Monday, June 4, 2012


Fitness isn't the first thing I think of when I think of fast food.  German-speaking Swiss ancestry aside, I am no German and Germans have a very different way of doing things.  Gyms are few and far between in Berlin, but I managed to find one conveniently located that promised both an affordable monthly rate (only €16,90!) and 24 hour access: McFit.  

From the look of the fascility's sic-fi interior-- immaculately attended by flaxen-haired Aryan attendants-- I would expect a gym like this is New York to cost quadruple the amount.  It even boasts a colorful history: this particular McFit location sits conveniently attached to the back end of a building (now a spa called the Cowshed) that once housed the Hitler Youth after school program, and then, in the early 1950s, housed the headquarters of East Germany's ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED), which planned early purges close to the site where I now do ab crunches.  

Hitler Youth, SED HQ: The Cowshed Spa

Prefect right?  Until you realize the downside. . . Germans make you pay for just about everything.  There are no water fountains, but you can pay a €1,50 for a bottle (glass bottle!!!) of sparkeling water or apfelschorle (apple juice and seltzer), conveniently billed to your account.  Don't worry, there is also a recycling station.  

Germans also seem to have quite a different relationship to germ theory.  My hotel, like the gym, is also immaculate and cheap with a world class complimentary breakfast (assorted German deli meats, freshly baked German poppyseed bread, handmade pretzels, fresh organic strawberries by the bucketful, even a Nutella dispenser) but my sheets haven't been changed in days.  Forget about fresh towels. . . You'll have to walk down the street to the grocery store to find soap.  At the gym, you have to pay 50 cents just to turn on the shower.  Don't count on soap either.  I couldn't find it even in the bathroom.  Germans don't seem to be fond of the stuff.  Chalk it up to lessons in cultural relatively. . . But man, if you could taste the fresh kohlrabi.  And the strawberries!  I thought at first they might be injecting them with strawberry flavoring and real, honest-to-goodness sugar.  They're not sour at all like American strawberries.  There is something about this place that makes food taste better.  Did I mention you can drink beer anywhere?  Including the subway.  Who cares about soap.  


  1. Too bad you're in Berlin. You should rather visit Munich and our beautiful Biergartens ;) (Plus I could stalk you there! :D)

  2. Try the yogurt! A few years ago a close friend was visiting for a few months and when I called to arrange my visit one of the first things she said to me after not having spoken with her in several weeks was "the yogurt is amazing!"

  3. I have been told by others, and have no idea if this is true scientifically, but it fits in with my personal experience: American and Eurasian biospheres differ from each other in that flora in America tend to be visually brighter but taste and smell blander, while in Eurasia plants are duller and less vibrant, but have more intense odor and taste. It might be the difference is purely one of latitude and not separate evolutionary branches too.

  4. In re: strawberries. The reason why the strawberries you get at the grocery store are sour is that they're picked before they're fully ripe, so they can be shipped. If you grow them yourself (they actually do quite well in pots), manage to get to them before the squirrels do, and pick them when they're perfectly ripe, they're quite sweet. They tend to be smaller than the ones you get at the store, but the flavor is more concentrated.

  5. Love your dispatches Colby...hope you're having fun!

  6. Hopefully, you haven't been posting from the Spätkauf internet cafe...

    1. Why? Is that bad? Is Colby in danger??? I won't sleep now.

    2. that crazy-ass, Canadian pornpup killer was just apprehended there.

  7. It's always funny to read about the differences between the US and other parts of the world

    The Mc in McFit derives partly from McDonalds which is know for cheap food, but it's also a hint to the Scottish Mac,Mc, and the famous Scottish stingyness.

    And of course you have to pay for the extras when the basic rate is that low - that's mixed calculation 101; like Ryan Air et al do; I'm sure you'd find gyms where the basic rate is higher but the showers are free

    As for "Germ Theory": IMO the US are obsessed with changing clothes, towels, sheets (maybe they need a "clean" surrounding bc their thoughts are that full of sex and violence); i hardly know any German who changes sheets everyday; and towels: how dirty are you directly after having a shower? sometimes you have to throw towels on the floor to be changed bc of evironmental aspects; but as you say - you also stay in a cheap hotel.

    as for the beer everywhere: thats berlin, other cities like Munich or Hamburg recently forbade alcohol in public transport, or at least try too

    anyways - enjoy your stay and have lots more of interesting discoveries and encounters!

  8. It's incredibly sexy how you bring together bodies with food - both can be very tasty... ,-)

  9. Hey Colby!
    Uh...I am German...and you sound pretty American to me ;)
    As a former waiter (did that for years while I was a student) I can tell that Americans are always shocked when they have to pay for water like they ordered a softdrink. Here restaurants earn money with the drinks, not the food. So it is unlikely to get it cheap.

    Now I am living in you often have to pay for TABBED water (~2,50€ for 0.5l). So 1,50€ for a bottle of water at a GYM (where you can have tabbed water as much as you want) is totally fine

    Furthermore McFit is the only gym I know where you have to pay for the shower. However it is the cheapest one in Germany I know.

    And the hotel...well, this kind of breakfast may be special to you. But it is everyday's life in Germany. It's like Europeans going to the US and freak out because they have pancakes for breakfast!
    And I dont think they had organic food is pretty expensive in Germany. A cheap hotel won't have it. If the bread was still warm, it doesnt mean it was fresh. Lot of hotels and bakeries - even middle class - use frozen bread. What the matter - it tastes great! However HANDMADE bretzels?! I hope you are joking ;) Never had that...and I lived in Germany for 26 years. It is all machine-made. Sorry to destroy illusions ;)

    Clean laundry? Next time throw your towels to the floor. They will give you new ones. However the sheets...well, I guess you really have to do dirty stuff or wait for a loooong while for them to be changed ;)

    Greetz, your Schnauz-boy Sebastian