Don’t Go There: 5 Stinky Places

How now brown cow?If you missed it, Peter appeared on the Today show this week to talk about his new book, Don’t Go There! The Travel Detective’s Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World… and ruffled some feathers in the meantime.

Well, there’s a lot more where that came from, so check out this list of some of the stinkiest places of the world:

Hereford, Texas, is proudly called by many in this region “The Saudi Arabia of cattle manure,” with more than 3.5 million meat and dairy cows within a 100-mile radius of the city.

With just 14,500 people calling Hereford home, that means there are about 241 cows for every human living in town for every human.

With quaint hotels, various horse shows, and historical spots, Hereford is a subdued diversion from nearby Amarillo but otherwise doesn’t have much to offer, unless you count odor as a commodity.

The Smell of MoneyAs the locals like to say about Hereford and its cows, “It’s the smell of money.”

Some people call Cedar Rapids “The City of Five Seasons,” where the fifth is “time to enjoy the other four.”

Well, Cedar Rapids also has an unofficial nickname: “The City of Five Smells.”

With I-380 running directly through it, Cedar Rapids, the second second-largest city in Iowa, is home to many grain processing plants, including General Mills and Quaker Oats, which is the largest cereal plant in the world. In Cedar Rapids, most people claim the smells emanating from processing plants are more or less innocuous, pleasantly redolent of Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries or oatmeal, though some days, these sites can offer up a miasma of odors.

Burnt corn, stale, rotting garbage, and over-overcooked oatmeal are some of the more overpowering smells that combine into one nasty stench. Cedar Rapids is also home to the food manufacturing sites of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill, and Ralston Foods. You’ll know when you get close to the town: It will beckon you with clouds of smoke emanating from the industrial center, followed by the smell.

To add insult to injury, at least 100 blocks in Cedar Rapids were under-water when the Cedar River flooded in June 2008. And weeks later, the debris and garbage remaining from the flood began piling up. So much that officials had to reopen the formerly closed Cedar Rapids landfill (once known as “Mount Trashmore”) to accommodate what equated to four football fields, or two years’ worth, of trash.

Tucked between Elk Lake and Grand Traverse Bay is a great pit stop for the road trip through Michigan’s watery regions. Williamsburg, Michigan, is off the beaten path, with rolling hills and a handful of old-fashioned bed bed-and and-breakfasts. It’s hard to imagine that life in the once-pristine township is no bowl of cherries.

Cherries look niceIn January 2006, Bill O’Brien, of the Traverse City Record Record-Eagle, reported on the fetid odors emanating from Williamsburg Receiving and Storage’s fruit-processing plant, a place where fresh cherries are turned into delectable maraschino cherries. Turns out that the simple maraschino packs a pretty pungent stench, which may help to explain why the locals plan outdoor parties but don’t stay outside for long.

The reason: a horrible smell coming from the plant’s industrial waste-water site, composed of ferocious quantities of sulfites and salt used in the processing of the cherries. Imagine a 5-million million-gallon, football foot-ball-field-sized lagoon of stagnant wastewater. Welcome to Williamsburg.

Home to constantly emitting sulfuric gases, Rotorua is the self-proclaimed stink capital of the world—in fact, it calls itself “Sulfur City.” You want to smell rotten eggs endlessly? You’ve come to the right place.

This geothermally active region is actually a major tourist destination for its steaming geysers, otherworldly pools of bubbling mineral lakes, and healing mud baths. But don’t pack your Prada for this trip. The smell of sulfur not only will overpower you during your stay, but will stick to your clothes through several washings! Is it worth a visit? For the first time tourists, perhaps yes, with the cautions mentioned above. Worth a second visit? No.

Lots of organized tours to Italy go to or through Naples. It’s the third-largest city in the country, and people usually visit to see Mount Vesuvius and interesting Roman ruins. But they’ll also see something that the brochures don’t mention: How about having to wade through piles of festering filth and trash? In Naples and the surrounding Campania region, the waste disposal industry is Mafia run, specifically by the Camorra, with often disastrous consequences and no way to cut through the red tape. The city goes through cycles when it is literally drowning in garbage.

Things really came to a head when collectors stopped picking up the trash in Naples on December 21, 2007 … and didn’t come back until early to mid-January 2008! A few months later, the European Union filed suit against Italy for failure to dispose of the massive piles of garbage in Naples. In the meantime, residents were surrounded by heaping mounds of moldering trash, and many took to burning the piles, which created a toxic hazard and an overwhelming stench.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened: The region’s dumps hit maximum capacity more than a decade ago, causing the problem to arise almost on an annual basis. Local officials have yet to announce a yearly garbage festival in an attempt to attract curious, unwitting tourists, but that might be their only salvation. Speaking of salvation: Save yourself and don’t go there.

From Don’t Go There!: The Travel Detective’s Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World (Rodale, $17.95). Naples photo by Courtney Scott.

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