Friday, 21 August 2020
The rough and picturesque sandstone hills of Saxon Switzerland did not only inspire painters and componists of romanticism, but have been valued for centuries by both, alpinists as well as walkers and ramblers. Located at the border to the Czech republic it takes an urban train ride from Dresden (or a bicycle tour along the Elberadweg cycle route) to get here, either for a wee day out in the countryside or for a vacation inside the
If you get off the S1 urban train in direction Schöna at the
stop Hirschmühle Schmilka, and take the ferry to the Northern shore of the Elbe river you'll reach the village of Schmilka which, to a large degree, has been developed into an organic resort during the past years. The ferry is operated on demand, so simply go down to the landing stage and wait until the coxswain will see and fetch you.
The nucleus of the organic village is Hotel Helvetia which you will find, turning West (i.e. to the left), after a five minutes walk along the river shore. Its organic cafe and restaurant dubbed Strandgut ("stranded goods") serves both, the high quality no-frills salad for passers-by on a bicycle or walking tour as well as fine seasonal food drawing from both, the kitchen traditions of the region and the mediterranean. Both, vegans, fish and meat lovers are catered for with care, and if you are in the mood for a dessert, try the "Kalter Hund" ("cold dog") pudding made from cookies and chocolate, a children's favourite in former East Germany (though back then made with inferior ingredients). Unfortunately the cafe does not own a real Italian coffee machine, so the quality of the Italian-style coffee drinks is not as good as one would expect for a hotel in this category. If you stay overnight the hotel bar will however be able to provide you with a fully organic nightcap. However, due to renewal of the kitchen and restaurant facilities bar and restaurant will be closed until somewhen in September, 2020.
Usually the hotel reception serves as check-in for all
eco-friendly overnight options in the village, among others
Villa Thusnelda next to the ferry stop with its luxury rooms, but until the refurbishment will be finished, the check-in is at the street corner just across the road.
The villa itself houses historical Café Richter with the air of a classical spa coffeehouse, offering dinner from 5 am while the Strandgut restaurant is closed.
A sign at the cafe will guide you to the
village's operating water mill, the Schmilk'sche Mühle further up the road in the direction of the forest, with its rustic mill restaurant, the Mühlenstube of Gasthof zur Mühle at the right hand side. Hearty local stews and soups (one vegetarian, one omnivore), pizza, bread and cake from the artisanal organic bakery opposite and tasty, heavy beer from the Braumanufaktur brewery which you cross on the way from the river are served here, either inside or in the beer garden. Depending on the weather and season you will have to order at the bar inside or from the outdoor food stall. Here you also can buy beer, bread and cakes to take home when the bakery next door is closed.
If you stay overnight in one of the rustic and lovingly restored rooms at the mill -- they have double rooms as well as family appartments -- you will have your breakfast at the Mühlenstube.
The bakery opens at dusk, and what hasn't been sold on closing time will be sold by the Mühlenstube. Due to covid-19 restrictions there's now an open air sales booth a few meters up the hill which also sells (conventional) whipped ice-cream when the weather is nice. Opening hours of the brewery are restricted to the guided tours on Wednesdays and Sundays. If you stay within the resort a small tour inside the mill and the brewery is included in the package.
- Cafe Strandgut, Schmilka 11, Bad Schandau, probably from mid of September, 2020 again daily from 12, closing time depends on weather and season
[Dresden, Bad_Schandau, Schmilka, Saechsische_Schweiz, Saxon_Switzerland, organic, vegan, coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, restaurant, pub, cafe, bakeries, breweries, hotel, accommodation, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg, corona, covid]
Sunday, 16 August 2020
A hotspot for the coffee and tea trade the Hanseatic city of Bremen has a tradition for exotic beverages, and has always been a place with room for a subtler and more sophisticated approach to these beverages than the conventional mass-market. Organic and ecological projects have been blooming here for much longer than elsewhere, and so you can expect to find long established organic places blossoming alongside recent start-ups. What you will rarely find however are shiny, polished hipster cafes.
If you have to describe this neighbourhood in a sentence you'd probably point to the omnipresence of flee market-purchased furniture and objects in its lovingly and individually decorated independent shops and cafes. The beer tables on the pleasant garden terrace of Cafe Radieschen ("radish") as well as its indoor walls are all painted pink! If you come hungry first have a predominantly organic vegetarian or vegan pasta dish or sandwich before you turn to their impressive choice of home-made, predominantly organic cakes. Most drinks as well as the milk are organic, you can have an organic vegan ice-cream in the summer, and ingredients are sourced locally as far as possible. Lunch is usually offered between 12 am and 3 pm, and instead of the weekend the place is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The cafe plays host to a lot of neighbourhood activities, among them home-cooking events with young refugees from the house across the street. They always take a summer vacation and will be back 19th August, 2020.
Closer to Wilhelm Kaisen bridge and a few steps from the Kaemena ice-cream parlour you'll find a sweet art cafe dubbed Cafe Frida. They serve organic tea, soft drinks and soy milk for your coffee drink alongside home-made cakes, but neither the cakes nor the coffee, milk and oat milk are organic. You may however buy
organic fairly traded Slokoffie coffee sailed from Honduras and distributed by bicycle to have at home. Due to covid-19 restrictions you can not have breakfast here for the time being.
Whether you visit the Kunsthalle museum of art or just come by on your way into the alternative neighbourhood of the Viertel you may step buy for museum's
Cafe Sylvette inside the art museum. It's run by the crew of the Canova restaurant behind the museum.
Another cosy and serene place for an Italian-style coffee drink is the
Lei bistrot reviewed in the
The city's narrowest lanes are to be found in tourist hotspot Schnoor at the other, Northern shore of the river Weser.
To enjoy the atmosphere of this oldest part of town dating back to the 15th and 16th century, follow the Wüstestätte ("waste site") alleyway until the end and have a tea in a beautiful yet narrow two-storey tea house and shop dubbed Teestübchen ("little tea parlour"). Nice weather provided you can also sit outdoor and enjoy breakfast or tea time with a home-made cake, or a high tea with a pasta, typical local dishes, or Alsatian "pizza" (Flammkuchen).
Many ingredients are organic, but you might want to be picky when choosing the tea since not all of them are.
As long as covid-19 measures are in place you're kindly asked to book a table in advance (+49 421 32 38 67) as the place is tiny.
During the summer of 2020 the coffee bicycle of Coffee Bike offers Italian-style organic coffee drinks to city dwellers. Looks environment-friendly? Well, you can top it -- with a fairly traded organic coffee transported to Bremen without climate emissions by sailship and bicycle, in an earthenware cup, at the Biten food truck on the Domshof market.
At the university campus
University refectories usually are no gourmet temples, but it is nevertheless a pity that the Mensa refectory on the campus stopped to offer organic side dishes. What you still can have is an organic and fairly traded coffee drink with locally sourced organic milk from the coffee vending machines at Cafe Central.
It's not a delight, though -- the coffee tastes bitter from too high a temperature inside the machine, but it's cheap (1.30 EUR) and ethical.
If you want to invest into regular supermarket prices, the new branch of the local Aleco organic supermarket chain on the campus of the economics (Wirtschaftswissenschaften) school of the university has a self-service cafe where you can get organic snacks and coffee drinks. Their coffee machine however is a fully automatic one, so do not expect serious barista fare here neither. Due to covid-19 restrictions the self-service cafe is closed for the time being, but you can get coffee and cake to take away, simply don't forget to bring your own mug and lunch box to avoid waste.
Closed for the covid-19 pandemics
[Bremen, Neustadt, Schnoor, Worpswede, organic, fair, vegan, vegetarian, coffee, tea, lunch, cafe, breakfast, covid, corona]
If you fancy a freshly made organic ice-cream in Bremen be prepared to work out -- hope for good weather, rent a bicycle and do as many locals do: Set out on a 15 kilometers ride, first in direction University, and then on the
dyke safeguarding the land against the river Wümme to a dairy farm run by friendly family Kaemena in Niederblockland.
On the embankment cars are allowed with a special permit only, but an astonishing number of locals come here by bicycle, foot or skating to enjoy an organic ice-cream (the scoop goes for 1.70 EUR in 2020), coffee or cold organic drink and enjoy the farm and the countryside.
The ice-cream is made right here on the farm: from the milking station to the ice-cream factory it's only about 25 metres, and another 15 metres to the cafe.
Don't miss the poppy seed ice-cream and the varieties based on buttermilk and yogurt.
Opening hours on pleasant summer days may be longer than announced, but when the cafe is closed you can still buy iced lollies from the 24x7 open vending machine at the farm.
While the vending machines are serviced throughout the year the ice-cream parlour is closed in winter.
The farm itself is driven according to the seven Bioland principles, with about 80 cows (which all have individual names) and calves who are fed by and kept together with their mothers until they eat grass and hay (which is at an age of about five weeks). The farm also keeps a few other animals like geese, two pigs, a couple of goats and chicken (both hens and cocks) and gives home to a lot of wildlife like a sparrow colony and swallows.
There's a nice playground for children, and if you want to stay longer (minimum one week) the family rents out several pleasant holiday apartments (but make sure to book well in advance for holiday seasons).
Despite the covid-19 restrictions the Kaemenas opened a new ice-cream parlour in the city, in the Neustadt part of town in May 2020. Coffee is on sale here, too, and you can also buy a drinking yogurt and cheeses from the farm. And, believe it or not, the queue is (still) shorter than on the farm.
Throughout the covid-19 summer of 2020 the stylish mobile coffee bar of Coffee Bike stops in the very city centre on Ansgarikirchhof Monday through Saturday and offers both, fully organic coffee drinks and Kaemena's ice-cream to passers-by. Unfortunately they do not have neither eatable ice-cream wafers nor ceramics cups for the coffee, so you're forced to enjoy your treat in non-compostable one-way cups unless you bring your own.
[Bremen, Neustadt, Blockland, organic, ice-cream, cafe, accommodation, farms]
Friday, 14 August 2020
Bremen offers plenty opportunities for an organic lunch ranging from a cheap and simple meal at a refectory to the posh organic business lunch.
For dinner there's significantly less choice -- you may opt for fast food or a friendly place to meet friends, but to have an organic candle light dinner will be difficult. Don't expect highly sophisticated international cuisine -- Bremen restaurants are best when it comes to local dishes based on regional ingredients (which are totally different from e.g. the meat-centric Bavarian cuisine) and rather adapt international influences than aim at an -- whatever the definition may be -- authentic experience of a foreign cuisine.
The food served in "Indian" restaurants in Germany usually does not have much in common with the food actually served in India -- and the Punjabi food served at the -- to my knowledge -- oldest organic restaurant in Bremen, the
Krishna a short walk from the Southern end of either Wilhelm Kaisen or Bürgermeister Smidt bridge is also adapted to this idea of how Europeans are likely to like Indian food.
This is probably not a surprise since the restaurant generates its main business from its delivery and take-away service. The good news about it -- there's always a spare table in the restaurant which now after more than ten years looks a little worn, resembling actual restaurants in India.
Since the main ingredients of the pakoras, curries and tandoori dishes -- meat, dairy products and vegetables -- are organic the food is much more palatable than in conventional "Indian" restaurants. You can choose between rice and naan bread as a side dish, and each curry comes with a salad (dressed with a balsamico-based dressing) in advance.
The menu hasn't changed much in all these years -- lamb, chicken, fish, cheese (paneer) and/or vegetables in a gravy, and as a recent addition gravy with tofu as a vegan alternative. You might wish to start your meal with an (organic) yogurt drink (lassi) and finish with a cup of chai or hot saffron milk.
There's also a selection of cold organic drinks available. If you have the chance take a chat with the friendly Punjabi owner, but do not expect much flexibility from his staff which often even cannot remember the dishes and will ask you for the number on the menu when ordering.
Note that the restaurant is open evenings only.
If you are in the mood for basic Italian food, organic breakfast or coffee head for the
Lei in the Viertel neighbourhood.
Their menu changes daily -- usually you can choose from seasonal salads, soups, a risotto, a pasta dish and three types of pizze, all entirely made of certified organic ingredients. For dessert or together with a coffee drink you may order home-made cheesecakes, sometimes brownies or other cake varieties.
The pizza toppings usually are not the classical Italian ones, instead they use seasonal local ingredients on a gorgeous crisp and thin pizza base -- very tasty as was the risotto.
Disappointing their interpretation of a lasagna -- the tomato-based meat or tofu fill was predominantly made of carrots. Healthy perhaps, and in line with the Bremen tradition for health food, but not the delight I hoped for.
The kitchen closes at 9 pm but as long as there are people having another drink the place keeps open in the evenings. So you might try your luck after 9 pm, to have a gin and tonic (among the gins and tonics there is one organic variety each) or sample from a good selection of craft beers, a few of them organic.
If you are not into football try to avoid the place while Werder Bremen is playing. Although usually closed on Sundays, the restaurant opens at 12 o'clock on match Sundays to broadcast the match. During the warm season there's a nice terrace in front of it where you can avoid to watch the TV screen and nevertheless mingle with locals.
It shouldn't go unnoticed that the toilet avoids one-way paper towels and offers organic liquid hand-wash. A throughout pleasant place if you ask me.
For an organic pizza slice, a chili stew, sometimes pasta and
fairly traded organic coffee sailed from Honduras to Europe and transported by bicycle
pay a visit to the Biten food truck at the farmer's market at the Domshof in front of Markthalle 8.
Mind you that the truck leaves early in the afternoon and some days simply won't be there.
Clean and raw
Inside the Markthalle 8 food court Nora's Deli offers bowls, curries, freshly made juices and shots as well as healthy sweets without refined sugar, both to eat here and to take away. The place is located at the right hand side.
Regional -- International
For a coffee or lunch break you have another opportunity in the vicinity: the
Bio-Biss im Alten Fundamt, a recreational place which has been offering organic food for many years, formerly under the name "Mundart im Alten Fundamt" and now in the second generation of tenants, as "Bio-Biss". In summer it's a pleasure to eat outside in the large backyard, with a kindergarden and a home for the elderly as neighbours. The menu changes daily and offers tasty seasonal food using predominantly local ingredients from their own farm or other organic farms nearby. The dishes are based on local food traditions or derived from Italian or Oriental cuisines, and always served both, as a regular and a small portion.
You may also have an organic ice-cream from the Kaemena farm.
A less sophisticated yet filling organic lunch for a cheap price can be had at the
Leckerbiss refectories run by the Bio-Biss caterers on the Radio Bremen campus in Vahr
within the refectory of the Bremen Senator for Children and Education in the city center.
On weekdays you can choose from two wholefood dishes, one of them vegetarian, and a soup. In addition there is coffee and some snacks. Not all ingredients and drinks however are organic. The
Bio-Biss refectory on the University campus opposite Universum unfortunately was closed in 2020, probably due to covid-19 restrictions.
The nearest you can get to a romantic evening out is the
Canova restaurant behind Kunsthalle. Many of their supplies come from organic farms in the greater Bremen area, and it's a pleasure to sit on their terrace in summer.
The team also runs the Cafe Sylvette inside the art museum.
If you rather opt for fast food there are two options, both of them only a few steps away from each other, in the city's central shopping area.
Opposite the back entrance to the Kaufhof department store you can find 1885 Burger, a self-serving American-type diner using
organic beef and bacon in their burgers. Start queuing at the left side and choose the type of patty and home-made bun you prefer. While the patty is being grilled before your eyes move to the right and specify the sauces, vegetables and condiments as well as your drinks (I'd suggest the organic Störtebeker beer). Some of the veges are organic, too, and most of them as well as the cheeses are sourced locally. Vegetarian cheese and vegan lentils patties are available, but you have to enquire whether they are organic. Pay at the till in the middle of the restaurant when you're ready to leave. Although the place is popular among supporters of the local football club Werder Bremen, it should be noted that there's no TV screen.
Inside the Karstadt department store the
Scharfrichter sausage place offers the hottest currywurst in town. Invest the small difference of 50 cents and order an organic Bio-Bratwurst together with an
organic softdrink (Bionade), and specify the spicyness of the (not organic) sauce. The organic ice-cream from nearby Kaemena farm will calm your burning gums if necessary. Vegan sausages are available, but it's advisable to ask whether they are organic. Unfortunately they closed their original location.
More to try
Here's a list of (partially) organic restaurants and eateries I found during my research but did not have time to visit. Your impressions are appreciated!
[Bremen, organic, coffee, lunch, dinner, snacks, restaurant, burgers, pizza, fastfood, takeaway, Indian, Italian, vegan, vegetarian, raw, covid, corona]
Thursday, 13 August 2020
Organic and eco-conscious trade in the city of Bremen is still dominated by smaller shops and supermarkets closing already between 6 and 7 pm, and between noon and 2 pm on Saturdays. Although outlets of the Alnatura and Aleco organic supermarket chains keep open until 8 pm, you might end up quite frustrated if your schedule doesn't allow for day-time-on-weekdays shopping.
Fortunately shops within Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, have quite liberal opening hours, hence unless you're longing for fresh veges or frozen food, you're safe, even on Sundays and in the evening.
A small selection of fresh fruit, dairy products and non-dairy alternatives, drinks, dry food, sweets, natural cosmetics and a full-fledged range of bread, rolls, and pastries (both, sweet and savoury) can be found at the BetterLife health-food shop (Reformhaus). Apart from the bakery booth, you have however to check for organic labels as about half the products on sale aren't organic or certified natural cosmetics.
With their natural cosmetics own brand "Alterra" Rossmann drugstores like the one you'll enter when climbing the stairs to the right after entering the central station from the Bahnhofsplatz tram and bus hub offer an alternative for the small purse. The branch keeps open 16 hours a day (14 on weekends on bank holidays) and stocks a good selection of organic dry goods (check for organic labels) and sustainable household goods.
What's unique for a German city is that there's a Sunday-open package-free convenience store:
Selfair at the Steintor.
For pre-packaged organic sausage and meat products, predominantly in the jar head for the Lebensmittel-Punkt inside the Markthalle 8 food court at Domshof. When you enter the building there's a 24x7 open vending machine at the left hand side where you can buy a lot of regional sausage specialities as well as ready-made meat stock.
You can also put orders of fresh meat at their webshop and collect your order on Fridays and Saturdays between 11 am and 6 pm from the dish counter of the food court.
The name "Lebensmittel-Punkt" is a play on words -- the composed noun can mean both, "place to buy food" and "centre of vital interest".
At the organic farm of the Kaemena family in Blockland you'll find 24x7 open vending machines for local organic products. Here
you can tap raw or pasteurized milk into your own bottle, the liter for 1.20 EUR.
If you did not bring one you can buy a returnable milk bottle for the price of 80 cents the Regiomat vending machine which also stocks jam, drinking yogurt and cheese from the farm as well as cheese, eggs, honey and sausage in the jar by organic farms in the vicinity. In addition there's a little freezer with iced lollies at 2.50 EUR the piece for which you pay into the honesty box next to it -- all worth the bicycle tour on the dyke as cars need a special permission to come here. Don't forget to bring cash.
Both, the jam and jogurt glasses can be returned here for re-use (there's a separate "waste-bin" next to the vending machine), but to get back the deposit for the milk bottles you have to turn to the farm cafe during its opening hours.
[Bremen, Blockland, organic, supermarkets, grocery, bodycare, trainstation, farms, Regiomat]