Sunday June 23rd was our last day in Athens. We started our day by visiting Syntagma Square, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Greek Parliament. We wanted to see the famous changing of the Evzone Guards that stand outside the Tomb and the Parliament.
The uniforms of the elite Evzone Guards may look a little silly to us, but they are steeped in history, tradition, and symbolism. For example, the “pom-pons” date all the way back to the ancient Mycenaeans. And the skirts of the guards have 400 pleats – one for each year of the Ottoman Empire’s occupation.
We arrived in time to see the crossing of the guards at 10:30am and then took our place on the side of the square to witness the more elaborate pomp and circumstance of the 11am changing of the guards (complete with a marching band). Then we got a photo opportunity with the guards who, like their British counterparts, aren’t allowed to move or show emotion while standing guard and must remain completely serious.
The ceremonies start precisely 5 minutes before the bottom of the hour (cross of the guards) or top of the hour (changing of the guards) and based around a high stepping slow motion march that keeps very precise time. Each ceremony miraculously completed exactly at the bottom and top of the hour. It was good that the ceremony was only 5 minutes long because it was a smoldering day (97 degrees in Athens). After the changing of the guard we headed to the Acropolis Museum to spend our afternoon with air conditioned relics indoors.