October 16, 2020
Tarpon Springs, Florida
Enough, was enough. We just had to get out. We had to go somewhere, anywhere. We’re not used to sitting. Sightseeing is our thing. So we hung a map of Florida on the wall and threw a dart at it – not really but it almost came to that!
This was our trip for the day. Tarpon Springs lies on the Anclote River along Florida’s Gulf Coast about 30 miles northwest of Tampa. Known as the Sponge Capital of the World, this is an area where Greek immigrants settled during the early 1900’s and built a thriving industry harvesting, processing and selling the natural sponges that were abundant in local waters. The town built around the industry was once known as the Venice of the South.
We learned that in the beginning local Cubans and Bahamians raked in sponges from small boats.
But, others soon realized that in Greece divers using mechanized equipment and sponge fishing boats saved time and brought in larger hauls. As the new methods from Greece were introduced to the American sponge fisherman the word spread to the Greek homeland. The result was that in the early 1900’s a flow of experienced Greek sponge divers began to migrate to Tarpon Springs, and they brought their families. Arriving to Tarpon Springs, they worked the sponge business as divers and crew, also creating local businesses to begin a new chapter in Florida’s cultural heritage – shifting the center of the sponge industry to Tarpon Springs.
By the mid-1930s there were 200 sponge boats based in Tarpon Springs working the Gulf of Mexico, from as far north as Apalachicola, all the way south to Key West. The sponge business was yielding over $3 million dollars a year until a sponge blight in the 1940s decimated the industry. Today, the sponges have rebounded and Tarpon Springs continues to be the world’s largest natural sponge producing industry supplying 70% of the natural sponges.
An early sponge boat. A little bigger than Elvira. It seems whoever made the sign didn’t have spell checker turned on.
Current sponge boats at the Historic Sponge Docks.
As is obvious there are just a few sponge boats still active today.
Now about those sponges. To me a sponge, is a sponge, is a sponge. I quickly learned otherwise.
What a fascinating, and fun filled museum and gift shop this turned out to be. This is where I learned that a sponge is a lot more than just a little green, or yellow, or whatever color square I’m so used to.
The Grass sea sponge is perfect for both body massage and/or painting & artwork. Its high resistance combined with low cost makes it a high demand sponge. Its texture makes it a good inexpensive natural sponge for bath time.
The wool sponge is the best natural sponge for bathing. It is silky soft and incredibly durable. While it is the most expensive sponge, it softness and durability make it the most popular. With proper care a wool sponge can last up to 10 years.
These are finger sponges. Finger sponges are for decorative purposes only. You can use them to make arrangements with other sponges, plants, and sea shells. Can be used in your aquarium too.
Soft as silk when wet and suitable for the most sensitive of skin, hypoallergenic,natural sponges have a very low PH and ideal for application or removal of cosmetics. Soft texture for lightly ex-foliating your skin.
What we have here are vase sponges.
I never heard of this before but it sure is possible. Hey, for all those who enjoy different forms of crafts here is something new you can try.
OK, enough about sponges. How about Tarpon Springs itself?
Across from the docks, on Dodecanese Boulevard and the side streets, you’ll find restaurants, curio shops, and bakeries. The historic Sponge Exchange is the location where the sponges were once bought and sold in a huge marketplace and is now a plaza with restaurants and shops.
Let’s walk the streets and poke our heads in a few of the shops.
Sculpture at one end of town.
Out on the sidewalks.
I know someone who can probably relate to a few of the wine signs.
Inside a few of the shops.
There were also all kinds of restaurants that we would have liked to try. But, alas, they were croweded, no one going in or out was wearing a mask so it was not to be. A funny thing, maybe not so funny really, but the ones not wearing masks by and large were senior citizens. Go figure.
My new t-shirt.
I also picked up this cute little guy when we stopped at Culvers for lunch.
I leave you with this. If you ask me, this is what the world needs now.
That was our day on The Road of Retirment. We had an absolutely fantastic day in Trapon Springs. So where are we off to next? We honestly don’t know but we do have a few places in mind.
Thanks for checking in with us today. We always appreciate your company as well as your comments and suggestions. Keep safe, keep healthy, enjoy the days that God gives you.
These are the voyages of Elvira and her two intrepid travelers. Our continuing mission: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have never been before.
See you on down the road!