Athens Sights – Syntagma Square, Greece
Syntagma Square is the main square in Athens and is a good starting place to do your own walking tour. It is also referred to as Constitution Square and around here you’ll find the banks, airline offices, shopping centres and malls, restaurants and hotels. I needed to go to the American Express exchange office and we remembered it as being somewhere off the main square. I often rely on Tony to remember locations as I have what you could described as a certain lack of sense of direction, however after looking around a bit, it was obvious that they had moved. A hotel staff very kindly informed us that they had moved to Akadimias Street. Apart from that little bit of distraction, there are a number of places of interest around Syntagma Square.
The Parliament House is on the square and in front of this is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is guarded by two special guards called evzones and each hour on the hour, there is the changing of the guards ceremony which is a much photographed event. The guards in their traditional skirted uniforms and pom-pom shoes look very smart, but I don’t envy them in their full attire in the midday sun. Apparently there are some 400 pleats in the skirt, and I can’t imagine myself wearing one of those. I have this thing about pleated skirts and believe that you have to be pencil thin to look good in them! Anyway, the ceremony was impressive and I kept clicking away. You will see from our gallery the number of shots that were taken. At one stage Tony thought I’d be run over by them as they high kicked their way away from the tomb at the end of the changeover.
Across from Syntagma is the Grande Bretagne Hotel. This grand and luxurious hotel was established in 1862 and its guests usually include foreign dignataries and the more upmarket travellers.
Behind the Parliament House is the National Gardens, but we didn’t go in there this time. Instead we walked down El. Venizelou Street, along which there are some magnificent and grand neoclassical buildings like the Academy of Arts, University and National Library. The university students are very fortunately to have their university smack in the middle of town and surrounded by other historic institutions. At the end of Venizelou Street is Omonia Square and if you turn around and head southwards, you’ll be walking in the direction of Monastiraki.