Thursday, November 6, 2008

Scary toilets

I have always faithfully reported the weird and wonderful things I have found in Vienna but this one almost defies belief. I say almost because we have now been here for two months and have had our eyes opened considerably. But this one takes the biscuit so far.

There is apparently something called the ‘ledge’ toilet which is still in use in some apartments in Vienna. I refuse to put a picture on the Blog but you can find one at

Those with a delicate constitution should read no further.

So you can see how this works. Your droppings plop onto the ledge and remain there until you flush the toilet. That much I understand.

What I don’t know is why in tarnation you would want this to happen. My research shows that this may have been a German invention and is also prevalent in Holland. (It sounds like something that would be designed by Dick Cheney). I guess it is mainly in older buildings and don’t suppose that they still make them (but anything is – shriek! - possible).

The purposes of the ledge toilet could be as follows:

So that you can carefully examine your own droppings before you part company with them. (Perhaps they might have formed the face of a Saint or someone famous and could be baked and sold on eBay).

So that you can retrieve and weigh them (I am not sure why you want to do this but you could save some time and effort by balancing some kitchen scales on the ledge).

So that you can retrieve your wedding ring if you eat it accidentally during dinner. I am sure this doesn’t happen very often – even in Vienna.

So that your cat doesn’t drown if it falls into the toilet. Now Muffin is not intellectually gifted but even she is unlikely to jump into the toilet – and if she does she sure as hell won’t need a ledge to get out.

So that the toilet brush industry doesn't go ....well....down the toilet.

It sure beats the stuffing out of me. I have seen some scary toilets in my time – especially in Asia – but nothing beats the ledge toilet for pure drama. I am likely to have nightmares about this!
I have nothing further to say today about anything at all.


  1. I've seen those in Vienna too. It's my understanding is that in earlier times the Germanic people of Europe viewed their (lol) droppings to assess the state of their health.

    Personally, on the after a night of Heuriger-hopping, the last thing I want to do is face my own humanity.

  2. Ugh I hate them and I am always horrified when I come across one. Stay in a Hotel in Northern Slovakia that had one, Nasty!

  3. Sorry, but I really don't see the problem :)... You don't have to look down, if you don't want to, right?

    For REALLY REALLY scary I suggest:

    - an outdoor loo somewhere at an emergency hut high up in the Alps with no running water and no toilet paper

    - stop by a highway toilet in France and/or Italia... No seat at all! You are requested to target a hole in the ground - two designated spots, where to put your feet, are supposed to help!

    In comparison to THAT ledge toilets are bliss!! As always just a matter of perspective! :-)

  4. Erica Yong wrote about those toilets in her novel "Fear of Flying". Something to do with pride in one's accomplishments (she was speaking of German men), and gazing lovingly down on "the works", if I remember correctly. Very Freudian, her interpretation, methinks. Direct link to Vienna! ;-)

  5. Ok, I'm a little late to comment on this post but I just came across this blog (great blog by the way, love it!) and since it is one of the(rather secondary, but still) missions of my life to battle the misconceptions that Americans, Australians and so on have about this great advance in technology that is the ledge toilet, I have to do it anyway.

    There is a very simple reason for this and it has nothing whatsoever to do with strange psychological needs. The reason is: it is more hygienic. It doesen't splash. Believe me, when I, who grew up with ledge toilets, first used an "american style" toilet I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever to have to wipe my buttcheeks dry after my, well, product hit the toilet water. This cannot happen on a ledge toilet and that is really really the only reason we use it. Personally I lament that they are going more and more out of fashion and I blame it on globalization :P

    So there.

    Cheers, Felix from Vienna

  6. Okay, I'm REALLY late to post a comment, but I was just talking to someone about this ledge toilet, because I had seen them in my sister's Munich apartment. When I asked why they had ledges, I was told that if you needed to 'inspect' you would be able to do so, and if you aren't able to completely flush it, then you get a bunch of paper, and give it a shove off the ledge! LOL!

  7. I lived in Vienna for three months in the eighth districts, our apartment had a "ledge" toilet, three years on and Im still having nightmares - absolutely most ridiculous & stupid invention ever..!!