There are ceremonial guards all over the world, patiently standing watch at this very moment. Of this large cadre, the Evzone Guards of Greece must certainly be some of the most unique.
This elite infantry unit of the Greek Army stands guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Parliament Building in Athens.
The first thing that may come to your attention is their uniforms. I’m not sure about you, but these outfits aren’t the kind of gear I envision when I think of crack troops. The uniforms were made famous by a band of mountain guerrilla fighters in the early 19th Century war when Greece was fighting to send the Ottoman Turks packing. Historically, the members of this unit are seen as heroes for their courage and outrageous guerrilla tactics. Doing battle in a mini-skirt can’t have been a pretty sight, but maybe that and the cold mountain air is what made them such fierce fighters.
Today’s guards are volunteers, hand-picked from the rank-and-file, and in order to be considered each candidate must be at least 6 feet 1 inch tall. I’m not sure of the significance of this odd number, as opposed to … say an even 6 feet, but those are the rules (maybe it’s a magic metric number like 186 centimeters). Just so you know, I’m tall enough to qualify, but I draw the line at pom-pom shoes.
Tourists flock to the square hourly to see the changing of the guard. Their military performance is truly unorthodox, and the still photos don’t come close to doing it justice. You Monty Python fans may see an amazing similarity to John Cleese’s “Ministry of Silly Walks.”
Watch this short video of the Evzone Guards in action, and tip your hat to the joys of experiencing other cultures.