Do you ever think about sponges? The one you use in the kitchen to clean your dishes or in the shower as a loofah? It’s an object most people use daily, but never really think of or appreciate the origin. Tarpon Springs is the Sponge Capital of the World. It is one of the few places in the world where natural sponges that are suitable for commercial use are found. Beginning in 1890 an industry that generated millions of dollars a year was created, before a blight brought an end to the prosperity. Greek divers were the forerunners of the market and their community added a rich unique culture to the area.
Walking around the Historic Sponge Docks there are many fun and free activities to partake in. I would suggest first watching the free video at the Sponge Factory [15 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689] to gain a better understanding of the industry. Then hit the streets to take in the scene, there are many art installations that follow the sponge motif.
While you’re downtown embrace all things Greek. Drink Greek wine, there were free samples at Katina’s Greek Market [735 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689] during my visit. Eat Greek desserts. The décor of Hellas Bakery [785 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689] drew us in, the pastry display case made me stay. It’s a classic diner style and they have BAKLAVA CHEESECAKE. Incredible stuff.
Also tried kataifi and saragli, two traditional Greek pastries that aren’t baklava, but taste just as good as it! Tarpon Springs Olive Oil Company [834 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689] has a huge assortment of, you guessed it! Olive oil, but also balsamic vinegar in amazing flavors. You can try some of them over vanilla ice cream – it’s a killer dessert.
Next door is the House of Jerky, not exactly in line with the Greek theme, but don’t pass this spot up. You can learn jerky facts, try some samples, and purchase some strange variations.
Ever wanted shark, snapping turtle, or python jerky? Yes? This is your place. You an have a whole lot of fun on the cheap in this downtown area – the heart of Tarpon Springs.