Our European Odyssey

This blog covered our month-long trip to Eastern Europe -- specifically the countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bathroom Differences

For this, the last of the differences posts, we wanted to discuss something that affects each of us: going to the bathroom. As this is a function one must do several times a day, we noticed some differences from the bathrooms we are accustomed to in the U.S.

First, the porcelain throne. The universal symbol for toilet in Europe is apparently "WC," which comes from the British abbreviation for "water closet," the Brits' name for toilet. Also, it seemed like everywhere we went had a slightly different toilet bowl shape, none being the standard U.S. design.

The flushing mechanism was almost never a handle but generally a button on the back of the tank -- even in homes. We did see several of the old elevated tanks with pull handles. When one flushed the toilet, it appeared to use less water, but the water moved more quickly.

In several of the homes we stayed in, the toilet was in a separate room from the sink. This seemed a bit unsanitary, as we had to open two doors to wash our hands. But at least one person could use the sink while the other was using the toilet. Also, many of the bathrooms in homes we stayed in locked via a skeleton key. We didn't realize that anyone still used skeleton keys, but apparently they are quite common in Eastern Europe.

The showers were also different. Generally, the shower was a bathtub with a showerhead that had to be held and a water heater fixed on the wall. This was annoying, as it was impossible to soap up and hold the shower head at the same time. Oddly, although everywhere we stayed had a showerhead, there were few shower curtains. It made it hard not to get water on the floor.

The below pictures show a fairly typical shower/tub with the unfixed showerhead, water heater and missing shower curtain. Notice the open flame of the gas-powered water heater in the first picture. (We only saw an open flame in a tub at this particular hostel. It was an old bathroom... When you turn the water to hot, the flame grows bigger and flares out of the hole.)

Finally, the most annoying thing about the bathrooms is that you have to pay to use the public toilets. As you enter, you pay the attendant, who is generally an older lady. The cost when we were there was usually between 10 and 50 cents, but it could be more than a dollar in train and bus stations. We just held it in those places.


At 7:32 PM, June 23, 2006, Anonymous doug and rose said...

Wonderful WC pics, but count your self lucky. Check out this site, a collection of REALLY bad bathrooms around the world - but apparently the far east and their squat toilets are among the most notable.



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