Moving places

97ViswanathanAnand Travel junkies: Viswanathan Anand with wife, Aruna, in Iceland, which, he says, is a destination for sheer exotica .

A sportsperson's career is marked not only by trophies but by the various hotel rooms they constantly live out of. I would say I discovered travel only after marriage. Till then, I would go to a chess event and just come back. I would walk past the Eiffel Tower and never realise it was there.

Soon after our wedding, our honeymoon cum chess tournament was in Dortmund, Germany. Aruna would brazenly cross the autobahn until she realised the German traffic rules do not have the same sense of karma as Indian traffic.

As a sportsperson, the places you remember fondly are almost always the places where you have good results. I remember Sofia in Bulgaria having one of the best Indian restaurants. After every win, we would eat there. When we went there after my victory, the owner almost shut the restaurant down to celebrate.

In my travels, the most exciting has been my 40-hour bus ride to Sofia to play the world championship. Thanks to the volcanic ash, airspace was shut in Europe. So, we drove from Germany to Bulgaria. We stopped at lovely eateries in Austria and Hungary. In Romania, the landscape was beautiful but we had no idea where we were. At last, we reached Sofia at 2am and got pulled over by cops for speeding. The cops recognised me and said, “Ah! You are Anand. Your travel speed is as fast as you play chess!”

A destination for sheer exotica would be Iceland—pristine moonscape, lovely geysers and the place where I met Bobby Fischer.

One place we can’t get enough of is definitely Africa. We both love wildlife, and I love astronomy. It is a place which has so much of nature to offer. Ngorongoro [Tanzania] is a highlight.

Dubai is a perfect holiday destination for a family. Lots of kid activities, a mall that has everything and just lots of kid-friendly shops.

Madurai is really close to my heart. It is my father's hometown and my son Akhil’s favourite place. He enjoyed the temple so much that we now do temple tours quite often.

What we love most about travelling are different cuisines. Japanese is a favourite. We love good, simple Italian. Venice has some of the best simple eateries. Sprüngli in Zurich serves the best raspberry tart. It is a taste that the mind captures forever.

If we were to pick one destination that defines us as a couple, it would be Mexico—spicy food, Spanish language, Mariachis and lovely artefacts. I won a world championship there in 2007. So, it's a country with lots of memories.

We love the fresh Mexican chilaquiles with salsa verde. One day, we got served a delectable salad. The flavours were fresh—citrus, coriander and avocado. There was an unbelievable crunch to the salad which we couldn’t decipher. We found out those were worms. It took a day of almost not dying to reconcile our palates.

Anand has travelled to more than 50 countries for various chess championships and has always had great memories to talk about.

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