The Fountain of Couth

Can fountains be considered couth or uncouth? Maybe? Whatever. The ones that we’ve encountered are both cool and compelling, if not couth (and WolfeStreetTravel always likes a pun, no matter how tortured it may be).

One of the common denominators to travel in Europe is the ubiquity of cool and compelling public fountains. Not decorative fountains serving as atmospheric – but nonfunctional – water features, like Trevi Fountain. We’re talking about fountains that serve as public drinking water sources in city and village squares all over the continent. We find them weirdly appealing and compelling (and sometimes gratifying, as was the case in the heat of the Southern Italy summer while biking through parched Puglia).

Because we don’t anticipate getting back into Europe for the next 6 months or more, we figured this would be a logical time to finally post the collection of cool-ass fountains that we’ve been aggregating by theme for several years into a single post. Again, weirdly appealing to us, with an emphasis on weird. What more can we say? So, we’re taking a quick break from posting on the Southeast Asia trip to finally put this one up on the site.

Thematically, you first got your stern- and angry-looking dude-with-additional-features-style public water fountains:

Cool fountain in Bruges, Belgium, from a Christmas trip in 2015.
A disembodied head in Ljubljana, Slovenia, from a 2008 trip.
An absolutely furious water dispenser in Belagio, Italy, in 2004.
A withered, disembodied head fountain in Split, Croatia, from 2008. What a delight to have your drinking water dispensed by this guy. . .
Dude at the Netherbow Wellhead in Edinburgh, Scotland
A brass, satyr-looking dude dispensing drinking water inside the Hamburg Rathaus from a Christmas trip in 2017.
Our favorite fountain in the town square / Roman forum in the middle of Arles, Provence, France, from our trip to Europe in 2002 and our first bike trip, at that.
Closeup of the fountain face. This has become our avatar for WolfeStreetTravel for two reason:
1. It’s cool as shit and very Gaulish / Celtic
2. It’s an iconic image from our very first European trip

(We’ll acknowledge that this one isn’t actually a drinking water fountain, per se, considering the non-potable sign, but it’s absolutely included due to the reasons noted above.)

Cherubimic little fella in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 2008.
Cool fountain in Beaucaire, Provence, France, in 2002.
Scallop-headed dude with fish from London in 2016.
Hulking Samson’s fountain (Samsonova Kašna) in České Budějovice, Czech Republic, built in the 1720s. From a Central European bike and road trip in 2006. České Budějovice, btw, is hope to the original Budweiser beer, the source of legal battles over the decades.
So, maybe this one isn’t actually a drinking water fountain . . .

You got your lady fountains:

Fountain in Ghent, Belgium, in 2015.
A fountain frequently used during our stay for water bottle fillups in Bergamo, Italy, from the Great Micronations Road Trip of 2017.

You got your creature fountains:

Interesting iron fountain in Kotor, Montenegro, in 2008.
Very cool fountain in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2016.
A very similar, but smaller one in a different media, in Paris in 2008.

You got your always-popular lion fountains:

Located just down the street during the same trip to Paris, but in an adjoining arrondissement, are these stylish, royal blue lions.
Paris, France
A sad, confused, or constipated lion fountain in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from 2008.
A lion fountain supplying a watering trough right outside the walled city gates in Carcassonne, France, on a stopover during the Great Micronations Road Trip of 2017.
A pair o’ lions in Girona, Spain, the starting point for our bike trip through Catalonia in 2011.

And, your lion / creature hybrid?

Another fountain in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from 2008.

Finally, you got your truly utilitarian water fountains out in the country – in this case on rides in Italy and Spain.

Countryside fountain located while biking in Puglia – as long as it had a brass spout, it was potable, and the water from all of these was excellent
Outside the village of Colmers in Catalonia while biking in 2011 (took this ’cause of the snails, not the design . . .).
A perfectly located fountain at a masseria along one of our rides in Puglia in 2013.
A formerly functional and now purely decorative fountain in Strasbourg, France, during Christmas 2017.

And now for something completely different: Moroccan public water fountains. We thought we’d expand the theme of awesome European water fountain sculptures to the same function, but different approach, in Morocco, home to the “I shipped my pants” advertising campaign. Here, the public water fountains are all about the mosaic tile.

Potable water fountain outside Fez‘ Museum of Wood in 2019. Yup. Museum of Wood.

Another fountain in full use deep within Fez’ medina in 2019.

Further expanding the theme, here’s a couple of NON-potable water fountains, deviating from our original theme to a few decorative fountains. That are cool enough to qualify for the post: Antoni Gaudi’s tiled animal fountains, unique to Barcelona’s Parc Güell.

Park Guel, Barcelona, Spain, in 2011, at the tail end of biking in Catalonia.

And finally, a further expansion to the drinking fountain theme – a stretch beyond which we really can’t expand further without diluting the original theme to oblivion.

Town cistern and multifaceted fountains down the street in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 2008.
Another in an unmarked, tiny town in Catalonia, Spain, while biking in 2011.

And finally, a contribution from home: the weirdest freakin’ fountain-type sculpture in the DC metro area, as far as we’re concerned:

There are a series of these creepy fish dudes along Ohio Drive Bridge downtown, otherwise known as the Tidal Basin Bridge:

What the hell? Not only does the dude have a fish body, but he’s definitely leering.

We’ve never known what they were, but whenever we bike or walk over this bridge, we’re always weirded out by them. Other than that awareness, though, we didn’t know anything else. But in posting this, we did find a Washington Post article that explains these, and why the dude’s a fish. “The bronze sculptures on the Ohio Drive SW bridge at the Tidal Basin were commissioned about 1987 in honor of Jack Fish’s forthcoming retirement from the Park Service. They are more correctly called grotesques, because they don’t have the rainspout that defines a gargoyle.” Jack Fish was director of the National Park Service’s National Capital Region until 1988.

So, they’re technically not the European city square drinking water fountains that we’re enamored with, but they’re thematically similar enough to include here.

Categories: Maps and Miscellany, Miscellany | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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