A visit to Tarpon Springs - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Why not visit Tarpon Springs for a good day out. Tarpon Springs is the most northerly of the Pinellas County coast communities, at the point where the Anclote River widens into bayous on its way to the Gulf. Tarpons Springs was first founded in 1876, so well over a hundred years old. The name stems from the fact that the first settlers thought tarpon spawned in the spring’s bayous, though nowadays it is mullet that are generally to be found.
In and around 1905, the Greek sponge fishermen moved to Tarpon Springs from Key West. They were convinced that the Gulf of Mexico held rich and sizeable sponge beds which they would be able to reach now that diving equipment had improved. They were correct, and more Greek divers followed, bringing their customs and traditions with them.
In the 1940s marine bacteria destroyed the sponges and the men took other jobs or moved away. However, recently it seems that sponges have become prolific again. The problem seems to be persuading young people to get into the diving business, which involves spending many hours away at sea.
Tarpon Springs is still very Greek, however, and the stores on the docks are filled with sponges in every shape and size you could wish for. You may wish to note that the size does not necessarily indicate the quality, and that various species are suited to various duties from cleaning the body to cleaning the car.
Most of the activity revolves around Dodecanese Boulevard and the Sponge Docks where there are gift shops, Greek nightclubs and tavernas which serve a delightful array of traditional Greek foods. There are plenty of Greek bakeries, and if you have never sampled the bread and cakes from these bakeries, then stop by one, grab yourself a coffee and buy a cake. There are also many lace shops, and it is not uncommon for the Greek women to sit outside their shops and they are still dressing in black.
Spongeorama uses diaramas and film to depict the history of the sponge industry. The museum if free, but a charge is made to watch the film. Tours of the village also leave from here.
It is also worth visiting St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral on North Pinellas Avenue, a replica of St. Sophia' s in Istanbul, the focal point of the blessing of the Fleet during Epiphany. George Innes, the 19th Century American landscape painter, had a house and studio overlooking Spring Bayou, where both he and his son worked. The largest single collection of George Jr' s work can be seen in the Universalist Church which is located in Reed Street, Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Springs' own Gulf beach, Sunset, is reached after a short drive along the causeway. As it' s name suggests, a wonderful location to watch the sunset and end a great day out.
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