Prague 2.0 & WCs, toilettes, ligne...the Bathrooms
Trip Start Jul 11, 2011
43Trip End Aug 15, 2011
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Our second day in Prague:
We hung out this morning as we had a good internet connection and we had a lot of blogging to catch up on. The kids also wanted to get on Facebook and Carson and I wanted to check our email. On one hand, it's been great to be relatively unplugged on this trip but on the other hand it’s been hard to be away from family and friends this long. We’re glad to get connected every few days. The kids have heard some "back in our day" stories about trips we’d made where we’d only sent postcards back home or called once in a while because it was so expensive. The three of them just kind of glaze over, not being able to relate at all.
We gathered up our rain gear and headed into meet Jan at Wenceslas (as in Good King Wenceslas) Square after lunch. This Catholic ruler during the 8th Century had been murdered by his brother who was not a fan of the church and has become the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Jan would lead us around for another 4 hour walkabout. We didn’t get a lot of photos this afternoon as it rained on and off all afternoon, sometimes quite heavily. At the top of the square, which used to be the town’s horse market and is really not a square but a very long rectangle, we learned more about the history and politics of the Czechs from medieval times to the present. Spinning around we could see a small marker where 2 students had lit themselves on fire in the 60’s during the Prague Spring, the spot where the Velvet Revolution had been cheered by hundreds of thousands in 1989, and the communist block building that had recently housed the Voice of America (after the Cold War this radio station was now beaming towards Arab countries and needed to be moved to a more “fortified site” outside the city).
Jan then took us into the Old Square (the former cattle market) where we watched the very complicated Astronomical Clock strike the hour. This square had lots of people in it as even in the rain Prague had many tourists. After seeing the National Opera, Museum and several Baroque churches the kids needed a break so we grabbed some food at the market and then headed for KFC. KFC, McDonalds and an occasional Pizza Hut (in Brugge) and Subway (in France) have been the only US fast food places we’ve seen on our trip. Our guide confessed that he never ate at the restaurants in the old city but at KFC instead because it was cheaper.
Fortified, we headed to the Jewish Ghetto section around the corner. We learned about the long history of persecution of Jews in Europe, starting with the Crusades. This ghetto was started in 1215 when the walls went up and all the city’s Jews had to live, work and be buried inside. The cemetery had graves 12 coffins deep as it was never allowed to expand. Though most of the Jewish Quarter had been updated in the 1800’s, we saw the Old New Synagogue (from 1270, the oldest in Europe), the Maisel Synagogue (housing many treasures that Hitler “collected” for his thankfully never-built “Extinct Jewish Race Museum”) and the unusual Spanish Synagogue (a Moorish golden interior built by Jews ejected from Spain during the Inquisition).
Besides history, we got a dose of existentialism as we learned about Kafka and viewed his odd statute – he looked like a cockroach (one of his books) and had his dad on his back.., literally. Our heads swimming and unaccustomed to thinking so hard, we dove into the tourist stream again and headed through kitsch mania. Jan left us. here, after Quinn’s purchase of a Cossack fur hat, which he sported for the rest of the day. The two events may have been related.
The Charles bridge had been built in the 14th century by Charles IV (the Holy Roman Empire ruler that made Prague his home) because the old bridges kept getting washed out by flooding We lingered on the lovely stone bridge over the Vltava River, enjoying the artist’s stalls and people watching
Now, stories about the bathrooms / WC:
Herren, Damen, Femmes, Hommes, Zenski, Moski, Zeni, Musy…thank goodness for the little icons of women in skirts!
They're all the same yet oh so different. This post is for my Mom and others that are wondering about the "facilities “ Let me begin by saying that overall they have been quite clean and just fine.
Every campsite we’ve been at has had toilets, a sink and a shower. I say “a" because Buggi International, on the Ligurian sea coast of Italy, only had one working toilet out of 20 stalls. only one cold shower and 6 outdoor bidets! That campsite, though, was unusual in many ways (see our Buggi International description on July 22 ). Most other campsites have very nice facilities even if they are a bit different from home
At our campgrounds, we found it unusual to have the full complement of soap, towels/hand dryer, warm water, sink, toilet and toilet paper together in one bathroom. In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever had this happen. There would be any of number of combination-- the minimalist sink, toilet & tp or maybe cold water, soap, toilet & tp, no hand dryer; etc..
In Brugge’s Camp Memling, named after an artist whose famous painting was in the local museum, there was a small, yet clean, bathroom with 5 stalls for a large busy campground. There was one tiny sink with soap, but there was no toilet paper or even a toilet paper holder in the stalls. Everyone walked to the bathroom carrying a roll of toilet paper! The rest of the sinks were with the showers in another building. . It was not uncommon for the campgrounds to be set up this way. The shower stalls were very private and each had a little “foyer” with a bench and a hook. We always found lots of hooks in the bathrooms to hang our bags and towels.
What we didn’t find in the showers, often, was a way to control the water other than pushing in a big button. Then, the water would turn on for a set amount of time, usually at a set temperature that usually was warm. The water wouldn’t be on for very long (maybe 20 seconds) so you’d have to keep pushing this button. We got pretty good at taking showers with one hand holding the in. At the Freizeitpark Stausee Hohenfelden, named after the German lake and town the camp was near, the sinks also had the buttons. This made rinsing your face quite a challenge since the water was only on for 5 seconds at a time
Here in Prague at the Pension Kotlarka the only showers are in the Musy/mens bathroom and Kaden and I haven't wanted to venture inside. The Men's bathroom also holds the washing machine so I did have to creep around inside late last night to throw a load in. Unfortunately, there isn't a dryer so this morning Carson had our underwear and socks draped all over the campers chairs and bike rack outside. Since there is only one other camper here and we're sort of in the parking lot of the Pension/B&B we are looking kind of trashy. :-)
Most of the campgrounds had a room with a large number of sinks in it for brushing teeth, etc. Many had just a few private sinks, each in their own stall. In Paris at the huge Camping Boulange, on the Seine River, there was one facility that had little stalls with either a toilet, a sink or a shower. There were only 5 sink stalls (with no soap dispensers) so if you wanted to wash your hands you had to remember to bring soap and then you had to find a sink stall that was not occupied by a teenage girl. The sink stalls were the only place that had electricity so the girls who were camping in tents were charging their phones or their flat irons and chatting in the sink stalls. C’est dommage!
Some of the facilities, like our Croatian Camp Porton Biondi, had no ceiling or doors (except on the toilets and showers). The wall in front of the showers was only a half wall so you could visit with the male campers as they walked by on the way to their bathrooms. Unfortunately, many of the male campers were wearing robes, pajamas, swim suits, boxers, etc, on the way to the bathroom so it was a bit awkward (if not unappealing). The Mettel males also found it a bit awkward when women would occasionally pop into their bathrooms to use the facilities for no apparent reason (as in no line at the womens). We decided that the Europeans have a much looser definition of Mens & Womens bathrooms than Americans.
In fact, the whole concept of needing a toilet at all, at least for the males, was a bit fuzzy. This seemed to happen mostly on the roads. If there was a car pulled over you could bet that there was some guy with his back to the road, peeing, about 2 feet from his car. If you looked down an alley in an old medieval town and some guy had his back to you he was probably peeing. We didn’t see any women doing this but the trip is not over yet. Kaden & I did find a few curious “standing” toilets in the bathrooms, the kind that are more like a porcelain hole in the ground. Though we found these old-time toilets in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, Senn claims that the Mens bathrooms in France had them, too.
The most hygienic toilets we found were the ones that had a mechanism to wash the toilet seat before you used them. As soon as you entered the stall, the motion detector would set the seat turning a full 360 while it washed it from the back of the toilet. Then, as you were ready to leave the stall, the seat would do another 360, rotating clockwise, and clean itself again. One of our family members had a faulty one of these toilets that only turned 90 degrees so they had to figure out how to negotiate the sideways oval seat. Such have been our adventures with the facilities of Europe!