Saturday, October 24, 2009

i bagni di Italia: a balancing act

This is a public bathroom in Lausanne Switzerland. I searched the web to find my Swiss toilet but this one is more fun. See below what the toilet looks from the inside.

Now presumably noone can see in but would you feel comfortable seeing the world walk around you as you did your business.

Now we used the bathrooms in Schiphol airport but sadly, not the mens'. Apparently all the urinals have a fly painted in it as studies show that men will aim at a fly (huh?) even if it isn't real. Anyrate this little trompe d'oeil improves cleanliness.

The bathroom available at the train station in Sestri Levante, in Liguria, on the coast. Allegedly this is a very pretty town but all I remember is its bleak platform that we waited on 90 minutes for the regionale and its stand-up toilets

Esther's combo bathroom/laundry room in Bonassola. Almost every bathroom that has a toilet has a bidet. Still I don't have much use for them. This room was very clean with a view of the mountains as you sat.

The bathroom in Stresa. A poor shot as it doesn't show the 9 headed shower or the very deep soaking tub. There were lots of lotions and shampoos to try.

Until we arrived in Liguria, we had no trouble finding nice bathrooms for free. There was that funky cubicle bathroom in the park in Bern that took some deciphering: the toilet seat was hanging against the wall with a spring mechanism that required two hands to bring it down to the top of the toilet. (I was going to take a picture once we came across another but that never happened)I wasn't ready to use it yet and water sprayed everywhere when I released it. OK, start over again; this time I was ready to perch on it once I brought it down. The sink could only be used while on the seat but of course, you wouldn't need to touch the seat again. An air dryer could be used once you stood up while the toilet flushed as the seat was released. It was clean and smell-free. The Swiss train system had clean and free bathrooms. Bathrooms on the trains: not so nice but the Swiss provided disinfectant to clean the bathroom yourself if you were so inclined. Sometimes the flushing mechanisms weren't clear: Teri spent 10 minutes in a restaurant trying to figure one out.

Our overnight places had nice ones though sometimes the water pressure was lacking and the hot water heater would take a while to fire up. Some even had towel warmers.
But these Ligurian stand-ups found in public places were quite the experience. I have seen variations of them before: public WCs in the Loire Valley sometimes were stand-ups and they would make you pay to use them. In Lausanne (French speaking part of Switzerland-a beautiful place), the park by the water had fancy stand-ups in which there was something to hold on to, foot rests and the whole floor would be washed away-very sanitary. In the Ligurian specials, the footrests are too close together to be useful, they smell, no place to hold on to, only the area right around the 4 inch hole gets rinsed, the floor is slippery, and it turns out, not many women have good aim. Ugh! I rather go in the bushes, but there are no bushes. The first time, I was confronted with one of these, I used it successfully (success is measured by emerging from the area pee-free) and couldn't wait for Teri to try it as I think she was a stand-up virgin. In train stations, we took turns guarding the luggage while the other was free to explore. I was slowly and sadly discovering that there are several levels of 'regionale treni" and the level we needed to stop at our little town didn't come by too often. We had just missed the other. By train, we were only 15 minutes away. I was hoping that Esther would come and get us but later figured out that by train and by car are very different paths. She would need to drive over the mountains on a tortuous road whereas the train goes straight through the mountain by tunnel. We had plenty of time to kill so I suggested like some nagging mom that Teri might want to use the bathroom as we were going to be here a while and BTW, take your camera.

We came across these things again over the next few days but at least the public WC in Bonassola have seats: it is a classy place. My second experience in the Monterosso train station, not so successful. I was wearing particularly baggy pants and the floor (yuck!!) was extra slippery and I was sliding fast into a very bad position such that part of my pants were not out of harms way. Sadly I lack that fine control that even elderly dogs have to start and stop. Damn. My underwear was safe though and I tried to dilute out the damage in the sink but still..the pants were impossible to completely rinse while still on me. Fortunately the dry Ligurian air helped. I was much more careful next time and didn't wear pants that had so much material to protect. Good thing I never had the Italian equivalent of Montezuma's revenge.

Carrying wipes also came in handy several times as did a pack of tissues. The train station bathroom in Firenze required an euro coin to open the door. We did a bit of petty larceny and both entered on the same coin. It was clean, had SEATS, and a remarkable hurricane force hand dryer that you put both arms into. The Milano station had a similar system according to Teri. By that time, I was careful always to use bathrooms in nice restaurants rather than chance it with public ones such as the bathroom that one had to climb the old bell tower to use in Firenze.

Travel is always an adventure in ways you can't imagine! Below is the Swiss toilet I found in Lausanne in 2002


Sara Williams said...

You make me laugh! I remember my first encounter with a stand up toilet! I was on a business trip to Italy and we were having a working lunch in a small local resteraunt. When I walked into the cubicle, I walked straight out thinking it was a shower then I stopped cold and thought "OMG do I have to use that?????????"

The toilets were alot cleaner than those in Turkey, I am still disgusted at the taps running by them, whereby you are expected to clean yourself with your own hand! Urgh!!!!!

Jill said...

Those stand up ones with a place for the feet remind me the ones in France at the rest areas. My friend really did miss and landed up having to wash out and dry her underwear as our clothes were back in our hotel. Makes you wonder if you should carry and extra pair with you, lol.

Daria said...

Those are strange washrooms ... we are so fortunate to live in North America.


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