An hour after waking up, I found myself cold, wet, and huddled under an umbrella with hundreds of other people doing the same thing. Why would someone go through this, you may ask? I came to see the changing of the guards, a 300-soldier parade that takes place every Sunday in front of the Parliament Building in Athens. I woke up exhausted from the night before, since we had just gotten back from our exciting and beautiful 3-island cruise. In fact, I was so tired the night before, that I fell asleep before I could plug my phone in, and had to go the whole day without it.
This was my last Sunday in Greece, so I wanted to see the famous changing of the guards, which I hadn’t seen yet. Usually, at the top of every hour, the two guards who have been standing still get up, do some stretches while walking, and switch out with new guards who do the same stretches. The whole ordeal of the kick-stretching combined with the uniforms consisting of pom-pom shoes, leggings, a skirt, and several tassels leads to an experience that is a bit goofy to watch at first. However, it is also very interesting since it holds rich culture and demonstrates Turkey’s influence on Greece.
The special Sunday procession is an extended version of the guard change, with hundreds of soldiers clad in the traditional white uniforms. I was excited to see it, and endured the unpleasant weather and weariness to take the metro downtown with Aditya. We stood under our umbrellas and awaited the ceremony, which was to begin at 11 a.m. After a few minutes, I was joined under my umbrella by an elderly gentleman who I soon found out didn’t speak English, but wanted to seek refuge from the rain. The three of us, along with hundreds of other tourists, eagerly awaited the changing of the guards.
To our surprise, when 11 a.m. rolled around, nothing happened. We kept waiting. The pitter-patter of the rain grew louder as the rain started to increase. 11:10. Still nothing. One of the guards confusedly checked his watch. It was 11:15. By 11:30, a lot of tourists were getting impatient, and were upset that there was no explanation. Five minutes later, two new guards walked out huddled under umbrellas, and relieved the other guards by handing them the umbrellas. There was no procession.
Aditya and I were disappointed that we had come all this way in the rain for no parade, but we were in the city of Athens, so we decided to make the most of it. We walked around the base of the Parthenon, and climbed Mars Hill, where Paul the Apostle once preached to the Athenians. We were amazed by the beauty of the city, even in the dreary weather. Since my phone was dead, I have no pictures, but will include some pictures from the hill I took a couple weeks before.
At night, about 20 of us went to Ginger Ale, a café in Athens. We love the spot because the owner is a woman named Millie, a kind woman from Long Island. Everyone bonded in one of the last nights we will spend together in Greece, and I really appreciated getting to see everyone and have fun before we leave. I talked to Millie about her time in the U.S., how she feels about Greek politics, and what it’s like to be a business owner in the country. It seems really difficult to be working in the private sector in Greece, which has led many citizens to seek jobs in the government. I hope that the private sector can be developed in the future, along with government reform and tax restructuring to fix the economic problems.
We came back on the metro, and I even found a vending machine with different dairy products, and bought some feta cheese. I am very excited to try it. While it is a bit sad to be leaving Greece soon, I am excited that I can spend my final nights like this having fun with good friends while still learning a lot about this beautiful country.