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

Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Sport
Vincenzo Nibali rides into Paris on the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France
Tour de FranceVincenzo Nibali is first Italian winner since Marco Pantani in 1998
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Sport
Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (C) celebrates with Scuderia Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton
sport
Arts and Entertainment
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmComedy was dominated by the romcom at its most insufferable
Sport
Tour de France competitor Bartosz Huzarski’s legs have highlighted the gruelling nature of the race, after he posted a picture on Facebook showing extremely prominent veins stretching from his feet and all the way up his legs
Commonwealth Games
Life and Style
Elle Kaye demonstrates the art of taxidermy
food + drinkFood revolution taken a step further in new ‘edible taxidermy’ class
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
Halsall broke her personal best in the 50m butterfly
Commonwealth GamesEnglish swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Voices
The Express offices in the 1930s when writers (such as Orwell) were paid around £2 weekly
voicesWebsites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
A cut above: Katy Guest at The Ginger Pig
food + drinkThe Ginger Pig's hands-on approach to primary cuts
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried