Flip open the toilet lid in older German hotels, homes and apartments and you may find yourself confronted with a rather odd porcelain construction: the so-called toilet shelf perfectly placed to catch whatever may be deposited. The results are predictable. Whereas normally, the excretor, mounted on his throne, is offered proof of success in the form of a satisfying plop, in Germany, the plop is replaced by a perturbing splat. And there the turd stays, high and dry, until flushed away.
It's a design oddity so disturbing that American author Erica Jong saw fit to remark on it in her 1973 erotic novel "Fear of Flying." She writes: "Just go into any German toilet and you'll find a fixture unlike any other in the world. It has a cute little porcelain platform for the shit to fall on so you can inspect it before it whirls off into the watery abyss, and there is, in fact, no water in the toilet until you flush it. As a result German toilets have the strongest shit smell of any toilets anywhere."
Indeed, taking care of your morning business in Germany often involves the type of twisting and turning normally reserved for Chinese contortionists. As you hear that tell-tale thunk of feces on porcelain, you must immediately twist your arm around behind you to push the flush lever. The rapidly rising odors are otherwise instantaneously debilitating. When finished, throw open the window as wide as it will go. If you have to go into the bathroom after someone else, it's a good idea to carry a book of matches or a bottle of air freshener to rid the WC of any unpleasant odors. In lieu of that, there's always a good, World War II gas mask. Head to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. The souvenir stands are well-stocked.
Editor's note: We spent hours researching the history of German toilets without any luck. But some readers have done their own field work .
The following are my favorite German words that I acquired over the years. schongeist: someone who doesnt take things seriously, already a ghost, slaphappy vogelfrei: someone who no law protects, the birds are free to peck. [...] more...
One of the more remarkable things I remember when I was a squatter in Berlin, is free vets. I used to have pet rats, and once I wanted one of them castrated. I vet did this for free. Find a free vet in the USA! I have kept rats as [...] more...
What is it like teaching English in Germany? I have a TEFL certificate and teach English to African refugees inside the USA, so have some experience. Is there a demand for English teachers, maybe in the former East Germany where [...] more...
Germany has many good points that I admire, such as it's general oppression of religion and cults such as Scientology, which I abhor. The Catholic tax that they put on registered Catholics is something I admire from afar. We have [...] more...
Stay informed with our free news services:
|All news from SPIEGEL International||Twitter | RSS|
|All news from Under the Scope section||RSS|
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2006
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH