Mar. 25, Greek Independence Day

I was startled out of my sleep on Friday by the sound of low-flying jets–a terrifying sound. It happened again a while later, and when we emerged from the apartment, I asked Sassa, our local cafe owner, what was going on. She smiled. “They’re practicing for tomorrow, Independence Day.” “There’s a big parade.” “You should go.”

The availability of places to park on our street shows it was an unusual day.

So we did. The sound of fighter jets was still unnerving, but at least we weren’t under attack. The parade began at the civilized hour of 11 am, which gave us a chance to go to our local Saturday farmer’s market first. When we went down the street, we noticed everything was closed. Oh, yes, it’s a national holiday. There was no farmers market this week. The only thing to do was head to the parade route, just a few blocks from us.

We found a coffee shop that still had tables free. I claimed a table while Jonathan waited in the very long line, but in the end we had coffee and a place to sit until the parade got underway. It may have started at Syntagma Square in the heart of downtown at 11 am, but it didn’t get down the parade route to us by the university until after 11:30. The fighter jet overflight kicked it off, followed by three more groups of four jets zooming overhead, then planes, then helicopters. (The jets went by too fast for me to get a photo.)

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a real military parade before. Right after the motorcycles came the artillery, troop carriers, tanks with long guns, a truckload of drones, another of missiles, and trucks full of launchers and troops in battle dress. It made me very uncomfortable.

I wondered whether the Greek government went big on military hardware as a warning to those who participated in the recent protests. Those people may not have been in attendance, as the crowd applauded the passing groups, and generally seemed strongly supportive of the military. There were supply trucks, and Red Cross trucks, but they came at the end, right before the fire trucks. The noise from the military hardware made the sides of the buildings vibrate.

After the show of force there was a gap of another 20-30 minutes, probably because the military hardware was driven along the route going about 20 mph, while the people marching were going about 3 mph. Eventually, squads of soldiers came by, in every possible kind of uniform, hatless, red beret, green beret, helmets, flat caps, even a squad of officers all wearing navy blue jackets with gold epaulets and collar pins. There were firemen, and in their final row, a line of divers carrying scuba tanks on their backs.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and most of the marchers must have been suffering from the heat, but they all strode along in step. Every three groups or so was a uniformed marching band. I watched a drum major hurl his baton way up in the air and saw it somersaulting back down into his hand. Impressive. I liked the music best–much less threatening than the rest of the parade.

More planes flew over, more helicopters, more groups marched. When the last group filed by, the street filled with people following the marchers toward Omonia Square, where the parade route ended. It was quite a show of military might and Greek patriotism. Lots of people waved small Greek flags and a couple of children were in traditional dress. I found it curious that the traditionally-garbed soldiers of the Parliamentary Guard who are on display every Sunday at the changing of the guard did not walk the parade route. Everyone else was there!


Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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