Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pissoirs of Berlin

It is the sign of a truly civilized nation that facilities for urination should be made widely available and without any charge to the public, to benefit especially its beer-swilling male members. Wilhelmine Germany truly excelled in this regard, and there still exist some outstanding examples in the city of Berlin, though there are few left that are yet operational.

The only deficiency is that they stank horribly, which explains the open gratings towards the top of cast iron walls and in the lantern on the roof. They also weren’t lighted electrically, since the same openings let in sufficient light to do your business. This was generally absent in the evening, so you were then left standing there to drain the lizard in almost total darkness.

The particularly elegant and well-preserved example shown above is located at the Gendarmenmarkt; it featured two overhead gas lights at the entrance. It belongs to a common species of urinal humorously referred to in German as the Cafe Achteck, or "Cafe Octagon."


cc photo from Flickr user damiandude -- clicking embiggens