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Toronto blogger learns about Baltimore through its bathrooms

The bathroom at Sticky Rice photographed by Toilography blogger Dan Schaumann, who noted a quote from a song by The Smiths written above the toilet.
The bathroom at Sticky Rice photographed by Toilography blogger Dan Schaumann, who noted a quote from a song by The Smiths written above the toilet. (Dan Schaumann / toilography.com)

Five years ago, Dan Schaumann discovered Instagram, and was intrigued by its premise — take a photo of practically anything, and watch other users' reactions.

"As a joke, I kind of thought to myself, 'If I take a photo of a toilet, how many people will like that?'" said Schaumann, a 32-year-old native of Australia now living in Toronto.

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The answer, it turns out, was plenty. Soon after, Schaumann created Toilography, first as an Instagram account (still active with more than 4,500 followers) and then as a blog at toilography.com. He has photographed toilets in South Korea, Malaysia, Dallas and Chicago, among others.

Earlier this month, Schaumann visited Baltimore for the first time, and was thoroughly impressed by the bathrooms he encountered, including Bertha's in Fells Point, The Charmery in Hampden, Remington's Papermoon Diner and others. He zigged and zagged around the city over the course of 10 hours.

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"I really enjoyed my time in Baltimore," Schaumann said. "I wish I had more time to spend there, and not just to see other toilets but to get to know the city a bit more."

Based on suggestions he received on Reddit, Schaumann's first stop was Mount Royal Tavern. He chatted up a bartender, who offered suggestions on places to see and gave Schaumann a "gift pack" that included a postcard and a matchbox.

One of the best aspects of his blog — which he describes as "kind of like an art project in a way" — is getting to know areas through residents he encounters, he said.

The polls are open for the America's Best Restroom contest, and Hampden ice cream shop The Charmery is in the running.

"I think it's a great way to actually get to know local people, and kind of steer clear of the general, usual touristy things as well," Schaumann said. "If I was just going by a guidebook, there's no way I would have gone to the Mount Royal Tavern."

Schaumann, who works in supply chain logistics, said people are usually a bit shocked at first when he explains the blog. He said he never posts photos of what happens in bathrooms, but aims to showcase venues that "put that little bit of extra effort into making their toilets interesting."

On a typical day, his blog will have approximately 50 visitors, "just from people Googling toilets," according to Schaumann. A good day, such as when another website links to his blog, can generate around 1,000 hits, he said. Two of his photos were also published earlier this year in the book "Lonely Planet's Toilets: A Spotter's Guide."

"I think people go [to the blog] because it's just something different," he said. "It's a little bit humorous, and it's interesting."

Schaumann said he did not know much about Baltimore before he arrived.

"I did know about it through the 'Serial' podcast, which I guess isn't a very nice or pleasant thing to know about the city, but that's all I knew," he said.

And what was his favorite bathroom he encountered during his brief visit to Charm City? Cat's Eye Pub, the Fells Point stalwart.

"I didn't expect it to be so vulgar," Schaumann said. "I walked in and there's all these swear words and dirty poetry and stuff all over the walls. Maybe it's not for everyone, but for me, it was just the type of thing I like to see."

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