Monday, July 23, 2012

Changing of the Guards in Athens, Greece...

July 9, 2012
Greece/Turkey Trip

We continued on our way to watch the ceremonial procession of the changing of the guards at the Parliament Building.  This elite unit is called Evzones and they are all volunteers being selected from the Hellenic Army's Infantry.  Most are identified during basic training at the Recruit Training Center.  They guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Presidential Mansion 24 hours a day.  The guards are disciplined standing at attention and cannot move.  There is a minimum height for them of 1.86 meters which converts to just a little over 6'1"; but most of them average over 6'3".

The military police are responsibility for them and if something on their uniform gets out of place, blowing in the wind or such, it is up to the police to straighten or keep everything in place during their guard duty

Here we are with one of the guards.  Obviously we could not touch them.
If we happened to do that, (which we did not); but if we did,
they would bang their gun on the pavement and the police would come. 
They have a regimented walk or march they do changing from one tower to the other every 15 minutes just to keep circulation going in their legs and feet.  They stand guard for one hour and then a new set of guards comes.  Lambros explained that they have a shift with this rotation for 6 hours; then new guards do the same rotation -- thus the changing of the guards.  We happened to get there for one of the hourly changes taking place.

The kilt-like uniform is interesting including the leggings and clunky shoes all adorned with tassels.
Here are a few photos of the pomp and circumstance they go through (well, maybe more than a few once I compiled them):
The change begins...
the march is very slow and controlled.
They pull their leg up and then it goes straight out
and then they hold it there.
There is a very precise way of going back down too.
It is all in slow motion.
Now he waits for the other guard to basically
do the same thing.
I noticed this guard did not get his leg as high :-) 
They meet in the middle and the military police
inspects and straightens their uniform.
Two new guards are escorted in by another guard and the military police.
Orders are given by the escort
The old guards...
begin their march away, perfectly in sync. 
...every step in sync!
until gone.
The new guards then begin their march into place.  Our guide, Lambros, told us that people are usually lined along the sidewalk, but we picked a perfect time to be there.  (It’s nice something right happened for us.)  He also said that if people are in the way, then the guards still do their march and there are times that people get kicked.  The whole process was interesting and we had the best view and could move for pictures as needed.  I found the whole process very interesting.  I cannot imagine standing in the blazing hot sun wearing that uniform – not able to move or wipe the sweat.

One last thing in Athens, we stopped to by some baklava and Lambros circled around the block.  While we were waiting, we saw these police and just snapped a picture; no particular reason, just part of the touring for us.
Greek Police 
There was another policeman standing over a little ways and he was not in the picture, but he came up to us and very arrogantly asked, “why?”  Dennis told him just touring and was just curious for our photo collection.  The officer again asked, “why?”

I’m thinking did you not just hear what we said, and we explained it again.  He again asked, “why?”  By now, I could tell he was really on a power trip and we certainly had not done anything illegal; but, I asked him, “do you want me to delete it?!?  He just held up his hand and said, “bye!”  We walked away and just laughed and thought that it was pretty sad that the only really rude person we have met thus far was a policeman!  He was very young…and what’s funny, he was not even in the picture and the other guys who were... never said a word.

With that said and done, Lambros made his way around the block and picked us up.  We were now headed to the Athens airport to depart for Istanbul… we’ll hope this flight goes uneventful :-) We will first meet up with our friend, Julide, in Istanbul.

Thanks to Lambros and Private Greece Tours for a wonderday day!  I have linked to the web-site throughout this tour and on my blog because the company truly did cater to our needs and wants. We were on a limited time-frame for the day but yet we were able to see so much (between 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.) because of our flight schedule.  Private tours are the best, a luxury I recommend to everyone who tours.  Your schedule is around you and the places you want to go and it is at the pace you want to go.  You do not have to wait on anyone or worry about keeping up with anyone.  Our pace is usually "on go!" we enjoy the fact that we are never waiting on anyone!

Okay, our travels continue on to Turkey and there is nothing better than spending time with a friend who can show you around!

Continued… Istanbul, Turkey

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