International Green Week in Berlin

International Green Week in Berlin
It shares January with the avant garde Berlin Fashion Week, but one-of-kind "culinary tour of the globe", International Green Week, Grüne Woche, could not be more different.

In Germany "Going Green" is a way of life and economics; making one of the country's major priorities a healthier environment, globally and nationally, while the German capital Berlin is a city with many faces and endless possibilities. Including the exhibitions and trade fairs that over the course of a year offer something for all interests. Including Gruene Woche.

Its origins were as a local produce market. The horse shows, exhibitions, seed and plant markets, which up until 1926 had been scattered over Berlin, were gathered together in one place.

Now it is the world's biggest fair for Food, Agriculture and Horticulture; has more than 1,731 exhibitors from 68 countries; politicians and agricultural ministers from around the world attend; and it is used to establish a brand image and test-market food and luxury items.

From its launch the fair aimed to introduce up to the minute products, trends and themes of the time; from food, flowers and renewable resources to scientific livestock breeding and farm implements. The first fair featured a four meter high tractor, its metal tyres on wheels higher than a man and it was a symbol of the beginning of agricultural mechanisation.

Two years later this was followed by a horse vacuum cleaner that took away the hard work from grooming horses still working in fields, while 1966 saw the appearance of a twelve meter high tower hot house designed to make more efficient use of increasingly limited space.

Moving with the times, for over a decade the fair has been living up to its Green description; a name apparently thought up by journalists when it began in 1926. There has been an increasingly strong emphasis on renewable raw materials, as well as environmentally friendly methods of farming and organic produce.

Salesmen now market everything from domestic solar panels for heating stables and sheds to worm composters and cars powered by rapeseed.

The last years have also brought about the introduction of products from countries that, with the assistance of help organisations, have exchanged growing opium poppies for roses supplying rose oil to perfume companies. While the "Fair Trade Farmers" extensive selection of fruit, vegetables and consumer products: chocolate, dried fruits, coffee and sugar, are offered in most German supermarkets. All their goods produced under conditions that are not only beneficial for the environment but do not put all the profits into the hands of large conglomerates, using instead a system "fair" to workers and producers who in addition to a just payment have access to medical care and an education.

Of course there is also a Children's Fair, where the young and curious can find out about agriculture the "painless way": through crafts, painting, playing and with the chance to try out a real tractor.

Show halls with exhibitors wearing traditional dress offer foodie specialities from their countries, which now include Bioprodukte, organic food, and The Fair Trade and Organics section of the Exhibition food court is overrun with customers. Queues wait for a free table where everything on offer, from the beer and coffee to the sausages, salads and soup, are organic.

Food grown and produced without insecticides, bioengineering, growth hormones or antibiotics.

Around the food court stalls displaying organic goods range from artisanal bakers and spice dealers to vegetable, ice cream and soap sellers, the packaging chemical free and biodegradable.

Problems of environmental pollutants entering the food chain at all levels, as by-products of industrial methods or natural processes such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions, are widespread worldwide, and there are many national and international programmes in place monitoring the various food supplies but nevertheless, even in a well regulated country such as Germany, sometimes situations arise that sap confidence in conventional forms of farming.

In addition to which price war pressure in shops and supermarkets, and the subsequent slashing of profits and cutting of costs, can lead to lower standards for produce.

Although traditional, and substantial, regional dishes are still very popular throughout the country, culinary diversity and health consciousness are now a part of German cuisine, with Germans having acquired international tastes as well as an interest in healthy eating, which has led to a growing demand for organic foods and environmentally friendly agricultural methods.

Germany's exhibits range from everything connected with farms, gardens and nature in its widest sense, to Honey, Goat's Cheese and traditional craftwork from Saxony's villages, and Black Forest Ham, Obstbrand (Fruit Schnaps), Fruit and Wine from Baden-Württemberg. Nature Reserves in North Rhine-Westphalia and Fish products of all types from along the North and Baltic Sea Coasts.

When those journalists thought up "Green Week" to describe an agricultural based fair in 1926 Berlin, they no doubt had "Green" as the color of nature in their thoughts, however if the current trend continues then eventually Berlin's International Green Week will have a completely different, and perhaps for the sustainability of the world, an even healthier meaning.

First and third photos Internationale Gruene Woche, courtesy, second BIO Deutsche Botschaft Lima

The Eyewitness Travel Guide for Germany is absolutely the best travel book available for anyone who wants to visit the country. Either from the comfort of their armchair or in person. With stunning illustrations and descriptions it covers everything any traveller would ever need, including a comprehensive section on all that Berlin can offer a visitor. It is written in a way that makes it fascinating to read for anyone interested in Germany, and is my well used personal favorite.

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