Saturday, October 22, 2005

On public toilets

For those of you traveling in Greece, I have one major caveat for you: for the love of all that is good and holy avoid public restrooms. Those of us familiar with public bathrooms in America know that you can never count on cleanliness in them, but you can usually count on a “traditional” toilet. By traditional I basically mean a standing toilet with a seat. In Greece, not only are you not guaranteed cleanliness (remember, Greeks + public cleanliness do not go together) but you are not guaranteed even a toilet. So if you find yourself in a position where you must use a public bathroom in Greece, here is a brief explanation of what you can expect.

For the most part, there are three possible public bathroom scenarios in Greece, at least, these are the three that I have seen. The first type is the simple spot for your feet and a hole in the ground. The hole isn’t even that big, and I really wonder how many women can manage this with any aplomb. I have never been an expert at guiding my “stream” which has always made giving urine samples a veritable nightmare. This type of public toilet is like giving a urine sample from 3 feet up. For guys I imagine this is a dream scenario: almost like just pissing on the floor but with permission. And something to aim at to boot! Toilet paper hasn’t even come into existence in this alternate reality, so don’t even hope for it. If you are looking for soap at the sink, keep walking. It ain’t gonna happen.

The second type is the standing toilet but without a seat. Much better than the hole in the floor, and considering I never let my ass near a public toilet seat doesn’t really matter in the end. Easier for women to “aim” (if you can call it that). Such places may or may not have toilet paper, you never know. There is a good chance you might find soap at the sink, but don’t count on it.

The third type is the normal, traditional toilet. Be wary of these, because the flusher can be hard to locate. Places that have traditional toilets have toilet paper about 75% of the time, because they don’t want people to be messy. They do have a tendency to forget to restock, however. There is almost always soap by the sinks in the these bathrooms, and generally they are semi-clean. But not always.

The important thing to remember is never count on anything in a Greek public restroom. I make a point of always carrying a pack of tissues and antibacterial wipes in my purse for those rare emergencies. Believe me, you will be happy if you do.


susan said...

I've seen that (hole in the floor) toilet and you're exactly right. The guys who came out of there (tourists) were like sparkly-eyed children, raving on about how wonderful it was. Some even insisted their wives go in and have a look at the thing.

sissoula said...

They call those toilets Turkish toilets where I live -- I don't know if this epithet is used throughout Greece. They are considered the cleanest of all possible public toilet configurations, and, all things considered, maybe they are.

Cynthia Rae said...

Two things I have learned while traveling/living in Italy:

1.Always keep a pack of tissues in my purse.

2.Always carry handy wipes.

More often the not, the bathrooms in Italy are missing t.p. and soap (and don't even think about washing with HOT water. No such luck). Maybe it is a European thing. I have been to some nasty bathrooms in the states, but it seems to be the norm here.

I will never forget my first trip to Italy (ie. my first Turkish toilet). We were on our way to Venice by car when I needed to GO. I was so happy when we came across a Shell Gas Station (a familiar sight from home). I walked into the bathroom and was greeted by a hole in the floor. I left ASAP thinking that I had accidentally ducked into the men's room. I checked the sign on the door. The picture showed a figure in a skirt, this was definitely the women's room. I wish I had been wearing that skirt. It would have made the whole experience a lot easier!