Saturday, 18 May 2019
When you're captured in the boring conference centre Moa-Bogen (not far from the Berlin main train station, Hauptbahnhof) where not even the tea bags in the conference area are organic (with the notable exception of one type of simple black tea which was available from one single tea bag dispenser) all you want is to go for a stroll at lunch time.
But this is not Kreuzberg and it's not so easy to find organic food options. What I discovered in the vicinity were two vegan day cafes with more or less limited use of organic ingredients, both not more than a five minutes walk away (though in opposite directions).
Around Birkenstraße tube station
For cheap and simple, filling vegan food find the ice-cream-shaped neon light of
vegan Café Geh Veg next to the Birkenstraße tube station (the name is a mesh up of the literal translation of "go veg", the German word for pedestrian way -- Gehweg -- and the German phrase "Geh weg!" meaning "go away"). This small and somewhat shabby place serves breakfast until 2 pm as well as black bean burgers, salads, bagels, wraps and cakes. Unfortunately it’s only partially organic: The bagels, the tempeh and the soy and the oat drinks are organic, most of the tea bags and soft drinks are, too, but veges, yogurt alternatives and the ice-cream usually are not. The coffee is even cheap conventional supermarket fare.
Questions about the origin of the ingredients were dealt with in a friendly way, but the staff does not seem to be very knowledgeable. Note that the toilets are next door.
For way nicer surroundings in Spanish style walk in opposite direction: Directly located at the pleasant retreat of Stephansplatz with a nice children's playground surrounded by Wilhelminian style houses you'll find Valladares Feinkost. It's not only a
100% vegan café, but
also a small organic grocery selling organic dry products, dairy alternatives, wines, lemonades, water and even natural cosmetics.
The coffee is roasted in town but not organic, the plant-based drinks are.
According to the barrista fresh veges used in the dishes would usually be organic, but there's no commitment to what's organic and what not. Unfortunately the cakes aren't.
The oat-drink-based cappuccino I found too sweet (due to the brand), so here the one from Geh Veg was better, despite the inferior coffee.
From Birkenstraße take the U9 tube one stop to Turmstraße, and you're in the heart of Old Moabit, with busy shopping streets and pleasant residential areas. Here you'll find
the Domberger Brot-Werk, a true
artisanal bakery with an open bakehouse as part of the shop. It smells deliciously here and you may be surprised by the limited selection of items -- just a few types of bread and rolls, and one type of cake if you come in time for the latter. But the taste! I still regret that I did not buy a loaf of bread to take with me, since the Bavarian-style pretzl I had was overwhelmingly tasty: fresh from the oven, with an intense flavour of wheat and baking stone (although Bavarians would probably complain about the softness). The bakery itself is not certified organic, but uses
certified organic flour, eggs, and milk. The fruit for the cake and other ingredients come from the Kreuzberger Markthalle 7 and may not be organic. Needless to say that you can have a coffee, too, probably also in front of the place when the weather is nice.
For 100% organic ice-cream head for the
Eisbox ice-cream parlour a few corners away. Unfortunately I run short of time, so share your experience with me if you come here.
There's also an organic supermarket of the small Berlin-based LPG chain a few meters further west which also offers fully organic lunch. Their bakery counter opens an hour before the supermarket, at 7am.
The LPG groceries are organised as a co-operative with a focus on regional producers and neighbourhood welfare, offering discounts to its members. Its name matches the common abbreviation for the agricultural production cooperatives in former East Germany.
At the main train station
Within the city's huge main train station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof (which you can reach within a few minutes on the TXL bus from the Turmstraße stop located on Alt-Moabit street) it's hard to find a supplier of organic provisions (you'll have to fall back to the conventional Rewe supermarket or the Rossmann drugstore and check for organic labels). I could not find any eatery using organic ingredients, but you can at least have organic coffee drinks and tea at the Pret a manger self-service cafe. When you enter the station from the southern exit at Washingtonplatz this is the first place to the left. They use fresh organic milk from the Bavarian Andechser dairy, but unfortunately none of their cakes, cookies, sandwiches and other own-brand snacks are organic.
[Berlin, Moabit, organic, vegan, cafe, restaurant, eatery, coffee, ice-cream, supermarkets, grocery, bakeries]
Thursday, 16 May 2019
Nowhere in Germany it is easier to adhere to an organic lifestyle than in its capital -- provided you aim for appropriately inhabited neighbourhoods all you have to do is to keep your eyes open. Many of those neighbourhoods can be found in the administrative unit of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and this blog will cover only the tip of the iceberg, i.e. the places I found during a two-days visit. The places covered in the first two sections are all located in Kreuzberg 61, the neighbourhood considered the bourgeouis part of Kreuzberg.
The German Museum of Technology near tube-station Möckernbrücke clearly is a place to spend hours in -- but what if you start to feel hungry or the urge for a coffee? For the occasional tourist this wonderful museum seems to be located in the middle of nowhere, but don't dispair! Head East and follow Tempelhofer Ufer back to the tube station, and turn to the right after the second traffic-light. A few steps into Großbeerenstraße you will find an organic gem with roots back in former West-Berlin's green-alternative past. Today it's a friendly though a little worn-out grocery cum eatery dubbed Ökotussi ("eco-Sheila") run by a bunch of practical women. Stop by for a hearty vegetarian (usually vegan) lunch (the vegan lasagna we had was delicious and sufficient for two), a salad or snack or an Italian-style coffee drink.
Follow Zossener Straße from tube-stop Gneisenaustraße in Southern direction, and you'll end up in a neighbourhood that most eco-conscious people will consider the ultimate paradise: three organic (or predominantly organic) whole-sale supermarkets, four organic bakeries, four at minimum partially organic restaurants and eateries, and a number of other shops offering selected organic products, everything within a five minutes walk, all with liberal opening hours compared to the rest of Germany. The eateries of this neighbourhood dubbed Bergmannkiez try to outdo one another in advertising their vegan options -- it seems a luxury to point out that vegan even here usually does not imply organic.
Restaurants and eateries
Promenading Bergmannstraße (which makes for the Southern border of Marheinekeplatz) to the West you will find Fratelli La Bionda, a decent Italian pizzeria using organic flour and tomatoes for their pizze. No place for lunch since the restaurant does not open before evening. If you take your seat around the tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, opposing a park with a children's playground you will kindly be asked to move inside around half past 9 pm. Since the eateries covered below all close between 8 and 9 pm (or even earlier during the weekend) this place is the only option for your evening out covered in this post.
A few steps west enter crossing Friesenstraße to the left, and you'll find Glück to go, serving ayurveda-inspired healthy vegan or vegetarian burgers with organic buns alongside organic beer and softdrinks. Unlike the eateries within the Marheineke-Markthalle next to the playground this place is open on Sundays.
This nicely restored mall is a Mekka for foodies. Opposite Friesenstraße you will find Piechas Bio-Buffet, a slow-food whole-organic grill. Although vegan and vegetarian dishes are offered, too, their focus is clearly on organic meat, from nose to tail. Arguably Berlin's best beef burgers are served here, and unlike other places they won't cook your meat to death when you forget to order rare. If you want to try Berliner Currywurst (curried sausage) and other German meat dishes at all -- so here. Heavily frequented during lunch hours service can be a bit bumpy, and more frequent cleaning of the bar tables would often be nice. You can choose from an impressive range of organic softdrinks, or have beer or very decent cider made from apples organically grown in the wild of Berlin's surroundings. Mayonaise and ketchup for your fries have to be ordered separately.
If you walk around the booth you will find the counter of the organic butcher's shop where you can buy sausages, offal and all the cuts from free-range cattle and pigs kept well at small-scale organic farms in the vicinity and slaughtered respectfully.
Lunch and coffee drinks are also being served by organic bakery Beumer & Lutum, a few steps north on Zossener Straße. If you want your coffee on the go make sure to bring your own mug which entitles you to a small discount. While the two organic bakery boothes within the Marheineke mall -- Mehlwurm in the centre of the market hall, and Biobackhaus in the North-Eastern part -- are closed on Sundays and open at 8 am, Beumer & Lutum keeps open on Sundays and is catering for the early bird Monday through Saturday from 7 am. It also offers a small selection of organic food items to complete your breakfast table. In return the bakery boothes in the mall have longer opening hours in the evening, but do not serve coffee or lunch.
For the sweet tooth
Italian-style organic coffee drinks can also be had from the Tanne b ice-cream parlour on the crossing of Zossener and Bergmannstraße. They use organic milk for their all-natural ice-creams served in vegan cones, and offer vegan options, too. Children are served slightly smaller scoops for the price of 80 cents (instead of 1.20 euros for regular servings). In 2019 the ice-cream season has been announced to start 7th March.
Around the corner from Fratelli La Bionda you'll find cosy Cafe Conni Island where you can treat yourself with lovely home-made, partially organic cakes and a coffee drink made with organic milk. The place is run by an artist whom you can hire to paint your walls with art, and since she usually serves herself the opening hours are restricted to afternoons and the second half of the week.
Opposite Beumer & Lutum you will find Doçura Chocolate, a confectioner's shop offering a decent selection of organic chocolates and tisanes. Since about two-thirds of their sweets are conventional check for organic labelling.
With a branch of the vegan supermarket chain Veganz on the first floor of Marheineke-Markthalle facing Marheinekeplatz, a branch of Berlin-based organic wholesale chain Bio-Company on Bergmannstraße/Friesenstraße crossing and an Alnatura branch on the East-side of the park, all with liberal opening hours compared to German standards it's hard to find an excuse for not buying organic.
While the latter two sell exclusively organically certified items you have to be careful at Veganz: The grocery products and most of the German and Austrian brands on display are organic (and can be found in almost any other organic supermarket), but they also offer a lot of imported vegan products, and a great deal of them are not organic. Unfortunately these are not clearly marked on the shelves, so you should be familiar with organic branding outside the continent. On the plus side this Veganz supermarket introduced self-service dispensers offering more than 80 different dry products waiting to be filled in the containers you brought with you.
If you're on a shopping spree or in search for a gift, and the body care sections of the organic supermarkets seem too boring, there's an organic beauty shop dubbed Belladonna in Bergmannstraße. Light and inviting, with a great selection of all kinds of natural creams, body lotions, perfumes, hair care, make-up and much more, both for men and women, this is a must-go for everyone, not just beauty addicts.
Also need new clothes? One of the three Berlin-based shops of the Dresden-based organic fashion and interior design label Tranquillo is located right in the vicinity.
The Japanese go mad about Trippen shoes, and if you go for fairly and eco-consciously produced leather shoes of unusual design (some of the soles alone can be considered art) the Trippen factory outlet near tube stop Schlesisches Tor is definitely worth a visit. Unlike in their stylish flagship store within Hackesche Höfe you have to browse shoe boxes for your size, and all the pairs are remaining stock or have small defects like miscolourings. In return prices are well below usual market price. You will find children's, women's and men's shoes (even the ones better described as sculptures are astonishingly comfy), and the staff is very helpful.
If you happen to feel hungry after shoe-shopping pay a visit to Schulz&Korn, a small partially organic delicatessen cum eatery on your way from Trippen back to Schlesisches Tor. You can choose between two simple, predominantly organic vegetarian dishes (like pasta or baked potatoes with salad), and shop your daily supply of grocery. The dry goods, drinks and veges are organic, but most of the cheeses and meat-based products are surprisingly not. You'll probably want to avoid the Argentinian empanadas made by a friend of the shopkeepers as they are made using conventional minced meat. The staff is friendly and doesn't turn grumpy when you enquire about the origin of the ingredients and supplies. The shop looks like an organic grocery of old which has adapted itself to its neighbourhood, and is frequented by locals. Note that they are closed on Saturdays.
Another of the probably many organic groceries turned partially organic eateries and delis is Der Milchladen ("The milk shop") near tube stop Moritzplatz. More styled than Schulz&Korn, in the heart of what is dubbed the wild and autonomous migrant Kreuzberg you can have a hearty lunch, sandwiches, coffee and (cheese) cake as well as breakfast, vegan, vegetarian and omnivore.
The place is situated a few steps from the flagship store of one of the oldest eco-conscious Berlin fashion labels, Luzifer in Oranienstraße. All their clothes are made of linen and hemp, and unlike other labels they don't have short-lived collections: If you wore out your favourite dress, shirt or pair of trousers, you will usually be able to buy a replacement. When my favourite dress (of which I had two copies) after ten years continous use had too many holes they happily made a new one of the good parts for a very competitive price. They offer both, a men's and a women's collection, and you will often be served a tisane or a cookie in their light and friendly showroom.
The following places are closed for good:
[Berlin, Kreuzberg, organic, vegan, Italian, pizza, coffee, ice-cream, supermarkets, fashion, bodycare, household, shoes, deli, grocery, eatery, zero_waste, bakeries, butcher, burgers, confectioners]
Monday, 22 April 2019
Fortunately an increasing number of small-scale organic cattle farmers find creative ways to survive for the good of all of us -- and with some dairy cow farmers like the Kaemenas in Bremen or the Greisslers in Lower Austria the good is simply the best -- mouth-watering artisanal ice-cream!
In the case of Eis-Greissler the ice-cream isn't fully organic -- it's made from organic milk and often flavoured with organic Sonnentor spices. The home-base for the ice-cream parlours with the chequered, pastel-shaded doll's house interior is Vienna, and usually you will be able to recognise the
tiny shop near Stephansdom by the queue in front of it. The blackboard with the ice-cream flavours you'll notice when queueing from the right lists only the vegan flavours, there's a second blackboard left to the entrance listing the dairy varieties. A small scoop comes at 1.60 €, two flavours at 3 €, three at 4.20 €.
Prices however aren't the same everywhere: The bicyle-powered mobile ice-cream boothes (supplied with fresh ice-cream by cargo bikes) on the grounds of Schönbrunn castle and zoo charge a hefty 2.20 € the scoop.
More to try
During my research I also found the following ice-cream parlours trustworthily using organic ingredients, but I did not have the time to try them myself. If you do so let me know about your experience!
[Vienna, Wien, organic, vegan, ice-cream, cafe, coffee]
Thursday, 24 January 2019
For (re-)filling your kitchen cupboard and shop for un(pre)packaged food head straight to the northern shore of the Neckar river, to the Neuenheimer Markt market place. On Wednesday mornings (until 1 pm) a farmer's market is held here, but a few steps
you will also find the city's only package-free supermarket dubbed Annas Unverpacktes ("Anna's unwrapped goods") which with its outer wall made of turquoise tiles looks like a converted butcher's shop from the outside. As all zero waste convenience stores I've come across so far it's strictly vegetarian, but omnivores simply walk outside and turn left to find an artisanal butcher's shop at the next corner.
Until some years ago the Metzgerei Blatt was working according to the Neuland principles of animal welfare in meat production which are close to, but not fully organic, and in 2015 turned to fully organic principles. The shop was closed when I went there (as it's generally closed on Wednesday afternoons), but the owner assured me that the staff would fill my purchase into my own clean boxes as long as they were intended for personal consumation (instead of catering a bigger crowd). Ready-to-eat meat dishes are also available to take away.
Directly opposite the Neuenburger Markt there's also a shop of the local wholefood bakery Mahlzahn named after the dragon in Michael Ende's famous children's novel "Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver". Here the shop assistants will happily put your bread, rolls, sweet and savoury pastries into the bags or containers you present.
The bakery workshop itself is located in the Weststadt neighbourhood where you also can buy a small selection of loose-weight seasonal fruit and veges and assorted pre-packaged organic food items to supplement your breakfast, lunch or coffee table. When I went there in hope for an early organic breakfast it however turned out that this bakery doesn't follow the zeitgeist to serve coffee and snacks to eat on the spot everywhere -- no coffee machine here, no bar tables. (The rolls were delicious nevertheless.)
Mind you that this bakery does not use white flour at all.
Altogether there are four Mahlzahn shops, all with identical opening hours, the third one located in the neighbourhood of Rohrbach, and the fourth in Handschuhsheim (literally: "glove's home").
To buy all items for a zero waste breakfast at one stop head for the city's branch of the Denn's organic supermarket chain: The staff at its meat, dairy and bakery counters offers to fill cheese, cured meat products, sausages and bakery items the into your own containers. If you buy a coffee drink on the go in your own cup you'll receive a 30 cents discount, and you can also buy lunch to take away in your own jars instead of having it at the self-service bistro.
More to try
Here are a few more shops which I found during my research but didn't manage to visit myself:
You may still find references to the following organic grocery on the web, but be assured it's no longer there:
[Heidelberg, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, butcher]
Sunday, 18 November 2018
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.
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.
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!
[Heidelberg, shopping, organic, fair, fashion, spices, herbs, delicatessen, gifts, upcycling, bodycare, coffee, cafe, cycling, shoes]