A few years ago, we took a three week trip to Eastern Europe. We visited Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia on a river boat cruise that followed the Danube from Budapest, Hungary to the Black Sea and back. These nations were all part of the former Soviet Bloc, operating under the Communist system for over fifty years following World War II. As a card-carrying Capitalist for nearly seventy years, I was curious to see if the spirit of innovation and creativity was alive and well in these nations, following the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Our first stop in Budapest was reassuring. I was astonished by the hustle and bustle of this great old city. Our hotel was a perfect example of the great advances these former Communist nations have made. I will give one example that confirms my belief that these people are trying hard…and succeeding…in catching up with the rest of the West.
The first time I used the toilet in our hotel room, I knew that all was well in Eastern Europe. The flush toilet might seem to be a mundane object to base such a judgment, but hear me out. The toilet in our room was a marvel of modern engineering and creativity.
Most toilets in the “civilized” world have a similar design: A water-filled bowl serves as a repository and a block for odors from the sewer line. The Hungarians have taken this a step further. The bowl has a small water-filled area that serves as an odor block, but the rear portion of the bowl has a raised area above the water level. Solid material is deposited here, where it can be examined, admired and analyzed for its color, texture and composition. But the real genius of this design is that the material is above the water level. To explain why this is important, I will digress:
Anyone who has ever ground fresh espresso coffee beans has enjoyed the rich and pungent aroma of the ground beans. The aroma can be almost overwhelming, sating the olfactory senses with complex and delightful odors. In the case of the Hungarian toilet, retaining the solid material on a platform above the water level allows the full aroma to permeate the surrounding area. This is an important part of both the aesthetic appreciation and the analytical process that is missing in American toilets, for example.
But I have yet to describe the final crowning achievement of the Hungarian toilet. If the aromas become so intense that they overwhelm the senses, and the user decides to perform an “intermediate flush,” the most delightful surprise awaits him! The flush is designed to provide a fine spray of cold water directed toward all exposed surfaces, including all portions of exposed anatomy. This is especially stimulating to male users who have…how can I put this delicately?…appendages that extend downward into the spray. They are subjected to such a dense spray that they are actually submerged. I should add that the cold water in Budapest taps is the coldest that I have ever experienced. Drawing cold water from a tap results in the metallic surfaces of the tap being covered with condensation exactly like a glass of ice water. The definition of cold water in Budapest brings new meaning to the term.
In conclusion, I think it is fair to state that the designers of toilets in Budapest…and probably elsewhere in Hungary and other Eastern European nations…have achieved a new level of sophistication and technological advancement that surpasses the older designs of the so-called advanced western nations. Surely, this is but a single example of the creative spirit that, instead of being stifled by the Soviet tyranny, has survived and is alive and well in Eastern Europe.