At 10.30am last Sunday our City Night Line train from Paris arrived in Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The 13 hour train journey hadn’t been as bad as expected but finally the months of waiting were over, my holiday had officially begun. Before I could get too excited, I had to find my way to our apartment, which was located on Lindenstrasse, near Kochstrasse (Checkpoint Charlie) and not too far from Kreuzberg. I managed to get us both a weekly Bus/Tram/Train/U-Bahn/S-Bahn ticket from the Tourist Information Centre easily enough for the reasonable price of €28.80 (around £23) each. It took as a while to figure out the best way to Kochstrasse but with a little bit of help we managed to get to our apartment by 11am.
After dropping our luggage off and having a quick shower, I was ready to start exploring! We hadn’t slept well on the train over so I knew that after our initial excitement we were both likely to crash by late afternoon. I figured that as the sun was out, it would be wise to spend the day mooching about and getting to know the city a little bit. Food was also the priority, having picked at crisps, biscuits, bread and hummus during our journey, I was ready for a proper meal. We decided to visit Berlin’s famous Schivelbeiner Strasse (Vegan Avenue), so armed with a map, empty rucksacks and a shedload of Euros, we headed over to the U-Bahn.
First stop on Schivelbeiner Strasse was Veganz. I was so freakin’ excited to finally see this amazing chain of all Vegan Supermarkets. Since they announced plans to open a store in London later this year, the hype and excitement in the UK had got me buzzing. I was prepared for this visit and I’d saved up a lot of money to spend there.
Now…I don’t want it to look like I’m starting on a downer here, I think Veganz is cool, honest. However, after all the hype and excitement, I didn’t think it was all that. Now, before you pelt me with mouldy tofu, hear me out here. Throughout my 7 years of veganism I’ve been lucky enough to live in London, I visited Brighton regularly and I now live in Manchester, a 10 minute cycle from Unicorn Grocery (where I also happen to work) and a little further away in town is The Eighth Day and V Revolution (home of tasty vegan junk food). I’m a very privileged vegan, I have amazing options close to home, which is why I think the whole Veganz experience was pretty underwhelming. Had I not left Hampshire 6.5 years ago and turned up at Veganz I reckon I would have gone insane with all the choice.
Veganz has a lot to offer, the chillers full of European and American mock meats and cheeses are really impressive. I was really happy that I could get my hands on Tofurky Kielbasa and Fieldroast sausages. The freezer cabinets were equally impressive, loads of choice when it came to frozen desserts. There were also some great packet pudding mixes, a huge choice of chocolate spreads/nut butters, a decent vegan dog food range, lots of chocolate bars etc. The biggest problem was the price. I mentioned that I’d saved up a lot of money for my trip there, but it wasn’t enough for me to really get hold of what I wanted. On my first shop here I spent around £50 and it didn’t get me much. I’m aware there’s a lot of stuff that’s flown in from the US, so obviously that’s going to be pricey but it wasn’t just the imported stuff that burnt a hole in my wallet, there were German brands there that were prices I wasn’t comfortable paying, I could get some of it cheaper back in the UK!
The other issue I had was the tiny selection of poor quality fruit and veg. It was worse in the Schivelbeiner Strasse location than the Warschauer Strasse store, but the vegetables looked limp and lifeless, the broccoli was going brown and clearly past it’s best. Disappointing as it was the first section a customer see’s in the shop and it looked so depressing! The small amount of fresh produce on offer just confirmed my thoughts that Veganz is a shop for vegan substitutes, not really a supermarket. I definitely would not be able to do a weekly food shop if I lived there (not that I could ever afford it anyway!)
Saying that, it’s a great place for new vegans, for the vegan curious and those lucky enough to have a money tree growing in their back garden. Whilst I have my criticisms, the shop is a positive thing for Veganism and I look forward to the UK having a shop with the word “Vegan” brightly displayed outside it and lots of delicious food inside. I just hope people don’t get the impression that the prices inside are a reflection of the realistic cost of living vegan.
Attached to both Veganz is a Goodies cafe and Avesu vegan shoe store. Avesu was closed but luckily for us. Goodies was open and offering brunch..
Goodies Cafe (Schivelbeiner Strasse)
We bought our wristbands for all you can eat brunch at Goodies from Veganz. It was just under €30 for 2 of us, not cheap if you’re visiting late in the afternoon like we were, but reasonable if you have a long afternoon free to eat lots of tasty food.
There was a lot of great food to choose from and different dishes kept appearing between each sitting. The self serve table started with bagels, spreads, cereals and milks before moving along to some raw salad dishes and then some cooked items at the end. I only had space for 2 plates but I managed to try most of the dishes available.
My favourite was a raw creamy broccoli dish, small florets of broccoli in a creamy nut based dressing, it was pretty cheesy. There was also a delicious curry and an amazing pasta dish too. I also liked the raw crackers with what I think was a raw vegan cheeze piped on top. It was really tasty, wholesome food. It wasn’t too rich and I think had we got there earlier we would have stayed a lot longer so we could try more.
Unfortunately the combination of a full tummy and lack of sleep meant that we had to return to our apartment for a few hours to catch up on a little sleep. To keep me going, I had one of these awesome peanut butter smores from Veganz.
After a little rest we got up to do some more wandering. After a long walk around Friedrichshain we headed over to Voner…
I never liked Doner Kebabs in my pre-vegan days but something about getting a vegan version made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This place was ace. I got myself some voner ‘meat’ with the peanut sauce and fries. It was amaaaaazing! I slathered mine in extra ketchup and garlic sauce.
If you’re not a fan of the kebab style meat, Voner also offer burgers and nuggets. I hear they often have doughnuts and brownies too but we didn’t see any there on our visit. This is definitely somewhere I’ll be going back to when I’m next in Berlin.
With really full bellies, we hobbled over to the nearest U-Bahn and decided to call it a day, we were still tired from the journey and wanted to get a good nights sleep so we could visit as many places as possible the next day.
Stay tuned for more!