Out and about in downtown Athens yesterday I climbed the white marble steps of Syntagma Square to the old palace in time to see the changing of the Evzones or Presidential Guard. Well, a minor changing of the guard anyway. The big ceremony takes place every Sunday at 11am. This was just a regular change of shift, but this meant less tourists and still see the incredible uniforms.
The Evzones is the elite Presidential Guard unit of the Hellenic army. Selected for their height, superb physical conditioning and excellence of psychological state as well as morality and character. As such the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people.
Each guard must stand perfectly still while on guard for 60 minutes at a time, 3 times within 48 hours. At the changing of the guard, the steps must be carried out slowly because of the lack of blood flow after an hour of perfect immobility.
The uniforms are steeped in historical meaning. There are exactly 400 folds in the white shirt for example. These represent 400 years of Ottoman occupation.