Monday, September 22, 2008

Change of Guards at the Hellenic Parliament

The soldiers guards the Hellenic Parliament, the Presidential Palace, and the Tomb of the Unknown Solder. This particular guard just had his makeup retouched ;-) I saw it!

Every Sunday morning an official change of guards ceremony takes place in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The parade of Greek guards dressed in their best frilly ABBA-like top impression with matching cheerleader skirts strut their way from the back gates of the Parliament down the avenue and towards the Parliament’s quadrangle facing the huge Syntagma Square. The parade is led by a marching band uniformed in white.

Soldier in traditional mainland uniform in front of the Hellenic Parliament, and next foto is the grounds of the Parliament with tourists waiting for the changing of guards on a Sunday morning.

The change of guards in front of the Greek Parliament happen everyday but it is only during Sundays when the whole ritual is celebrated with a marching band followed by a unit of traditionally dressed Greek soldiers. Around 1045 the parade starts from the back of the Parliament and at 1100 sharp, the change of guards commence in the square.

My friend Phil jokingly told me that we will have to be there at 1030 when there are no people around. I arrived 1030 sharp and the party already started! Loads of eager tourists lined the front yard of the parliament taking pictures of the guards. It seems everyone else have the same idea.


This is the parade after the changing of guards ceremony took place. They are going back to their base which is at the back of the Hellenic Parliament.

I also noticed that the guards on duty have their own dedicated assistants interestingly dressed in guerilla fatigue outfit, who with their heavy duty rifles strapped on their backs you would think would be doing equally macho surveillance tasks. Well not – instead, they watch over these guards that look like toy soldier dolls displayed in a merchandising shop. They baby sit them, wipe their sweat, make sure their caps with tassels are arranged neatly and not blocking their eyesight, check their outfits constantly, and get this – retouch their makeup! Hmm, the Greeks take the tourists and their flashing cameras seriously.

This is the actual ceremony during the changing of the guards in the Parliament.

The soldiers are actually called the Evzones. They are said to be the elite of the Greek Army now part of the Presidential guards. You have to be the best to get recruited in this unit, be at least 180 centimeter tall / 6 feet tall (a rarity amongst Greek men), and lastly, I’ve heard, must be good looking.

Seeing the soldiers in their woolen leggings, cotton pleated kilts, and in the 35C heat make me perspire all the more! There are different varieties of the uniform I gather but the most popular of them all is the traditional mainland white which you can see in the fotos above.

Closer look of the guards taken on the backstreet when we followed them to the back of the Parliament.

Another interesting bit of inside information my almost Greek friend S who was visiting told me is their shoes. They are made of leather with wooden soles and a black pompon on top. Under the soles are nails, she said. That’s why when they do the strange march, legs up front and down, the shoes make this icky noise. It’s because of the nails! These nails I was told helped the soldiers climb up the mountains when they fought against the Turks during the Ottoman occupation.

Wow, all I can say is total basic ingenuity.

More to follow. Soon...

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