A guide for handling your shit in Turkey

Over the course of the last summer, I had the unique pleasure of staying long-term in a guesthouse (a glorified hostel) on the south coast of Turkey. Whilst the charming town of Fethiye impressed upon me some of my fondest and most vivid memories of the summer, few are more imposing than the various bathroom stories I collected there.

One of the first things I was told upon checking in is that no toilet paper is to be placed in the toilets because “It’s Turkey!” I later found out it’s because the plumbing systems in that part of town consist of small pipes that are not equipped to process toilet paper on top of… other bodily excretions. I stared blankly and wondered, “then where does the toilet paper go?” and balked at my next thought of “am I about to be told that toilet paper is not to be used here??” Clearly the naïve, panicked thought process of a first time traveller. There was a small bin with a revolving lid next to the toilet for used toilet paper. My relief was stunted by the realisation that the bin would be emptied but once a day. It got worse the day I tried to push through used toilet paper and met resistance. The nastiest was seeing the wiped excretions of others peeking up at me from the overflowing bin.

At first, I worried about how I would manage to even remember. Flushing toilet paper is such an automated action, that I thought it would be quite the task to re-train myself to do otherwise. Luckily, the guesthouse owners had placed a reminder sign on the wall directly facing me as I sat on the pot. It wasn’t long before I realised that the signs had most likely surfaced after an epidemic of clogged pipes (something I had the distinct displeasure of being present for when it happened again and again).

There was a period where I would constantly find large wads of toilet paper floating in the bowl. I soon came to see this as the unimaginative cover for unflushed nuggets. As I began the ritual of repeated flushing, I couldn’t help but wonder… when did it become OK to leave your turd unattended in a toilet? You wouldn’t do it in your own home, so why was someone doing it in mine? Clearly one of the more philosophical questions that arose during my travels. I could understand perfectly well that this was what hostel-living would be like sometimes, but what I couldn’t get on board with was the fact that most of my innovative energy was now being expended upon finding new and improved ways of flushing away the poos of strangers.

Perhaps the only good thing that came out of this (aside from realising that my capacity for dealing with the gag-worthy was a lot higher than I’d ever have given myself credit for – self five!) is that I can now offer you this sage advice for dealing with your own shit, so others aren’t forced to do it for you and then mentally hex you with 7 years of bad luck… Not that I did this (I totally did).

1. Do NOT try to prod poo with the toilet brush. This just traps you with a faeces-infested brush. If you really feel that the brush must play a role, try using the other end to poke your nugget into the pipe or break it into pieces. Yes, this is a highly unsavoury act, but a hell of a lot easier than trying to covertly dispose of a toilet brush without getting caught out.

2. Depending on how patient you are, keep flushing in varying intervals. Sometimes, your patience will actually pay off. The rest of the time, at least you will have warned anyone waiting in line for the bathroom of what’s to come.

3. One thing that comes in surprisingly handy is the Turkish bathroom layout of showers over the toilet. One day, in a genius move against someone else’s stubborn excretions, I found myself resorting to using the detachable shower head to simultaneously disintegrate and flush the offending nuggets. Highly effective method with a 100% success rate.

Turkey toilet


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