This is a land that uses squat toilets. If there happens to be a proper toilet, it will not have a seat. If there is a toilet with a seat, there will often be boot prints on it, where someone has turned this odd toilet into one of the “normal ones”.
Yesterday, we went to a cemetery outside of town to visit the grave of a Tula legend: Dyunyasha. She was a woman who has been mythologized as an oracle, a holy figure and someone you visit to ensure the safety of your loved ones. When the Second World War began, she was beset with worried families. Everyone wanted to know the fate of his or her husbands, sons and fathers. These huge crowds made many people in Tula uneasy, so they put Dyunyasha in prison. In short time, the Germans drew so close to the city that all of the prisoners were released to help fight. Dyunyasha told the military to allow her to help. She said that she could close the city to the Germans. The story claims that she went out into the no-man’s land between the Russians and the Germans and simply bowed. She would bow, walk a few steps to the side and bow again. She bowed all along the boundary to the city, crossing herself and prostrating. The city still stands and the Germans were unable to get in.
For these reasons, Dyunyasha remains a legend. People visit her grave to request health and safety for their family, but most visit if they cannot get pregnant and wish to have a child. It was something that she’d apparently exceled at in life. She had a great record of being visited by women who wished to become pregnant and soon after got their wish. Thus we were not alone at her grave and were able to follow the dance-steps – if you will – of the grave visitor. I followed other ladies’ leads and bowed as they bowed and lit my candle and crossed myself the orthodox way (right shoulder first.) After the grave visit, we had a bit of a hike to the Tolstoy property, so I decided to hit the bathroom for safety’s sake.
As a colon-free tourist, I have an intimate knowledge of the toileting culture of any country I visit. I have to remind Ivo (despite his vast experience here) that when a wastebasket is provided, one must through their used toilet tissue in it and not in the bowl (or hole as the case may be.) I’ve become an expert at assessing how yucky a toilet will be from the exterior of the bathroom and the amount of eye contact from the woman taking your payment.
On the train to Tula, there’d been a very clean squat toilet with handy handles. They even had toilet paper that you didn’t have to pay for! Since then I’d been staying with friends in their home with their clean toilet (where a waste basket was provided.) I was thus unprepared for the outhouse in the cemetery. There’d been no yucky toilet ramp up. This was a squat outhouse!
Next to the usable outhouse was an outhouse with a collapsed floor. The usable outhouse stank, despite the -12C temperatures that day. The biggest problem was that there were 2 holes in the floor and they were a bit too close together. There were no handles and depending on your stance, you risked slipping into the neighboring hole.
I would normally never dream about writing such a gross entry. But this damned outhouse was so shocking; I needed to spread the word so that any reader may be more prepared than I was in future.