Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

The REAL Cinderella Castle

Posted by Christy in Posts on 07 31st, 2010

We decided to take a day trip to see Schloss Neuschwanstein, the castle that inspired the design for Cinderella’s abode in the Disney movie and amusement park. Well, we got to see it from a distance for a full 15 minutes. It kind of sucked because we traveled 6 hours to see it (due to a missed train, a full bus, getting lost in town which lead to missing ANOTHER train). Everything was so beautiful, we wished we had more time. I still say it was worth it, while at the time Aaron felt otherwise. Here are the pictures we took:

Christy at Schloss Neuschwanstein Schloss Neuschwanstein Christy at Schloss Hohenschwangau
Aaron with a waterfall Christy and Schloss Hohenschwangau

Do you think it was worth it? Come onnnn, its the REAL Cinderella castle! 😉



Bavarian Beer

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 29th, 2010

Let me first start off by saying, I am not, and have never considered myself a beer snob. The extreme majority of beer I drink is standard American Lager like Bud Light, Miller Light, or whatever is cheapest. I think the previous sentence is the first time I ever used the phrase “American Lager” to describe a beer. To me it is all just beer, and I like it. Christy has never acquired a taste for beer, preferring sugary cocktails. “The sweeter the alcohol the better,” is Christy’s motto.

Now that the context is set… Bavarian beer is AMAZING! Our hostel in Munich had a free Bavarian beer tasting. We got to try 4 beers and we learned the histories and differences between the different types of beer. The 4 types we tried were Helles, Hefeweisen, Pilsner, and Dunkel. Pilsner is not native to Bavaria, but was used as a comparison beer. We liked the taste of all of the beers but the Franzishaner Hefewisen (wheat beer) was our favorite. According to our beer guide, Bavarian beer purity laws prevent Bavarian beer from having an ingredient other than hops, barley, water, wheat, or yeast. He swears, that as a result, it is impossible to get a hangover if drinking only Bavarian beer. Our budget did not allow us to test his theory, but we did drink beer throughout our stay to properly experience the culture.

Bavarian beer tasting



A little piece of America in Germany

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 28th, 2010

Our first destination in Germany was Stuttgart to visit a high school friend and his wife. Tim is in the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany.

It was our first time being on a military base. We were full of questions about Army and base life. As we were pulling into security Tim and Kally likened base living to a little America away from America. As we spent more time on the base we began to appreciate what they meant. Twice, Kally took us to the general store on base to shop around for supplies and food. She was nice enough not to laugh as we wandered around, happily surrounded by familiar brands. We had to pay for our pancake mix with United States dollars. Everyone spoke with American accents. Even the colors reminded us of being in a Wal-Mart. Is it sad to say we have come to feel Wal-Mart feels very American?

Christy loved Tim and Kally’s dog Ki. She has been missing our dog Homer, so it was really nice for her to have a dog around again.

Christy with Ki

Tim is a medic, so he was able to placate Christy’s ever increasing fear of parasites and sicknesses. We got a lot of useful advice on staying healthy and minimizing sickness. Once again, the number one rule is avoiding water.

With Chrisy’s dog and medication needs satisfied, we had some time left over for sightseeing. German art was a little different than other things we had seen.

Old German leaders

Our favorite sight in Stuttgart was an old Paternoster elevator that cannot be made anymore because the design is too dangerous. The elevator has no door and the cars just continuously move up and down. We were all really glad we listened to the random stranger on the street who told us about this elevator.

Our time in Stuttgart quickly came to an end and we had to say goodbye to Tim, Kally, and Ki. It was hard to leave the comforts of America away from America and old friends, but we were recharged and excited to get to Munich.

Aaron, Christy, Kally, Tim, and Ki



What in the HELL was that all about? (aka Amsterdam)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 07 25th, 2010

Don’t let the title of this post fool you; I still loved this city with its dreamy canals and laid back spirit. But, seriously, I have never been in a more trippy environment in my life, and I lived in San Francisco!

So you all know about the coffee (marijuana) shops and the legal prostitution, but what you don’t know is the extremity of the red light district.

Here is what I expected, which I think is what a majority of people imagine the red light district to be: between the porn shops, a number of scantily dressed women call to the men on the streets from their windows on the second levels. These women would be in tight dresses, have frizzy hair and teeth, be a little on the heavier side (with the occasional cracked out anorexic) and overall just would not exude any sex appeal whatsoever. The usual nasty perverts would be the only ones actually making purchases, spending most of their time behind the doors of the apartments these girls are occupying.

That is what I imagined. This is what it is:

Between the live sex shops, where for a few Euro you can watch people have sex right before your eyes, a number of women displayed behind body length windows at street level dance seductively for their potential male buyers. These women are dressed in the skimpiest lingerie possible, and most look like models, not Victoria’s Secret level, but perhaps J.C. Penney catalog quality. They tap on the glass with their long acrylic nails when they see a male most likely looking to buy, and they throw water on you if you stare too long and take pictures.

From across the street of one of these displays, I took a video of the prostitutes. You can see that they leave their windows when they spot my camera on them:

And most of the people purchasing sex are American boys in their early twenties. There are a few older prestigious looking gentlemen as well, but most are younger males.

What is also funny about this whole scene are the tour groups walking up and down the streets. The groups I saw were mostly Americans in their 60s and 70s, just casually walking down the road with their tour guides, taking in the sights as if it were the Colosseum or the Eiffel tower.

So, put yourself in the image I just described, being surrounded by beautiful women begging for sex from red fluorescent lit windows that you can’t take your eyes off of no matter how hard you try (No really, if you are in a dark alley with one red light shining in a window, where do your eyes naturally go?)

Seriously, it was the most insane place I have ever been in my entire life. Why didn’t anyone warn me? Is this not a big deal to most people? Was this not the Twilight Zone? What in the HELL was that all about?

Oh, and as for the other parts of Amsterdam, here is a picture of us at the Anne Frank house and the city center, as well as a video of a woman we swear was a Muppet from behind because her hair was so huge.

Christy at the Anne Frank house

Enjoy!



We Got Eurail Passes

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 24th, 2010

Christy and I got a train pass today. While traveling within Spain and England we always rode buses because they are extremely cheap compared to trains. A $150, 14 hour bus ride from Barcelona to Paris made us rethink our strategy. We bought 10 travel days within 2 months from Eurail. Their website claims you have to buy the pass ahead of time from the United States, but it was actually easy to buy in the Paris train station. Unfortunately, I am 26 so I no longer qualify for the youth rates. We ended up buying the 2 person adult group rate since it was almost the same price as 1 youth and 1 adult ticket. The best thing about the adult tickets… FIRST CLASS! We never envisioned riding around Europe in first class cabins, but we aren’t complaining. :)

Christy in a first class train



Friends and Wine in the South of France

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 23rd, 2010

We headed to the south of France to Perpignan for some sun, good wine, and to meet some friends. We stayed with Marie and Olivier, an amazing couple who we hosted in San Francisco through CouchSurfing.org. We were really excited to see them again, this time in their country.

Olivier is a manager of Arnaud de Villeneuve winery, so we were really excited to try his wines. Luckily, the first night we visited there was a wine tasting and dinner planned for his winery. The wine was really good and it was fun to be surrounded by Catalan food and music.

Catalan dinner

The next day we dipped into Spain. First, we went to Figueres. The town was a nice little town to walk around in. The highlight was the Salvador Dali museum. The entire museum is filled with Dali’s surrealistic works. It feels a bit like walking through a Tim Burton movie.

Christy and Susan in Figueres

Part of the Salvador Dali museum

After Figures, we headed to the coast to the tiny town of Cadaques. The town is an old sea town with white Spanish buildings and a harbor full of sailboats. We all agreed we could have spent a whole day in the town absorbing the atmosphere.

Aaron in Cadaques

Our last morning in the Perpignan we were lucky enough to get a personal tour of the Arnaud de Villeneuve winery from Olivier. He showed us the process of making wine, from grape to bottle. We even got to taste some wine directly from the tank.

Watching wine get bottled

Tasting wine from the tank

Thank you Marie and Olivier for the wonderful hospitality. I am so glad we were able to visit you and experience your city. We hope you visit us again when we return to the United States.

Dinner with Olivier and Marie



Catalan Dinner

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 21st, 2010

As part of our time in the south of France, we went to a Catalan dinner and wine tasting sponsored by the Arnaud de Villeneuve winery. Catalonia is a region along the south France and Spain border which includes Barcelona. They have their own language which is like a mixture of Spanish and French. They have their own foods and music as well.

The dinner had 3 courses. Unfortunately, I never saw the menu so I had to guess the name of each dish.

Pa amb tomaquet

Meatballs with white beans

A pastery, peach, and roquefort cheese

Of course the night also included a lot of Arnaud de Villeneuve wines. They were all really good, especially the award winning Muscat de Rivesaltes, the Cotes du Roussillon, and a red wine, but I forget which type.

Arnaud de Villeneuve wines



“You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine…

Posted by Christy in Posts on 07 18th, 2010

The elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

There are moments in life that bring you back to reality, to a place where you realize the petty problems and worries of your world don’t matter. The guilt that overtakes you is overwhelming, while at the same time you appreciate the fact that you have suddenly gained this knowledge that takes some people years, if ever, to attain.

This is what hit me as I walked into the American cemetery at Normandy, where 9,387 soldiers are buried for giving their lives for the freedom of the world in World War II.

On D-Day, 2,499 American soldiers died on the Normandy beaches, most at Omaha. We were shocked to see that the beach is in recreational use by the locals. If you think about it, however, this is what the soldiers fought for: The freedom of the people of Normandy, and, in fact, the world. But would I use the beach for recreational purposes? Certainly not.

Here are some photos of a memorial built just off the beach:

At the museum located next to the cemetery, there was a booth you could step in and hear accounts of different soldier’s memories of that day. The one that impacted me the most was by CPL Jess E. Weiss. He wrote in his diary every single day he was overseas, including D-Day. He reads his diary page dated June 6, 1944:

After a day of absorbing all this information, realizing the horrors that happened there and how many men were sacrificed, Aaron wished that he was there to fight the battle, to be on the beaches with those men, his brothers. I, however, did not feel that way. I reflect on what the men went through on that day, and came to the conclusion: I just couldn’t do it. To be face to face with the enemy, a rain of bullets falling down around me, my friends dying next to me; I just couldn’t. I wish I could say that I felt the same as Aaron, but I don’t.

The admiration I feel for all those people who have served or are currently serving in the armed services is overwhelming. So I say this: Thank you. Thank you for sacrificing your lives for my freedom. Thank you for your bravery and your unselfishness. Thank you a million times over, because I could never do what you do.



Ah, Paris!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 07 17th, 2010

I have always heard mixed reviews of Paris from everyone who has been there. It has been described to me as dirty, or fun; has nice people, or has mean people. Anyway, here is my personal account of Paris, and I should say it is my favorite city I have been to so far.

OK, so first off, the city is clean, no matter what people tell you. LA? Dirty. New York? Dirty. Paris? Clean, as far as I could tell.

Due to my father’s impatience, we ended up eating at the more touristy restaurants, and the food was mediocre at best. I wish we could have ventured out more and found some decent French restaurants, but oh, well (still love you, dad!).

The people, overall, were very nice and helpful. A few of our waiters and waitresses would get a little impatient with our lack of French, but hey, you get that in every city. So ignore the myth that the people aren’t nice. It’s not true.

You know that “overrated” chant that fans bust out when a sports team that is supposedly unbeatable is beaten? Yeah, that kept going through my head when we were walking through Versailles. Every room is just gold and paintings, gold and paintings, and no furniture, since all of it was taken out during the French Revolution. The gardens are awesome though, even though the fountain show sucked. (The fountain show is no show at all, it is the fountains being turned on. Whatever.)

The Eiffel Tower is always neat to see, since it is so iconic and recognizable throughout the world. It is especially magical when it sparkles at every hour for five minutes, we loved that.

The Musee D’Orsay is better than the Louvre, but the Louvre is still worth it to see the most famous painting in the world and the Venus de Milo. Just don’t expect to see any recognizable works besides those two (this coming from a person who does not know art, by the way.)

What really gets to me about the city is that feeling you get when you are walking down the street, look up to see the Eiffel Tower, and you think, ‘Wow. I’m in Paris!’. There’s just that special magic about it that I have never felt anywhere else before, besides San Francisco, and I just love it.

I might have also liked it so much because my parents were there and it was so nice to be with them. I have missed them so much.

And now, the pictures. Enjoy!



Straight out of Police Academy

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 15th, 2010

A funny thing happened to us on our bus ride from Barcelona to Paris. The drug dog that boarded our bus identified a suspicious character and alerted the human officers by humping the man. The drug dog appeared to be a puppy in training so I guess he can be excused for his behavior, or maybe the French police have a good sense of humor. For us it was the highlight of the 14 hour bus ride.