The Döner Index

Posted in Travel at 5:43 by RjZ

I did a double take when I saw a sign outside of the Frankfurt railway station for “Döner Kebab—3 €” Döner kebab was an extremely popular German street food since before my first visit in 1989. Immigrants from nearby Turkey were hungry for a taste from home from rebuilding Germany after World War II. The turkish kebab made from a tall stack of thin lamb slices turning slowly on a vertical stake in front of a heat source. Small strips are cut or shaved off the arm long kebab while it is still turning and then folded in a large flat bread. Tomatoes, salad, onions, and above all garlic yogurt sauce are all mixed in, wrapped in some paper or foil and served, right out a window.

It’s not that I was surprised to see them; of course they’re still around. I was surprised at the price. Exactly what I remembered. Döner is more popular in the north than in the south of Germany and the prices vary. Back then, I researched pretty carefully trying to keep my budget under $20/day and Berlin had the cheapest lunch, at about 3 DM. They’ve been rising steadily, of course, but that’s why I was surprised at first, the number hadn’t changed at all! The Deutsche Mark was only half of the value of the Euro. In 20 years the price has more than doubled for the ubiquitous Döner kebab.

It can be said that inflation is the thief of wealth. For the simple Döner to increase two-fold in 20 years requires an average inflation of only 1.5% (it’s actually quite a bit higher) and yet, while I do make twice as much today as I did when I first tasted a Döner kebab, it’s only because I was an unemployed college student!


  1. erin said,

    December 15, 2009 at 15:55

    just to clarify, as a vegetarian you’re not actually sampling this delicacy. you’re just recording the information for posterity, correct? not that i’m the vegetarian police or anything but….

  2. RjZ said,

    December 15, 2009 at 16:17

    I didn’t sample any on this trip, no. But my vegetarianism has always been more about environmental impact than some aversion to meat. I have had them in the past and am not above sampling the local delicacies of a place in the future.

    Nowadays, I find, even if I try to have a bite of something in a far away country, it doesn’t agree with me anyway.

    I’ve met the vegetarian police before (they have even commented on this blog back in the day…) and I doubt my explanation would excuse my crime, so I’m glad I am still safe this time.

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