Free or Not (part 2)?

Some things in the States seem free but of course, you know the money flows from other places. In Switzerland you are expected to pay for things that you don’t have to in America like restrooms.

Restrooms

I cannot remember ever having to pay to use a restroom in the States. Some have been cleaner than others and some have been downright disgusting to use, but all have been free. This is not the case in Switzerland. Some restrooms are free and others cost anywhere between 50 rappens and 2 SFr.

Train station, Berne

The train station in Berne is a very large station with lots of people going and coming daily. So it is obvious that there is a need for a place to relieve yourself. At some point the train station let a company take over the restroom situation. The company is called McClean and boasts a modern, stylishly furnished constantly supervised hygiene center that offer the customer cleanliness, service, security and a moment of peace. Now that sounds nice, doesn’t it? My guess would be that the people who work for that company are not called “cleaning people” but probably “Hygiene technicians”. Snickering aside, I have to admit that I have spent the 2 Swiss Francs more than once to use their facility. And, yes, it is clean. Very.

Europe

The Swiss are thought of as exceptionally clean people. Then again, if you ask an older Swiss about how clean Switzerland is, you might get a different answer. More than likely they would say the Swiss have let themselves go. Nothing is as clean as it used to be. Ah yes, those were the days… Still, paying to use the restroom isn’t something that only the Swiss get to do.

Very often in Germany, France or Italy you will find someone sitting at the door of the restrooms. On a table next to them is a saucer with some change in it. It may look like you have a choice to pay, but you don’t. You are expected to pay either before entering the restroom or when leaving. They will either tell you how much or you get to guess.

Quite often the restrooms are free of charge. Usually these facilities are clean. Frequently a schedule showing the time and initials of the person who last cleaned is hung on the door. There is always a toilet brush in each stall which is to be used by the visitor as needed. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever seen a toilet brush in a public restroom in the States.

Venice, Italy

Once Ben and I went to Venice on our vacation. After we checked into our lovely, extremely old hotel we had dinner in a restaurant. We then explored the city. It wasn’t long after that, that my stomach began rumbling and doing somersaults. Obviously something that I had eaten did not agree with me. About the time we had reached San Marco Square I wasn’t feeling well at all. Who cared about all the sights, I had to find a restroom and fast.

There are a couple of things you should know about San Marco Square. 1) It is probably one of the most expensive places in Venice, if not all of Italy. 2) If you want to use the restrooms at a restaurant, you must be a paying customer. We were definitely too far away from out hotel to get back there safely. We had no choice left but to find a free table at one of the many restaurants on the square. Ben ordered a cappuccino for himself and a Coke for me. I left immediately to find the restrooms, which were on the third floor. There was a person at the door collecting money. I gladly paid whatever price she was asking and found an empty stall.

When I opened the door to the stall the light switched on which illuminated Italian ceramic tiles in tasteful browns and golds. Honestly I couldn’t have cared less. I closed the door and it locked automatically. Finally. I was starting to feel better and all of the sudden my stall light went off. Then I heard a click and the stall door unlocked. There was a lot of high tech built into the restrooms there. I assumed this was the restaurant’s way of saying I used up my allotted time and I should leave.

Talk about nerve wrecking. Sitting in complete darkness I stretched my leg out and put the ball of my foot on the door. I hoped that that would stop anyone from coming in. Finally I finished and felt somewhat better and went to the table where Ben and my Coke were waiting. I took a sip of my Coke but Ben had to finish it for me Ben paid the $10 for his cappuccino and $12 for my Coke,  then we left.

Finally back at the hotel I was able to use our bathroom without having to worry that the light would automatically turn off or the door pop open. My stomach eventually stopped rumbling and doing flip flops and the rest of our stay in Venice was beautiful.

I did, however, learn something. Never, ever go anywhere in Switzerland or Europe without change, you never know when it might come in handy.

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