The best travel stories always involve weird toilets.
So much happened in the little Caucasus nation of Georgia due to its friendly, resourceful people and chaotic public infrastructure, that I just had to share the most quirky stuff. The Georgian public toilets definitely made the list, as logic just refuses to stick within those premises, and I will prove it to you. In a sense, this is a part 2 post following the stories from the Georgian public minibuses, which you can read here, but otherwise let’s get started with my review of the insanity of the Georgian public toilets:
Like in many non-Western countries (but also looking at you, Italy!), the Georgian public toilets were all squat toilets, i.e. toilet holes in the ground. That’s usually not a particularly big deal for men, but for us women it can be a bit more annoying… Fortunately I was pretty used to that type of toilets by the time I visited Georgia, but what I did not expect were all the weird things they had going on at some of them.
Naturally, you had to pay a few lari (Georgian money) to use the public toilets and there was always a stern, black-robed grandma there to show you the ways of that particular toilet. My first encounter was at the bus station in Kutaisi, where the toilets were housed in the lower storey of one of the buildings, inside ancient, high brick arches. There were no curtains or anything to cover the toilet entrance and the toilets were built in two opposing lines, so you could chat to the opposite person while squatting down. Sure, I can deal with that and also with the old grandma staring at me the entire time while I was there. I guess she was trying to make sure I wasn’t stealing the ratty doormat-rug placed before the toilet to wipe your shoes on – that was the only thing that was not attached to the walls, so I assume she was worried about that? She must have thought I was insane when I brought out a piece of paper to wipe myself, as she started wildly gesticulating to put it in the nearby bin. I did and that was the moment logic stopped working and didn’t reestablish itself for a while. She took out my used toilet paper with a stick, offered it to her dog to sniff it and threw it in my toilet before flushing it down with a water bottle. I mean, sure maybe the dog determined it will flush?
Next up was the lovely public toilet in Akhaltiskhe, where they actually had curtains for each individual toilet, but they only reached down to your midriff, meaning they became completely redundant once you squatted down. That toilet had an intricate homemade plumbing system, consisting of plastic hoses and ancient Coca-Cola bottles, which somehow supplied flushing water to all 6 toilets, when the attending grandma poured some water into the first bottle. Quite the engineering feat, I tell you. But they kind of lost me when I realised the water then run into a ditch that once again circled through all the toilets before going down the drain, so they could have just poured it into the ditch in the first place? They also recycled the water used for hand washing into their toilet flushing system, so bonus points for sustainability.
The third one was somewhere in Tbilisi. It was quite busy and probably the strangest one. One of the three attending grandmas acted as a policeman, directing men and women towards their respective toilets. Only, we were all going to the same room, which established a sort of one way traffic, as of course men and women couldn’t be in the room at the same time when either of them used the open squat toilets. So, the grannies would wait for a larger group of either gender to assemble and then send them in, which took a while. But apparently if someone was fussy and in a hurry, they would also send them in, even if they were the wrong gender, so what exactly was the point then? To make it even less logical, one of the grandmas would then unroll a sort of a shower curtain in front of the toilet where the “wrong gendered” person was, but the curtain was transparent, so again… completely baffling, although the locals seemed to think it was entirely logical.
In general though, the toilets were actually not horrible. Sure, they were weird and they didn’t exactly smell like roses, but none of them were truly disgusting or soiled in the way sitting public toilets often are. Their improvised flushing systems also seemed to be quite decent as I never knowingly stepped into any human discharge and my shoes never smelled like I had – massive thanks from me to the toilet grandmas for their hard work. So, fear not, the Georgian public toilets are a wholly survivable experience!
We also experienced plenty of other quirky things I didn’t specifically write about here, from all the stray dogs everywhere, to the junkyard window view and the unintentional candlelit dinner without power in Kutaisi; the accommodation we had in Borjomi; the screwdriver embedded in the concrete wall in our bedroom in Tbilisi, the cows on the road to the Sapara monastery etc., and all of it was just part of the adventure. After all, it’s always good to step out of your comfort zone a bit.