Copenhagen city square built on poop

CopenhagenBeing an archaeologist can be a tough job–hot weather, frustrating digs that don’t turn up any finds, dirty conditions. . .especially the dirty conditions.

A dig in the Danish capital Copenhagen has turned out to be dirtier than usual. Archaeologists excavating under Kultorvet Square have found two 18th century outhouses that are literally filled with historic faeces.

Kultorvet means “Coal Square” and was where people bought and sold coal. Now it’s a popular meeting place full of cafes and restaurants, as shown in this photo courtesy Leif Jørgensen. These historic toilets would have been used by coal vendors and buyers, mostly working class people. The privies seem to have been popular because both are heaped with the stinky stuff, and the local soil’s low oxygen levels have preserved it in a pristine state.

Wading through offal is good news for archaeologists. Old turds can tell a lot about the people who dropped them, like their diet and general health. One slow-witted Dane from days gone by even ate an apple core. It was found encased in his poop, having passed through his system whole after probably causing some indigestion.

A large subway expansion project has led to lots of archaeological finds in Copenhagen. If any more disgusting discoveries turn up, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Oktoberfest bathrooms (and tips for next year)

With so much beer consumed at Munich‘s Oktoberfest, it’s only logical that urination becomes a world-class activity. The bathrooms at the festival run the gamut from: good, fine, okay, crowded, packed and insane (see below) to convivial, non-existent, trees, bushes, lampposts and grass. Don’t be shocked to find many people — usually men — at the Theresienwiese (festival grounds) discharging in public. Oktoberfest is still a wonderful, memorable experience, but we human beings, well… we do have to go, so try not to be surprised.

Although I was sitting with other “specially invited guests” at of the Hacker-Pschorr Brewery on the last night of Oktoberfest, I finally had to head for a much-needed bathroom break. I’d heard about a mysterious “VIP-Pee,” but learned it was reserved for women only. So when the inevitable time came, I boxed my way down a crowded staircase, then out the door and headed for the nearest bathroom.

%Gallery-7107%After turning the corner around the exterior beer garden I encountered a dense, swelling crowd of maleness — guys of all ages and nationalities pushing to enter a small white shack labeled, “WC.” Speaking quasi-German now, “I Hav-en-to-pissen,” I joined a group of about 150 pushing hard to enter the one doorway. I was squished from the each side and back as purposeful masculine energy heaved the group forward. Against this tide, guys were attempting to exit through the one door, looking for a seam and slithering out of the onrushing squirming horde. It reminded me of a fullback attempting a tough draw through a stout defense. Most, but not all, of the guys found the situation funny, and I heard lots of German, English, Danish, Italian, Spanish, French and other languages. Some laughed while others swore with words I could not comprehend. Finally getting in, I went and turned around to get out of this insane WC. Finding some big blockers, I pushed hard against the group and popped out like a kidney stone into the fresh air. Whew, this scene was worse than when I saw Johnny Rotten at the Roseland Ballroom.

By contrast the bathroom inside the Hacker-Pschorr tent was a model of German efficiency as you stood up next to — and facing — fellow urinators standing on the other side of a partition. It was a time for light conversation, a time for reflection and a time to pee. Plus it had an actual exit door – how civilized.

Some insights for next year’s Oktoberfest which runs September 17 – October 3, 2011.

* Visit the beer tents early in the event and early in the day. You stand a much greater chance of walking in and finding a seat than in the evening. Then, you can return to your hotel early, or have dinner elsewhere. Normal, non-crazy times around lunchtime or before 4:00 PM are ideal.

* For evening fun, definitely make reservations for visiting Brewery tents. There is no fee for entrance, and again, walk-ins are welcome, but there are times when every single inch at the Oktoberfest tents are full and you’ll be left outside looking in. My favorite tents were the big Paulaner tent, the Augustina Brewery tent (the oldest brewery in Munich, dating from 1328) and my favorite, the beautiful tent from Hacker-Pschorr. Everyone has their own favorite. Ask around and do some research.

* Remember, tent reservations are free but highly sought after around the world. Use this link for reservation information. The owners of the tents aren’t exactly the breweries themselves, but it matters not for visitors. Sign up as early as possible.

* Try and order a glass of water (wasser) along with each beer. I should have had more water, especially the last night.

* Don’t forget to eat enough. It will help with beer consumption issues.

Until 2011 – Prost!

Previously:
* Oktoberfest by the numbers
* Arriving at Munich’s Oktoberfest
* Munich, Germany’s 200th Anniversary of Oktoberfest
* Beer logistics at Munich’s Oktoberfest
* Oktoberfest: Lots of food and more than 8 million gallons of beer

Bob Ecker is a Napa, California based travel writer/photographer providing worldwide magazines and newspapers with compelling travel, hospitality, wine, culinary, skiing, film and innovative feature content. He is constantly on the go, traveling the world, unearthing new stories and uncorking emerging regions. He is current Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) member and former President of the Bay Area Travel Writers (BATW).

[Images: Flickr | Ethan Prater; mahmut; Herr_bert]

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Asian airline puzzled by mysterious mid-air toilet clogs

Any time you put 300 people in a metal tube, the strain on the in-flight toilet system is going to be immense – but Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific is having more than just a bit of trouble.

The airline is actually dealing with a huge mystery. Their toilets are so unreliable that a Hong Kong bound flight had to make an unscheduled landing in Mumbai, India when all ten of the bathrooms became clogged and unusable.

The 278 passengers on the “crappy” flight were delayed for 18 hours. But to be honest, I’d rather spend 18 hours in Mumbai than 18 minutes on a plane with no bathrooms.

In other incidents, two other Hong Kong bound flights had to refuse boarding to a substantial amount of passengers when all the bathrooms on one side of the plane stopped working.

All these incidents are on the Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft, and Cathay Pacific is said to be working overtime to figure out what is causing the problem. A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman suggested that passengers may be to blame.

‘You would be amazed at what we find in the pipes when we clean the system – not just face towels but medicine bottles, socks and even children’s stuffed toys,’

Until the real reason is uncovered, engineers are carrying out deep cleaning treatment and replacing pipes.
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Six ways to enjoy Madison Square Park

Manhattan has a lot of great parks – but a handful tends to hog all the attention. Central Park is what it is; there’s just now way to compare it to anything else. Bryant Park has live performances and exhibitions (not to mention a starring role in Fashion Week) and is only a block from Times Square. And, there are others that would come to mind before you work your way down the list to one of my favorite open spaces in the city: Madison Square Park.

Don’t be misled – this park is nowhere near the “garden” of the same name. It sits between East 23d Street and East 26th Street and between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in a small pocket of New York that most visitors tend to skip. So, catch the R or W train to the East 23d Street stop, and get ready to enjoy Madison Square Park in six different ways.

1. Take care of two buildings at once
The uniquely shaped Flatiron Building is right across the intersection from the southwest corner of the park, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway meet. What you may not realize, though, is that the northwest corner of the park (East 26th Street and Fifth Avenue) provides a great view of the Empire State Building. Crowds tend to form, for some reason, during morning rush hour (which sucks for the locals). Also, avoid lunch hour and evenings, as people who work nearby will get in the way of your shot.

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2. Watch some television – live
It’s not unusual to find camera crews in and around Madison Square Park. Plenty of shows shot in New York use the space. So, while you wander through, you may be lucky enough to bump into one of your faves.

3. Go to the bathroom
If you aren’t fortunate enough to spot a celeb, drink some water. This will have the predictable effect and send you to one of only a handful of self-cleaning public toilets in the New York City. It’s on the southeast corner of Madison Square Park, and a quarter buys you 15 minutes. That should be plenty of time to take interior photos of the device that guest-starred on CSI:NY.

4. Enjoy some art
There’s always a public art display of some kind in Madison Square Park. Right now, it’s Markers, an installation by Mel Kendrick, a Boston-born artist who’s now a resident of New York. This project consists of five pieces reflect the “rippling surfaces contain the fossil memory of the actions taken over time.” Like almost all the public art in Madison Square Park, Kendrick’s installation is definitely worth a look.

5. Grab a bite
Sure, it’s tempting to head over to the storied Shake Shack in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park (near the toilet/TV star/murderer). But, if you’re looking for a substantial, enjoyable sit-down meal, go up to Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse, a few blocks north on East 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. Definitely make the ribeye your meal (it was amazing), but you’d be nuts not to start with the seafood platter. Take your time, and rest your feet for a bit, especially if you’ve been wandering around the city all day. The staff is attentive and accommodating, and they will not rush you. This is a great alternative to the long waits and hope-you-can-pull-it-off reservation situations at the steakhouses in mid-town. And, the dark-wooded interior drives home the insider feel that makes any steak dinner in Manhattan complete.

6. Grab a cigar (for those inclined)
For many, the only way to finish a hefty steak dinner is with a cigar. Go local with a stick from Martinez Cigars, a few blocks away on West 29th Street and Seventh Ave. Grab a maduro, and go back to the park (while you can still smoke there). If nobody’s around, chill for a bit on the new pedestrian area just west of Madison Square Park.

Disgusting tourists use Uluru as a toilet

The otherworldly red rock of Uluru (Ayers Rock) that rises above a flat expanse of Australia‘s Northern Territory has long been considered a sacred site to the native Aboriginal people. Against their wishes, over 100,000 people climb the rock, which is just over 1100 feet tall, each year. Recently, the National Parks service proposed a plan that would close Uluru to climbers.

There were many reasons given for the proposed climbing ban, including the site’s significance to the Aboriginal people, increased erosion on the rock, and the danger involved in climbing the rock(it is estimated that around 35 people die while attempting to scale it each year). A guide for the Anangu Waai tour company has now cited another reason – people are using the sacred spot as a toilet. After they get to the top, they take a “bathroom break” out of sight before starting their descent. It’s an idea so revolting that you hope it can’t possibly be true, but the director of the National Parks has backed it up. He says that in busy times, the levels of E. coli at the base of Uluru reach dangerous levels as the filth washes down the rock with the rain.

The Northern Territory government opposes the proposal. If Uluru were to be closed to hikers, fewer people might visit, and the area’s tourism industry could suffer. As per usual, environmental and social ideals become tangled with economic concerns and the country’s Environmental Minister will have to consider both when he makes his decision on a 10-year plan for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which he says will be made “in due course”. Looks like it you want to climb Uluru, you should get there now….but please hit the bathroom before you go.

[via Times Online]