ATHENS -- Summer temperatures here hit the searing 90s by early morning, and by afternoon, they have settled into three-digit figures. Dogs sack out on the sidewalks. The ubiquitous cats settle in the shade. Mere mortals wilt as the city scorches in the sun.
Of course, Athenians know how to deal with this. If possible, they vacation in August, heading off to family homes in island or mountain villages, where afternoons are siesta time and the action doesn't start until night has softened the heat and glare. If you are visiting Athens for the Olympic Games, which start on Friday, or for any other reason, this is not an option. Fortunately, Athenians who do stick around have some heat-busting stratagems. Here are 10 you can adopt, many of them right around Syntagma Square, the throbbing heart of the city.
1. Suck it up -- a frappe, that is. The Greeks pronounce it ''fra PAY" and what you get is an iced coffee with a straw. It's the national drink, and it's made with Nescaf because the Greeks accept no other brand. You can get frappes at any cafe or bar, and they do cool you down, as you see if you watch people at work: Most keep a frappe at their side so they can take reviving sips throughout the day. The waiter will ask if you want milk and sugar.
2. Make way for ducklings. The ducks of Athens live in the National Garden, next to the yellow Parliament Building. Parliament originally was the palace of Otto I, a Bavarian prince who became the first king of Greece after it won independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832. The gardens were designed by Queen Amalia for the royal family. Now open to the public, they are the shadiest spot in the city, with trees towering over serpentine paths, sculpture gardens, and a grotto with a cafe where you can get a frappe. In the center is a duck pond, a-quack with snowy white ducks. Just looking at them feels refreshing.
3. Go underground. Descend into the beautiful new Metro station in Syntagma Square. It's cool down there -- and there's lots to see. Inevitably, while the station was under construction, ancient remains were found, and several artifacts are on display in elegant cases. Even more interesting is the wall that exposes the layers (and some graves) of the ancient and Byzantine cities underlying the modern metropolis. Check out the giant clock suspended in the center of the station and watch folks scurrying on the platforms below. You can enter the station at several points, one of them near the National Garden, so you might want to follow your visit to the ducks with this subterranean jaunt.
4. Visit Great Britain. Not the country but Athens' most famous hotel, called by the French name Hotel Grande Bretagne. It stands opposite Parliament and long has been a haunt for politicians and journalists as well as celebrities who demand nothing but the best. After a pre-Olympic face-lift, it is luxurious, elegant, and blessedly cool. Admire its marble floors. Visit its corner cafe -- a terrific place to watch the bustle of Athens pass by -- or settle down to a frappe (or coffee or tea) in the palm court. Maybe even plan a visit to the new day spa. If you ever dreamed you dwelt in marble halls, the Grande Bretagne will make you think dreams really do come true.
5. Ponder the past. Athens has many museums, and they have to stay cool to protect their treasures. Take advantage of their air conditioning. One of the nicest is the Benaki, just off Syntagma at 1 Koumbari St., the neoclassical home of Antoine Benaki who assembled much of the collection and donated it to the nation. The Benaki is a connoisseur's delight, with fine collections of antiquities, a superb display of Greek folk costumes, important memorabilia of 19th- and early 20th-century Greek history, and a collection of icons that dazzle even the untrained eye. It even has a couple of El Grecos. (He painted in Spain, where he was called El Greco, for ''the Greek"; his name was Domenikos Theotokopulos and he got his start as a creator of icons in Crete.) After admiring the treasures of this small and elegant museum, stop by the fourth-floor cafe. While you sip a cool beverage, admire the superb view over the Parliament, Syntagma, and National Garden. (Of course, Athens has other museums. The huge National Archeological Museum on Tositsa Street is one of the world's most famous museums of antiquities and it is not to be missed. The Folk Art Museum on Kydatheneon Street in Plaka, the old town of Athens, and the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum on Kallisperi Street near the Acropolis are also special.)
6. Take a ride. Greece has scores of islands and ferries that run from Piraeus, the port city that merges into the Athens conurbation. In 493 BC Themistocles, a statesman and general who prevented the Persians conquering Athens, noticed its harbor was perfect for the navy. Since then, Piraeus has been one of Europe's chief ports. Boats are always arriving and departing and government policy keeps fares to the islands cheap. Take a boat from Gate E to Aegina, the nearest island and only an hour's ride. It's cool sitting on the deck. The view of the Parthenon is lovely, and the multitude of enormous ferries, tankers, freighters, and cruise boats coming and going is astonishing. When you get to Aegina, you can wander its pretty harbor, buy some pistachios -- reputedly the best in Greece and truly delicious -- and get the next boat back to Athens. Or you could rent a scooter and whiz through the pistachio orchards to the well-preserved Temple of Aphaia, which dates to 480 BC. From the hill, you get a superb view of the Saronic Gulf. You also can get a frappe (or a beer or glass of wine) at the pretty cafe tucked under the pines that shade the site.
7. Go jump in a lake. Take a bus or taxi along Vouliagmenis Avenue, one of the main roads out of the city. If you are on a bus, change in Glyfada for the charming resort of Vouliagmeni, about 15 miles from Athens. It has beaches galore, but the coolest place to be is at Vouliagmeni Lake. Right on the main road to Cape Sounion, the lake is surrounded by cream-colored limestone cliffs, and bordered by gardens and a terrace, where you can get frappes (also fresh orange juice) and light meals. Fed both by a mineral spring and by seawater, the lake is famed for its therapeutic effects. Some people sit in it for hours, quietly bobbing about and chatting with friends. Others swim up and down, peering into the caves, while still others do a gentler kind of aerobics hanging onto the rope that separates the shallow section where children paddle and play. On weekends, hordes of elegant young people come out from Athens. It's a great place for people of all ages, and the water is divine: cooling not chilling.
8. Feel the wind in your hair. The road that takes you to Vouliagmeni continues for about another 25 miles along the pretty coastline to Cape Sounion, where the ruined Temple of Poseidon perches on a cliff overlooking the seaway into Piraeus. An important landmark for mariners since ancient times, it was erected in 444 BC to appease the feared god of the sea and earthquakes. Now it is little more than several romantic columns, etched all over with the signatures of visitors, most notably that of the English poet Lord Byron. He is a favorite with Greeks because he raised a regiment of fighters on their behalf in the struggle for independence from the Ottomans, finally losing his life in the sea at Mesolngion in 1824. However hot the day, there is always a breeze at Sounion. There is also a pleasant cliff-top cafe, where you can get light meals -- and of course, frappes.
9. Take a dip. You are rarely far from the sea in Greece and there are many beaches. You could take a dip at the one down a hill from Sounion, or at one of the dozens of small beaches and coves between Sounion and Vouliagmeni. All are free. Vouliagmeni has several beaches, including the lovely Astir beach, and from there around the curve of the bay to the resort of Glyfada there are several more glamorous beaches, most of which charge $5-$6, which includes use of changing facilities, chaises, and umbrellas. This coastal area is called the Apollo Coast or the Gold Coast, a name that refers to the bright sands and its upmarket denizens. Closer to Athens are more beaches, many of them public, maintained by the community, and replete with facilities, playgrounds, and cafes. Admission is generally around $4.
10. Catch a flick. If it's the end of the day and you are still hot, go to the movies. American and European films are usually shown in Greece with subtitles, so you can enjoy recently released movies somewhere in the city or its suburbs. Look for one of the many outdoor movie theaters, which range from old-style open-air theaters that close in winter, to rooftop theaters in modern complexes. Invariably cool and relaxing, most have tables scattered among the seats. Greeks often bring their own drinks: Beer and Scotch are special favorites. In the lobby, you can get Cokes, popcorn, ice cream -- and frappes.
Claire Hopley is a freelance writer in Leverett.