Turkey: On Toilets

Duh: Persian cats come from Persia.

I only realized this when we were in northern Syria and the cats were starting to look quite a lot shaggier and fluffier than all the lean, mean Cairene felines, which look just like temple paintings say they should.

Double duh: Turkish toilets come from Turkey.

This only dawned on me in Antakya, just after we’d crossed the border from Syria and checked into our cheapie hotel right by the bus station. In itself, this was quite exciting–normal travel rules dictate that the hotels by bus stations be utter flophouses. This one had spotless tile floors and posters of alpine heaven adorning the walls next to a carefully dusted tchotchke case.

We dumped our stuff, and I walked to the shared bathrooms–and started laughing like an idiot. It’s not like I hadn’t seen a million squat toilets already on my trip. But here we were in Turkey–experiencing all its cultural contributions to world civilization! And I’m not being sarcastic–I kind of like squat toilets. Very efficient…as long as your knees are strong and you have a decent sense of balance. I even enjoy the challenge of using one on a moving train.

Then I walked over to the shared shower room, and laughed again. Who would’ve guessed? Turkish baths come from Turkey too! I was delighted to see the grand technology of the hammam scaled down for home use.

Granted, there was a rudimentary little shower head in the square, tile-floor room, but it was clearly a retrofit to the basic Turkish bath setup: a marble basin, a tap, a drain in the floor and a shallow wide-mouth bowl (purple plastic, in this case, but exactly the same shape as the silver ones they use in fancy hammams). Sadly, the usual burly masseuse in nylon thong underwear was not a part of this home hammam, so I was on my own.

I toyed with the shower for a second, but the water was on the unpleasant side of lukewarm. So I gave Turkish bath tech a chance–and boy was I glad I did. If you’re going to take a bath with nippy water, it’s surprisingly pleasant to soap yourself up and just dump that water over your head again and again and again and again and again….

A million douses later, I finally toweled off, slipped on my clean caftan and stepped into my flip-flops. (Our $20/night hotel room actually came stocked with two pairs of plastic bath slippers…but only in men’s sizes, and they were a little bit stinky. It’s the thought that counts.) I floated back to my room on that mellow, limbs-turned-to-jelly post-hammam buzz. Guess I didn’t need the burly attendant to scrub me down after all.

Here’s Peter enjoying his free slippers, and a cold Efes. (The bathrobe: model’s own.)

Cheap hotel in Turkey