Heading home from my visit to the Innisbrook Resort, I took a slight detour to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. I slowly made my way down the completely deserted street, and pulled into an empty lot advertising $2 all day parking. I wasn't entirely sure who or what I was supposed to pay, because there was no one here. Not to mention, I had no idea where "here" even was...
|Monument to founding sponge divers|
"What a wacky, wacky place."
I don't recall ever using the word "wacky" in a sentence, much less twice in the same one, but as I walked around the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, that was the best description I could come up with. It's probably best I only saw one other human during my exploration, because the deeply puzzled look on my face, combined with the erratic nature of my wanderings, might have prompted a call to the police to check on my well being.
|6th generation snake oil salesman...|
There were several layers to my confusion that I was attempting to work though. Was I teleported to Greece without realizing it? Why on Earth do people come here? Where are all the people? It was all very confusing, and maybe even a little scary, but the more I explored of the sponge docks, the more answers I found.
|I've always wanted to go places...|
The city of Tarpon Springs saw an influx of Greek divers arrive in the 1880's, brought here to help support the state's thriving sponge trade. The area surrounding the sponge docks soon developed with hotels, shops, and restaurants designed to serve the boat workers. While the sponge trade is a shell of its former self, the area is still a "Little Greece," with the blue and white flag flying over no less than 58 Greek restaurants in a 3 block radius.
|Seriously, there's one on every corner...|
While I had a better understanding of its history, that still didn't explain why on earth people visited the docks. Perhaps they are fascinated by the sponge boats, many in worse condition than Forrest Gump's Jenny, but filled with men that work harder before 8am on Monday than I do in an entire week.
Maybe they want to buy a few souvenirs at the countless gift shops. But really, how many bars of soap shaped like Zeus does one really need?
Or the most likely explanation, they're looking to have a good time. And nothing says "good time" better than $3 margaritas and a belly dancer. This may also explain why two cats and a rooster were my only companions...everyone else was still asleep.
All of this led me to dub the sponge docks as "wacky," but taking off my jaded traveler shades I noticed something. This place was beautiful...
|The beautiful Greek Orthodox church|
Within this half mile circle was a world all its own, filled with a history and culture who's origins lay on the Mediterranean Sea. Yet it could all be found just a short drive from my home.
To some, the Tarpon Springs sponge docks are a tacky symbol of days gone by, but I learned there is more to it if you're willing to dig a little deeper. This is Classic Florida....enjoy it while you can.
Enjoy Your Stay