Changing of the Guard, Athens
In the state capital, Athens, members of the elite Evzones light infantry unit, provide a 24-hour honor guard, with an hourly guard change, at the Presidential Mansion and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, off Syntagma Square at the foot of the Hellenic Parliament. The changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in particular has become a tourist attraction, with many people marvelling at the guards, who stand motionless for their entire shifts. Every Sunday at 11:00 a ceremonial change of guards takes place. A parade of Evzones and a military band starts from the camp of the Evzones (just behind the Parliament Building) and through Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, reaches the Tomb of the Unknown soldier where a ceremonial change of guards takes place. On this occasion all the three official uniforms of the Evzones can be seen. For the needs of the ceremonial change of guard, Vasilissis Sofias Avenue and Amalias Avenue are briefly closed to traffic from approximately 10:55 to 11:05 on Sunday mornings.
YOU MAY POSE WITH THE GAURDS FOR A PHOTO BUT NO TOUCHING!
The Tomb of the Unknown soldier- in memory of all the anonymous Greek soldiers that have fallen in the battlefield- in front of the Parliament is a monument where Greek officials and visiting dignitaries lay wreaths on major holidays. It bears an inscription with the Funeral Speech of Pericles. On the walls there are shields and other inscriptions that commemorate victories of the Greek army from 1821 and on. The monument is guarded day and night by a pair of elite soldiers called Evzones. The changing of the guard every hour is one of the top highlights of Athens. Many people gather to see them every Sunday at 11 am- then is the most impressive changing.Their foustanela (kilt) has 400 pleats each for every year of the Turkish occupation. Also there are three versions of the costume. One for summer (khaki color), one for winter (blue) and one that is the most formal (on Sundays and celebrations). Contrary to what many foreigners believe the Evzones are not paid to do their job. This is actually their military service. I will do my military service in 2006 after I finish with my studies. But I can’t be an Evzone. I’m not tall enough. They have to be at least 1,87 m . I’m 1,82m. Being an Evzone is of course an immense honour. But on the other hand it is a trouble. They have to be PERFECT. Penalties for imperfection (even details) are severe.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, right in front of the building of Parliament, is guarded by two members of the Army's Presidential Guard.
The guards, dressed in traditional revolutionary garb, stand guard around the clock, and they never move or acknowledge the many tourists who try to gain their attention. On Sunday mornings the guard changes in grand ceremony, accompanied by a military band.
At the area between syntagma square and parliament lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was built in 1932 and there are always 2 guards (called Evzones of the Presidential Guard) on a 24 hour basis. They change through a small guard ceremony every hour but its better to watch it on Sunday at 11 o’clock in the morning when an army band is there and more than 120 guards parade. These guards are an elite ceremonial unit that also guard the Presidential Mansion (not far from the parliament on Herodes Atticus Street) and they are chosen for their height and strength. They also do the official raising of the flag every Sunday at the Acropolis.
What’s more the guards use to be the photo models for the tourists that want to capture their traditional uniform, which has evolved from the outfits worn by the warriors who fought the ottoman turks. Their kilt-like garment ‘fustanela’ is really funny…
The Evzones are the presidential guards who perform the "Changing of the Guard" ceremony every hour in front of the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. There is a more elaborate ceremony performed once each Sunday, except on the Orthodox Easter Sunday.
Everybody likes to snicker at the guard's uniforms and gawk at their silly walk. The Evzones have pom poms on the top of their shoes and wear a short skirt with long stockings. You are allowed to have photographs standing in their vicinity but be careful with your behavior. If an Evzone thinks you are getting too close, too loud, or too silly, ... then he will slam his rifle butt down hard in order to get your immediate attention. You can see this happens often, as evidenced by the circle of white marble dust next to his foot. (See photo #3)
The highlight of the hourly changing ceremony is when the two guards slowly approach each other then stop and touch the soles of their shoes together in the midst of a high step.
You'll want your camera ready for that moment, but they actually hold that position long enough for you to take more than three photos.
A friendly supervising officer is always present to answer tourist's questions. He wears an ordinary uniform and can be observed inspecting the posture of the guards. Appropriate questions include inquiring about the schedule for the Sunday ceremony, the permitted proximity for photos with the Evzones, and the location of the nearest Chinese restaurant.
(Go down Stadiou Street and you'll see it, Far East, on the left!)
I have been reading that the changing of the guard was something to see in Athens. But it was not in my mind when I was walking in the national garden. But outside the garden fence there was some of the Evzones marching down the street. Then as a old royal guards man in denmark I had to see the drill they do. And I must sad they are very good the drill send a signal of strong will. If anybudy should be in doubt, what the do if it looks funny or not its very hard work and from what I hear the Evzones are doing their normal military service. Respect for this or just respect that they have a Garand semiautomatic rifle 8 shot in the clip the first of its kind.
Due to a rehearsal for the Queen's birthday, we didn't see any changing of the guard in London, but we made up for it in Athens, and I'm sure this made up for it, as it was quite a ceremony. We did not see the big ceremonial changing on Sunday, but this was still fascinating to watch.
We arrived in front of the Parliament building not even knowing when or what was going to happen, just in time to see two guards at perfect attention at their booths and LOTS of pidgeons all over the front steps. People were posing with the guards for pictures, but beware not to get too close, as there were those who decided to get a bit fresh and a loose military man was quick to jump up there and straighten them up, and not gently! My daughter thought the pompoms were a little odd, but she found the guards very intimidating and had a hard time getting herself up there to be photographed. She did it just in time, though, as just after, the guards began their changing procession. Really something to see.
Every Sunday at 11am there is a wonderful spectacle held at Syndagma Square in the form of the Changing of the Guard. If you like this sort of pagentry then I think you will enjoy this. A marching military band accompanied by a company of soldiers in traditional dress precedes down Iródhou Attikoú to the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. There the two soldiers who had been standing guard at the tomb are replaced by two others to the sound of military marching music. It all draws quite a crowd and I was quite impressed.
This photograph was taken by me by holding my camera high over my head and shooting. It is a miracle that the shot turned out this well.
Although the guards change hourly, there is a big ceremony once a week. These ceremonial guards, the Evzones, stand motionless at the tomb of their Unknown Soldier. They are volunteers—Getting into this unit is an honor, and they have to be over 6 ft. tall. They wear white tights, a white skirt, a white blouse with very full sleeves, an embroidered vest, red cap, and shoes with big pom-poms. The uniform is based on the clothing of the Klephts, mountain fighters who fought the Turks from the 15th Century until Greek independence in the 19th Century.
The two guards stand inside small guardhouses. Just before the ceremony they step outside it, and soldiers in regular uniforms tidy them up. We watched a guy smooth out the tassels on the guard’s sash so each thread laid flat.
At the appointed time a military band comes down the street, followed by dozens of these guards. After they reach the paved area in front of parliament, there is a lot of marching around, presenting arms, etc. Eventually, the two replacement guards go up the few steps to the booths and the other two leave.
These four guys do what looks like a ballet—They move in controlled slow motion, in perfect sync, first dragging their foot backward, then raising that leg out straight before taking each step. It takes them a while to go anywhere! Eventually the two new guards are in place, and everyone else marches off.
Sunday, 10:30 a.m. (Best view—as you face the building, go to the left side)
The change of the guard is a tourist must, U gotta go see it once in a lifetime. Not as impressive as the one at Buckingham Palace, the athenian one is for me a bit more dear, more aesthetic...
It is performed by Greek soldiers called 'Evzons' or 'Tsoliades' in their traditional uniform and shoes with toes tipped by a red or black ball.
The main ceremony is at Sundays, 11:00, though there is a smaller one everyday too. The uniform is a traditional representation of Greece's historic mountain guerillas 'The Klephts' (thieves) which resisted the Turkish occupation. The skirts have 400, one for every year of the Turkish occupation.
It's a truly neat and entertaining sight to witness these Greek soldiers dressed in their khaki skirt uniforms performing their perfectly choreographed routine as they stand guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. An even better treat is if you come on a Sunday at 11am to watch the ceremonious Changing of the Guard. It's also only on this day that you can see the Evzones dressed in their traditional white and black kilts.
If you find it to crowded and you can´t get a good shot of the whole spectacle on the main square before the Parliament building go to the back corner of the National Gardens at the crossing of the streets Vasilis Sofias and Irodou Attikou (this one leads to the old Panathinaiko-Stadium).
Here there is another official building with one guard at the entrance and they change as well at every full hour and you are very close to it.
Always worth a look...and from the busloads of crowds and tourists, everyone else agrees.
Truthfully the first thing I came for and see in Athens....simply because it was evening by the time I got out of my hotel.
It's not that difficult to locate the Greek Parliament House (formerly the Royal Palace), as it was sited in busy Syndagma and is just across Amalias Avenue to the East, and is surrounded by the extensive National Gardens, which are open to the public. Every hour, the Changing of the Guard ceremony, performed by the Presidential Guards, is conducted in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the area between Syndagma Square and the Parliament House. Built during 1836-42, the facade of this grand building is also worth a look for its architectural beauty.
The exchanging of the guards takes place all day, every hour on the hour and lasts about 7-8 minutes so if you miss one, don't fret, stick around and the next ceremony isn't far away. On Sundays and official holidays, a more elaborate ceremonial changing of the guard takes place with an army band and the majority of the 120 Evzones present at 11am.
The guards are called evzones (as they are traditionally from the village of Evzoni in Macedonia) and their (to me, rather amusing) attire is based on the klephts, mountain fighters who fought valiantly for Greece's War of Independence.
So for 7-8 minutes, amuse yourself as the soldiers creak and clank themselves into position with rather exaggerrated steps and jerky manueveres. Not all too bad a way to orientate yourself into Athens!
The guard in front of the Thomb of the Unknown Soldier changes every hour. The changing is a very spectacular process so groups of tourists come to the place to watch it and take pictures.
You should see it on Sunday at 11:00. An orchestra accompanies the soldiers.
If you wish, you can take a picture with one of the soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Beware! Never step too close to the Tomb - one of the soldiers will loudly smash his gun against the floor and their commander will shout at you.