so… what did happen in Europe?! Here’s your long-awaited summary of our travels in Germany! enjoy 🙂
Berlin: I flew in from Germany and Julian surprised me at the gate. He then expertly led me through the public transit system to eat lunch at a vegan cafe, La Viasco. We explored Veganz, an amazing all-vegan grocery store before heading to our CSer’s apartment. Veganz was huge, and by far the largest vegan grocery store I’ve ever been in. I was still hungry so we had some cakes before we started shopping. We ended up getting some fake salami, a mangosteen, gummy bears, cola gummies, and jelly. This selection might seem odd but we were planning out food for our long train ride the next day, and also had to try some of the vegan gummies which are hard to find! (Non-vegan gummies contain gelatin which is made from ground up animal bones.)
We definitely met a kindred spirit in Christoff, our CSing host. We had fun talking about vegan foods and animal rights, and he showed us vegan options at the nearby discount grocer. Even this store had vegan burgers, so we had some for dinner. We also picked up some organic orange juice because it was such a bargain.
The next day, Christoff saw us off to the train station (he woke up at 7 to walk us there! so sweet!) and we boarded on a great car because we found a private compartment all to ourselves. Julian slept but I was still jetlagged and wide-awake so I happily consumed copious amounts of vegan chocolate hazelnut spread on bread. Oh man. This spread was SO perfect: smooth, rich, creamy, and just the right amount of sweetness. Julian picked it up in Amsterdam for 1 Euro!! Little did I know this would be my favorite of the 3 (THREE!) chocolate hazelnut spreads we would sample over the next two weeks. I can’t believe I’m admitting to it, but I honestly ate 75% of these three containers. I ate it by the spoonful, on fruit, on bread, or even in my cereal. I couldn’t stop. Finally, we revised our budget and decided that we weren’t allowed to buy anymore chocolate or dessert unless it was a Saturday. (This rule didn’t last long, but did save us some money…) The chocolate was a real issue though because at every organic grocery store–I know an all-organic grocer would be a novelty in the US, but they are very common in Germany. Lucky ducks!– there were countless supplies of vegan chocolate. Our favorites were the rice milk white chocolates which were suprisingly melty, and the Rapunzel brand “chocolate noir” with nougat inside, nougat being the key word for hazelnut filling. My mouth is watering thinking about them!! Okay back to the train…
WWOOFing in Heidelberg
The train arrived early afternoon in Heidelberg Hbf. From there, we hopped on a tram to take it to the end of the line. After that, our directions were extremely vague. We were supposed to walk 10 minutes towards the northwest. We started walking and quickly realized that we were not going to find this farm without some better help since we didn’t even have a proper address. We ran into the Full Horn organic grocer which we knew was nearby the farm and asked around, and this nice couple said they would drop us off there if we waited for them to finish shopping. We gratefully agreed and somehow between their knowledge and ours, we found the farm.
We lucked out working on the farm in Heidelberg. Fred, the owner and sole occupant on the farm, was humorous, generous and easy-going. We “worked” weeding, stacking bricks and wood, harvesting lavender, and our favorite: making food with the harvests! Julian (just call him Betty Crocker) created all sorts of stove-top meals while I chopped and made juicy tomato, basil, arugula, and chive salads. Fred called these “rocket aktion” salads. We also helped him put a roof on a new woodshop building. From 11 to 2pm the weather was very warm, so Fred insisted that we take a break, which often included drinking lots of beers. He could handle more than us, and I found that water refreshed me more but his generosity and insistence that we take it easy was very enjoyable. We got to stay in this lovely camper van which felt quite isolated from everything, and we had our own composting toilet. The farm is completely off-the-grid, so there was no hot water, but taking a cold shower in the middle of the day was extremely refreshing. Fred often played interesting music from around the world that WWOOFers had left for him so our meals and hanging out sessions had very lively and diverse soundtracks. One night we met up with his friends at a bar right around the corner and Julian and I had so much fun asking them silly questions from our German phrase book. We first played this game with our friends Travis and Bishawjit (who was the only fluent German speaker of us all) in Colorado, so we knew the game would be entertaining.
I often found myself working on weeding this hedge which was acting as a barrier between the intensely sprayed vineyards next door. Weeding is probably my favorite task. Why? Well, it points to the complete arbitrariness of human agriculture and of species survival in general. We decide that this plant is good, and that plant is bad but it’s not always accurate. Dandelions and nettles are my two favorite examples. You can eat dandelion greens, make tea from the root (it’s delicious– chocolatey and nutty) and you can make yourself a dandelion crown as well. Nettles are delicious and garlicy, and are great in stir-fries or pestos, as long as you make sure you blanch them long enough to remove the stinging parts. Nettles are also great as an herbal tea remedy to allergies. Recognizing this arbitariness helps me in some way understand all injustices in the world. It’s just arbitary. At first when weeding, I felt overwhelmingly negative and destructive, like pure Shiva energy. I noticed myself pulling less carefully and just ripping the ‘weeds’ or bad plants out of the ground stabbing for the roots. Then, two things happened. I accidentally pulled out nettles with my bare hands. Whoops! and then I noticed that I was so close to stepping on a long worm. Out of nowhere, Pema Chodron’s practice of taunlin came to me. In the brief rage of pain that came like a white flash into my head from the stinging all over my hands, I breathed in deeply. I exhaled then full of compassion for all accidents, for all arbitrary injustices. Then I watched the very very long worm make his way into a hole. That night, Julian and I made a walnut nettle pesto with the nettles and walnuts from the farm. Yummmmm.
Another fun project I worked on was building a house for a prospective hedgehog. I asked if we actually had a hedgehog around the farm who might move in, but Fred reassured me that doesn’t matter if he moves in or not, but we’ll make it the most attractive we can to convince him. In every thing he does, Fred keeps an eye out for the local animals to make sure they have their own space to live as well.
Favorite foods from Heidelberg
Walnut and Nettle Pesto:
Muesli with fresh peaches, raspberries, and apples:
Vegan gelato from in town: