The Tri Kuna Ladies

Upon my first trip to Europe over two years ago, I was exposed to the premise of having to pay to use a public bathroom. In some ways, I can see the point of it as it allows the bathroom to be maintained and kept up by charging those who actually use it, as opposed to the American way where we all pay for the bathrooms whether we hold it until we get home or not. Still, it was something of a shock to arrive at Gard du Nord in Paris and have to pay two Euros for a Number One. I agree, the bathroom was spotless and a true work of art, yet all that was lost on me as the exchange rate (which was $1.30 to the Euro at the time) reminded to me to take care of business before heading out next time. Thankfully, this prepared me for future travels and that bathrooms will indeed cost money.

In Croatian areas, it is much the same, although the exchange rate makes it a much more swinging deal. For 50 cents or 3Kn (tri kuna) you get the rights to whatever you wanna do in there. And this is a pretty universal rate whether you’re in a bus stop in the middle of nowhere or downtown Zagreb. What is also constant are the older woman who are in charge of the bathrooms of Croatia. They form something of a cuddly yet stern toilet mafia controlling the paper towel and janitorial hand soap market of Croatian lands. While one and only one piece of paper towel is handed to you once exiting to dry your hands, you have to ask for it. There are no paper products inside the bathroom proper. In addition to their tight control on the paper towels, they also hand out the toilet paper and you’d better make sure you get what you need in the beginning, because if you don’t there is no asking for more.

They’re so tight with what they give you that it makes me wonder if they buy the supplies themselves having it come out of the tri kuna you pay in to their system. My mom made the mistake of asking for more paper which was funny for two reasons: 1) These ladies speak absolutely no English. They may speak some Italian on the coast, but it’s Croatian all the way otherwise. 2) They view you as unclean if you come out and ask for more paper, their body language making it seem like you have leprosy as they shy away from you with a sneer. If you play by their system, your Croatian bathroom needs will be pleasant and simple. Try and go around their rules and I think they have the power to not only make you miss your train or bus, but cancel your hotel reservation and send the word out about “you”, the one who needed two paper towels, throughout their network. If for some reason all the bathrooms need to be cleaned once you head towards them, they’re on to you. Find a good tree somewhere and let them be. You won’t win.