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Changing of the Guards, Athens

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One of the most unique experiences I have seen is the changing of the guards in Athens. It is a ceremony that takes place on on a Sunday.

The Greek parliament is located at the east side of Syntagma Square. In front of the building is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, The presidential guards or Evzones, guard it. Evzones are an elite unit of the Greek army and it is a very high honour for a Greek guard to be selected as an Evzone.They are tall, a minimum of 1.9 meters (6’1”), have big feet and have to be disciplined and proud.

After the standard five month training for a conscripted soldier they follow a hard training regime for a further month to become part of this honorary unit. The movements of the guards is highly stylised, done in slow motion to preserve the guards circulation after standing completely still for one hour and is fascinating to watch.

While tourists are taking photos the soldiers must not even make a facial or eye movement. And then there is mastering the special ceremonial walk.

The traditional dress of the Greek guards include the while kilt or “Foustanella” which has 400 pleats representing the number of years Greece was under Turkish occupation. They are handmade by special craftsman taking around 80 days to make.

During the March, they synchronise their goosestep-like stride, slow paced and elaborate, stiff leg raised high, leg flicking straight out in slow motion, front then back, striking the ground forcefully with the right foot, whilst swinging arms high.

If you are in Athens I would strongly suggest you to witness the pomp and ceremony. Absolutely a must see. The ceremony is short but impressive.

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Vidhi 💕

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