Toilets on the Greek Islands
In Greece, many things are much nicer on the islands than they are on the mainland, and these include the toilets. So let's hop on a Greek ferry into the Aegean Sea and check out the local plumbing! See my travel pages for lots of pictures and suggestions about travel to the Greek islands.
Greek Toilet Logistics
First, make sure that you can find the correct toilet!
|Where is the toilet?||Πού είναι η τουαλέτα;|
As you will notice in one of the pictures below, you often see the pan-European abbreviation "WC" pointing the way, especially in areas catering more to tourists:
DEMOSIES TOUALETES, or public toilets, it says. Then "WC".
Let's start at the very beginning (and end) of the process. Here we see the headquarters of the Municipal Enterprise for Water and Sewage on the island of Mykonos.
Mykonos is a mid-sized island, with an area of 85.5 square kilometers and a population of a little over 9,000, most of them living in the main town on the island's west coast.
The main town on Mykonos is called Χορα or Hora in the usual Greek pattern of naming the primary town on an island "The Town". Most of the Hora is a pedestrian-only zone of narrow lanes. Beautiful Greek island architecture: smoothly curving walls painted a brilliant white, stone pathways, blue shutters and trim. But see my travel page for all that, we're focusing on the plumbing here!
Let's look into these typical δημόσιες τουαλέτες (demosies toualetes, or public toilets) on the island of Mykonos. You can see the entrance, and the toilet itself.
It's very clean!
It's a squat toilet, as the public toilets generally are in Greece.
If you need a raised commode seat, have something to eat or drink in one of the numerous restaurants and bars and use theirs.
The toilet in the restaurant or bar might be a raised commode seat. If not, well, there are plenty of tavernas on most of the islands, try the next one!
The Blu-Blu cafe / lounge / bar / Internet cafe is a good place on Mykonos to get on the net or transfer pictures from your camera to a USB stick.
Or, as you see here, to use a raised commode style toilet and wash your hands.
So you wonder what a typical bathroom looks like in a nice budget hotel on Mykonos? Here you go — this is the full setup at the Philippi Hotel at Kalogera 25 in Hora. It was a very nice place to stay in 2010. By 2021 it had been converted into a high-end jewelry store.
By 2021 almost everything in Mykonos has ratcheted further upscale. Here's the bathroom at the Matogianni hotel.
Here's the bathroom at the Poseidon Hotel, overlooking the harbor town of Ormos on the island of Ios.
Very clean! Notice how the floor and walls are ceramic tiles, and the floor has a central drain. This is a good bathroom design, it would be easy to keep this very clean.
The water tanks at the Poseidon Hotel are slightly elevated. This provides slightly more vigorous flushing, again keeping things more clean.
This scenic head is on board the F/B Artemis ferry en route from Ios to Santorini in the Aegean.
We're on one of the upper decks on a ferry about 90 meters long and carrying up to 1,250 passengers and 74 cars, at speeds up to 18 knots.
So, it's not one of the very largest, and certainly not one of the fastest, but this class of ferry provides a wonderful atmosphere for traveling between the islands out on an open deck watching the scenery slip past.
And, if you need to make a quick visit to the head, you can keep track of the scenery!
See the dedicated page of toilets on boats and ships for the explanation of why their toilets are called "heads".
Thira / Santorini
I had stayed at Petros Pension on Santorini on a previous trip, and so I got the luxury room on the top floor, the one with the kitchenette.
And, of course, my own bathroom.
These are typical δημοτικες τουαλέτες (demotikes toualetes, or public toilets) on Santorini.
The first one is just south of the main square in Fira, the main town on the island. Below you see the exterior of that toilet.
The second squat toilet is just north of that main square.
You are noticing the pattern, right? Municipal public squat toilets, and raised commode seats in many (but not all) tavernas.
The prehistoric city of Akrotiri is along the south coast of the main island of Santorini. Before it was destroyed in the enormous eruption of Thira around 1600 BCE, the residents of Akrotiri enjoyed indoor toilets connected to municipal drains, hot and cold running water, and bathtubs like this one. See the dedicated page on Cycladic plumbing for details on the famous Toilet of the West House.
Here are a urinal and a toilet at one of the nice cafes along the caldera rim in Fira, the main town on Santorini.
Walking along the caldera rim from Fira to Oia, you come to Ναός Προφήτη Ηλία, the Church of the Prophet Elias. Chapels dedicated to Elias, commonly called Elijah in English, tend to be found on high points given the prophet's association with mountain settings. And given that the Aegean islands are the peaks of mostly submerged mountains, except for Thira and Milos which are actually volcanos, there are many high points on which to build another chapel dedicated to Προφήτη Ηλία.
The Book of Kings describes Elijah's confrontation with King Ahab, the seventh king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and his wife Jezebel, daughter of the king of Tyre. Ahab built a temple to Ba'al, who was known as בעל to the Israelites, 𐎁𐎓𐎍 in Ugaritic cuneiform, 𐤋𐤏𐤁 in Phoenician, and Βάαλ to the later Greeks. Ba'al was a prominent deity of the ancient Levant.
Ahab also erected a pole for the worship of Ba'al's consort Astarte, a fertility goddess called Asherah in the Bible. Then he started fanatical religious persecution of the prophets of Yahweh.Elijah, Priests of Ba'al and Asherah, and a Toilet Desecration
Elijah organized a competition at the peak of Mount Carmel to show whether Yahweh or Ba'al was the stronger deity. Elijah was by himself against 450 prophets of Ba'al and 400 prophets of Asherah.
See the dedicated page for details of what happened, including the following retalitory shrine desecration involving an ancient toilet.
This church has a pair of squat toilets out in back.
Elijah had won the competition, but Jezebel wanted him dead. He fled south to Judah, then on into the wilderness, and traveled forty days and nights to Mount Horeb, where Moses had received the Ten Commandments. Along the way he was fed by ravens. Below is an icon, a standardized representation of Elijah and a raven in the wilderness. This is in a different Church of the Prophet Elias.
There's no flushing water in the dual squat toilets, and no toilet brush to tidy up.
The Book of Malachi is the last of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, it appears as the last book of the Old Testament in Christian Bibles. It describes how Elijah will return "before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes".Toilets of the
In the Christian New Testament, some think that John the Baptist is Elijah. Others think that Jesus is Elijah. Then Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus at his Transfiguration.
The Mormon church believes that Elijah returned on April 3rd, 1836, in Kirtland, Ohio, where he met with Joseph Smith and Oliver Crowdery, as described in Doctrine and Covenants, 110:13-16. Smith only had the King James Version of the Bible, which used the Hebrew transliteration "Elijah" in its Old Testament and the Greek "Elias" in its New Testament, leading to some confusion.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. Its Minoan civilization built the first cities in Europe.
These are two of the shared toilets at the Intra Muros Hostel in Heraklion.
Push the button on the overhead tank to flush this toilet.
The most popular site to visit in Crete is Knossos. Below is the Queen's Toilet in the Palace of Knossos. See the dedicated pages for details on Minoan toilets and other plumbing. The Minoans famously had flushing toilets, clay pipes providing clean water supply, and separate rainwater and sewage drains.
The modern public toilet for visitors to Knossos is typical. Seatless, with a bin for the paper, and a nearby toilet brush.
This public toilet is along the main street leading through the walled old city of Heraklion, near the Bembo fountain.
These are public urinals and toilets at the Palianis Nunnery, northeast of Agia Varvara in central Crete.
This public toilet is at the Minoan palace at Malia. See the dedicated page for the Minoan era toilets, drains, and other plumbing
This is the very nice bathroom in a budget apartment in Hora, the main town of on Naxos. This is Alpha Studios, a short walk from the ferry pier, just three blocks south of the harbor.
This toilet is upstairs at a taverna along the waterfront in Naxos. And look, it has been "certificated" for high quality hygiene as per ISO 9001:2000.
This is my room with attached bathroom at the Villa Zacharo in Skala, the port town on Patmos.
From my balcony I had a view up the hill to the Cave of the Apocalypse and, beyond that to the 600 meter peak with the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian. Here is a communal sink used by the monks. See the dedicated page for toilets, urinals, and another sink at the Cave of the Apocalypse, and toilets at the monastery.
This toilet is at a cafe in the central square in Skala.
The overhead flush tank is made from cast iron, labeled "The New Best Niagara". It was as difficult to flush as a British siphon, I suspect it was a British import.
The shared sink between the men's and women's toilets is a large one carved from soapstone, with steampunk-looking all-copper visible fixtures.
Here is my room and attached bathroom at Apartments Papafotis in Alinda on Leros.
This toilet in a cafe in Platanos, uphill from the port of Agia Marina on Leros, seems to have two controls. The lever at left isn't connected. You flush it by pressing the rod in the center of the lid.
Here is the bathroom in my room at the Paradise Hotel, a very nice budget hotel near the waterfront in the main town on Kos.
Kos is across a narrow strait from Bodrum, Turkey. Let's take a close look at the toilet.
Notice the valve and small tube leading up to the rear of the seat.
The tube ends just beyond the rear of the seat's opening. It's for cleaning yourself, as an alternative or addition to paper. A tube like this is standard on Turkish raised seat commodes.
One of the main things to see around Kos, the main attraction in my opinion, is the Asclepion. This is an ancient medical school and clinic associated with Hippocrates, Galen, and others. We're at an upper level looking out over the site with Kos town in the distance, then the strait and Bodrum, Turkey, beyond that. Much closer, beneath the trees to the left, is where the latrines were located. To the right are the large baths of the later Roman era, with many remaining pipes and drains.
The Western Excavation Site in Kos town has ruins from Hellenistic times into Roman times. Here are remains of a public toilet.
These two toilets are in the Ionian Domatia in Vathy town on the island of Samos.
They're intense avacado models with forcibly removed seats and lids.
See the Where is the Seat? page for an explanation of why toilet seats are removed or never installed in the first place in many countries.
As for a domatia or δοματια, that is a small and simple lodging traditionally operated as a room rented by the homeowner.
This one is in the Rodos Hostel, in the old city of Rodos, on the island of Rhodes.Fecal Fountains and Pathogen Plumes: The Importance of Careful Flushing
It's seatless, as is standard in Greece. But it has a lid, meaning that you can close the lid to flush, a practice with significant health advantages.
Also, as standard in Greece, there's a bin into which all paper should go. And a handy brush for a clean toilet after a messy #2.
It's a very monochrome bathroom, black and white. Monochrome, there's a word of Greek origin. Mono- for one, and chrome, from chroma, for color.
Also see the Christian toilets for more early Greek toilets.
If neither a tersorium nor water were available, the Greeks and Romans used πεσσοι or pessoi, small stones, to clean themselves. The tradition started with the ancient Greeks that three stones should be enough to finish the job. This convention has been very long lived, with a hādīth attributed to Muhammad specifying three stones as the ideal number for anal cleaning. The pessoi were also used in an ancient board game in Greece. Aristophanes wrote a scene involving pessoi in Peace in the 5th century BCE. Here's the Penguin Classics translation:
Arms dealer [displaying a cuirass]: And what, alack, shall I do with this rounded cuirass, a beautiful fit, worth ten minas?
Trygaeus: Well, that one will not make a loss for you, anyway. Give me that at cost price. It will be very convenient to crap in ...
Arms dealer: Stop this impudent mockery of my goods!
Trygaeus [placing the cuirass on the ground like a chamber pot and squatting on it]: Like this, if you put three stones beside it. Is it not clever?
The Greeks would use όστρακα or ostraka, small pieces of broken ceramic goods, to vote to shun or ban their opponents. This is where we get the word ostracize. Some scholars have suggested that the ostraka could be used as pessoi, literally wiping your feces onto the names of hated individuals. The abrasive characteristics of broken ceramic material suggest that long-term used of these as pessoi could have resulted in localized irritation at the least, progressing to skin or mucosal damage or the irritation of external hemorrhoids. For more on toilet use of pessoi and ostraka and the medical implications see the paper "Toilet hygiene in the classical era", Philippe Charlier, Luc Brun, Clarisse Prêtre, and Isabelle Huynh-Charlier, in BMJ (the British Medical Journal) 2012, pages 345-346.