Europe! America's distant relative that it likes to awkwardly visit on occasion! With its myriad misshapen countries, centuries-old feuds, and generally above-average health care, we figured it would be the perfect candidate for a ranking.
To add some quantifiable elements to the task, we tried to rank countries based on a variety of factors: food/drink, natural and man-made aesthetic beauty, contributions to modern society, openness to foreigners, number of eagle owls in their bogs, etc. And though we are both admittedly stupid Americans, and as such, come with our own biases, subjective opinions, and large backpacks, it's worth pointing out that we have been to roughly 75% of these countries.
And though we assume no one will disagree with any of our rankings, if you do take odds with, say, our positioning of San Marino, feel free to use the comments section to have an extremely respectful and not-at-all-crazy debate. That, we've been told, is the sole purpose of Internet comment sections.
So, onto the rankings, as we prepare to hear from our grandmothers about the placement of Vatican City.
More: The Definitive and Final Ranking of All 50 States
If you want to go to a country that has 11,000 lakes and isn't sure it's totally over the whole Soviet Empire thing, Belarus is your comrade. Ranked worst in Europe in press freedom, and many other freedoms, it is essentially a totalitarian dictatorship that suppresses any non-authorized sentiments. Oh, and they're pretty into soups made with goose blood.
Come for the stuffed cabbage rolls, stay for the alleged large-scale theft of fraudulent loans to business entities controlled by oligarch Ilan Shor.
Europe's version of a gated community of well-to-do grandparents who sue the neighbors for building an unsightly gazebo that blocks their view of the fitness center.
Too soon? Too soon. Might be ready for backhanded compliments in the 2035 edition of this article (written from space?!).
The only people who actually live in Monaco are professional tennis players who definitely weren't born in Monaco. It's like the newly built luxury apartment complex of Europe, but with much more stylish HOA meetings. Another metaphor we were toying around with: it's like a country as imagined by Puff Daddy in the director's cut of a rosé commercial.
The cooler part of Macedonia, you know where Alexander the Great came from and stuff, is actually in Greece. As a result, having another country label itself "Macedonia" really pisses Greece off, so that's fun! Less fun? Being a landlocked nation with crippling unemployment that has the distinguished honor of being frequently described as "one of the less-desirable former Yugoslav republics."
If you're going to rate Europe by best bogs full of wolves, Latvia would win going away. But that's probably not the most efficient system?
All the dullness of Switzerland, but with worse chocolate!
Clearly had the more "budget-friendly" divorce lawyer when it split with the Czech Republic. But at least it got to keep its decorative folk hatchets and human figurines made from corn stalks.
DRACULA! Was of course a real person, had a real castle on a cliff that still exists, and was not all that nice to his enemies when fighting wars against the Ottomans. But there's much more to Romania than legendary impalers. For instance, it could give Latvia a serious run for its money in bog wolves.
Snuggled in between Italy and Greece... prime location on the Adriatic... how are you not better, Albania? It's that neighborhood that some realtor tells you is really up and coming, so you buy a condo there and then five years later nothing up and came and you're screwed. Did you know blood feuds between Albanian families are still quite common? Because they are.
It really seemed for a few years there like Rocky IV had been prophetic and Russia was gonna start being cool. And then Putin happened. Shirtless. On horseback. All of Russian history is shaped by overreaching despots and misery, which explains all the vodka-drinking and how depressing Chekhov plays are. Man, even writing this is bumming us out. Free Pussy Riot!
36. San Marino
On the one hand, it's surrounded by Italy, so how bad can it possibly be? On the other hand, have you ever traveled to Italy and had anybody tell you "Oh, you simply MUST see San Marino." If that happened, it was probably a traveling Floridian imploring you to see DAN Marino. (Note: the year was 1985, in this scenario.)
Who knew that Kramer's Risk-based musings about the Ukraine being weak and a sitting duck would end up being... semi-true? Also, chicken Kiev isn't even really from Kiev, which feels kind of like a ripoff.
AKA the place you end up accidentally going when you misbook your ticket to Slovakia, but then realize is better than Slovakia, especially if you find yourself there during the Festival of Roasted Potatoes (actually a thing!).
33. Vatican City
Catholicism: the one true faith or one of history's greatest moneymaking scams? Who's to say?! But on the off chance that the pope (as chillaxed as the current one seems to be) communicates directly to God, we're just going to throw it somewhere discreetly in the middle and keep going (looks out for lightning). PS... more restaurants please? (Gets hit by lightning.)
Just a little too close to Syria for your mom to be comfortable with you heading there for a few weeks of grapefruit agrotourism. But if your mom is cool/ terrible at geography, there are some lovely beaches!
It's a disproportionately fantastic at basketball for a nation of its size. This speaks to both the scrappy determination of the Lithuanian people, and the scope of leisure activities available in Lithuania.
Imagine if Greece and Turkey had a baby that neither of them really ended up wanting so it grew up kinda strange, but in a lovable and endearing way. You have imagined Bulgaria!
Despite a history that includes the frequent invocation of the phrase "war-torn" and, more recently, arguably Europe's most problematic soccer fans (which is really saying something), Serbia has some legitimate things going for it -- parts of the mountainous countryside are legitimately beautiful and Belgrade is kind of an underrated city. But then, there's also the other stuff.
On the positive side, Andorra enjoys one of the highest life expectancies on Earth as it basks in 300 days of annual sunshine snuggled in between France and Spain up there in the Pyrenees. On the negative side, it has to deal with ski-happy tax evaders and frequently being mistaken for a less-popular wizard from a Tolkien novel.
The country most often confused with Jermaine Dupri's home state has had some semi-recent problems with a neighbor we won't name, which is a shame, because its food is so damn good, and needs to be the next trendy thing all the hipsters eat after a vigorous debate about who makes the best fair-trade cheesecloth. Speaking of cheese, it's got bread bowls shaped like boats filled with the stuff, and uses spices other countries have never seen, because they weren't on the spice trade's newspaper route between Asia and Europe.
Remember in the mid-aughts when everyone in Iceland became a hedge fund manager and bought Range Rovers and then they all remembered that none of them were actually hedge fund managers and Iceland's economy broke? Man, that was crazy. Now, pass the fermented shark as I lounge in this natural hot spring while none of the locals appreciate my hilarious D2 references.
Scandinavia's Ringo Starr. Rest assured this will all make sense later when you read about Norway. And remember, being Ringo still means you're in the Beatles!
More from Thrillist:
Like Thrillist on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Thrillist