From Tarpon Springs, FL to Greece, it's a total of 5,721 miles. That's 220 marathons. Or driving I4, 43 times. OR, riding Space Mountain 9,451 times! That's a lot of ducking hoping to not whack your head on the track that's right above you. Point is, there's some distance between Greece and Tarpon Springs. But why do I bring this up? Well, because in the early 1900s, a large amount of Greeks emigrated from their homeland to Tarpon Springs. Why is this? I honestly forgot. I'm sure I read it somewhere when we were traversing the streets, but I forgot. HOWEVER, don't let that distract you from this great adventure we had in Tarpon Springs!
First off, though Tarpon Springs is on the coast, it is not right off the highway. It's not the cities fault, I'm aware of this, but it got old, going from 55 to 35 on the drive out there. I know I'm complaining about the nuances of commuting, but it was annoying. Anyway. We arrived at the Historic Sponge Docks around 9:30ish, and we were met with a sleepy street, dotted with sponge shops, Greek restaurants and only about ten other humans. We knew it was still early, but were a bit confused as to why it was pretty much dead. Alas, we set out.
After going up and down the street, perusing the shops and wares, we were a bit baffled as to what else was there. Granted, I had done my research, but we were confused as to why there wasn't more, I dunno, life? LeeAnna can attest to this, as I kept saying a version of this for the first half hour we were there. However, we did enjoy the local statues and cut outs, and could not resist taking advantage of them.
We kept walking and finally decided it was time to consult something we should have done in the beginning: check out the visitor center. We were greeted by a lovely lady who broke out a map, and showed us the entire city. She pointed out the downtown area, which was only a couple miles away. We were relieved to hear this, and made me feel better knowing I wasn't crazy for imagining there was more to be found.
With our heads full of knowledge, we left and plotted our next course. We were then stopped by our empty tummies, as it was around lunch time when we left the visitors center. I had a place picked out, but after going up and down the main street a couple times, we decided on a place called Hellas. Though I don't have any pictures of the inside, trust me when I say it was filled with mirrors, neon and walls pained that classic Grecian blue. The food was spectacular, service excellent--would highly recommend if you're headed out that way.
And then once our heads AND bellies were full, we headed out to the downtown area, but were met with a store called The Sponge Factory. Out of all the shops, this place had the most selection of sponges, and tons of artifacts that were found while divers were collecting the sponges. Upon browsing we found this video that explained how the sponges were harvested and their different uses, which was very informative and promised that we would become sponge experts by the end of the video. (Spoiler alert: we were/are the best sponge experts this side of the Mississippi after viewing the video.) And to summarize the video, divers will dive into the water and use a rake to collect the various sponges they find on the sea floor. The sponge has to have a diameter of five inches in order to be collected. Once it's harvested, it's cleaned, dried and then sold in Tarpon Springs or around the world! The photo on the left shows my favorite uses of sponges.
Once we bid the factory adieu, the drive downtown was nice and quick, and parking was free, so extra bonus there. We made our way to the main street downtown and were greeted with various antique shops, a craft brewery and a once train station, turned into historical museum. It was going to be an eventful afternoon. (Spoiler alert: it was!)
We perused the antique shops for some time, marveling at the military artifacts, old pottery and my personal favorite, this retro radio, complete with switches that you could customize with inserts of your favorite radio stations. It was a bit out of my price range, and space is an issue in my room. Oh well.
Once we had our fill of looking at old things, we made our way into the historical museum and spent our time looking through the various displays. I'm a sucker for a history museum, so I soaked everything in. Almost...like a sponge...
There were displays and plaques talking about the city's history and bustling sponge trade. LeeAnna loved the old hotel keys they had on display, and didn't hesitate to give an informative, but lengthly speech on customer service.
Our minds were so full of knowledge, the only thing we could do now is kill the brain cells with alcohol! Which is exactly what we did! We made our way to Two Frogs Brewing Company, and were met with smiles and delicious beer. The brewery is pretty new, but worth a stop if you're in the area. I'm an IPA fan, so their Beach Cruiser IPA was just perfect. Sweet and hoppy, a perfect way to end our day. So if YOU ever want to become a sponge expert, or just want to have an enjoyable day full of learning, eating and adventure, look no further than Tarpon Springs.
Remember: Adventure is always out there!