The only time I was Un-Nerved in Greece was when it was explained exactly what the little cans behind the toilet were for, so let’s backtrack and start at the beginning.
After leaving the athletic Greek granny in baggage claim we were greeted by our tour guide and told that because we had to wait on the others on the later flight, we needed to get comfortable in the airport for the next 3 hours. The airport in Athens is beautiful, the first thing that I noticed was the food. The vibrancy of the vegetables and fruits, and the different types of pastry made of spinach that were laid out beautifully. At this time I had no idea what any of these delicious delights were called, but by the end of the first week, we would be on a first name food basis. We were taken to the McDonald’s in the airport because it had a large lounge area where we could stretch out and store our luggage. The ordering set up was quite interesting as well and the food selection was different. We were told to use the restroom, get a bite to eat, tour the airport, it had great shopping or just take a rest and relax as we wait on the others. I decided to take a little tour of the airport, checkout the book store, everyone knows I love a book store, check out the mini museum, I love a museum as well, get one of those spinach pastries, but first, restroom.
Now let me put out this disclaimer, everyone who knows me knows I roll with Lysol and wipes like a real cleaning gangster. No matter where I am I have Lysol in my purse and I will always have wipes because I was trapped in another country that didn’t have toilet paper with the bubble guts running around a museum looking for anyone who could spare me a square “just one square to spare” if you don’t watch Seinfeld you won’t get that and I will save that for a different post. I am a clean freak and certified germ-a-phobe so what I am about to share with you almost made me become completely unglued.
The one thing I love about bathrooms in Europe they respect your privacy, the doors go from the ceiling to the floor in many of the bathrooms and have self-cleaning toilets or some great disinfectant that keeps them smelling fresh. Now I noticed these small garbage bins in the bathroom but as a woman that was no surprise. I noticed a sign on the back of the door instructing you to put the toilet paper in the bin, I figured they had the item generalized because surely you would NEVER put toilet paper in a garbage bin when you have a toilet. So I used the restroom and went on about my business exploring the airport. I went and got myself a Spanakopita and some tea and sat down and watched planes take off and land as I watched people come in and out of the small cafe. Everyone seems so relaxed and happy, they weren’t pressed or in a hurry to do anything, they seemed to genuinely enjoy sitting, drinking coffee and talking. This, I would realize is how the Greeks live, they don’t stress and they enjoy sitting, talking and a lovely view.
The second group from our tour lands and we board the first of many bus trips. Our guide points out different attractions on the way to a suburb of Athens where we will stay the next 2 nights. When we reach to our hotel it is in the middle of a bustling area of shopping, close to the Port of Athens, and a public beach if you are willing to jump a fence. We unload our luggage, I was previously told the elevators were small, but nothing prepared me for that reality either. After check in we were told to take our luggage up, refresh, rest and bit and at dinner we would have a meeting to discuss the customs and courtesies. Remember we are two days late because of our delayed flight, so we missed the introduction to Greece and the opportunity to get this critical briefing.
So here comes trying to get upstairs to your room, picture an apartment kitchen pantry, no shelves that was the size of the elevator, literally you and your suitcase. So yes we had to go upstairs one at a time! Now all the floors and steps are were marble everywhere we went, so carrying suitcases up three flights of stairs was an opportunity to break your neck or worse, scuff up the peoples marble floors. I think I had a panic attack on the way up, and then I couldn’t figure out how to get out that I went back down laughing hysterically realizing I had to push the door out. Nyri, let’s try this again, you are an intelligent woman. Finally I made it to my room and it was very cute, small but cute, clean and had a balcony. I would come to learn that the Greeks know how to do a balcony, everywhere we went the balcony view was better than the last. The bathroom was small, but clean and had a chair in the shower, I would learn this was common as well and in the corner, a trash bin and a sign again instructing you to place tissue in the bin. Again I figured they mean trash and feminine products, so I used the bathroom and was trying to figure out why the tissue kept coming back up. I had to flush a few times but again I figured water pressure was low. After unpacking and wiping the room down with Lysol, I went down for dinner and our welcome to Greece briefing. I was excited, shit I was in Greece, it’s beautiful, hot as Egypt, people were friendly, food was good, what could she say that wouldn’t support that?
Our guide Iris was about 38, spoke five or six languages, and she was ready to immerse us the beauty, splendor and history of Greece. “Good evening guys, glad you are all finally here, we had so many challenges with flights and weather this trip, we lost two days but we will make up the time with your free day that was scheduled”. “Sadly anyone who was scheduled for the small island day cruise it has been cancelled and you will receive a refund, we weren’t able to reschedule and the rest of the trip is a must”. “We will tour the Acropolis tomorrow”. So with our sad faces, we waited for her to review the other instructions. “First things first guys, there is no putting toilet paper in the toilets in Greece”. Wait whettttttttttt I think everyone’s face had the same expression, what? “Yes we have very old plumbing and the increase in population hasn’t been able to keep up with the plumbing system, toilet paper clogs the sewers so it goes in those bins in the bathroom”. “No worries we have an excellent sanitation system and you shouldn’t smell anything as the bins are changed often, but everywhere we go on this trip, toilet paper goes in the bin”. I fainted, I am sure I fainted because you just told me that after I wipe my ass it goes in the trash can. Ok, no problem at all, I respect culture, different ways of life, Nyri you got this.
Now I will say this, everywhere we went she was right, the sanitation system was excellent, not once did I smell a bathroom that didn’t smell like some form of cleaning product or bleach my best friend, so they were doing something right because I can say I personally didn’t smell anything unpleasant. Since we had an excess of plastic bags from daily shopping and the bags were plastic, we decided to keep our bags and every time we use the bathroom we put our toilet paper in our own bags and then placed them in the bins. We heard the maids appreciated this, and I figured it was double recycling and quality control at its finest. By the end of the trip I was a professional, not saying I didn’t forget a few times but I tried my best as a conscious traveler and do my part in keeping the sewer system working.
That’s the joy of traveling, I think the best explanation was that we are trying to maintain the ancient wonders of the islands while keeping up with the explosion of tourism in recent years. So if I can do my part of preserving those ruins by not putting toilet paper in the toilet, I am happy to do so.
For those of you considering that trip to Greece, take it! Just know I prepared you prior to your trip for the one thing that you will definitely find somewhat un-nerving!
Blessings and beautiful travel adventures~Ny