Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

Uh Oh, India and China

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 08 31st, 2010

We just got back from the Indian and Chinese visa offices in London and things do not look good. It looks like we might have to skip these countries.

Indian and Chinese visas are valid for 6 months from the date of issue. We were not able to get the visas before leaving the United States because they would have expired before we arrived in the countries. After some research, Christy and I decided to get the visas in London at the end of the European phase.

We arrived in London three days before our flight to Egypt. We filled out the applications for visas and made appointments for the Indian visa office. At the visa office we were surprised to learn the visa process will take 10-15 business days! We were shocked because we knew the application process took just one day in the United States. Visa processing takes a lot longer in a foreign country because they need to communicate with the United States government before issuing the visa. I would have thought the internet could make the communication faster than 10-15 business days, but what do I know.

Anyway, as it stands now, we do not have Indian or Chinese visas. Our only hope for the visas is to get them while we are in Egypt, since it is the only country we will be in for an extended period of time. We are disappointed that we probably will not be able to visit these countries, but they are far enough away we have not begun planning or getting too excited. I think the disappointment will be greater when we are in the Mumbai airport and have to immediately get on another plane and leave.



Top Three Lists

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 30th, 2010

Can you believe our European journey has ended? Neither can I. Only nine more months to go.

I know a question I will get asked over and over again is what my favorite place was.  This question is going to be especially hard to answer, since each place is different and has its own unique magical qualities. But I am going to do my best to answer this question, as I know you all will not accept this as an answer. I decided I would give a few of my opinions after each area we visit, just to appease you all.

Please note that I will not be writing negative reviews on any of the places we visited because I really don’t want to perhaps sway other people from visiting cities that they would very much enjoy, while at the same time, I did not. And I don’t want to offend anybody. So there.

And, here we go:

Top Three “Wow, I can’t Believe I’m Here” Moments:
1.) First Glimpse of the Coliseum
2.) Standing Under the Eiffel Tower
3.) Tie – Gondola Ride in Venice, Overlooking Athens at the Acropolis

Top Three “Culture Shock” Cities
1.) Tangier, Morocco
2.) Amsterdam, Netherlands
3.) Istanbul, Turkey

Top Three Beach Cities:
1.) Paros Island, Greece
2.) Cinque Terre, Italy
3.) Almeria, Spain

Top Three “Most Powerful” Moments:
1.) Visit to Normandy D-Day Beaches
2.) Train Ride in Morocco
3.) Visit to Dachau Concentration Camp

Top Three Favorite Cities in Europe:
1.) Paris, France
2.) Salzburg, Austria
3.) Tie – Istanbul, Turkey and Cinque Terre, Italy

I know, I know, I’m a sucker for Paris! What can I say?



Look its Switzerla…, nevermind we already left it

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 08 28th, 2010

We have to come to Switzerland. We only spent a few hours in the country, but it looked amazing.

Our train ride from Milan to Zurich was beautiful. The train winds through the mountains next to alpine lakes and towns.

Out the train window in Switzerland

When we arrived in Zurich we reserved tickets on a sleeper train to Amterdam. Since we only had a one and a half layover in Zurich we did not get to see much. We stuck to a couple blocks around the train station, but everything we saw was nice. Zurich is a really clean looking city.

Christy in Zurich

Aaron in Zurich

Being in Zurich really made Christy and I want to see more of Switzerland.  It is at the top of my list of places to visit again, especially during ski season in the Alps. Longing to see more, we boarded our sleeper train and left the country without trying the chocolate or playing with Swiss Army knives. We will be back some day.

Aaron on the sleeper train



Back in Venice… train station

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 08 28th, 2010

As our ferry was docking in Venice we passed San Marco square and we could see the leaning tower of a church near the hotel we stayed in when we were in Venice earlier. It was weird being back in Venice. It was amazing that two and a half months had passed since we were last here. It was also strange to be in this city without my parents. Memories only a few months old came flooding back. Shortly after the memories of Venice,  memories of the destinations between my visits in Venice started playing through my mind. It was the first time we had returned to a city on this trip after leaving its country. I did not feel the deja vu I was expecting, but a feeling of summary and reflection on a phase coming to an end.

The time of reflection did not last long, because straight off the ferry in Venice we went to the train station. We were planning on catching a train later the same day to Paris to get us most of the way back to London. We waited in a long line to get our tickets to Paris, but they were sold out. There were no tickets available for over a week! We felt panic momentarily flush through us. We had to get back to London in 5 days to catch our flight to Cairo. How much was buying ourselves out of this situation going to cost if we needed to get plane tickets? Fortunately the panic did not last and we got out of the ticket line to find an alternative train route. We got out our Eurail maps and timetables and came up several back up plans. We ended up choosing Zurich as our next destination since it is very well connected to other European cities. We were really lucky we were not cutting the timing of our return to London too close. We had already learned that lesson a few times. One and a half hours after arriving in Venice, we were on a train to Zurich.



30 hours on the poor man’s cruise

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 08 27th, 2010

We are almost finished with the European part of our journey. All that is left is to get back to London from Greece to catch our flight to Cairo, Egypt. The first leg to get us back to London was a 30 hour ferry from Patras, Greece to Venice, Italy. Our EuRail got us free deck passage on the boat. We were surprised to find out that we literally had deck passage tickets. There were some small uncomfortable chairs available, but Christy and I figured we would be more comfortable laying of the floor. We were some of the first people on the boat so we choose a spot by the pool and laid out our travel sheets. The cold wind from the boat woke us up during the night. We ended up sleeping in all of our rain gear to keep us warm in the wind. To make things worse, I was already fighting a head cold.

Christy camping on the deck of the ferry to Venice

When we woke up in the morning we were surprised to find the boat had filled up with other deck passengers. People were laying in every available space on the boat. The ferry, which seemed very nice when we got on (it had a pool) began to feel like a poor man’s cruise. Everywhere we walked there were people on air mattresses and in sleeping bags.

People camping on the ferry

People camping on the ferry

People camping on the ferry

Some people even brought tents.

Tent camping on the ferry

Thirty hours later we arrived in Venice. We were stiff and tired, but we could not stop to rest. We went straight to the train station to continue our journey back to London.



You’re in Greece?! I am SOO Jealous!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 26th, 2010

We have just finished up our visit in Greece, and it was, well, magical.

From the Parthenon to the beautiful beaches of Paros Island, we couldn’t get enough.

It was odd, though; We received more comments on the Greece pictures I posted on Facebook than any other. Is Greece the ultimate destination for most Americans? I thought it was Italy or France…. not that there is anything wrong with that, it is just interesting is all.

Huh.

Anyway, the whole time we were at the Acropolis, this song from the chipmunk adventure was going through my head:

I really wanted to create our own version, but shockingly, Aaron was opposed. Am I the only who thinks this movie is still freaking awesome?

I know my brother Ben agrees!



Wow, I am Really Glad I Have My…

Posted by Christy in Planning on 08 25th, 2010

OK, I am not sure if there is anybody out there looking at our site for preparation on a world trip. If you are, then you are in luck; this post is for you!

We did our best to pack for our trip, and I think we did a pretty good job. You can see what we packed on the “Our Gear” tab, but I thought I would highlight some of the things that I am REALLY glad we have, and some of the things we wish we had. Please keep in mind we are still learning, and this list really probably grow later on.

So, without further adieu, “Wow, I am really glad I have my:”

1. Quick-Dry Towel

You use it when you go to the beach, when you are finished bathing at hostels and at campsites. Most hostels don’t provide towels, and if they do, they charge extra. Of course, I suggest a quick-dry towel because, obviously, it drys quickly when you are on the go, and also because it is so lightweight.

So, before you venture out into the world, remember to grab one of these puppies. You will need it.

2. iPad

Can I tell you how many times a day I use this? Originally, we were going to just bring Aaron’s laptop. Then, as a going away present from my company University Pipeline (now Tissla), they presented me with an iPad. I can’t imagine traveling without it. There would have been countless fights between Aaron and I over the use of the laptop.

And since it is so lightweight, Aaron and I like to bring up maps on the Internet and reference those when WiFi is not available. We also like to send tickets, confirmations, etc. to my e-mail and bring those up on the iPad when needed.

Once again, thanks Tom and Tissla for the tremendous gift. It has been a lifesaver!

3. Dry-Fit Shirts

I have been sweaty. A lot. Thanks to my dry-fit shirts, I haven’t been nearly as uncomfortable as I would have in cotton T-shirts.

Also, they are more lightweight, AND they keep better than cotton. How about that?

4. Medications

I have to admit, this has become a bit of an obsession for me, but can you blame me? We are in foreign territories, being exposed to environments we have never been exposed to before, and we are bound to get sick. Plus, my Advil has saved me from experiencing long periods of (Ahem. Boys, avert your eyes.) menstrual cramps.

We stayed with our friend Tim in Germany, who happens to be an army medic. He supplied me with Pepto Bismol, antihistamine cream, allergy pills, etc. It was fabulous. I personally don’t mind carrying around a huge medicine cabinet with me, but Aaron thinks I am crazy. (We will see how he feels after he gets the runs in Africa.)

5. Mosquito Killer Tablets

I actually did not bring these with me from the States. In fact, I had never heard of them before our arrival in Bucharest. Our CouchSurfing hosts/friends Razvan and Andra introduced them to me after I demonstrated my extreme fear of mosquito bites by running around there apartment smacking the walls trying to kill mosquitoes.

For those of you who don’t know, you can buy these tablets for about $3 for a pack of 10 (at least in Romania). Each tablet is about the size of a piece of gum. You simply burn them with a match/lighter for a few minutes, depending on the size of the room. Soon you will see them flying around like mad then all the sudden drop dead on the floor. It is best thing EVER. Fewer things give me joy than watching mosquitoes die (Really that is an exaggeration. Sort of.).

So, if you have severe reactions to mosquito bites, or simply hate mosquitoes, go buy these. I can’t imagine traveling without them now.

Those are my big five. Now onto the things I WISH I had but do not:

1.) Battery-Powered Fan

We have had some really, REALLY hot nights. I usually can sleep through anything, but when it is so hot I feel like I am suffocating, that I can’t sleep through.

What makes it worse is that we usually can’t open any windows because of my fear of mosquitoes (poor Aaron). Which brings me to my next item:

2.) Mosquito Net

It is kind of scary how many of these items have to do with preventing mosquito bites. Oh, well.

Yes, we do plan on buying one of these for Africa. With the risks of malaria (which we have medication for, incidently), it is just not safe to go without.

That’s it. I hope this was useful. And for those of you who are not planning a RTW trip, it was interesting right? RIGHT? Whatever. :-)



What I Miss…

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 19th, 2010

We have been on the road for almost three months now, and I thought you all would be interested in knowing what I really miss in America. Obviously, I miss friends and family, but who wouldn’t? So, here is my list, what do you think?

1.) Movies

Ahh! I have already missed Toy Story 3 and Inception! Not to mention I will be missing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I in November. At least I can look forward to catching up on everything when I get back.

2.) English as a First Language

Wow, Aaron and I wish we could understand everyone, and that they could understand us. Everywhere we go we have to ask if they speak English. We really need to work on learning other languages, fellow Americans. Seriously.

3.) Familiar Food

OK, trying new food is so much fun! BUT, just once, I would love to see a Chili’s, or an Applebee’s, or SOMETHING, where I could go in and order any American food I wanted. Oh well, at least we have McDonald’s.

4.) Not Living Out of a Backpack

Wearing the same seven outfits gets old, FAST.

5.) HOMER

I miss him so much it hurts. Sometimes on the buses and trains I imagine our reunion, and how he is going to react. Do you think he will remember me? And if I feel this way about my dog, how will I feel about my kids?

At least I know my parents are taking good care of him, and I get to see him on Skype sometimes. Don’t worry, Homer, only nine more months to go!



Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 15th, 2010

We had heard from numerous people that Istanbul was a favorite amongst travel destinations, and after experiencing it for ourselves, it did not disappoint.

First I should say that Turkish people are known for their tremendous hospitality. We experienced this the minute we arrived in the city with the bus company that took us from Bucharest from Istanbul. You see, we arrived at our final destination at 3 AM, and Aaron and I had not expected to arrive until at least 6 AM, so we had not booked a hostel for the night. With no Internet access, no Turkish currency, and nowhere to go, the bus attendant automatically invited us to stay in the bus company’s office until morning, which we happily accepted, because we really did not know what else to do.

When we arrived in the office, we got to talking to the owner. After talking for about an hour or so, he offered to take us to the Blue Mosque (one of the most famous mosques in Istanbul), and we were a bit skeptical since it was 4 in the morning and we had never met this man before, but we felt bad saying no, so we went along with him. We are glad we did; it was an awesome experience seeing the Blue Mosque when there were no other tourists around.

After we came back from our trek, the owner had the front desk attendant keep the office open just so we could sleep there! Would any American do that? Doubtful.

When we left the next morning we met our CouchSurfing host Efe, and later on his girlfriend Merve and roommate Berk. This was one of our best CouchSurfing experiences so far, not only because our hosts were awesome, but because we stayed with them over a weekend so they could really spend some time with us. They took us all around the city, from the busy, hip district of Taksim to the Egyptian Bazaar. We drank Turkish tea, smoked a waterpipe, had some of the best baklava in the city AND shopped at the biggest mall in Europe (yeaahhhh).

Christy in the Egyptian Bazaar

What was even better was they introduced us to a lot of their friends, and we even got to join Merve at a celebratory dinner for her university.

Thank you, friends at Isik University, for welcoming us at your dinner. Hopefully this blog post will contribute to your continued enrollment success!

I should also mention that Turkish food is the BEST. It was my favorite food in Europe. I am sure Aaron will do whole other post on the food, so I won’t go too into it here.

So, Istanbul= A+. Go. Go NOW. Meet the lovely people, see the beautiful mosques, eat the tasty food, and come back and thank me later. :-)



I Vant to Suck your Vlood…

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 12th, 2010

Ahhh, Transylvania, forever known as the land of Dracula. Well, that is why the tourists come, but there is a lot more to it than that.

We stayed in the town of Brasov, a cute little village surrounded by tree-covered hills on all sides.

One of the best parts of Romania? It is CHEAP. We would go to a sit down restaurant, have drinks, bread, full meal, and it would usually come out to $10. One of the funniest things was the fact that the Romanian word for carp is CRAP. In the menu they didn’t bother to switch the R and the A, and we loved having the option of ordering “fried crap.”

OK, and now we are going to have a little history lesson about Dracula and where he came from. Yes, there really was a Dracula, and no, he didn’t drink anybody’s blood. Here is a picture of Vlad Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler as he has become known:

During his reign (1456-1462), he killed somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 civilians. Pretty much anyone he considered “useless to humanity,” he murdered by impalement, which basically means shoving an object through the body.

This is who historians say most likely influenced Bram Stoker to write Dracula. He may not have drank anybody’s blood, but he was just as scary.

We visited Bran Castle, which was not the castle where Vlad resided, but they still like to pretend it is. It was still creepy, though.