When you set out to travel for months instead of a week, backpack space is very precious and determines just how many pairs of undies, socks, and pants you can bring. And what I realized early on in this trip is the the alarming rate at which these things become dirty. Times that by a family of 4 and suddenly you are undone by laundry.
No surprise that It becomes mandatory to find accommodations that come with a washer and dryer. Then I remembered I was in Europe, and it became mandatory that I had a washer – and I’d pray for a dryer. Apparently I need to step up my prayer life.
To even get a washer is a boon — it beats hand-washing in the sink by a mile. Oh yeah, I’ve done some of that. But we’ve landed in a couple of places where the laundry simply will not dry.
First among them, Venice. But why? The weather was warm and perfectly moderate. The first night we needed to wash everything. I ran one load. I opened the teeny plastic lid on the washer. I unfastened the teeny metal basket inside. I loaded the clothes. I added detergent, and pushed the proper buttons.
It was late at night, but I needed the laundry to finish before I fell asleep so that I could hang it out to dry. This is why no one in Europe does laundry at night.
The washer wouldn’t stop. Literally. It ran and ran and ran until finally at 1:30 am Curtis managed to pry open the lid without breaking it, and keep it from going round and round. The laundry sat in a small pool of water all night.
In the morning I wrung out the clothes by hand, then again with my handy-dandy microfleece bath towels (thank you REI). This didn’t stop me from putting another load in the laundry, believing somehow it would work perfectly this time.
I hung the first load of clothes on the clothes line in the bathroom. I hung the rest all around the apartment, anything with enough room to dangle a sock from.
Not to bother. It was warm, and we would be out all day in the canals of Venice. Everything would be dry when we returned.
Imagine my surprise when we returned that night and nothing was dry. Or even drier. The only thing that had happened all day in that apartment was that the IKEA laminated press-board shelves started to warp where I hung the socks.
And the washer was still running from the morning. That’s 8+ hours of going round and round. I busted into it this time, finding the clothes sitting in a full pool of water. Back to the wringing routine. I got a blister on my hand. I need to do more manual labor in my life.
I hung the second load of laundry out to dry, finding drying places on door handles, the refrigerator, the bunk beds, the bars on the windows, the metal shelf hooks holding up the now-warped IKEA shelves. I would’ve hung laundry on the kids if they’d stood still.
Surely items will be dry by morning. I awoke the next morning to almost completely soggy clothes. What in the world?
Thank God we were in Venice for 5 days. It took all of 5 days for that first load to dry. That second load never did dry, and I just packed it up and took it to Milan.
The other place where laundry will not dry? Rome. Perfect in every other way, except laundry drying. At least in Rome I had a large, plastic drying rack with plenty of clothes pins, perfectly set up on our roomy outdoor balcony. The temps were idyllic for clothes drying, or so I thought.
I hung out every piece of clothing we had. The kids donned my clothes since every stitch of their wardrobe was in the wash. Nothing will make you chuckle harder than seeing your daughter dressed baggily in your pants and dress, and your son in your too short white v-necked t-shirt and yoga pants with wide purple trim at the waist.
Optimistically I hung out those clothes. And in the morning, still only a minor improvement in the wetness factor. I flipped all the clothes like pancakes for the next 4 days. I perfectly positioned them on the drying rack. I took pains to create the best free-flowing breeze zone on the balcony.
My efforts yielded very slow, deliberate drying efforts. Eventually they did dry, and I lay exhausted on the bed, realizing it was time to do another load.
How it made me long for Budapest and Wini the laundry queen. Before I could even make a pile of dirty clothes my good friend was putting them in the washer and loading them in the dryer before I knew the wash cycle was finished. If I could’ve packed her in my pocket for the rest of this journey, I would have.
I’m happy to report that my laundry situation has since improved dramatically. In Lucca, Italy I was privy to the most amazing machine, a 2-in-1 washer/dryer combo. Yep, a machine that washed and dried the clothes all in one. Pure heaven. It took 90 minutes to wash and 3 hours to dry a load, but I didn’t have to touch it.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than that, I landed in Singapore at Cheryl’s condo on the 15th floor with a killer view, and a live-in housekeeper named Edith. God bless her soul, she washed, dried and ironed our clothes all in one day. I felt like bowing and kissing her feet.
Now we head to Thailand and Cambodia where Lord only knows what awaits my dirty clothes.