Sunday, July 17, 2011


In Greece, the hotels insist you don’t throw your toilet paper in the toilet.  On the islands so far, anyway.  They provide a waste paper basket.  Though I’ve had experience with septic tanks before – the reason for this practice, I assume – I’m still vaguely repulsed at the idea.  The camp toilet on the Turkish relief ride was two foot-boards spanning a hole in the ground, and I somehow found that more coherent.  When out of habit I mistakenly dropped a few squares of paper into my Cretan toilet I had nightmare visions of a sudden septic uprising in the middle of the night.

I’ve had a varied experience with bathing on this trip.  I’ve had cold showers in the back of a caravan, swum in hot springs and splashed in cold springs, dipped in dams, squatted under hoses, squeezed into tiled cupboards masquerading as plumbing fixtures, and melted under one particularly memorable, long, hot hotel shower after two weeks in the saddle.  About the only way I haven’t got wet on this trip is being soaked by rain.  I think one un-sunny day it sprinkled.

The shower in my room in Crete was so small there was no room for even a shower curtain (which is probably so people don’t pull it aside and say: “hey, somebody bricked up this window”).  I got in it and threw my hands up in the air when I was mugged by the faucet, and when I turned around I was startled to run into myself.  The other side of the room got wet when I turned the water on, so I turned the nozzle to the wall and showered under the splashback.

Most hotel rooms provide shower gel and shampoo.  Some of these wondrous bathing treacles are both.  Other shampoo packets say “with conditioner.”  The one in my Crete hotel room said: “with compliments.”  Nonsense.  I showered and shampooed and walked straight out the front door and all they said was “have a nice day.”

When I get back to Istanbul in early August, one of the last things I’m going to do in Europe is visit a Turkish hamam, for which the Ottomans were famous.  There you don’t have merely an entire room to bathe in, you have three, each a different temperature.  After sweating into a rubbery relaxation, you’re finished off by a pounding into submission they call a massage.

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