Written by The Heloni Team | Sept. 1, 2020
If you think that summer in Athens is tough for you, take a walk to Syntagma square and watch the
Evzones or the presidential guards in front of the old royal palace as they walk up and down with momentum and grit. You might not feel so hot after putting yourself in their pompom moccasin shoes for a moment. The shoe is called Tsarouchi and dates back from the Byzantine era. While you are there, are you wondering what they are doing? The Evzones are guarding a war memorial called ‘the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’. It is a memorial monument erected in 1930-32 to commemorate the Greek soldiers killed during the war. Battle locations of the First and Second Balkan Wars are inscribed to the left of the monument. To the right of the monument, the battle locations of the First World War are inscribed. While to the left and right side of the monument, the battle locations of the Second World War are inscribed.
Although the Evzones is a merely ceremonial unit, becoming an Evzones requires passing a tough training program and a minimum height of 1.87m. Guarding the tombs of ‘unknown soldiers’ is one of the most elite, honorable, and prestigious positions within the army. Where else can you spot them?
Two Evzones are always present in front of the old royal palace, one is present by the Presidential Mansion entrance and one at the Presidential Mansion barracks. They are also responsible for lowering the Greek flag on the Acropolis every Sunday. Evzones also take a stand as honor guards during the foreign head of state visits and participate in military parades in and outside Greece. If you are around during the Greek Independence Day on March 25th, you will surely be able to see them there.
How about some fun facts about their uniforms to start small talk while you are there? The uniform is composed of 12 parts and each needs to be in its perfect place. The uniform’s skirt or Fustanella is a cotton kilt made with 30m of white cloth with 400 pleats symbolizing the 400 years of Ottoman occupation. The Fermeli, their waistcoat is embroidered with rich traditional designs and the yellow stripes on the lower sleeves show the military rank of the wearer (two strips for sergeants and one strip for corporals). The fringes, or krossia are in blue and white colors symbolizing the Greek flag. The Evzones uniforms can vary at times, for example, an officer's uniform is different than the soldiers, the guard’s uniform during service and of service differ, the uniform varies during winter and summer and the uniform varies on some islands and in some parts of the mainland.
Since you are in front of the old
royal palace, wondering where to go next, take a moment and smile at one of the Evzoni (another colloquial term is Tsolia) and maybe make your way over there and take a selfie. Do not be surprised if you do not get a smile back. They are not allowed to smile at you, let alone change the direction of their heads. It is indeed a tough job, and with just some pleasant and recognizable smiles during their day, we can help them withstand the summer heat and sweat with a little more joy.
If you are planning your trip to Athens, then we have the perfect apartment for you! Apartment Hadrian is located just minutes from the famous Syntagma Square in the historic neighborhood of Plaka. Walk on cobblestone paths, glimpse up at the Acropolis above you, have quick souvlaki, and enjoy your coffee with dessert around the corner at Melina Cafe. Enjoy your stay in the heart of it all! Walk everywhere you need to go! And don't forget to smile the Evzoni.