Evan Rail’s World Worsts
Name Evan Rail
Who? Freelance writer for the New York Times and other publications, covering travel, food and drink in central and eastern Europe. He also the author of “Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic,” and “Tsunami,” a poetry chapbook.
Countries Visited 26
1. Worst Bus Ride Sarajevo to Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bus, a charter, was fine, but I was trapped with a mixed group of authors and poets from the former Yugoslavia — Bosniak, Croat, Serb and Montenegrin — who were all reading together in Banja Luka that night. The tension, sadness and resentment in the air was palpable.
2. Worst Toilet Not where I thought it would be: at the monastery of Simonos Petras on Mt. Athos in northern Greece. The monastery hangs on a cliff over the Aegean, and before I went I was told that the toilets simply opened straight down onto the rocks several hundred feet below. Alas, they had installed very modern, very nice flush toilets before I got there. I was disappointed.
3. Worst Car Rental Easily the dude on Hvar, Croatia, who rented me a wrecked Fiat Panda with no reverse gear for the local equivalent of $110 per day. (Pro tip: if you do end up renting a car on Hvar, do not attempt a three-point turn on one of the island’s tiny mountain roads.)
4. Worst Meal There’s some serious competition in this part of Europe — bad meals in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Serbia all come to mind. One of the worst was in Krakow, Poland, where I tried to stave off hunger with a grzanki, which is toasted white bread topped with melted cheese and an ocean of disgusting, sugary, Eastern European pseudo-ketchup. I decided I was better off hungry.
5. Worst Beer I’d rather say “most overrated,” which most recently for me was Spain’s Estrella Damm Inedit, a beer that boasts of being produced in partnership with Ferran Adrià and which retails at $10 or more for a pint and a half. The bottle is beautiful, but the beer inside is an industrial Witbier without much charisma. For the price, you’re probably better off with a Hoegaarden.