Monday, 6 July 2015

My Western European Adventure so Far...

The best thing about long term travel is the feeling of freedom, of having a plan but knowing that it can change at any moment if you want it to. If, for example, an online friend gets in touch to tell you about a vegan festival that's kinda-sorta-but-not-really on your imagined route then you can make an about turn and head in the opposite direction for some fun times.

Hanging out on the top deck of the Dover - Calais Ferry

This my friends is how I ended up in Amsterdam this past weekend! When Nick and I left the UK on Thursday we had Berlin firmly in our sights but after receiving a message whilst we were waiting to board the delayed 11:10 ferry from Dover to Calais our plans changed. I'd been to Amsterdam twice but both times as a glassy eyed teen focussed on having a good time and Nick had never even set foot in The Netherlands at all so we headed north.

We didn't make it all the way to Amsterdam in one go, it was turning into a very long day so we stopped near Tilburg and set up camp which is a very quick process when your van is so tiny! You just plug into the electric, pop up the roof and wind down the supporting legs and you're ready to camp.


We scoped out the campsite shop to pick up something easy for lunch and settled upon a baguette which we ate with some of my stash of Streich spreads from my last trip to Vienna. I also used the handy E Number guide at the back of my zine to see if this fun looking, fizzy Hello Kitty drink was vegan. It wasn't. Stupid E120!



After a day of relaxing we packed up, sped towards Amsterdam, parked up and hit Viva Las Vega's, Amsterdam's vegan fest', and our reason for detouring. We had a super fun time hanging with my PPK buddies; Aviva who writes Vegan Stuff in Belgium, and Martine who has two blogs Vegetus and Gewoon Vegan and who was teaching a cultured nut cheese demo at the fest.

Nick & I couldn't resist swinging by the Wheaty stall as soon as we arrived and a Schnitzel Sandwich was soon ours. Nick and I also bought 10 Wheaty Spacebars because they make perfect road trip fuel.


Sweet food was represented well at the fest and as well as wonderful things like these fancy frozen and dipped bananas, and the delicious slice of strawberry cake from Heavenly Cupcakes that Nick and I shared, we were also delighted to see a record breaking attempt in the form of the world's biggest cupcake! Fun! We were lucky enough to try a slice each and it was some top notch cake.



Savoury food is often a bit lacking at vegan festivals but we soon found a stall selling masala mock duck sandwichs and we dived right in. This tasty mildly spiced sandwich really hit the mark.


As the vegan fest was winding down Nick and I headed into the centre of town to check out some of the sights as well as a branch of the Albert Heijn supermarket chain that we'd heard held many delicious European vegan treats. We found Gody Good Stuff's newly vegan Cheery Cherries as well as some of the best Alpro soy yoghurt I've ever eaten.



I am not kidding when I tell you that this tastes just like apple crumble in yoghurt form. It's amazing. I topped mine with Dorset Cereals granola which only added to the crumble experience. I was pleased to hear from my friends on Instagram that this is available all over Europe and I will most definitely be buying it regularly this summer.

We stayed in Amsterdam for an extra night so that we could spend the next day sightseeing and as well as doing a lot of walking we checked out the Respect Sex Workers Worldwide statue and laughed at people attempting to manoeuvre pedalos and boats along some of the cities narrower canals.



We also payed a visit to Vegabond, Amsterdam's all vegan shop and cafe, where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch. I opted for a red pesto and vegan cheese open sandwich which came topped with tomatoes and rocket and Nick picked the spinach, hummus and tempeh wrap.


I loved my toasted open sandwich and Nick said that the tempeh in his wrap was some of the best he'd ever tried. Vegabond only have a small menu of sandwiches, wraps and juices but I felt like there were plenty of tempting things to choose from and I would definitely recommend that you swing by if you're in the area.

Whilst I enjoyed our brief stay in the city I have to admit that Amsterdam is never going to graze my list of favourite cities, I find the smell of weed smoke at best irritating and at worst PTSD triggering so I try to avoid it at all costs and honestly, in Amsterdam, it's impossible. It's a pretty city though, there are plenty of vegan eats to be had. If you're into smoking weed or at least don't mind being near other people whilst they smoke it I bet it's a fantastic place for a weekend break.

Whilst we were chatting with Aviva and Martine at the vegan festival they mentioned a farmed animal sanctuary called Gnadenhof Melief which is vegan owned and operated and situated just across the boarder in Germany close to Sögel. We decided to swing by on the off chance that we'd be able to have a look around and luckily they said yes despite visiting time only really being 2 - 4 on Saturdays which was so nice of them!

We started our tour by the new cat house which is currently being built thanks to some generous funding from LUSH, Ive always loved LUSH but hearing that they fund projects like these quietly alongside their more open activism against animal testing and for LGBTQ rights made my heart swell. I'm so happy that the poor abandoned cats will have somewhere nice to hang out whilst hopefully waiting to get adopted.

Melief is a beautiful safe haven for cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, roosters, turkeys, cows, goats, ducks, geese, pigs, mini ponies and (probably) more and they opened their doors in The Netherlands in 2003 before moving to a bigger place in Germany in 2006. I was super excited that we were able to see where the chickens and turkeys hang out, as well as having the run of this barn they also have a huge outdoor area within which to roam.


I was so happy to see turkeys again, it reminded me of my time volunteering at Hen Heaven where my friend Justine and I would spend all day getting our knees pecked by these huge birds. There's also a nice outdoor pool for the birds who like to float!


I was overjoyed when I got to meet this gorgeous goat and I think she was just as excited to meet me if the nibbling was anything to go by.


We also stopped by the bunny area where the fluffy little critters are free to roam and burrow and munch on carrots. The pigs were next and, as I always am, I was amazed to see how huge they are. Of course in my mind pigs are much smaller but depressingly that's because they aren't often allowed to grow to their full size. One of these pigs, Angel, actually fell off of a truck on the way to the slaughterhouse right outside the sanctuary where she was immediately given a new life. 


Pigs are incredibly cute, I wish people would stop buying them as pets when they're small and giving them up as they grow. It's so sad because of course not every pig gets to live life like Esther the Wonder Pig! Another area where I see a lot of disconnect in people's minds is their love of horses but ability to look past just how similar cows are. In fact, imho, I'd say cows are cuter! They also have the scratchiest tongues, when they lick you it's like being licked by a giant cat!


Both Nick and I were so impressed by the scale of this operation and how well looked after all of the animals seemed, I had a terrible "sanctuary" experience in Thailand where it was incredibly obvious that the owner had taken on too much and the animals obviously weren't well cared for, but this was absolutely not the case here. Melief's location used to be a farm and as well as being surrounded by working farms it's situated near one of the largest slaughterhouses in the area. I can't imagine how difficult being near to all of that must be so it's amazing that Marc and Lothar just keep on going to defend the animals that they can save whilst reaching out to the local community to help educate people about the work they're doing at the sanctuary. 

Gnadenhof Melief is run on donations and sponsors alone so if you're currently able to help to support a fantastic vegan run sanctuary that is a true haven for animals you can donate here.

15 comments:

  1. I agree, cows are so much sweeter than horses! I put my hand in a calf's mouth once and it was the strangest feeling buy incredibly cute :) My rottie looms likes a calf, it's impossible to resist her! I'm loving reading all your adventures, I'm chronically ill and bed bound so I'm travelling the world through your blog thank you :) xx

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    1. Awww, cute calf story! I'm super happy that you're enjoying travelling the world via my blog.

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  2. Ooh, love this post. Paul's mom's side of the family is from the Netherlands, and he has family over there. One of these days, when we can afford it, we plan to travel there to visit them. And of course, I'll wanna go to Amsterdam. It's nice to see they have lots of vegan options!

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    1. Yay! I really hope you make it one day, it's a gorgeous city.

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  3. What a lovely sanctuary!

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  4. The Boy is always surprised at how I can fail to notice the smell of weed so I think I'll be fine in Amsterdam! I was excited to discover that they have a Miffy museum in Amsterdam :-)

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    1. Wow, I feel like it's one of those smells that seeps into everything so I'm surprised too! I wish I'd known about the Miffy museum, I bet it's super adorable!

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  5. I remember rather enjoying my last time in Amsterdam a lot, but not being overly blown away by the food. I would have been all over those bananas and cakes.

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    1. Yeah, I don't know when you were there but according to friends the vegan scene has improved a lot in recent months / years.

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  6. Wonderful!!! I'm envious of your adventures!

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  7. I'm so glad you took the detour! It was so great meeting you! <3

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  8. ooooh, goody good stuff cherries! I'll have to keep my eyes open for those. :) The vegan fair in Amsterdam looks like it was really fun - and I love that you started off your whole adventure with a spontaneous shift in plans. That's the whole idea! That animal sanctuary looks absolutely amazing - what a top-notch place. I love that a pig fell off the truck and landed right there. What a stroke of luck for that sweetie. If only they could all arrange for that lucky fate!

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    1. Haha, I know right! I'm loving really embracing adventure and refusing to stick to a plan! It's great!

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  9. Wow, I only just remembered to check if you wrote anything about being in NL. I'm really happy you had a good time at the festival and that you were able to visit Melief! Also, thanks for mentioning my blogs :)

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