Whether you're a
grandparent or a grandchild, the first thing about Tarpon
The abundance of sponges reminds me of the 1967 "Star Trek" TV series' episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles" -- small, soft, fluffy, rapidly-reproducing organisms. And why not?
the 1890s, it was sponge-diving that began bringing commercial
prosperity and tourism to Tarpon Springs, a small city located near
Tampa and St. Petersburg on Florida's west coast. Tarpon Springs
rests along the Anclote
Little by little, Greek immigrants settled in Tarpon Springs and earned their living in the sponge industry or by opening Greek restaurants. In the first decade of the 1900s, hundreds of sponge divers wearing diving suits and helmets, deposited their cache of retrieved sponges onto dozens of boats that then headed back to the dock.
Sponge buyers created the Sponge Exchange, and there, in the courtyard of the sponge exchange building, sponge auctions were held twice weekly. The development of deep-sea diving equipment made it easier for spongers to go deeper into the sea, and that increased the sponge harvest. The result was that Tarpon Springs became known as the Sponge Capital of the World. The public can still witness sponge auctions.
The sponge you keep by your kitchen sink, the sponge you use to wash your car, the loofah by your bathtub, even your sponge mop ---- they didn't start out looking like that. Sponges are animals that cling to rocks and coral and have a dark, elastic skin-like coating with openings the sponges use to breathe. Sponges have a gelatin-like substance that divers squeeze out. Divers then pound and clean the sponges.
Your grandchildren will
understand the whole process if you take them to the Spongeorama
Reportedly, Tarpon Springs has
the largest Greek population outside of
Take the boat ride that
enables you to watch a sponge diver submerge himself in the water
and emerge holding a sponge or two. Next, order the always-reliable
Greek salad, a gyro, lamb skewers, souvlaki and other ethnic dishes
served at a delightful choice of delicious Greek restaurants like
Some of the restaurants have bakeries, and I guarantee that you and your family members will salivate at the sight of those creamy, sweet, yummy-looking pastries and desserts. Baklava, anyone? Prepare to hear your grandkids plead, "I want that...and that...oooh and that." Pun intended: Tarpon Springs' is a real treat.
For a relaxing, leisurely experience, take a stroll along the charming streets of the Spring Bayou neighborhood, where the stately homes were once the domain of wealthy winter vacationers.
Tarpon Springs is a nice getaway destination for multi-generational families. There are just enough diversions, attractions and excellent Greek restaurants to fill a casual weekend. Afterward, if anyone should ask your opinion of Tarpon Springs, you can offer a pleased smile and jokingly -- and truthfully -- reply, "It's Greek to me!"
For information: Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce,
(727) 937-6109; tarponspringschamber.com