Have you ever been to Athens, the capital of Greece, and paused to watch the mesmerizing allure of the changing of the guard ceremony? If you haven’t, you are missing out on a captivating spectacle, steeped in history and national pride. Today, I’ll guide you through the extraordinary history of the changing of the guard in Athens and provide you with handy tips on how best to experience this unique event.
The History of the Changing of the Guard
The changing of the guard in Athens takes place in front of the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square and is performed by the Evzones, Greece’s Presidential Guard. This recurring ceremony has become an emblem of Athens, symbolizing the courage and self-sacrifice of the Greek people.
The Evzones are a special unit of the Greek Army, established in 1868. Their name, “Evzone”, literally means “well-girt,” a reference to their traditional attire, comprising a kilt (fustanella) and tassel shoes (tsarouchia). The details of their uniform hark back to the Greek wars of independence in the 19th century, and each element has symbolic meaning.
What to Expect from the Changing of the Guard
Every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the Evzones perform their changing of the guard. During the ceremony, the soldiers parade in a choreographed ballet, characterized by slow and controlled movements, resembling more a dance than a military march. The slowness and precision of their movements are an homage to the perseverance and resilience of the Greek people.
Every Sunday at 11:00, there is a much more elaborate changing of the guard, with the addition of the military band. This is definitely the occasion not to be missed for those who want to fully experience the tradition of the changing of the guard.
How to Visit the Changing of the Guard
The changing of the guard is free and open to the public. There is no need to book or buy tickets. Here are some tips to make the most of your experience:
- Arrive early: Syntagma Square can get very crowded, especially during the Sunday ceremony. Arriving early will ensure you a front-row spot.
- Respect: Remember, the changing of the guard is not just a tourist attraction. It’s a tribute to fallen Greek soldiers. Maintain respectful behavior during the ceremony.
- Photography: You can take photos during the ceremony, but avoid interfering with the procession. It’s not allowed to touch or disturb the Evzones.
- Wear sunscreen and bring water: Athens can be very hot, especially in summer. Protect yourself from the sun and stay hydrated.
The changing of the guard in Athens is a rich experience of history and culture that every visitor should see. I recommend you take the time to witness this event and immerse yourself in the tradition and pride of the Greek people. Safe travels!
The History Behind the Evzones’ Uniform
The changing of the guard ceremony is a living representation of Greece’s history, visible through the Evzones’ uniform. Each element has a precise meaning and recalls the resilience and bravery of the Greek people throughout history.
The ‘fustanella’, the kilt worn by the Evzones, is made up of 400 pleats, one for each year of Ottoman occupation. The ‘tsarouchia’, the traditional leather shoes, weigh 1.5 kg each and are adorned with a large black pom-pom, a symbol of mourning for those fallen in the wars of independence. The entire uniform is completed by a white shirt, a hand-vest, and a red cap with a black tassel.
Interacting with the Evzones
The Evzones represent a symbol of Greece and its history and are highly respected. Even though they may appear motionless and inaccessible, the truth is that they are prepared to interact with the public under certain circumstances.
During the changing of the guard, it is important to maintain a respectful distance from the Evzones. Physical contact or attempts to distract are not allowed. Despite their role as a tourist attraction, they perform a serious military and ceremonial duty.
How to Get to Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square, where the changing of the guard takes place, is easily accessible by public transportation. You can take the subway to Syntagma Station, which is connected to all major lines. If you are staying in central Athens, the square is also within walking distance.
After witnessing the changing of the guard ceremony, there are many other attractions nearby that you can visit. The National Garden of Athens, for example, is just a short walk away and offers a green oasis in the middle of the city. Moreover, the Plaka neighborhood, with its quaint alleys and numerous taverns and shops, is perfect for a relaxing stroll.
Also visit the Acropolis Museum, a short walk away. This modern museum houses thousands of artifacts recovered from the Acropolis and its slopes, allowing you to delve into the history of ancient Greece.
The changing of the guard in Athens is more than a mere tourist attraction; it is a celebration of Greek culture, pride, and history. Participating in this ceremony will allow you to take a journey back in time and appreciate the historical heritage of this fascinating country. Safe travels and happy discoveries!