Sign, pointing to the toilet and bathroom
And you thought a toilet is a toilet. Not quite. The Irish call it the Jacks; in North East England going to the bathroom is ‘Gannin te the netty'; the prudish Victorians termed it the John; and the Australians prefer the word Dunny. Pissoir sounds too tender for a public urinal but that is what the French say. The formal word Lavatory was first used in the 14th century, Latrine has a military connect, and Head (first used in 1708 by Woodes Rogers, Governor of the Bahamas) is taken from maritime jargon.
November 19 is World Toilet Day, a United Nations Observance that celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation.
Let’s look at the toilet quirks & quirky toilets.
Victorian Urinal turned into a coffee bar (London): For 50 years, no one piddled in a Victorian urinal in Foley Street, West London. Now, coffee lovers are drinking cappuccino and mocha out of it. Literally. Walk through the old-fashioned cast-iron exterior, step on the original floor tiles, pick your order and enjoy your coffee by the 19th-century porcelain urinals.
Restroom Sign in Larco Museum (Lima, Peru): A must-see in Lima, the Larco Museum has a remarkable collection of 3,000 years of ceramic, textile and precious metal artefacts. It also has the world’s largest collection of erotic pottery. The restroom sign is a continuum of eroticism that hangs heavy in the Museum.
Green Pissoirs (Berlin, Germany): If you are hungry in Berlin, do not settle for Café Achteck (Octagon Café). That Cafe is for your bladder, not your hunger. Café Achteck is a common local slang for certain pissoirs (urinals) that resemble a tiny summer cottage. Introduced in 1878, these green pissoirs have 7 ornamental cast-iron segments with enough room for 7 men. By 1900, there were nearly a hundred such pissoirs in Berlin, now only a dozen remain standing.
Toilet Theme Park (South Korea): In 2012, the world’s first toilet theme park opened in the South Korean city of Suwon. Shaped like a toilet, Mr Toilet House has a museum displaying Roman-style loos, European-style bedpans, and ancient Korean flush toilets, and a sculpture garden dedicated to squatting figures. The Park also holds a poop painting competition. Beat that!
Toilet Restaurant (Taipei, Taiwan): Scat on the menu. Scat everywhere. Modern Toilet is a restaurant where lights are shaped like poop, curry is served on toilet-shaped plates, drinks come in plastic urinals, painted WC lids hang on the walls, a bathtub serves as a table and sorry, no chairs. Everyone sits on stylish acrylic pots. Yes, with the lid down.
Public Toilets in an Ancient City (Izmir, Turkey): In the ancient Ephesus, the Romans had built pee-poop pits. Water ran underneath and there was a channel of running water in front for washing up after. Since there were no tissue papers, the Romans used sponges attached to the end of a stick to clean themselves. The story also is that during winters, slaves sat on the cold stone pots to warm them up before the noblemen came to empty their bowels.
Pee Curls in Amsterdam (The Netherlands): In Amsterdam, wild plassen (wild peeing) could make you poorer by over 90 Euros in fines. Look for Dr Kurl (pee curls) scattered around town. Introduced in Amsterdam in 1880s, the pee curl comes in one person or two-person variant. In a famous 2017 court case, a woman was fined 90 Euros for wild peeing in a backstreet. She argued that the charges were sexist - there are 35 public urinals for men and only 3 for women in the city. The case sparked a Pee-Sexism row in Amsterdam. (Photo source: Wikipedia)
Lost in The Cube’s Toilet (Adelaide, Australia): The Cube is a $15-million cellar/restaurant/museum/art space built by Chester Osborn, the chief winemaker and fourth-generation vintner of d’Arenberg, one of Australia’s oldest winemaking family. Osborn is often described as the Willy Wonka of wine. Forget the wine, enter the restroom where a garden is growing on walls. It is surreal. The doors are not visible. Small dolls are stuck amidst plastic flowers and leaves. Try pushing a doll head or a flower. You may never find that elusive loo door.
A $29 million toilet: Imagine spending $29 million (Rs 205 crore) on a toilet. That’s what Kowloon shop of Hong Kong-based Hang Fung Gold Technology did. The world’s most expensive toilet is made of pure gold - a pot made of solid 24-carat gold and coated with precious stones. Even the sink, tiles and doors of the restroom are made of solid gold and toilet-users have to wear plastic covers over their shoes to avoid scratching the gold tiles.Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.