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We were waiting at the Berlin railroad station for our train to Frankfurt. With only about 20 minutes before departure I decided to make use of a land-based toilet. I’ve been a bit wary of train toilets ever since I was “toilet trained” in Malaysia several months ago, where I had an “I Love Lucy” episode involving a mysterious foot pedal and a gusher of water. I found out toilet humor is funny when it’s happening to someone else.

The Hauptbanhof in Berlin is huge and fairly new, it oozes a Space Age vibe with lots of shiny glass and state-of-the-art escalators.  The bathrooms were no exception.  Signs pointed me toward the “W-C Center,” sort of implying a type of toilet shopping mall or amusement park.  There were gleaming stainless steel tiles with icons indicating showers, baby changing areas and lockers in addition to the more mundane toilets.

Hauptbanhof Berlin WC center

These guys look as confused as I was. 

This pristine porcelain did not come without a price. In order to answer nature’s call I had to fork over 1 euro at the main entrance. It seemed a bit much for a 20-second squat, but my train was due to leave soon and I was in no position to argue.

Typical of these leading-edge technology spots, the entrance operation was automated, with ticket machines attached to high-tech “turnstiles” made of thick glass that opened briefly to allow the patron into the coveted inner sanctum. I watched a few people plonk a coin into the machine, retrieve a paper ticket along with some change, and pass through the security barrier unscathed.

When my turn came, I dropped in my €1 coin ready to meet a 21st-century latrine. The barrier opened as I retrieved my ticket, which I noticed read “€0.50.” Thinking perhaps I had misunderstood, and the fee was only 50 cents, I turned back to the machine to the coin return slot, only to find it empty. By this time the thick glass barrier at the turnstile had closed again, and did not seem inclined to reopen.  A line began to form behind me, people with the same sort of painful “I really need to get in there, so could you just get a move on” kind of look that I must have had myself.

I didn’t have any more change and there was no attendant to plead my case. The train was getting ready to leave so I had no choice but to race back to the platform. I followed the LCD monitors to the smooth and sleek escalators back down to the gleaming platform. It was all very quiet, modern and efficient.

But as the train slid silently out of the station, I still had to pee. 🙁

Read about Larissa’s unfortunate toilet experience on a train in Malaysia.