To mark World Car Free Day last Saturday, many Athenians went by foot, bicycles and public transport to the Archaeological Museum to admire some “ancient” cars that were on display, as a reminder of times gone by.
The highlight was a 1919 Humber that was parked outside the museum.
Today, of course, Athens is clogged with traffic. According to the Hellenic Statistical Service (ELSTAT), the number of passenger cars in circulation in Greece increased from 4.7 million in 2007 to 5.2 million in 2017. 2.8 million are registered in Attica and mostly Athens.
But when did the first car appear in Greece?
According to a book titled “I lived in the Athens of Belle Epoque” by Miltos Lidorikis, the first car appeared in the streets of Athens in 1897.
Lidorikis says that until then cars were unknown in Greece. Only those who were reading foreign newspapers and periodicals were aware of their existence.
In any case, he says, it would have been impossible to drive in the city and the outskirts. “How could it be possible to drive a machine of such fine composition in roads that were not only unsuitable but also dangerous?” he writes in the book written in the beginning of the 20th century.
He claims that the first car was brought to Greece by Nikolaos Kontogiannakis, a relative of a prominent politician of the time.
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