The most important and elaborate changing of the guard, which includes a marching band, occurs weekly on Sundays at 11am.
In front of the Old Royal Palace in Syntagma Square lies the most important war memorial in Greece, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It commemorates every Greek soldier who has died fighting for his country, and as a result is a sombre place that demands the respect of visitors.
However, it is also spectacular in its own way. The Tomb is guarded by the Evzones, otherwise known as the presidential guard, a historically elite fighting force. Though their role is now predominantly ceremonial, the Evzones are still chosen from regular Greek army infantry units, with the requirement that they must be a minimum of 1.87m (6’2”) tall. As a result, their appearance is rather intimidating, and this effect is made all the more dramatic by the unusual uniform they wear. Their flamboyant attire is descended from that of the Klephts, warlike mountain Greeks who fought the occupying Ottoman forces from the 15th century onwards.
These days the Evzones guard the tomb around the clock, and rotate personnel every hour on the hour in the elaborate “changing of the guard” ceremony. This involves marching up and down several times and stamping the ground hard with their right feet. The guards on duty also switch places every 15 minutes, but apart from this, they are absolutely motionless and at attention at all times. This was demonstrated in the most dramatic fashion in 2001, when a participant of a violent protest threw a Molotov cocktail at the wooden guardhouse. It immediately went up in flames, but the evzone on guard beside did not move until given the order to do so, at which point it could be seen by all that his uniform was partially on fire.
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