Berlin is home to thousands of unique culinary destinations encompassing a myriad of international themes and flavors. I’ve personally visited quite a few different restaurants during my time here and will one day transcribe my experiences, perhaps creating a pretentious book about why my ability to eat food in a European country makes me an authority on proper cuisine. This article, however is not about the rich, exotic meals I’ve ingested. This article is about a restaurant most everyone knows about, a restaurant known for bringing smiles to the faces of children and the obese alike. This article is about McDonald’s, though a very specific McDonald’s that is located within a few blocks of our flat. I present to you the tale of the saddest McDonald’s in all of Berlin.
Outside of the long term health problems and suspect hygiene usually associated with the fast food phenom, I was hopelessly addicted to McDonald’s while I was in the states. This was not a problem when I was running 30 plus miles a week but definitely began to show its effects once my activity level began a sharp descent. While a big reason for my wife and I moving to Germany was because of her job, I suspect she was also motivated by the long term affects that my routine consumption of a big mac, 20 piece chicken nugget, large fries and a strawberry milkshake would have on my longevity. Love may be blind, but I do think it has a weight limit.
Berlin was not a shelter from fast food so to say, as there are fast food restaurants all over the place. They lack the accessibility of McDonald’s, however as there is a distinct difference in the type of food drunk American people consume as opposed to that of drunk Germans. Plus, the non-American fast food here offers up way more vegetables than I’ve ever had access to back in the states. But my problem wasn’t with fast food in general, rather McDonald’s and the specific menu items I mentioned above. Being that McDonald’s didn’t litter every street corner, I felt safe from my “addiction”, that is until I discovered a lone McDonald’s at the Adenauer Platz U-Bahn(subway) station near my home.
What I thought would turn into a relapse of sorts actually ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me in regards to how I view McDonald’s as a whole. In most areas, McDonald’s are located above ground, basking in the rays of the sun, blinding customers to the realities of what they’re actually walking into. This McDonald’s was located underground, it’s flaws illuminated by florescent light reflecting off the mustard yellow tiles that covered the walls. This McDonald’s was like a former child actor whose extra curricular habits sucked the life from its youthful, yet naive eyes, impeding its potential until it was no longer relevant in the eyes of its former fans. They’d eventually make a biopic about this McDonald’s but only after it passed away due to horrific circumstances.
The one time I thought about stopping in at this McDonald’s, I noticed a fresh faced backpacker walk in for what I assume was a quick bite to eat as they continued their journey of enlightenment across the great expanse of Europe. As soon as they walked in, I saw the weight of the world crash down upon them like an angry sea, their enthusiasm cast aside for a realist (bordering on cynical) view of the world and their place in it. That was the moment that I saw a potential artist, director or even future pop icon give in to the fact that their dreams were fueled by ignorance as opposed to passion. If they’d packed a suit and tie with them for their excursion, I’m sure they would have immediately changed into it at that point in time.
I don’t blame the inherent sadness of this particular McDonald’s on the McDonald’s franchise itself, nor do I think the idea of humans being underground is completely at fault. It is the combination of low quality food, stale air and artificial light that comes together to create a vacuum of depression, an inescapable realm where even the most innocent child would butcher their playmates if it meant feeling happiness again. If you ever come to visit Berlin, I’d recommend steering clear of this McDonald’s if at all possible.
Ethan Moses took on the role of a European stay at home husband back in the summer of 2012. These are his stories.