Return of the Shath: Brighton, Turkey, Georgia… and beyond!


Upon arriving about two hours late to the house I was staying at in Brighton for the ICCWS, my host showed me the bathroom and said, “It’s a little strange. You have to sit down to shower or water gets everywhere.” I nodded in acceptance of this fine, fine Airbnb turd because I knew this type of “shower” from previously travels as “the shath” and I go way back.

What blew my mind in Venice some 11 years ago no longer does any blowing. As it was best put here, Europe is “Cheese, cheese, cheese and thousands of the strangest toilets.” After living in an apartment in Barcelona for two years with a shower that had no curtain, this English shath proved to be of little challenge. Stand up to shower I did. Spray water all over the floor I did not.

But this chance encounter showed that the shath was not strictly an Italian invention and for some reason, someone thought it a great idea. The proliferation of shaths must have had a moment somewhere in the recent past much like glass-topped tables in the 1980s did as they allowed people to see and admire their cocaine easier.

This has of course been a relatively odd period of bathroom encounters for me. On my way to Georgia, I discovered that the “International” Airport of Sabiha Gökçen in Istanbul was not really that international at all given that the lower floor on the way to the gates only has Turkish squat toilets despite this airport opening in 2009. It seems that many going to the prayer (aka nap) rooms used the toilets to wash their feet. When coming back through, I found out that “international” toilets could be found on the upper floor along with quite comfortable chairs to crash in at the Starbucks for the most horrid of red eye layovers.

Geting to know all the nooks and crannies of Sabiha Gökçen Airport was brought about from a trip to Georgia (Black Sea, not Atlantic…) where more curious bathroom adventures awaited. In going to the quite staggering David Gareja monastery at the border with Azerbaijan I stayed in the “Club Oasis” which is the most bizarre of sitting across the road that runs through the equally bizarre village of Udabno. It’s really the only place to eat and stay if you want to do more than a day trip to the region. Despite a rather non-existent wine selection that seemed to only feature those damnable “half sweet” wines it was overall quite recommendable were it not for the toilet in the cabins. It seemed to be badly-set in the bathroom and leaked towards the shower. This made for a less than optimal bathing experience as I just wanted to jump out of the shower as fast as possible because the more you used it, the more the water collected, and the more this questionable leak from the bottle of the toilet got near your feet.

Bathrooms. So needed yet open to so many interpretations and I feel that at some point in the future, the shath will come back in to my life and I will love it because where else can you stay in a proper British town for 25£ a night? In a shath-hole, that’s where.