2016-07-16

Syntagma Square: Change of the guard

Two Greek soldiers in the traditional uniform of the "Evzonas" (which means "well-armed") stand in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Greek Parliament. Every hour of the day, on the hour, there is a change of the guard that Greeks and tourists gather to watch.

On Sunday, at 11:00 am however, a special, full-fledged ceremony takes place, with a whole regiment of Evzones and a military band accompanying the change of the guard. Arrive at least 15' early to catch a good view. You won't be able to stand as close to the guards as on the other hours and days but it's worth it. The Evzones come out of their barracks, located at Maximou St. - at the backside of the National Garden-, they march down Leoforos Vassilissis Sofias, which gets cordoned off for the occasion, and then turn left on Leoforos Amalias, in front of the Parliament.

The Evzones arrive at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in front of the Greek Parliament, for Sunday's ceremonial change of the guard

A full regiment of Evzones accompany Sunday's 11:00am change of the guard, in front of the Greek Parliament

Standing still as the military band gets ready to play Greece's national anthem
The Evzones perform some elaborate routine, to replace the guards of the previous hours with the new ones, and then the national anthem is played by the military band. It's a moving moment, even for people like yours truly, who don't generally care much about ceremonies and flag waving crowds.
Crowds gathered around to watch, locals and tourists alike.

...Going back to the Guard's barracks.

Marching along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, towards the Guard's barracks.

Marching in stride


Evzones marching back to their barracks in the National Garden, along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, after the Sunday, 11:00 am Change of the Guard.

The Evzonas uniform is a result of painstaking work, leading to a complicated, hand-made whole, with the kilt-like foustanela having 400 pleats (representing the 400 years of slavery under the Ottomans), a leather belt, hard-leather shoes called tsarouhia bearing metal-reinforced soles, etc. The typical Evzonas or tsolias uniform depicted here and in most tourist souvenirs is the "summer uniform" which was the traditional uniform in the continental, southern pat of Greece. During the cold season, the Evzones wear an alternative winter uniform, from the region of Macedonia, while on special occasions they may wear traditional uniforms from the islands or from the Pontus (Black Sea) area.

You may combine watching the change of the guard with a visit to the garden of the Presidential Mansion, right after the ceremony.


You may follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

2016-07-15

"Walking" some more... (personal thoughts with a touch of mystery)

Last night I finally made it.

I got out of the house, the cool night breeze hitting me in the face, and walked into the night. There was nothing particular about this walk. Familiar pavements, familiar buildings, the usual neighborhood shops that I hurriedly pass-by or drive-by every day.

But it was a walk none the less. Detached from the daily routine, forgetful of my endless to-do lists, away from my screens and monitors, just walking in the almost empty streets. It cleansed my mind of ideas and worries and just reminded me of why I decided to name this blog the way I did, years ago. I would become a "night-guide" to foreign visitors willing, but afraid, to venture out into the dark streets of Athens. I would discreetly accompany them on long, purposeless walks, in the bland neighborhoods and the outer suburbs, just so they could absorb the feeling of the place. I would tell them about life here and, if they so felt, I'd listen to their stories as well. I would show them the vistas, the hidden corners and the dangerous streets that tourists never get to see. The few, the plain, the uninspiring, the magic. Connections would form and ideas for new stories and maybe even books would be born. And I would walk and get paid for it on top!

Athens or not, a Walker I shall remain!

Why don't you follow me on Twitter and Facebook?

2015-12-27

Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.3)

This is the third and final part of my phooto walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. Here are part 1 and part 2.

Above and besides the Megaro Moussikis Metro Station, you'll see a park called Parko Eleftherias. The main feature is a bronze statue of former Greek Statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, seen here with the Hill of Lycabettus in the background.

Eleftherios Venizelos statue, constructed by sculptor Yannis Pappas in 1969 - Parko Eleftherias - Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece; Lycabettus Hill in the background.

Right next to it you have the building that lends its name to the metro station and is one of the major modern landmarks of Athens. The Athens Concert Hall (literally 'Mansion of Music' in Greek) which was inaugurated in 1991, after almost 40 years of planning and works. Ever since, it has become the main place for classical music concerts (and more) in Greece. A "sister Concert Hall" was created in Thessaloniki in 2000. A few years ago, the Conceret Hall's building was complemented with the restoration / creation of a park in the surrounding landscape, in the form of a garden that is referred to as Parko Eleftherias (the second half of it) or simply as the Garden of the Athens Concert Hall.

Panoramic view of the Athens Concert Hall, Vassilissis Sophias Ave., Athens, Greece. The US Embassy stands to its right.

I don't have a photo of the US Embassy as, quite frankly, I avoid taking a picture of it for fear of being black-listed as a dangerous element or something...  I will however, post a photo that does not belong to me (for the first and last time) and which comes from the 1960's when it was first built. It was a really beautiful building at the time, in full harmony with its surroundings, but now it has become something of a concrete monster and a fortress, due to the continuous upgrading of security measures. [Do contact me if you know anything about the source of this photograph].
U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece in the 1960's. Corner of Vassilissis Sofias and Petrou Kokkali St. Source unknown.
After "the Embassy", there's the small Mavili Square which for many years had been an Athens after-hours hang-out. Cafeterias, bars, a pastry-shop and the most famous sandwich shop in late night Athens.
The last part of Vassilissis Sofias gets increasingly impersonal and dissolves into the Ambelokipi neighborhood which stands for “vineyards” but is now one of the most densely built areas of Athens.

Buildings along Vassilissis Sofias, right after Mavili Square (to the left).

The entrance of a most characteristic block of flats, at the corner of Vassilissis Sofias and Xenias St., Athens, Greece



Hippokrateio Hospital, 114, Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece

The grand exception to this are the “Athens Towers 1 & 2” which were built in 1971. Athens Tower 1, at 103 meters (28 floors) tall has been Greece’s tallest building for the last 45 years. One could see it as a metaphor for the country’s “agrarian conservatism” and resulting stagnation of the past decades but that’s a different kind of discussion…


Athens Tower 1 and Athens Tower 2; Athens, Greece

Athens Tower 1 (left) has been Greece's tallest building since 1971.


The construction of tall buildings in Greece has faced a red light for the last 40 years.

After the towers you come to a major intersection. The continuation of Vassilissis Sofias is called Kifissias Avenue, as it leads to the northern suburb of Kifissia. To the right you have Fidipiddou St., and to the left you have Alexandras Avenue, which I have already presented in a similar post years ago.


 Why don't you follow me on Twitter and Facebook?