CatieFunkTravels Brasov Romania Europe

WRITING: Article featured in SUITCASE Magazine

Romania was supposed to be a ‘side trip’ to our month-long SouthEast Asia itinerary, but it has definitely gotten more attention. This month, SUITCASE Magazine features my article titled CASTLES, CRÊPES AND THE CARPATHIANS: EXPLORING BRASOV, ROMANIA on their online publication.

SUITCASE Magazine is a quarterly print magazine as well as an online website that giving adventurous creatives and entrepreneurs eclectic and affordable travel options. They also dabble in apps and a series of pop-up shops and eventers around the UK. Suitcase ‘aims to immerse you in the fabric of a destination, helping you explore with insider knowledge and acting as a point of entry for cultures around the world.’


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Here is the start of the article:

Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania is a worthy travel destination in its own right, offering a varied getaway thanks to architectural towns and medieval villages set against a backdrop of dense forests and rugged mountains.

With 20 million people spread over 240,000 square kilometres, the country is perfect for a road-trip-meets-city adventure. Serviced by most major airlines, Bucharest makes an easy starting point. Once known as the “little Paris” of Romania, the capital sets an example for the smaller outlying villages like Brasov, with a diverse cityscape made up of gothic, baroque and renaissance styles.

Sitting in the centre of Romania’s Transylvania region in the Carpathian Mountains (made famous by Dracula) Brasov was established by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. During the medieval period it was occupied by the Saxons, who turned the city into a walled citadel to protect against invaders. Today, Brasov is surrounded by those same medieval stone walls, but crêpe stands and cafés line the town’s wide, pedestrian-only main boulevard.


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Thank you SUITCASE Magazine for the feature. I am honored to be working with you as a writer.


To my readers:

Did you enjoy the article?

What was something new you learned?

TRAVEL: 4 Day Itinerary for Cyprus

2017 started off with my desire to travel more frequently but for shorter lengths of time. While Jason can work from anywhere, I have a schedule for language learning and tend to be the one that keeps us closer to home. And honestly, Jason works better with a home base, and it tends to be less stressful for us both. That being said, 3- 4 day weekend trips have started to play a larger role in my travel planning.

It’s not my ideal way to travel. Short and quick trips don’t allow for you to really learn and embrace the culture. And you just don’t have time to see everything!  That being said, for our Thursday to Monday trip to Cyprus, we decided to dedicate our time just to the western area of the country knowing that we can easier travel there from Turkey again in the future.

Cyprus is not only beautiful but also has an interesting history. Learn more about our 4-day itinerary including our tips and tricks for exploring the South side of Cyprus near Paphos and Nicosia.

I hope to provide you with mini itineraries and resources as I work through writing about our travels. If you would like to listen to our time in Cyprus, check out Episode030! You will also find all links to places we traveled below via the Episode030 show notes.

Spoiler* If you want to know the truth behind traveling, make sure to read the very LAST paragraph!

Day 1: Travel Day – Istanbul to Cyprus

We are fortunate to live in one of the larger cities in Turkey, Izmir. And while it doesn’t have as many options as Istanbul, there are quite a few options for cheaper international flights. Pegasus is an easy 1 hour and 15-minute flight to North Cyprus from Izmir. Since Cyprus was once part of the Commonwealth, it is still a large tourist destination for Brits and other Europeans as well. There are tons of flights from Europe straight into the Greek side of Cyprus if you are coming from there.

Since we were already in Istanbul visiting some friends, we took a direct flight on Turkish Airlines from the Ataturk Airport. Our flight was at 8 in the morning and while I thought it could take us a while to get through security, it was pretty quick. I would always suggest coming earlier than later for the Ataturk airport though! Since my first time living in Turkey 8 years ago, the airport has really added some snazzy shopping, restaurants, and coffee shops. You should have no problem being entertained.

Cyprus has an interesting history between Turkey and Greece. There is a lot to say about it, but I will write the short story. Basically, in 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus twice and after the 2nd invasion, both parties established the ceasefire which is known as the Green Line. Both Turkish and Greek people were moved hastily to their matching nationality’s side and until 2008, the border remained closed due to the Turkish occupation(as acknowledged by everyone but Turkey-think Russia and Ukraine) of the north side of the island. Interestingly enough, Turkey recognizes this territory as it’s own independent nation called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. You can see what Google maps you use as to who believes what. Above is the English Google maps and below is the Turkish Google maps.

Originally we had planned to stay in the northern part of Cyprus, but the south has cheaper wine and pork… the draw was just too much to pass up. After arriving to North Cyprus we grabbed a special taxi that is allowed on both sides and headed over the border. One hour later, we had grabbed our rental car and started the 2.5-hour journey from Nicosia to Paphos.

Along the mini road trip route, we stopped at Petra tou Romiou, also known as Aphrodite’s Rock. We almost missed it because the road doesn’t actually have an exit for the site. The cafe nearby had a parking lot with an underpass walkway to the water.  The day was a bit rainy and cloudy and created this mystical mood over the beautiful area that is known in mythology as the birthplace of Aphrodite. The ground is just layers of water polished stones and the sound the ocean made as it ebbed and flowed was enchanting.

After our brief 40 minute stop, we headed on to Paphos, checked into our hotel, and relaxed a bit. The evening was chill and we enjoyed dinner and a movie at the local mall.

Tip – GPS vs. Sim Card: Rental car companies usually have a GPS option for the car. We have found the in last few countries, if possible, that getting a sim card with data is much easier, more convenient, and about the same price. The GPS was 6 Euros a day (30 Euros for 5 days) and we were able to get an MTN sim card with 1.5 GB of data for 22 Euros.

Day 2: Local Tour – Paphos

Sleeping in is always on Jason’s ‘requirements’ for our vacations. Off-season makes this possible. So we relaxed. Jason slept in. I went for a quick run. Then we grabbed a late breakfast around 10:15.  While at breakfast we made a plan for the day. Tombs of the Kings, Archeological Park, and a walk around the city center. I would definitely wear good walking shoes because you will walk (and climb) a lot!

We took a break at the local Starbucks. If you know me, then I had to get my country mug! Walked back to our car and chilled at our hotel for a while before heading out to dinner in the evening. Being Saint Patty’s Day, we hit up a local Irish Pub, enjoyed a beer, grabbed some nachos and Shepherd’s Pie. We waited forever for the live music to start but it didn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. So we peaced-out and headed on back for an early evening.


Day 3: Day Trip – Outside Paphos Tour

The next morning followed suit. After our brunch, we headed to a local winery, Fikardos. There is actually a wine route that tourists can spend the day doing. Cyprus has a long-standing history of wine (think…. Greek gods and goddesses) and it is the perfect location for it! We made it to 3 of the 5 in between our stop at the Saint Neophytos Monastery. Ironic huh? Well, in Prague, the monastery there made wine and beer. So maybe it isn’t so ironic. Fikardos winery was the closest to Paphos and the most interactive when it came to showing us their production area and wine sampling. The other 2, Sterna Winery & Museum and Vasilikon Winery Cyprus, were further north towards the monastery and while the views were nice to enjoy, the interaction was somewhat lacking. If you are looking to sit and enjoy a wine though, Sterna Winery is what I would suggest. It’s a small cozy little winery store with a little menu option and a nice view.


The Saint Neophytos Monastery which was founded in 1159 is situated in up into the mountains and is only a 30 minutes drive from Paphos. It is one of the best-known monasteries in all of Cyprus. There is painted rooms built into the walls of the mountain that you can, with a ticket go in. The ticket also gives you access to the monastery’s small museum which is filled with books, scepters, and a lot of other Greek orthodox antiquities. At one point the monastery had peice of wood from Jesus’s cross as a relic, though it is no longer there. The monastery also has a small church that is open to the public.

In the afternoon, we explored the Avankas Gorge. Definitely, wear sporty clothes… and sneakers for this little hike. It is not the easiest to get to, but we found it to exceeded our expectations. The walk from the parking area to the Gorge takes about 10 minutes, and then another 10-15 minutes to actually get to the depths of the Gorge. It is a great option for hikers and nature lovers, and it is family friendly (but not stroller friendly).

Tip – Roads:

  1. Roads are British style. The driver is on the right side of the car and you drive on the left side of the road. Be careful! There are lots of tourists out there and you will know them because all the rentals have a red license plate.
  2. NOT all roads are equal. And taking a shortcut road from one of the wineries to the Gorge is NOT a good idea (personal experience). Google maps may tell you it’s a road, but we had a run for our money. The landscape is mountainous and the roads are gravel and dirt. We will suggest to always use the longer route and main roads when traveling between locations! Our little rental car got a little beating from the ‘roads’ we used, and it was not so fun.


Day 4: Nicosia

Our last morning at the hotel was lazy. After a breakfast, we took a long walk along the coast going north of our resort. The coast is lined with resorts, boutique hotels, and apartments. But there is a nice walking path that everyone takes advantage of in the mornings and evenings. We enjoyed the sunny warm morning and the breeze coming from the sea. There is also an old shipwreck still captured in the rocks just off the coast.

After checking out of our hotel, we headed back the way we came to the capital city, Nicosia, for our last evening in Cyprus. After popping by our Airbnb, we walked to the city center and toured around both the Greek and Turkish sides. Nicosia is the last divided capital cities in the world (think Berlin, but nicer). If your passport allows it, you can cross between the 2 checkpoints in the middle of the city. There is a Greek passport control that you walk past, then for about 100 meters, you literally are in a neutral zone of unoccupied buildings before having your passport checked at the Turkish checkpoint.

Unfortunately, we did not allow enough time for any free walking tours this time around, and because we visited on Sunday, most museums and markets were closed on both side. But we did sufficiently walk almost every block available to us on both sides of the city. Our evening finished by splitting a delicious meat meal for two at Piasta Gourounaki and stopped by the market to stock up on some pork and cheese products.

Day 5: Flight Home

The last morning was spent at our Airbnb. Since it was a private room in a bed and breakfast place, we enjoyed breakfast with other guests and learned more about the history of Cyprus first hand via the Airbnb hosts. The Airbnb host even offered to meet us at the car rental and drop us off at one of the Ledra Palace walking checkpoint to cross over to the Turkish side where we would meet our taxi.

And ironically enough, walking the Ledra Palace checkpoint was one of the more interesting sites in Nicosia due to the history it holds(no pics allowed). The Ledra Palace was formerly one of the most glamorous hotels in the capital. Now it acts as a UN neutral meeting point for not only governmental meetings for conflict resolution but also a place Turks and Greeks can come to meet for business. It was eerie to walk through this ‘no-mans’ land and stop for a quick coffee at the meeting place while remembering the harsh history that brought them to this point.

After hopping in the taxi, it was a quick airplane ride back to Izmir and home sweet home!

Don’t be fooled:

While it sounds like everything was dazzling perfection and it can seem like life is perfect, I want to write a short note to remind readers that it, of course, is not! Our first night, Jason slept so poorly worrying about crossing the border illegally (which we didn’t). There was also the time we clipped someone side mirror because we were just two close to them on the road… which in turn, Jason felt compelled to call the car rental company and tell them about (and I didn’t). We fought over what to do, eat, and how to drive to our destinations. In fast the last night in Nicosia, I was so grumpy at him for not actively trying to help me figure out what to see in Nicosia since out time was so short. Then later I got mad over a bathroom. Because he wouldn’t use the bathroom at a place that required a purchase in order to get the bathroom pin code… Can you tell that it’s most me, Catie, getting mad about his integrity to do what is RIGHT and GOOD???

We argued, got short with one another, asked for forgiveness, gave forgiveness, shared sweet moments, and fell in love all over again. But you know, isn’t that marriage? It is, and it is worth every bit of it!

Now it’s your turn:

Have you been you Cyprus?

How do you celebrate your wedding anniversary?

Would you want to travel here one day?

What suggestions do you have for our next trip one day?


Read more about Cyprus via my guide at Nomadasauras.


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Read more information about other islands we have visited:

TRAVEL: #funkchristmas2016 Tour Itinerary and Basel, Switzerland

European Christmas markets have been on my bucket list a long time. I would see articles every year about the markets. In fact, I took several of the city names from the articles I would come across, searched google maps, and then left a pretty little star on them. I love that you can star locations in Google maps. The stars are usually a reminder of where we have been. But for this purpose, the stars showed me how close some of the markets were to one another.

Christmas Markets Google Stars


Since my cousin moved to Germany several years ago, it has always been in the back of my mind to return to Germany. If you wonder how I travel, it usually revolves around a friend who lives in this country or that country.  I toured Europe for five weeks in this same style, only staying in a hostel for six nights. Friend stays are the best, and we LOVE to return them(*hint*hint*come visit us!*). After chatting about a visit, she sweetened the deal with an offer to house/cat sit while her family went to the states for Christmas and New Year. HUGE bonus. That meant we could have some full sightseeing days at the beginning and end of the journey(Catie’s preference), meet up and have some time with her family, and then also have some chill time around the holidays (Jason’s choice).

So how did we decide what markets to visit? My cousin suggested a few markets that were within driving distance of her house. From there, I looked at markets nearby. I found some cheaper tickets into Basel Switzerland. From Basel to Strasbourg, France, the train was only 2 hours. In Strasbourg we met my cousin since it was just a 1.5-hour drive for her. From Strasbourg, we headed to Saarbrücken, Germany by car for an hour. Then we finished our first round of markets by going to Kaiserslautern by car for 1 hour.  It is all incredibly close.


Roundtrip flights from Izmir to Frankfurt were less than $500 roundtrip for the both of us. But Jason and I opted for a flight to Basel since the one ways flights were only $80 per person. I figured we could cover a little more ground with one-way tickets. This one-way option allowed us to then travel onward to Prague to meet some friends and fly back from there.  Our flight from Turkey left in the morning and gave us plenty of time to explore Basel before moving on to France the next morning. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until we were halfway through our flight to Basel that I learned that Basel’s Airport was actually in France! I had a little freak out moment but realized that it wasn’t a big deal because it is the only airport for Basel. After landing and grabbing our bags, we found the bus that took us into Basel’s downtown.


Since our stay was only one night, the private room via Airbnb was a perfect, cheap option. Apparently, we are beyond a hostel life but still ok to have a private room in someone’s apartment… For those of you who may be weirded out by trying this option on Airbnb, don’t be. All the times I have used a private room have been great! It’s like staying in a friend’s home… that you may not ever see again. Ha!


Basel, a city of 165,000 people, is known for being a cultural capital of Europe with its 40 museums to explore. But we came for one sole purpose, and I am not ashamed of it. Basel introduced us to our FIRST Christmas markets, and it was(to be completely cheesy) LOVELY and MAGICAL. As Jason would keep saying (and this may embarrass him a little), ‘This is just lovely!’ And he was absolutely right.

Coming from Izmir, Turkey, there are a few decorations mostly for the new year – some snowmen, lights, and maybe a tree. But the markets in Basel were beautiful and ornate. Think of a quaint little town square newly crowded with a maze of small wooden houses. But it doesn’t stop there. Every single house is then covered with evergreens branches, ornaments, ribbons, and lights. All throughout the markets are evergreen trees creating a village-like atmosphere somewhere in a forest. The detail of the signs and displays of the vendors are all in character, even down to the price tags on every item you want to buy.

2016 Funk Travels Christmas Markets Basel Switzerland


Most of our money we pulled out of the ATM was spent on food. Yes, all $50 of it. Switzerland is known to be more expensive, but it really took us by surprise how quickly our money was used up! In the chilly weather, sausages and sweets filled our tummies up, and mulled wine kept us warm! When you order your first wine at the markets, a deposit is made for the ceramic mugs. When another mug of wine is ordered, the last mug is exchanged for a new one, and you pay only for the refill. When you are ready to leave, return the mug back to any vendor that sells wine, and they will refund your deposit.

If any of you reading this know me, then you already know I kept at least one of our mugs. And may have started a small new collection of Christmas market mugs! Other than food, we found a small delicate ornament with a lovely snowy village cut into the wood as our souvenir. The vendors are diverse and unique provided lots of opportunities to meander through the markets and ‘window shop.’


So why so little time in one place? Simple, our sole purpose of these visits was to see different Christmas markets in different countries. It made deciding what to do and how to spend our time so easy. Museums, churches, and other touristy things were just a bonus to our travel if we happened upon them. Having one central theme made our trip relaxing and chill. Plus, living so close to Europe means we can go back, and Switzerland is a must!

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Up next:

PART 2 – Strasbourg, France

PART 3 – Germany – Saarbrücken, Kaiserslautern, Heidelberg, and Frankfurt

PART 4 – Prague, Czech Republic