Whether you are suffering from a “medieval hangover”, from binge-watching Game of Thrones all night or reminiscing about your glorious holidays in Europe, gallivanting castles; it is natural for your heart to pine for a life in the castle. After all, what all those video games and Disney movies have taught us is that living in a castle is all “whoop-de-doo”; just you have to stay away from the dark, grimy dungeons. What these popular depictions and adaptations of medieval and ancient human lives miss is that there was enough filth outside the dungeons to make you think twice with an upturned nose, whether you actually do want this to come true– “sighs. If only I was born back then or travel back in time to that age…”.
So before you start packing up for the past and hopping onto that time machine in the basement of the house of that neighbor of yours (who eerily looks like he’s from the MIB), take a look at this article. This will inform you about a few do’s and don’ts and what to put into your backpack if you go trekking through time.
The Top Flithy Places that Will Make you Rethink Twice About the Past
WARNING: If you happen to be a sensitive snowflake regarding your fanciful idle daydreams being accosted by some well-informed sardonic historicity then this article might hurt a bit.
With all that out of the way, let’s jump into the game—
1. SMELLY, SMELLY CASTLE
Yes, you read it right. Maybe that’s why all those old noble fellas look so stern and solemn in their portraits; they were just sick of the stink. Europeans in Medieval times didn’t have many of the basic amenities that we take for granted nowadays. One of those being plumbing. Yep, they didn’t have plumbing in their glorious castle fortresses. That means, they didn’t have running water and absolutely no way to flush a toilet (more on medieval toilets later….). Remember dumping all when you were a kid and had to clean your room, so you dumped all your stuff into the wardrobe? It was a bit like that. All the excreta just collected in a huge cesspool beneath the toilets (is it a castle or a giant, stone porta-potty?).
But wait, there’s more. It wasn’t only the huge dump of feces making the castle perpetually stinky. Remember, no running water? That meant you could only afford to take a bath on a regular basis if you were super-rich. On top of that, you couldn’t really afford effective medicines if you weren’t super-rich. Your only hope was home remedies or praying to God. Thus, many of the servants in the castle would be running around sweaty, grimy and with a face full of pimples….
Moral of the Story: When you go time-trekking, always pack a couple of air-fresheners, deodorants, hand-sanitizers, wet-wipes, toilet paper or a clip
2. THE GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GRANDFATHER OF THE MODERN COMMODE
So basically, if you weren’t super rich and owned the castle you’d be forced to do your business in full view of your co-workers. Basically, what the castles had for the servants was a long wooden bench with several equidistant holes cut into it. Remember, there was no flushing. So you’d have to be careful not to drop your larder keys into that hole because that sorry little key will go straight down to a more smellier version of hell.
Moral of the Story: Don’t be too squeamish about violation of your privacy. By any chance, if you’re not perceived as a noble when you arrive at the Duke’s castle be prepared to experience a new version (actually old….) of those office cubicle lavatories.
What we all want the least to experience is a rat infestation in our homes right? For some of us, even a short glimpse of one of those nifty little rodents sends shivers down our spine and sends us running to dial the pest control. Thing is, back in Medieval times they didn’t really have pest control. More often than not, if you were living in a castle you’d be living in a dank, dark stone fortress with rats squeaking and scuttling about. You couldn’t really do anything about it. It was a part of normal Medieval life. So it’s safe to assume that Medieval folks got used to it after a while. Not quite. Like many of us today, the Medieval people were deathly afraid of rats. They had all the more reason to be! Around this time, rats were often used as an instrument of torture and carried a plague that wiped out about half the population of Europe.
Moral of the Story: If you are a time-traveler with a taste for Medieval shenanigans then you better eradicate your fear and disgust of rats. (Tip: Watch “Ratatouille” and “Tom and Jerry” until you start finding them cute…)
4. YOU THOUGHT ONLY DUNGEONS WERE DARK, DANK AND OMINOUS?
If you indeed thought so, then you’re up for a not so pleasant surprise. Imagine that giant basement from where you got the time machine. Castles were essentially that. Huge dark, basements sans insulation of any kind. To some extent that makes sense because castles were mainly built as bastions of defense, as fortresses and not primarily as comfy dwellings. The condition was not that awful for the nobles, who enjoyed the nicer and warmer niches, furnished with windows and fireplaces. The servants quarters were however always located in the depths of the castle, the lower interiors. Most often they were cold, lightless, damp warrens that were as a result, a breeding ground for a myriad of diseases.
Moral of the Story: Pack some torches and portable lights, maybe a few light sticks. And more importantly, make sure you pack some of those thick, woolen and fur cloaks you see the Starks and the Night’s Watch walk around in.
5. FILTHY FLOORS
If you’ve had enough of Medieval filth, well hold on because you’ve seen nothing yet. Remember how your vacuum cleaner got choked up from all the dust on the floors of your college dormitory, during Spring cleaning? Or perhaps you remember feasting your eyes on all the nasty filth produced by domestic life when you finally moved that fridge from that corner its been for 5 years? Well, then imagine the amount of dust and filth produced by castle life. To keep things presentable and relatively clean, castle floors were covered up by spreading rushes, reeds, and herbs across the floors.
The rationale behind this was that the plants would absorb those unsightly spills (blood, phlegm, urine…you name it) and also cover up a bit of those unbearable stenches. Switching out those old rushes for a set of new ones was a grisly job. It was almost like moving a body, because of all the organic nastiness hidden within them. Beer, grease, bone fragments, spittle, excrement of cats and dogs, and other nasty stuff would be revealed.
Moral of the Story: NEVER look under those rushes. Look under the mat in front of your room, but NEVER under those rushes….
So you’re and sick of all the filth and want to jump into the glorious classical era of the Greeks and Romans? Well, it wasn’t any better back then—
6. NEVER ASK A ROMAN FOR MOUTHWASH
One of the chief tenets of time-traveling that you should follow, especially if you happen to be a cleanliness junky is to never ask a Roman for mouthwash. Why so? Well, remember watching Bear Grylls drink pee in Man vs Wild and having this weird urge fuelled by curiosity to try it? You’ll not be wrong to say that the ancient Romans used to do that before it was cool. Well, they didn’t exactly go around selling human urine as a coveted beverage but they did use it as a mouth wash, toothpaste and washing their clothes. In our daily lives, we take stuff like toothpaste and detergents as granted.
Back in ancient Roman days, science wasn’t that advanced so they didn’t have detergents or most of our modern cleaning agents. So they had to make do with urine. But why urine? Didn’t the Romans have noses? Or did by any chance, ancient Roman urine used to smell amazing. Not quite.
Thing is, urine contains Ammonia, which is one of the best naturally occurring cleaning agents. In fact, it is even found as a major component in many of the cleaning agents we use nowadays. Moreover, Ammonia happens to be a natural whitener, that used to keep the Romans smiling with teeth as white as their togas. Not bad, huh?
Moral of the Story: When visiting the ancient Romans, always carry a lot of mouth-wash, toothpaste, and deodorant.
7. NEVER VISIT ANCIENT ROME DURING VALENTINE’S DAY
If you’re traveling with your significant other and want to spend a valentine’s day together in the past, never visit ancient Rome. Back in the day, this festival of love and serenity had quite a different character. The Pagan precursor of the festival of Valentine’s Day was called Lupercalia. It was a bloody occasion charged with sexual frenzy. It consisted of animal sacrifices aimed at warding off evil spirits and appeasing the goddess of fertility, Lupercus.
The members of an order of Roman priests gathered in the sacred cave where Remus and Romulus (Quick Fact: Rome was mythically founded by Romulus, and Remus was his brother..) were supposedly nursed and suckled by a she-wolf. A dog would be sacrificed by the priests along with a goat, the former aimed for purification and the latter for fertility. Then, the hide of the sacrificed goat would be cut into strips and dipped in sacrificial blood. Half-naked men running around in the streets would wield these bloody strips of goat hide with which they’d slap women and crop fields to improve their fertility. The ancient Roman women were perfectly okay with this because of the beliefs of the time and even lined up to be smacked by that strip of bloody goat hide.
Moral of the Story: Ummm…well if you enjoy that kind of stuff the all the power to you.
Which one of these is the top filthy place in history for you? Let us know below.