnitzer Str. gentlemen's tailor Hüpenthal and ladies' tailor Naumann share a shop formerly known as "Mein schönes Kleid" where they sew pret-a-porter items as well as custom orders from linen, silk, cotton and wool, both evening and casual dresses.
Some of the linen is even woven in the greater vicinity of Dresden, in the region of Niederlausitz near the border to Poland.
If you take the opportunity to hear a classical concert in Dresden chances are high to meet musicians wearing shirts by Herr Hüpenthal which, although custom-made are recognisable by their unique signature collars. Prices for men shirts start approximately at well invested 175 EUR, and cards are not accepted. The opening hours listed below usually apply but since the shop also serves as workshop you may be lucky enough to find one of the tailors at work on Mondays and Saturday afternoons, too.
Babies and toddlers
If you have a crush on individually made upcycled fashion accessories pay a visit to Ex Animo at Martin-Luther-Platz. The shop specializes in clothes and accessories for babies, toddlers and younger children, but you will find nice gifts for grown-ups (like cigarette wallets), too. Also this shop is closed on Mondays.
Those on the look-out for beautiful, not overly sweet organic fashion for toddlers and smaller children should step by Elvida in Louisenstraße approximately opposite Planwirtschaft pub and cafe. There you'll find the small flagship store of a Dresden-based sustainable kids fashion label -- and a source for organic sewing things.
Sustainable toys can be found further west at LouisdoOr, just opposite of Populi. This charming, owner-run shop also sells organic clothing for babies and toddlers. The somewhat erratic opening hours allow the owner to take out her dog, so when the door is closed during regular working hours take a look at the shops nearby and come back a little later.
The following places shut down, so don't be mislead when you find references to them on the web:
[Dresden, Neustadt, shopping, organic, fair, fashion, shoes, spices, tea, herbs, delicatessen, gifts, upcycling, steampunk, bodycare, furniture, household, children, toys, Indian, covid, corona]
Monday, 30 May 2022
Window shopping in Esslingen's city center is fun – due to an abundance of lovingly curated boutiques and owner-run specialist shops. However, during off-work hours, the nice pedestrian areas and small streets seem almost deserted: Many of these shops do not have employees and, consequently close at 6 pm, many also for a lunch break. However, if you come here during work hours or on a Saturday morning til early afternoon, you will find a lot of assorted goods and handicraft that anonymous malls and stream-lined shopping districts wouldn't care to offer.
Take the Greek specialist shop in the Küferstraße shopping street, opened in autumn 2021 during the covid-19 pandemics:
Odysée Feinkost attracted my attention by presenting an assortment of organic pre-packaged snacks in its shop window. The day after I came around and found an owner who was both, knowlegeable about his goods and which of them were organic – and glad to have a chat. There are not enough organic preserves, herbs, wines, oils and dry food to satisfy all needs, so better come here for inspiration rather than with a fixed shopping list.
For fairly traded exotic dry food, spices and beverages walk a few steps to the Weltladen (almost) next door which also has a decent assortment of loose-weight food and sweets.
Opposite the fair-trade shop you'll find a real gem:
Die rote Zora is not just a
fair and slow fashion boutique, it's a small tailor start-up: The three young women working in the workshop in the back of the shop design and make the original and robust clothes that you can buy here or via their webshop. The feel of the garments and the quality of the seems should be sufficient to cure you from cheap fast fashion. The prices are really fair, too: good to make a living and absolutely affordable given the almost timeless, yet lively (to some probably: naughty) designs, repairability and longevity. For an air of Berlin in Swabia, I highly recommend both, the shop and the label, dubbed after the militant West-German feminist group – or their fictional name-giving character, a female leader of a gang of young orphans fighting injustice.
Interestingly, Esslingen has more than one local fashion designer cum tailor-shop cum fashion boutique:
own label Aleksarah also focusses on natural and sustainable materials, with flowing and colourful, but more conventional designs. Also this shop is a female enterprise, but unlike the Zoras, offers a small selection of other fashion labels aside their own designs. Needless to say that all clothes will be adapted to your fit if necessary.
[Esslingen, organic, fair, fashion, spices, deli, gifts, shopping, wine, Greek]
Monday, 04 April 2022
Bavarian opening hour regulations are far from liberal, hence your shopping options on Sundays and after 8 pm are limited to, uhmmm, petrol stations, more or less. Not the kind of place you'll expect to find organic food, toiletries or other necessities in eco-conscious quality.
But the times, they are changing, and for the organic Munich traveller or inhabitant, there's no reason to despair anymore. Your best bet are railway stations, namely Hauptbahnhof (main station) and Ostbahnhof.
On Hauptbahnhof enter the basement from Elisenhof in Western direction, following the S-Bahn signs (if you come from the trains head straight ahead to the Eastern exit to enter the basement). Opposite the entry to S-Bahn (urban trains) you'll find Biokultur, a full-fledged organic supermarket. It's you're only choice for fresh organic fruit and veges on Sundays and offers everything you'll expect from a full retailer (including wine, household cleaning items, toiletries, ...) as well as a pleasant shopping atmosphere. It keeps open daily until 9pm.
Next to it you find a branch of the local organic Hofpfisterei bakery chain. As all of their branches it also stocks a small range of organic drinks, dry and dairy products as well as organic cold cuts.
Unfortunately the Hofpfisterei branch at Ostbahnhof train station does no longer keep open on Sunday mornings, but a five minutes brisk walk from the station you'll find one of those family-owned bakeries that are becoming so rare these days. Leave the station at Orleansplatz exit, cross the square and follow the tram tracks along Wörthstraße. At the end of Bordeauxplatz square, corner Metzstraße, you'll find Cafe Reichshof run by the Neulinger family, a lovely coffeehouse cum pastry shop. Treat yourself with their delicious organic cakes, icecream or a savory organic snack like the traditional Bavarian Weißwurst (sausage) breakfast. If you don't feel intrigued to stay shop from a huge range of organic bread, rolls, and cakes. You can also buy a small selection of prepackaged cheese and meat cuts, butter, milk and jams from the fridge opposite the coffee machine.
Starting in 2022, the other Neulinger branches in Neuhausen, the meat-packing district of Ludwigsvorstadt and the wholesale market area in Sendling have been keeping open on Sundays and public holidays, too, though some only for breakfast.
Everything you need for a sumptious breakfast or cold snack (except fresh fruit and veges) can be bought from Fritz Mühlenbäckerei near Rosenheimer Platz. Between 1987 and 2010 this cosy artisanal baker's shop was the headquarter of one of Munich's eldest organic bakeries. Now the scent of warm bread fresh from the oven is gone – all the production takes place in modern facilities in the outskirts of Aying. The shop however is still here and open on Sunday mornings, including a small grocery section equipped with a large fridge.
About ten years after the Fritz bakery moved their bakery from the Haidhausen backyard to Aying the bakers came back to town with a bread bakery in Glockenbachviertel. The former cafe re-opened in June 2020 – buy your daily artisanal bread and watch the bakers at work.
If you happen to be in Grünwald on a Sunday morning (or another day of the week during working hours) make sure to buy the best German sourdough bread in the entire Munich area from Lokalbäckerei Brotzeit. Their bread workshop is located on the premises of the Alter Wirt hotel, with a separate entrance and a small lunch cum cafe counter where you can choose a roll and from a range of all organic spreads, coldmeat, cheeses and more to get your customised sandwich.
Back at Ostbahnhof trainstation, directly at the southern exit of the U-Bahn station into the Ostbahnhof building you'll find the place that will save your life after 8pm: This branch of the DM-Drogeriemarkt chain does not only stock the usual excellent range of natural bodycare, organic dry products, vegan alternatives and eco-friendly household helpers, but boosts a capable selection of dairy products, eggs and even a freezer stocked with organic pizza, berries, icecream, ... Unfortunately – and unlike other DM branches – organic choices and certified natural cosmetics aren't clearly marked on the shelves, so watch out for organic and natural cosmetics labels, and brands.
A few steps from the urban train stop Johanneskirchen, directly located at the bus stop "Johanneskirchen Bhf" there's an 24x7 open vending machine selling Bavarian produce: Not everything from the so-called Regiomat is organic, but you can buy organic eggs, UHT milk, cheese, chocolate pudding, cream and ready-made tomato sauce.
By the summer 2020 the concept of vending machines for products of smaller local farms finally had made it into Munich town, too: The Erntebox vending machines offer eggs and chicken meat, sausages, cheese, pasta and fruit jam, not everything organic, but most likely from farmers around Munich with a focus on sustainability. There's one at the Grünspitz in Giesing, a hotspot for urban agricultural and greening projects, and another at busy Berg-am-Laim-Straße in the Eastern neighbourhood of Baumkirchen. To find the latter isn't easy: Follow the shop windows of the (conventional) Aumüller bakery in in city (Western) direction and stop when the house turns at an angle. Unfortunately the number of certified organic products has been decreasing here: When I re-checked in April 2022, the organic sausages were gone, and from the initially good selection of organic cheeses there was just one type left.
[Munich, Gruenwald, Johanneskirchen, Haidhausen, Sendling, organic, coffee, gifts, snacks, lunch, breakfast, bakeries, grocery, supermarkets, trainstation, Regiomat, covid, corona]