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Michael Cisco
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 12:00 am:   

Having recently delved into Thomas Bernhard's autobiography for a quote about sports - see Jeff VanderMeer's page - I just had to post this bit from Old Masters as well:

"... in Vienna, let me tell you, where all lavatories are in fact more neglected than in any major city in Europe, this is a rarity, to find a lavatory that does not turn your stomach, where one need not, while using it, hold one's eyes and nose firmly closed the whole time; Viennese lavatories are altogether a scandal, even in the lower Balkans you will not find a lavatory which is quite so neglected, Reger said. Vienna has no lavatory culture, he said, Vienna is one great lavatory scandal, even at the most famous hotels in the city there are scandalous lavatories, you find the most ghastly pissoirs in Vienna, more ghastly than in any other city, and if ever you have to pass water you get the shock of your life. Vienna is quite superficially famous for its opera, but in fact it is feared and detested for its scandalous lavatories. The Viennese, and the Austrians generally, have no lavatory culture, nowhere in the world would you find such filthy and smelly lavatories, Reger said. To have to go to the lavatory in Vienna is usually a disaster, unless you are an acrobat you get yourself filthy, and the stench there is such that it clings to your clothes, often for weeks ... In the Vienna cafes too, and especially there, the lavatories are so dirty you feel nauseated. On the one hand this megalomaniac cult of gigantic gateaux, and on the other these frightfully dirty lavatories, he said. With many of these lavatories you have the impression that they have not been cleaned for years ... What use to you is a superb meal if, even before you start eating, you lose your appetite in the lavatory, and what use to you is a superb meal if your stomach turns afterwards in the lavatory, he said. The Viennese, as indeed the Austrians, have no lavatory culture, an Austrian lavatory has always been a disaster, Reger said ... the lavatory at the Musikverein is beneath contempt. I even once permitted myself the joke of mentioning in one of my reviews for The Times that the lavatory at the Musikverein, that is in the supreme of all supreme Viennese temples of the Muses, defies description and that for this reason, for this scandalous lavatorial reason, Reger said, it always costs me some self-denial to go to the Musikverein, and that I very often ask myself at home whether or not I should go to the Musikverein, since at my age and with my kidneys I have to go to the lavatory at least twice during an evening at the Musikverein ... Art is merciless, I tell myself each time I enter the Musikverein lavatory, and so I enter it, Reger said ... Vienna is the city of music, I once wrote in The Times, but it is also the city of the most nauseating lavatories and pissoirs."

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