“How Was Europe?”

toilet signage beside green leaf
Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin on Pexels.com

We are recently back from 2 weeks in Europe, where we toured around Italy (Rome, Siena, Florence, Bologna, Venice, Como), Switzerland (Engelberg, Lucerne), and France (Paris). We planned the trip back in February and had been looking forward to it ever since. It is hard to believe it is over now. It was our kids’ second time to Europe (last year we went to Ireland) and they added more stamps to their passports.

Upon arriving home (a week ago now), the frequently-asked-question we get is, “How was Europe?” We were asking it enough times during our first few days that, while ruminating in the shower one morning, I came up with the following answer, which I’ve been giving ever since, and which I reproduce here for any and all who wish to know the answer to this question.

Questioner: “How was Europe?”

Me, making a face, palms up and shrugging my shoulders, “Eh!”

Awkward pause.

“I suppose I should explain,” I say, and then as if looking toward the clouds for explanation, I say the following:

You know what Europe is like? (Groping for words.) Have you ever seen those whatchamacallem–Marvel superhero movies?


It started out with one movie, Iron Man. Then there was Iron Man 2, then Iron Man 3. Before long there were so many Marvel superhero movies that that a single universe couldn’t contain them. They had to be collected in a multiverse.

That is the way Europe is with cathedrals. A long time ago on a continent far, far away, some built a monument to God out of stone–what Ken Follett refers to as the pillars of the earth. And ever since, this has been copied and recopied and re-recopied all over Europe. Despite filling a Field Notes notebook with notes, I lost track of how many cathedrals we entered, but they are most certainly as prolific of Marvel superheroes.

Now the styles of these cathedrals vary depending upon when they were built, but throughout Europe, whether we were in Rome, Siena, Venice, Paris, they all have one thing in common.

None of their restrooms are working.

Restrooms are at a premium in Europe, usually costing about 50 Euro-cents to use public facilities. So one would think that a cathedral would be a perfect place to grab a free restroom. Except that in every cathedral in which we asked to use the restroom, we were told the facilities were out of order.

“When was this cathedral built?” I asked.

“The first stone was laid in 1172.”

“So then isn’t a restroom just a hole in the floor somewhere? How is it that a hole is out of order?”

Clearly, Europe has issues with too few restrooms. Or maybe too many cathedrals. I haven’t decided yet.

(More on the Europe trip soon.)

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  1. 1 eur, you get an espresso and you can use the bathroom of the bar. Simple as that. Moreover, simple suggestion. Go to a 4/5 stars hotel. Pretend to be a guest there and you can use their bathroom for free.
    It’s Siena, not Sienna btw 😀

    1. Andrea, that is what we ended up doing for the most part. (I was mostly joking about the restrooms, anyway). And thanks for the correction on Siena — I fixed it in the post.


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