March 03, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Athens

Greece has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late. I visited a few years ago and recently came across a stash of images from the time. They certainly contrast with pictures of rioting, tear gas and anxiety.

The olympics had just been held and Athenians had a certain bounce in their step - the unfolding crisis there would have been as remote as the shenanigans of the gods on Parnassus. Much was shiny and new admidst the ancient temples and medieval churches. However some traditions were zealously guarded.

Particularly striking was the elaborate ritual carried out by the soldiers in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Hand-picked Greek men are chosen to goose step and stand at this sacred spot and are, of course, of much interest to tourists and pride to locals.

There is much rifle lifting, saluting and stomping. One tourist thought it would be amusing to make fun of a soldier and stood beside him a caricature of the Greek manhood beside him - ramrod straight, pursed lips, steely eyes and elaborate costume.

Too late, our foreign friend realised his mistake when the soldier brought down the butt of the gun with a mighty bang on his trainers clad foot. The tourist, shocked, limped off into the city.