Day 111 | The top of Bergen

Day 111 | Sunday July 3

After a good night of sleep my hosts took me on a sightseeing and hiking trip through Bergen. Yesterday, with all the delays, we didn’t talk so much so today I had the time to get to know them better. Kristian works as an engineer at Norway’s biggest oil producer. His job is to find new bubbles of oil or gas and see it it’s suitable to drill. To compensate this he drives an electric car. His wife Christine works as a psychologist for children. Together they have 2 little girls, 4 and 6 years old.

At breakfast Christine told me that she know that dutch people have hagelslag for breakfast. These are chocolate sprinkles which we put on bread. Although this is not very nutritious food Christine could tell me that Dutch kids in general eat very healthy. Hagelslag is a returning theme in this journey and I can’t figure out why. I have a few boxes supply with me but they are finished since a few weeks. It’s hard.

In Bergen we went to the top of the hill with a funicular. I can’t remember I have been in one before and it is a fun experience. The wagon is pulled up a few kilometers with an electric wheel and brings you to a height were you have beautiful sights over the city.
On the top there was a playground for little children with statues of trolls everywhere. Trolls seem to be important in the Norwegian culture. Christine stayed at the playground and with Kristian I took the train back and he showed me Bryggen (the warf). It is a series of idyllic hanseatic buildings which has been on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1979. Every house has a different color which reminded me of Nyhavn in Copenhagen.

Close to Bryggen was a fish harbor, they sold crabs with a 2 meter diameter and parts of whales. Although the market looked nice it was more adjusted to tourists and it didn’t feel very authentic.
We went for a hike to the top of Stoltzekleiven. It took us about an hour to get there and on the top we had the nicest views. We wanted to do another hike but because of heavy rain we decided to return home.

When I opened my laptop I was kind of shocked. Last Wednesday I posted this short movie about the Wohnwagon in Austria. Apparently A LOT of people liked this idea and shared it and it got HALF A MILLION views! Pretty amazing. A few days ago I had ‘just’ 1.100 fans on my page and now I am already on 7.500! It’s crazy what a little movie can do and I have no idea were this will end, at the moment people are still watching and sharing it.

The Wohnwagon

The Wohnwagon is an Austrian made off-grid tiny house. It is self-sustaining and produced locally. For the insulation they use sheep wool, power the house with the sun and recycle the water on the roof.The mission of this start-up is to show how the future of sustainable living could look like.Read the full story: plugmeinproject.com/wohnwagon

Posted by Plug Me In on Mittwoch, 29. Juni 2016

 Images of today

E-mobility in Austria

Mountains, lakes, snow and sun. In Austria you can have it all in a single day. It’s a joy to drive around the country, especially with an electric car. In Austria an EV really is in it’s natural environment. The country’s infrastructure is well organized.

I entered Austria from Italy and arrived in Corinthia, a southern province with thousands of lakes. The local government invested a lot in charging locations. They have this funny looking spots with chairs attached so you can read a book while you charge the car. Funny thing is that besides two Type 2 connectors the station has two CEE blue plugs which you normally find at campings. Probably for E-bikes.

Austria’s biggest provider of charging stations is Smatrix, they provide many stations throughout the country and also fast chargers. They made a deal with McDonalds and for costumers it’s free to charge your car. The stations are placed on handy locations which makes a road trip through the country pretty easy. Maybe a few fast chargers near highways would take away the final bit of range-anxiety.
The Austrian government has made a new law which says that when a new parking lot is being build, 25% of the parking spaces need the have a charger. This makes the Marinadl shopping center in Krems an der Donau with 55 chargers the biggest charge location in the country.

There are many EV-enthusiasts who started their own clubs to promote and share knowledge about e-mobility. I met Thomas Feck-Meltzer who is the founder of the Zoe Club Austria and doesn’t even own a Zoe. He believes electric cars are the future and want to promote it this way.
There is even a guy who drives around the country every weekend to check if the charging stations are working and reports this on apps like Chargemap.

Many big EV events take place throughout the country. The E-tour Europe had his finish in Salzburg. This is a big event where many teams compete against each other, of course many Tesla’s are in the race but also Leafs, Zoe’s and even the electric tuc tuc from the Pillgreens joined the rally.
The finish was held at the Kaiserhof Hotel. This hotel is completely adjusted to electric cars and thus called the ‘chargehotel’. They have around 5 type 2 sockets, 5 32A sockets, a fast charger and 4 Tesla SuperChargers. In the coming years they want to apply a charger to every station.

Another big event taking place is the Wave Trophy, organized by Louis Palmer who drove around the world in an solar car. It’s an event with a good story, they collect the wished of children about a better future and at the finish they deliver this to the United Nations HQ in Bern.

Austria is a good example of how EV infrastructure can be applied. Not many people drive electric so the balance between EV’s and stations is good. In Holland you can get the problem that you have to wait in line to charge, that might happen in Austria when there more people will drive electric but if they continue to build more stations it will stay perfect.

Younited Cultures

Younited Cultures was founded by Andra Slaats and Iulia Mugescu. Andra is a Romanian immigrant who moved to Vienna. She encountered lots of struggles moving here and with Younited Cultures they want to shine a positive light on immigrants and show that they have value. They are doing this by selling colorful scarfs with a message. Each scarf tells a succes story of an immigrant.

In Austria there is a big debat going on at the moment about the new minister of the country. With the elections recently two candidates where facing each other, one extreme right wing and one left wing. Migration (the refugee crisis) is also a topic of discussion in the election program so it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to do.
Andra believes that immigrants have a positive impact on the society and economy, it brings in a lot of youth and human capital. The scarfs can contribute to better understanding of the migrants and hopefully to a good end of the debate going on in Austria.

 

Wohnwagon

Wohnwagon

The Wohnwagon (literary translated: living wagon) is best described as an off-grid caravan. It’s a 25 square meters living unit and provides all the utilities you need and has the same comfort as a normal house or flat. The makers Theresa Steiningen and Christian Frantal wanted to make a political and philosophical statement about how the future of sustainable living could look like. They started this idea a couple of years ago and made it reality.

What is special about the Wohnwagon is that all the aspects (heating, energy production, water filtration) are sustainable.  Solar panels to power the house with electricity, a battery to store the energy, natural insulation and a composting toilets are just a few of the Wagon’s impressive green list. After two years of use the energy needed to produce the Wagon (coming from the production of the solar panels, batteries etc) is reduced to zero and you life Co2 positive.

Wohnwagon Inside

The costs of a Wohnwagon are between €50.000 and €150.000. The costs are high because high quality materials are being used which are all produced locally. For example for the insulation local sheep wool has been used which are more expensive then the chemical insulation you would normally get. A well-thought decision as the makers believe that the future of living has to be fully sustainable.

 

Vollpension

Vollpension

Vollpension

The Vollpension is a unique lunchroom in the center of Vienna, Austria. The employees are all elderly people (65+) who otherwise have no chance on the labour market.

The idea started in 2012 after an idea by the Stitch brothers. The brothers came from the countryside of Austria to Vienna for studies. They saw two things: young and older people don’t go together in Vienna and good cake’s are not available in the city, you get that at your grandma’s place. I don’t know what the topic of their research was but finding out that there are no decent cake in the city is an important finding. The answer to this is the Vollpension.

The start

It started as a try-out tour in a foodtruck through Austria. Grandma’s used to sell their best cake’s at festivals, meetings etc. It was a huge succes and people wanted more. So they started a pop-up restaurant in Vienna. Again the succes was overwhelming but the contract for their temporary location ended. Fans started Facebook groups and petitions to ask for a permanent location. And so it happened.

Lunchroom

Right in the middel of the center they found a location which suited their needs. The Vollpension feels and looks like your grandmothers house, it’s warm, antique, spacey and cosey. The decoration consists of photo frames, puzzle paintings and medicine boxes. The cake’s are delicious. They come in many sizes and varieties and are freshly baked by the grandma’s.

Sustainability

So what has this lunchroom to do with sustainability? A lot. Sustainability is not only about saving energy of recycling waste but the social side (or human sustainability as they call it) is also a huge aspect. The Vollpension brings people back to the labour market where normally they wouldn’t have a chance anymore. Most of the employees have low pensions or no employeer wants to take them. Some of them just feel like they still want to do something. At the Vollpension they give those people a chance to get an income or do something they really like.

 

Shades Tours

Shades Tours

Shades Tours is a social tourism business, founded by Perrine Schober. They organize tourism activities in Vienna guided and moderated by homeless people. The organization works closely with different social institutions. The tours are guided through these institutions so you get a better idea of how homeless people life. For example you’ll learn how a homeless shelter works, see how the food distribution works, get information from a streetworking organization about various  topics in homelessness such as prostitution and alcohol & drug abuse. The guide is the link between all those aspects and tells how he experiences his time as a homeless and how it works in Vienna and the reasons for homelessness in the city.

The tour guides and are given the opportunity to earn an income and a work experience as a first step towards their reintegration into the local labour market. In the beginning Shades Tours was actively looking for guides but now the homeless find the organization too. Proving that the concept is working.

Magdas Hotel

Magdas Hotel

When you will stay at the Magdas Hotel as a guest, you won’t notice quickly that there is something special going on here. From the outside it looks like any other hotel and the rooms, although they are nicely decorated, don’t stand out of the normal picture. It’s the social aspect that is unique in this business.

The Hotel was founded by Caritas (known as Cordaid in some countries), a social NGO. They founded the Magdas three years ago. Their goalswas not to maximize profit but to maximize openess and humanity. All the employees are refugees who come from 14 different nations, all with different backgrounds. The Magdas develops these people and giving them job opportunities. They get long-term contracts and many possibilities to develop themselves and get certificates. They are free to leave whenever they want and take the certificates with them so they can start working in another place.

Sustainability has an huge social aspect and this is a great example of it. The Magdas also took care about the other parts of sustainability. In the beginning they had 1.5 million euro to open the hotel, which is almost nothing in this industry. Normally a hotel can spend 10.000 euro to rebuild a room, Magdas had €1.500 and they needed to think of creative ways to make it comfortable. Together with an up-cycling artist they made a plan. As the location used to be an home for the elderly, there was already furniture. The artist took everything out of the room and made new chairs, tables and closets from it. Other furniture was gathered with an crowdsourcing campaign. This makes every single room unique.

The slogan of the Magdas is “An hotel like no other” and this is very true. If you could chose, wouldn’t you pick this hotel over any other, standard hotel? If ever in Vienna, be sure to visit this hotel. They deserve your business so much more than any regular standard hotel.

I interviewed Sarah Barci, marketing manager of the hotel. She talks about how it all started, the problems they had to start it and their future goals.

Day 51 | Talks in Vienna

I visited four interesting company who are active on the social side of sustainability. Wohnwagon, Younited Cultures, Vollpension and Shades Tours.

Later I went to Krems an der Donau where I met Gregor, an EV enthusiast who has been following me for a long time.

Day 50 | Magdas Hotel & The Earthtalks

The Magdas Hotel is a business like any other but there social and sustainable approach is quite unique. The employees are (former) refugees and they collected their furniture through crowdsourcing.
I met Ira who is the founder of Die Mutmacherei, an initiative that promotes sustainable projects in Austria.

In the evening I went to the Erdgesprache (Earthtalks), the biggest sustainable event in Austria this year, probably no coincidence that I was here just at this time. There were talks from Celine Cousteau, the granddaughter of Jacques and a journalist of The Guardian.