Toilet Review

 It's a family joke that in public places away from home I can't return from a call of nature without reporting (privately) on the facilities. I try to stop, but sometimes I can't help myself - and my nearest and dearest expect it.  After 3 weeks away, still in holiday mood and just for fun, here is my first public report on prize-winning toilets. All are in Austria because that is where I enjoyed the facilities of what has to be one of the cleanest countries in Europe.

Prize 1: The Most Beautiful Toilet Floor

This goes to the ladies toilet in the Belvedere Palace, Vienna.  Above is my photo of part of the floor of the cubicle in which I sat. I was so impressed with the beauty of the tiled floor I spent a little longer there and got out my camera. I have cropped out my feet. A few minutes before, in the same building we had admired Gustav Klimpt's famous painting 'Der Kuss' in shimmering gold leaf and oil. The toilet floor was strangely reminiscent of that work. (By the way, the facilities were clean, perfumed and there was no queuing.)

Prize 2: The Toilet with the Most Alarming Notice

This goes to the automatic unisex public toilet with a single cubicle that opens directly onto the mountain tram platform at Fulpmes station in the Stubaital near Innsbruck. The time expiry notice over the inside of the door is literally alarmed. The German words tell you that 5 minutes after entry the alarm goes off and the door automatically opens. The English translation gives the impression of a rather more explosive event. (After ignition comes blast off?) I suppose 5 minutes should be enough before the occupant is revealed to the people waiting on the platform. But what if disability or coping with small children mean you need longer?

Prize 3: The Most Sustainable Toilet

This goes to the old toilet of the 350 year old Autenalm on the Elfer mountain at Neustift in the Stubaital. Until this year it was their only toilet. It's behind the door with a latch in the middle of this photo.

It's an adventurous journey to reach it, especially after one of Herr Stern's schnapps. You have to clamber down steps from the Autenalm terrace, walk a muddy path between huts, sometimes having to shoo the goats out of the way as you go. Then it's up more steps and into the toilet cubicle. This contains a scrubbed wooden shelf with a hole in it. Whatever you deposit through the hole drops about 20 feet onto the manure heap below, adding to other gifts from cows and goats. The whole heap is moved from time to time and spread on the alpine meadows where the cows graze in summer and produce their rich milk.

An extension is being built on the alm (mountain farm) which contains modern water closets to comply with local regulations. I'm not sure whether to be pleased or sorry. 

I'll tell you some other time about the coolest (literally) toilet at the highest monastery in Europe (Maria Waldrast), or the day I got locked in a monastery toilet in Innsbruck.

Many people live without even the most basic facilities. As I wrote in Sanitation 
"One of the Millennium Development Goals is to halve the proportion of people in the world living without basic sanitation by 2015. In 2010 there were still 2.6 billion people without safe sanitation facilities. Many organisations are working to change this."
 Today I give thanks for the blessings of clean, efficient and even luxurious sanitation. 


  1. Oh crumbs, No 2 has me worried! Son (aged 15) spends a lot more than 5 mins in any loo, and is currently in Austria on a school music tour - in fact playing at Zell am See today. I wonder now if he's been covered in embarrassment at any point whilst he's been away. Shall find out Saturday.

    Glad you had a lovely break and look forward to more entertaining and thought provoking posts.

    1. Relax! I've visited lots of loos in Austria, including Zell am See, and have never encountered another like the one at Fulpmes Bahnhof. In any case at 15 years old there are often occasions for embarrassment aren't there? There were for me anyway. Thanks for commenting. Yes I did have a lovely break - feel a new woman. As you see I haven't posted much lately, but intend to get back into the swing. I find blogging frequently takes much less time than occasionally - strange but true for me.

  2. I too have 'experienced' some of the ultra hygienic loo facilities in Austria, and while I appreciate the value of the experience, (particularly when compared to other nameless parts of Europe), I cannot help but wonder why?
    Not that I am in any sense a psychiatrist or pschyologist, but it occurs to me that outer cleanliness, particularly taken to extremes, might, just might, be a reflection of historical guilt and the need to be seen to be 'clean'.
    Just a thought.

    1. Ray - I wonder if it is simply due to the fact that the tourist industry is such a major part of the Austrian economy that it's important to keep standards high. It's also a very competitive industry. If you own a guest house and have a large bank loan for your most recent extension you can't afford to let standards slip.

  3. But then surely Nancy, that would apply to the rest of Europe, much of which appears to feel no such obligation.

  4. Good point Ray - an interesting area to research maybe. Is it something about the national psyche? Cultural conditioning? Education? And how far back does this go?

  5. Yeek! I'd choose Sustainable loo 3 over loo 2 any day; the potential for terminal embarrassment with the latter is just too great.

    Re the rest of Europe - we lived in France from the early to late 1990s and can honestly say that the 'facilities' there aren't nearly as horrific as the British often make them out to be. Well, almost...the Gare de Lyon doesn't exactly smell of ashes of roses - though that might be from folk peeing on the platforms. But in general the loos aren't bad at all; IMO the days of the smelly 'squat 'n squirt' guarded by a black-clad crone are long gone. OK, I remember a few old grumps, but after the city's facilities were privatised, they couldn't do enough for you: flowers, smiles, hovering outside the cubicles waiting to polish the seat between customers...

    1. I remember the black-clad crones in France. I remember one place in particular where she sold you a piece or two of toilet paper to ladies standing in the queue awaiting their turn in a cubicle (with squat and squirt toilet). But this was a long time ago.


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