There are two students on my trip who are constantly discussing the hit show ‘Game of Thrones.’ They are always going back and forth to check in on which episode the other is on, and explaining in vivid detail what exactly happened in season 3 episode 6 to make sure they understood what part of the story line they were at. For me and this blog post, Game of Thrones means something totally different!
Any idea on what other throne I may be referring to? Toilets! More generally, the bathroom as a whole. When thinking about my European study abroad, I didn’t think that the bathroom would be of much interest, but let me tell you, there are some differences that are just so innovative, inconvenient, or so darn funny!
One of the more inconvenient bathroom designs is something I happened upon all over Ireland: separate faucets for hot and cold water. At first, this seemed like a helpful idea because I used the water to brush my teeth. I turned on the cold faucet, and didn’t have to worry about putting a warm toothbrush head into my mouth! But, the problem really arose when I was trying to wash my hands. Washing hands is typically something done in warm water, but with separate faucets, you cannot find that warm middle ground, you either get really hot or really cold, so take your pick!
Something interesting that we started to encounter in Frankfurt (Oder) was the retractable hand towels. These are hanging in the bathrooms like a normal tear away paper towel holder, but the material is not tearable. Trust me, I was confused and tried very hard to rip it! These are a common bathroom accessory in the eco-friendly country of Germany, and it is very user friendly as well, once you know what’s going on. You can wash your hands as normal, pull out some room on the reusable towel, and then when you are done drying, it will suck back in the excess towel to prepare for the next guest. So cool!
Paper towel innovations is where it stops in Europe. In fact, they seemed to be inspired by our paper tower dispensers in America because some restrooms in Ireland were single square toilet paper dispensers similar to those of paper towels! It definitely makes you more conscious of how many squares you’re tearing out to do your business.
Another very innovative solution to some bathroom issues is the way you flush the toilets. In America, we have a little handle that we push down on, and in Italy, there are buttons on the wall. Either place, you are putting your hand somewhere on or near a toilet, and that is so unsanitary, especially in a public place. In Paris, we happened upon many places that have their flushing buttons on the ground. I think this is a genius way to avoid us touching the toilet, as we can just flush it with our foot. Let’s face it, we’ve all done the one foot balance game (of thrones) where we try to reach the high flushing handle anyways. Paris is just making it easier on us germaphobes!
Moving onto the “funny” bathrooms, enjoy this sign from a bathroom in London. No explanation needed, wouldn’t you say?
Something I had to start getting used to while traveling around Europe is paying to use the restroom. I have never encountered the requirement to pay to pee in America, and it is everywhere here! I think my worst experience with this was while hiking the Cinque Terre in Italy. We were with a tour group and had a park ticket that supposedly got us into the restrooms without having to pay the 1€ fee. I had been doing this all day, and at our last train station, the gentleman guarding the door stopped me and told me to pay. I kind of laughed it off, and presented my park ticket with full intentions of walking into the bathroom for free. To my surprise, he stopped me and said that I still had to pay the fee. I, furious at this point and lacking a full euro to pay, threatened to pee on the floor and pointed right in front of his desk. I think it startled him a little bit as he saw the honesty in my eyes, so with my only coin on me (a 50 cent), he let me in the bathroom. Thank goodness because I definitely didn’t want to pee on the floor as much as he didn’t want to see me pee on the floor!
And if you don’t want to pay to pee in the restrooms, Berlin airport gives you some other options to spend your euros on. Mini vibrator anyone?
And one more thing! Europeans have smaller everything, showers included! I thought that was just a Dublin thing, but I’ve very quickly learned that that’s an everywhere thing. So I’ll take my bumping elbows as my biggest loss in my game of thrones!