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Online with Apollo and driving with Athenians

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From the chaos of Greece’s capital city to the Sanctuary of Delphi

I cursed myself for getting into such a mess but there was no backing out now. Like it or not I was committed to launching the shiny little Citroen 2CV from the sidewalk of Omonia square into the maelstrom of Athens rush-hour traffic. While Betty puzzled over the faded Xeroxed map I struggled to figure out how the car worked. The roof was simple enough – same principle as a window blind – but the other controls were baffling. No help from the company rep. Perhaps not wanting to witness what happened next he got our signatures on a release form and promptly disappeared.

We were bumbling around Greece on an open-ended schedule and having spent the last few days trudging around Athens on foot we were eager to get out of the city. Renting a car seemed like a good idea. We sprung a deal with a local car rental agency, completed the paper work, and were told the car would be ready in the morning. It could be picked up where the salesman marked an X on our map. It was there alright, parked on the sidewalk of a busy traffic circle, and tended by a young salesman who spoke not a word of English.

By trial and error I got the engine going and determined that the gidget protruding from the centre of the dashboard, which I took to be the hand brake, was actually the gear shift. The moment of truth had arrived. Picking an opening amongst a hoard of onrushing taxis I lurched off the curb. With the engine racing while I fiddled with the gearshift and Betty looked for the right exit we sped round and round the traffic circle like rats trapped on a cage-wheel. Finally, in desperation, I swung into the first available opening and ended up on a quiet side street where we pulled over, heaved a sigh of relief, and got ourselves together.

By mid-morning, headed south on the coast road to Cape Sounion, the horror of Athens traffic was behind us like a bad dream. The little Citroen handled like a charm and with the top rolled back and the warm sea air in our faces we cruised along Attica's Apollo coast which, despite over development of its many beaches, offers stunning vistas of the sea.

It was still early when we pulled into the nearly empty parking lot at Cape Sounion, 30 km south of Athens. Located on the southern tip of the Attica Peninsula and surrounded by rocky cliffs that tumble into the Aegean Sea, the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion has one of the most dramatic settings on the coast. Perched on a craggy spur 65 metres above the ocean, it has been a landmark for mariners for hundreds of years. It was built in 444 BC, at the same time as the Parthenon, and dedicated for worship of the God of the Sea.

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