Turkish Toilet Talk

On a sunny afternoon in the shade of the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey, two men sat down to play a game of chess. The winner would control the rights to import toiletpaper from America, particularly prized for its soft yet strong qualities and its useful perforation allowing easy separation. Turkey’s love affaire with American toilet paper is told in the Ataturk Museum’s latest exhibition aptly named The Government’s Love of its People, Gifts of a New Republic.

In 1235, Mustafa Çakır set sail from Antalya, the newly-liberated access route to the Mediterranean, in a quest to bring untold riches from the East back to the Ottoman ruler Keyhüsrev I. In a freak storm, Mustafa was blown miles off course and instead of sailing east ended up drifting in the Atlantic off the coast of Portugal. Four weeks later he ran aground in what is now Delaware and came face to face with the Lenape native American tribes. The crew were all suffering from dysentery and the Lenape provided them with herbal remedies and soft wads of moss to clean themselves from the projectile diarrhea. On his return to Turkey,  Mustafa Çakır collected these wads and introduced them to the Turkish court. Hundreds of children were relieved of their duties as the new fangled toilet paper became the new way to wipe up.

From that day Ottoman sailors would take periodic trips back to the American continent and collect new supplies of wads. As time went on these wads became what is recognized today by the U.N. as toilet paper.

Except for prisons, madrassas, 3-star hotels (and under), government offices open to the public and churches, America toilet paper is freely available.

The museum traces the history of American toilet paper technology and the Turkish love affair with a soft wipe, from those early days of moss to today’s soft, strong and very long paper we all enjoy.

Amazing facts can be learned about perforations between each sheet. Also methods for creating the cardboard rolls. Our eyes were certainly opened to new information. Did you know that paper is wrapped around the cardboard roll and not as previously thought that the roll was inserted at the end of the process?

Other fun facts revealed that Europeans tend to use two sheets at a time; it’s said to be good luck  in Bodrum, Turkey if your finger goes through the paper mid-wipe; and in Zagreb you can only use toilet paper when you have reached full maturity, aged at eight for girls and 16 for men.

Interestingly, the museum also has a separate exhibit describing wiping techniques from around the world. The exhibit is split into standing or sitting methods and front to back or back to front. There is a very informative demonstration on correct wiping practices according to American State Department regulations and the difference between the USA, EU, NATO, BBC and FIFA standards.

Finally the exhibit reveals a sheet from every commercially-available toilet paper in the world. The walls of the main auditorium are covered in a mosaic of color – very impressive.

Istanbul is relatively easy to get to. Americans should be aware that expressing the desire to continue on to Syria is not a good idea.

More information can be found at Turkish State website http://www.TurkishWipeBacktoFront.tk

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