My relationship with Athens just didn't work out. As much as I had wanted to love Greece's capital, the reality was that we just weren't compatible; the chemistry just wasn't there.
And, after being so disappointed by Athens (and Thessaloniki, too, for that matter), I was getting a bit worried that Greece as a whole would let me down. So far, the country had done little to impress me.
But then we got to Parga.
This little tourist town on the Ionian coast didn't feel like the rest of mainland Greece that I had seen so far. It was more colorful. More welcoming. And much, much prettier.
Needless to say, the attraction between Parga and I was immediate.
With twisting streets lined with shops and frozen yogurt stands, a Venetian castle overlooking the turquoise waters, and pastel-colored buildings stacked on top of one another along the coast, Parga was exactly the sort of place that I needed.
Those in my group who had been to the Greek islands said Parga would have fit in better there than on the mainland — just add in more people and souvenir shops. It took me roughly 15 minutes to fall in love.
The first part of my affair with Parga happened on the beach. I had been traveling for weeks with barely a glimpse of the ocean, so as soon as I arrived, I traded in my sweaty clothes for a swimsuit and sunhat and made for Krioneri Beach with a few others in my Busabout group.
We wound our way past tourist shops, fruit stands, and tiny restaurants on our way to the quay, thankful to finally be on the coast. The sun was just as unbearably hot here as it had been in Athens, but the promise of cool blue water made it bearable.
Krioneri Beach isn't the biggest or prettiest in the Parga area, but it IS the only one within walking distance from the city center. We set our towels up on the pebbly shore and made a beeline for the water.
THIS was the Greece I had been waiting to meet.
My feelings for this little Greek city came on swift and strong.
After 10 minutes on the beach, another girl and I were already considering ditching the rest of the tour to stay here for days. We could have lounged in the sun, eaten our fill of gyros and frozen Greek yogurt, and swum to our hearts content. It was definitely tempting.
Beach time was followed by $2 gyros, browsing in some of the many tourist shops for trinkets and flowing dresses, and chatting with a handful of local shopkeepers — all of whom were incredibly friendly and welcoming.
Once dusk started creeping into the sky, we met back up with the rest of our group and climbed to the top of the castle to enjoy some sunset beers.
As I stood on the castle walls and looked down at twinkling Parga an hour later, I realized I was finally feeling those butterflies that I'd been hoping to get throughout the rest of Greece — that gut feeling that lets you know when you just “click” with a place.
My relationship with Parga was unfortunately not meant to last, however. As attracted to it as I was, there was still a lot of Europe left for me to see.
But even though I may have only had a one-night stand with Parga, it's one of those sweet, fleeting relationships that I'll always remember fondly.
What do you think of Parga? Could you love it, too?
*Note: I visited Parga as part of a discounted 9-day Classic Balkan Trek tour with Busabout. All opinions, however, are my own.