My life in travel: Misha Glenny

'I walked into an open sewer in Iran. I felt I'd be happier dead'

First holiday memory?

A Spanish fisherman shoving a live crab in my face when I was about four years old. We were in San Vicente on the Atlantic coast, near San Sebastian. My father was head of European sales for Wedgwood, so we often went to Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Best holiday?

Prussia Cove, on the south-west coast of Cornwall. We went pretty much every other year, and still go, so it's cumulatively the best holiday. It hasn't changed much since we first started going.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Prussia Cove is probably my favourite place by dint of familiarity. I feel at home in Oxfordshire because I spent my teens there, and I quite like Scotland, particularly Edinburgh and the west coast.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I've spent most of my life travelling; you learn a lot more about where you are if you absorb the culture and accommodate your behaviour to it, rather than imposing yours on it.

Ideal travelling companion?

My wife, Kirsty Lang. We travel together a lot and she's great. One or two of my male friends have been great companions over the years, too.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Two weeks on a beach makes me go stir-crazy, so I like being able to explore a city. I also like vegging with books.

Greatest travel luxury?

Making sure that all the electrics I travel with can be recharged. I'm slightly obsessive about it.

Holiday reading?

I get through lots of books. I enjoy non-fiction and good, serious novels, but I mainly read history and current-affairs books. But I sometimes use holidays to read a fun book that's not too taxing.

Where has seduced you?

Prague, which I started visiting in the Seventies and where I lived under Communism in the early Eighties. I feel I understand Prague better than a lot of people because of that experience. In some respects, it was more beautiful back then than it is now, because it was unsullied by commercialism. I thought Brazil was fabulous, too – I went to Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio. It's such a vibrant society. In a world that is hurtling towards species destruction, I found it was remarkably optimistic.

Better to travel or to arrive?

To arrive, definitely. I bloody hate travelling.

Worst travel experience?

As an 18-year-old, I drove to Kathmandu and back with three friends. On the return journey, our 4x4 was falling apart, and by the time we reached Tehran, we were all suffering from various forms of dysentery, we were homesick, we'd run out of money and were generally miserable. I remember walking through the streets one night, which, at the time, had open sewers. It was twilight and I walked straight in to one. I felt I'd be happier dead.

Worst holiday?

As a child, I went on a spectacularly ill-conceived family holiday to Denmark. We stayed in a motel that backed on to a fish-processing factory, which had been recommended by the AA as a delightful hotel. My parents got us up at 1am and we left straight away, without paying. It was a dramatic, spy-like experience for a six-year-old. Later on, during the holiday, my father broke off the gear stick; one of my brothers was nearly arrested; and my younger brother got stuck halfway up a cliff and we had to call the mountain-rescue service.

Worst hotel?

One in Peje, Kosovo. I stayed in an absolute hole in the early Nineties, when it was under Serbian control and there were riots going on. The floor in the communal bog was awash with muck. It was totally miserable, flea-ridden and nobody gave a damn.

Best hotel?

The Gritti Palace on the Grand Canal in Venice. It is like paradise.

Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?

I love hurrying through the backstreets of Prague. I know all the short cuts and they're all fantastically beautiful and interesting. There's an element of showing off involved, because I avoid the tourist crowds. Just outside the centre, in the much less visited residential areas, you can still find great old bars that sustained everyone during the Communist period.

Best meal abroad?

A four-hour blowout at Travinia in the Napa Valley, California. It was the best Italian food I'd ever eaten, including in Italy.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Secure a map and spend the first half-day orienting myself. I hate being in a new place without a map.

Dream trip?

I'd like to visit Iceland, just because I find Scandinavia a really fascinating region. They project a completely unified image to the outside world, while hating each other bitterly. I'm intrigued about how Iceland fits in to all that.

Favourite city?

Prague, but Rome comes a close second. I like Palermo a lot, too, but that mostly stems from my Mafia interest. New York and San Francisco are also great cities.

Where next?

Belgrade, and then the Parati Literary Festival in Brazil.

'McMafia: Crime without Frontiers', by Misha Glenny, is published by The Bodley Head, £20
'More From Our Own Correspondent', edited by Tony Grant and featuring Misha Glenny, is published by Profile Books, £8.99

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments