Monday, December 14, 2009

Toilets and Traveling

I consider myself relatively easy going about toilets and bathroom facilities. That is I have gone backwoods camping and once lived with nothing more than an outhouse for almost four years. So it is not that I require luxury. However, when traveling I am amazed at the state of some toilettes.

I have gotten used to traveling with a package of tissues as I often come upon toilets without any toilet paper – and for that matter sometimes with no seat or even toilet! In some Italian, French and Spanish public toilets you will find the toilet paper in a common hallway, not in the stalls, and mere holes in the floor as toilets. These are not so bad as long as you have your squatting muscles in shape and have remembered to gather your toilet paper prior to entering your stall.

It is the urine saturated sticky floors, with used paper and towels stuck in various places, and unflushed toilets full of merde that send me in to winces and shivers. No one is caring for these bathrooms. 

So when I come upon toilets where you have to pay, and others are grumbling about the audacity of charging for urination, I am delighted to find clean, well-tended bathrooms. I would rather piss on the grass or by a tree anytime than go into the gross, urine and feces saturated cesspools that are often available.

In Spain most toilets are free, or free to customers. Do not be surprised, especially in southern areas, if you see people (admittedly usually men) peeing in the street, or by a dumpster or park tree. I would not recommend this since it only adds to the eau-de-pee often wafting from certain side streets.

I am told that in Paris this will get you a hefty fine. Fortunately in France you have a selection of toilettes - both free and fee. Many of the train station bathrooms charge .50 to 1 euro for entry. You can pay more for a shower if you are in need.

In London, many train stations charge for toilet use, but free ones can be found at most department stores and at the Covent Garden Market. 

Not surprisingly, Swiss bathrooms are notoriously clean. At the Zurich main train station you pay 2 Swiss francs for the toilets, but let me tell you it is worth it – you could perform surgery in those restrooms of gleaming marble. In Germany toilets also are generally very clean.

I am afraid that Italy does not share the same reputation as Switzerland and Germany, in fact quite the opposite. But look for fee-to-pee toilets at train stations, and also make sure you make use of the facilities at any cafe or museum you are patronizing.

In most European countries you can get by with asking for the toilette or WC. In Spain you will also see signs for Aseo. 

There are many helpful and funny links in cyberspace about bathrooms. A very comprehensive site is the Bathroom Diaries where you can search over 120 countries for bathroom locations and commentary - WOW! 

Visitors to Paris may want to part with 3 euros and download the Paris Pause Pipi Guide offering a useful guide to the public Sanisettes in Paris.There are also numerous links to Paris specific toilets with two especially good ones at Slow Travel and Colleen's Paris.

And for those who want to be prepared no matter what, you can try the new German invention Roadbag pocket urinal for men or the Ladybag  for women.

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