A Closer Look at Tarpon Springs
By Jacky Crawford
Tarpon Springs still bills it seek as the "Sponge Capital of the World), although the heyday of the sponge industry was in the thirties and the forties. The Greeks, arriving in the early days of the twentieth century, came in droves to bring their diving skills to their new land. But a red tide, fatal for the sponges, wiped out many of the beds. The industry did not restart until the sixties. By that time there was fierce competition from man made sponges. Today there are still some sponge boats with plucky divers who plunge one hundred and fifty feet to the ocean floor to harvest sponges. Other Greeks now run interesting shops selling these sponges, sea shells and olive oil soaps. Perhaps the first tourist spot selling more sponges than t-shirts!
Of course, there are more bakeries and restaurants with Greek fare. Just walk along Dodecanese Boulevard across from the docks; pick one and dig into some amazing moussaka, gyros, baklava, etc.
If you want to delve into Greek culture, there are many options. Visit the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral fashioned with some sixty tons of marble in the Byzantine style. The Epiphany Celebration is in early January. some 30,000 people come to watch young boys dive into the chilly Spring Bayou in pursuit of the Greek Cross thrown in by the Bishop.
Any visitor will easily find the two beaches, Sunset and Fred Howard Park which come complete with - sand! No ring of condos and large hotels, minimal commercial activity at Sunset Beach.
Biking has to be the best way to see the interesting architectural mix around Tarpon Springs. There are many grand Victorian homes around the five sapphire blue bayous to gape out, but if you go into the surrounding residential streets, attractive examples of the twentieth century homes with tropical landscaping around every corner.
Tarpon Springs has many festivals through out the year, as do the surrounding towns. Truly, a spot of Florida not too be missed.