Wednesday, 21 February 2024
If you are looking for pioneers in the German zero waste movement you'll find one of them in Dresden's Neustadt neighbourhood:
Bring a selection of glasses, containers and bags and stop by Lose ("loose-weight"), a cosy zero-waste corner store in Böhmische Straße. Unlike other package-free supermarkets this one does not only sell dry food, natural body care and household chemicals but also offers veges and has a cheese counter. Although most of the products are organic some are not, so you might want to check the labels on the suspenders for the bio keyword or ask.
The interior of the shop was refurbished and is now much lighter and seems spacier than before. The reason for this is that the coffee corner which had been there before the corona pandemic has decreased and the serviced counter for bakery products, cheeses, antipasti and coffee moved from the entrance area to the backpart of the shop. Mind you: like other package-free shops Lose does not have an illuminated window front, so be brave to try the door handle – the place may look quite dark even when open.
Supermarkets with zero-waste stations
Moreover all shops of the co-operatively organised local wholesale chain VG Biomarkt offer a good selection of loose-weight organic dry goods (in addition to an abundance of often locally produced fruit and veges and dairy products and drinks of all kinds in returnable glass bottles).
Their main shop is located near
Bahnhof Mitte train station, an entire organic warehouse on the premises of a former newspaper printing plant. Standing back from the main street the first floor is occupied by an organic convenience store supporting your zero-waste efforts. On the second floor there's a well assorted organic fashion store mainly for babies, children and women, with a section offering organic body care, household chemicals, sustainably produced toys, stationary and more.
For members prices are lower, but the shop is open to everyone.
On weekdays the self-service bistro directly facing the street offers delicious lunch (only snacks on Saturdays), and there's a cafe cum bakery shop featuring young local artists.
VG Biomarkt also has branches in the neighbourhoods of Neustadt (Hechtviertel), Striesen, Johannstadt, Strehlen, and Loschwitz,
Mind you that the one in Striesen, at Polandplatz isn't easy to find: Opposite the triangular park there's a driveway which one can easily miss as no sign at the entrance points to the shop. Be brave an move past, you'll find the shoü at the right hand site.
If you want to return empties, find the appropriate crate in the entrance area, pin down its code, tell the cashier and put the glass or bottle at the appropriate place.
The Loschwitz branch dubbed VG Balsamico is conveniently located
opposite the downhill station of the cable-run suspension railway ("Schwebebahn") next to
Körnerplatz at the northern end of Blaues Wunder ("blue wonder") bridge.
Opening hours and assortment (of loose-weight products as of products in returnable glasses) vary depending on the size of the market and the neighbourhood. However, all VG markets offer free drinking water refill stations and you can book cargo bikes to transport your purchase home free of charge.
While many organic groceries were closing, the Verbrauchergemeinschaft opened a new large supermarket with attached self-service restaurant cum cafe in 2023: The
VG Friedensstraße offers and abundance of loose weight and unpackaged products. Want to shop products grown or made in the vicinity? Watch out for the green "RP" ("regional partner") logo.
While these local groceries were early adopters a number of nation-wide operating organic supermarket chains have been following. In Dresden the two remaining branches of the Berlin-based supermarket chain Bio Company introduced dry food suspenders for use with your own jars.
In 2021 the Denns Biomarkt was the first branch of this chain where I found a dedicated shelf with fairly traded dry food in retour glasses and a few gravity bins with nuts, seeds, rice and noodles. A start at least, although I have my doubts that this small selection will be sufficient to nudge people towards the extra effort it takes to bring along glasses and jars.
Without offering gravity bins the Vorwerk Podemus farm supermarkets supports package-free efforts, too: Hand over your own clean boxes and bags when buying meat and meat products, cheese, bread, rolls or cake from the services counter, and prefer returnable glass bottles and glasses when choosing jogurt, honey and jams.
Farmshops and factory outlets
When you take the Elberadweg bicycle route on the southern shore in direction Niederwartha you'll pass a nice old farmyard, the organic Bauernhof Franz in Niedergohlis. It runs a subscription scheme – phone in or e-mail your order until Wednesday and collect it from the farmshop on Fridays and Saturdays, but if you happen to step by on one of these days and there's someone around you may be able to buy vegetable oil and perhaps also potatoes or other produce from the farm. But of course, shopping their farm products from one of the VG supermarkets might be easier.
In 2022 Vegannett, a Weißer Hirsch-based producer of vegan spreads, started filling products in standardized returnable deposit glasses which
you can buy directly from the manufacturer on Wednesdays.
More to try
For more vegan alternatives to cheese, meat and sausages head for
Die vegane Fleischerei in the Neustadt. January, 2023 a vegan "butcher shop" opened here, and they assured me that all of their products are made from predominantly organic ingredients.
They also offer ready-made "meat" salads and soups, and I'm looking forward to visit the shop in person. Don't forget to take boxes and jars with you.
[Dresden, Neustadt, organic, coffee, vegan, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, bodycare, household, hemp]
Wednesday, 12 July 2023
Traditional corner stores in general have been almost extinguished from the streets of Munich, surviving almost exclusively in the form of immigrant grocery stores which unfortunately only on extremely rare occasions stock organic items. However, there are a few survivers from the time when organic was an unknown word in supermarket chains: small supermarkets equipped with wooden shelves and as crammed to the brim as possible for orderly German souls. Usually they have everything on offer needed for your daily life, and just give you fewer choice between brands. Sometimes you'll find delicatessen the big players don't stock, and fresh produce with few exceptions is as fresh as from their competitors. Prices may be a few cents higher than the cheapest option in one of the retail chains, but you may be surprised to learn that many products actually are less expensive in a corner shop. In addition you may have a chat with the shop owners and usually will be given a competent answer to questions you may have. Many of these shops have some tables and chairs where you can have a coffee, snack or vegetarian lunch.
In Maxvorstadt, the vibrant university neighbourhood, you'll find Mutter Erde ("Mother Earth"), a crowded place during lunch time when you can have a simple vegan home-cooked meal, tea and coffee. On working days they serve lunch from 12 o'clock (as long as available). If you find the place too busy step by the zero-waste grocery Ohne which also offers fully organic lunch. Mother Earth is still a little organic grocery, but no longer a full retailer: Some time ago they exchanged their body care and cosmetics shelves with a table and bench to sit down with your meal.
A full retail neighbourhood shop in Haidhausen, Lebascha once was run collectively by a bunch of friendly women. They retired, and since 9th of July, 2022 the shop has been the second shop of the community supported co-operative Ökoesel ("eco donkey" is derived from a pet name for bicycles – "Drahtesel" – as they started up as a bicycle delivery service). Unlike their shop in Neuhausen Lebascha continues to be open for everyone, with its (conventional) liquorice shop-in-shop. An assortment of loose-weight herbs and spices, cereals, nuts, legumes and grains, detergents and soap will be added soon. Note that the shop is closed on Wednesdays and does no longer accept cards, but as a member you can pay
A few corners away from tube stop Implerstraße in Sendling the neighbourhood grocery Hollerbusch ("elderbush") offers
vegan and vegetarian lunch as well as yoga, pilates or singing lessons in a backroom.
The shop is also a delivery hub for the Munich based community supported agriculture project Kartoffelkombinat.
Immigrant shops and traditional corner stores
While these small supermarkets cater for all daily necessities including fresh fruits and veges there's no such thing as an all-organic immigrant grocery focussing on the latter and supplementing with a selection of dry goods and delicatessen from their owner's place of birth. The nearest you come is Giesinger Fruchtmarkt near tube-stop Kolumbusplatz. As about three quarters of the fruits and veges as well as most of the Italian delicatessen are conventional you have to carefully watch out for the bio keyword. Apart from organic greens they also offer organic choices for olive oil, wine, pasta and cheese.
A similar owner-run mini market, Varieta am Körner Eck, is located in the Glockenbach neighbourhood, on Auenstraße between the Reichenbach and the Cornelius bridges. The bakery items are all organic, and organic products in the self-service area are clearly marked "bio" on the shelf. The shop offers a lot of directly imported Italian dry food, but unfortunately none of it in organic quality. Also most of the fresh fruits and veges are conventionally produced.
Remember the tales of parents or grandparents about the corner shop they went to as children to buy a single sweet which the shop keeper would put down on a list for their parents to pay later on when they came to shop bread, milk, veges and all the ingredients for the home-cooked meal? The spirit of these shops from the past you may find left in some immigrant shops and this is the reason why I list the Viktualieneck in Bogenhausen in this section. I learned about this crammed greengrocer's shop opposing the newly build neighbourhood of Prinz-Eugen-Park on my quest for shops supporting package-free shopping, but when I went there it turned out a likeable traditional supermarket offering
fresh fruits and veges, regional delicatessen, bread and rolls, wine and all kinds of food. About half of it is organic, namely all the bakery products and certainly more than half of the pre-packaged food. Most of the fresh fruits and veges come from a conventional local market garden
– the turnaround for organic greens wasn't good enough among his customers, and his emphasis was on avoiding waste the shop keeper told me. Package-free shopping is possible for all fruits and veges as well as all items from the bakery, meat and cheese counter.
I cannot tell you whether the shop chalks up for trustworthy customers, but if you are in the vicinity support this shop instead of the supermarket chains nearby.
The upmarket contrast to these somewhat shabby grocery stores is naturally to be found in the posh neighbourhood of the Lehel:
Studio Hindiba offers oils, herbs and condiments, olives, all types of rice, the famed ferments of Berlin's Markus Shimizu, a carefully selected range of wines and other predominantly organic delicatessen. For the smaller purse it may be just a beautyful shop to marvel at, but if your budget isn't painfully tight it's the perfect place to shop a foodie gift for someone special.
A few steps from Wiener Platz you'll find Steinbeißer, a cosy owner-driven deli advertising 'regional specialities'. Take this with a grain of salt – the organic Italian olive oil and Scandinavian candies (not organic) are small-scale produce specific to their region of origin, but certainly not from the greater Munich area. Most meat products come from small-scale Austrian farms which are likely to produce according to near-organic principles. Certified organic products unfortunately do not dominate the pleasantly arranged tables and shelves with artisanal products – predominantly foodstuffs and wine, but you may ask the owner about the provenance of his fare.
Wine, pepper and coffee from carefully selected small-scale producers, that's the focus of Grenzgänger ("border crosser"), a lovely shop directly located at the beautiful Bordeaux-Platz in Haidhausen, just opposite Café Reichshof. When you come here during the cold season you may find yourself welcomed by the warmth of a fireplace, and you can get a speciality coffee (14 types of Arabica to choose from) into your own mug. During covid-19 restrictions cream-ware cups aren't provided, so if you come without a mug you will be charged an extra 20 cent for a plastics-free one-way cup.
Unfortunately most of the products aren't certified organic, with the notable exception of the Demeter-certified honey and bee wax candles of a local beekeeper who is working in accordance with biodynamic principles, i.e. the gold standard for animal welfare.
Specializing in cheese and supplements – wine, olives, oil, herbs, condiments, to name a few – the Luigino's booth in the Southern part of Viktualienmarkt, opposite the crossing of Reichenbachstraße and Blumenstraße is the perfect place to shop for a picnic or the no-frills romantic candle light dinner. Once an almost entirely organic cheese booth the percentage of organic products on sale has diminished during the past years: mainly due to the advent of artisanal, yet conventional Italian cured meats, partially due to a lesser focus on organic labels on the selection of cheeses.
When ordering an Italian-style sandwich to take away you may wish to enquire about the ingredients and probably stick to the vegetarian ones since the Italian cured meat products usually are not organic.
The owner once run a delicatessen in Maxvorstand which was replaced by an organic ice-cream parlour in 2018.
Herbs and spices
Not exactly a spice bazaar, but a pleasant spice and herbs shop Gewürze der Welt ("spices of the world") had a long tradition on its former location in Thiereckstraße in the very city centre, but when the historic Ruffini house re-opened after a two-year period of restoration work in 2020, the shop moved back to its roots in the Sendlinger Straße (now) pedestrian area. As the name suggests you will find a world of spices, herbs, blends and condiments, a notable part of them in organic quality.
Munich's first organically certified herbalist is tucked away in a non-descript side road near Sendlinger-Tor-Platz, just a few steps aside the remnants of the Glockenbach neighbourhood's famous queer bars. Light and friendly the
Kräutergarten offers all kinds of organic dried herbs, spices, natural cosmetics and the like.
Sonnentor, the leading Austrian producer of organic herbs and spices, has a shop in Munich, too: Located in the basement of
Stachus-Passagen, a generally boring shopping mall a level above this central urban train and tube station, it's probably not the shop that you'll find by accident while taking a stroll through the city. Apart from herbs, spices and condiments they also have a selection of natural body care – an easy place to shop for a nice last-minute give-away.
The only operating corn mill in Munich with its cosy mill shop is located in a small street a few steps from the tourist hotspots of Marienplatz and Hofbräuhaus. The Hofbräuhaus-Kunstmühle offers all types of flour, bruised grains, semolina, bran and cereals, predominantly of corn grown in the region. An increasing number of these artisanal products are organic, so watch out for the 'bio' keyword on the classic paper bags or the listings of the web shop. These products are also the base ingredients for the artisanal home bakery E. Knapp & R. Wenig next door where you can buy hand-made bread and rolls based on traditional, predominantly Munich recipes. The mill shop also stocks a selection of organic dried fruit, olive oil, raising agents and other baking ingredients as well as dry breads like South-Tyrolean Schüttelbrot.
Another very special mono-themed shop, Hanf – der etwas andere Bioladen, sells everything containing THC-free hemp: beer, lemonades, cookies, bars, tea, ice-cream, chocolates, body care, clothes, liquids, pet food and more. Although the name suggests it not all products are certified organic, especially not in the non-food range, but the sheer number of goods based on this versatile plant is quite impressive. The main shop (which is closed on Mondays) isn't located in the most inviting part of town but can easily be reached from Leuchtenbergring urban train stop. But wait: in 2019 a second one opened at a tourist-friendly location between Isartor and Marienplatz.
Ceased to exist
The following places shut down and were replaced by other, not organic ones. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:
[Munich, Haidhausen, Schwabing, Lehel, Maxvorstadt, organic, lunch, snacks, coffee, supermarkets, deli, grocery, Italian, vegan, hemp, flour, mills, fashion, bodycare, spices, herbs, delicatessen, eatery, corona, covid]
Sunday, 23 June 2019
Whether you're after a noisy beach holiday at the Adriatic coast or want to escape the buzz of Venice but stay within the Venetian magic -- the former fisher town of Chioggia with the suburb of Sottomarina and its beach is definitely worth a visit. It's easy to reach by local train from Rovigo -- a travel back in time with noisy cars, some of them without air conditioning, where you open the windows in the vain hope that the hot summer wind will refresh you --, bicycle or bus no 11 from Lido SME. The latter travels on board of a ro-ro ferry at the south-end of the Lido di Venezia at Alberoni over to the isle of Pellestrina. At the ferry terminal next to the Pellestrina graveyard, Cimitero Pellestrina, the bus ends and you go on board of the waterbus ferry with the same name, to Chioggia.
If coming by bicycle from Venezia Santa Lucia train station take the ferry no. 17 from Tronchetto to Lido San Nicolo (from the train station you must carry your bike over the steps of the Ponte della Costituzione bridge), and simply follow the direction of the bus (the bicycle route over the islands is properly marked). You will also take the ro-ro ferry from Alberoni and later the waterbus from Pellestrina to Chioggia. For persons the ferries are covered by the ACTV day, two-days and three-days passes bought in Venice but you have to buy additional bicyles tickets at one EUR per bike and ferry ride.
Where to stay
Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any places to eat and stay with a throughout trustworthy eco-conscious mindset. The nearest you get for a sustainable overnight stay is Hotel Mediterraneo, directly located at Sottomarina's beach promenade, the Lungomare Adriatico. The hotel with its pleasant rooftop terrace carries the Legambiente ecolabel for sustainable tourism. However: The promised organic breakfast was predominantly conventional, with the notable exceptions of -- unfortunately prepackaged -- rice wafers and rusk (the latter was also available in a conventional variety), organic honey, and two types of (yummy) organic biscuits. Neither the tea bags, the bread nor the milk were organic, and the coffee from the automatic machine completely undrinkable for Italian standards. The hotel itself certainly fullfills higher eco demands than average, but they easily could do better introducing waste separation, re-usable toothbrush tumblers and natural body care on the rooms, and of course by raising the number of organic products notably.
Having said this, the hotel manager, Sonia, was cordial and helpful, the room clean and suitable for a family, with actual sea view, and sufficiently isolated against the noises of the beach party places -- off-season. The washing and cleaning detergents used on the room as well as on the bed linen and towels did not leave disturbing remainders of artificial perfumes. The a la carte menu on the hotel's restaurant, Saporoso, was done by a skilled chef which should better have had organic ingredients at hand, to enhance the taste to very good.
Where to eat
Sad to say but if you really want to eat organic you have to buy your own food for a pic-nic -- at least I wasn't able to spot at minimum predominantly organic eateries or restaurants. Let me know if you find one!
Your next best bet may be
Pizza Fantasy, a beach shack pizza restaurant next to the Astoria Village pleasure ground at the Lungomare. On occasions they seem to use organic wholemeal flour and olive oil for the dough, and this may point to a generally more conscious mindset. However I wasn't able to confirm the general use of organic ingredients.
For lunch you may also check out the sandwiches at Tentazioni Tipiche in the old town of Chioggia a few steps from the ACTV ferry stop, but again I cannot say how reliably they contain (or rather: not) organic produce.
The tour through the ice-cream parlours near Sottomarina beach starts with a case of greenwashing: L'Arte del Gelato da Marco e Giulio
advertises to use organic milk, but take this with a grain of salt: The 10 liters milk boxes by Parmalat delivered to the place were without doubt not lavelled organic. The ice-cream and the frozen yogurt are nevertheless smooth and easily palatable, though too sweet for my taste. None of the toppings for the frozen yogurt were organic. They take 1.80 EUR for a generous small serving of ice-cream, and 2.50 EUR for a small frozen yogurt with two toppings. The queue during evening hours makes it easy to identify this place on Piazza Italia.
A few steps along the roundabout, and you'll find L'Oasi del Gelato. The ice-cream here still looks very conventional, but for 2019 the owners promised to start using organic products -- organic milk in general, but also (on occasions) organic strawberries. How far they've already embraced this path I cannot say, but: Keep on going!
The Grom chain of ice-cream parlours stopped promising organic ingredients in 2019 (except for the milk in the milk shakes), but for the records: Yes, there's a Grom branch at the Lungomare.
The best source of organic food I could find is just around the corner from the ice-cream parlours at the Piazza Italia roundabout: Nuovi Sapori da Laura e Elena is a small, Sunday-open convenience store offering organic milk (the very lattebusche milk promised by the L'Oasi gelateria), juices, cheese, cookies, jam, wine, a good selection of dry food, and more -- you'll have to check for organic labels and ask at the cheese-and-meat counter.
The traditional Italian Tentazioni Tipiche delicatessen at the northern end of Corso del Popolo
next to Palazzo delle Figure in the old town of Chioggia is another small
grocery offering a -- rather limited -- range of organic (dry) food.
For organic and fairly traded bodycare (though no sun cream), dry food, sweets, preserves, wine, soft drinks, fairly traded fashion accessoiries and gifts head to the southern end of the corso: The Altromercato Commercio equo e sociale also stocks (not always certified organic) products of territories freed from the mafia, under the Libera Terra ("freed land") label.
More organic body care, using hemp as an ingredient, and other (partially organic) hemp products can be found at Canapa for you in Sottomarina which I did not have time to visit.
Some organic products are also available from the Supercoffeeshop coffee bar in Sottomarina. The coffee probably isn't organic, and I cannot say anything about the milk since I could not make it there.
If you are adventurous try to find Le verdure di Marco e Camilla in the old town of Chioggia, supposedly a quite new full-blown organic grocery also selling
fresh organic fruits and veges. I did not have the time to find the place, so please let me know if you know where exactly it is located.
More to try
[Chioggia, Sottomarina, biologico, organic, ice-cream, supermarkets, grocery, bicycle, hotel, accommodation, fair, gifts, shopping, bodycare, coffee, cafe, hemp]