11/09/2013

Sponges and Baklava

Less than an hour from Tampa, Florida, you'll find Tarpon Springs. The small city of about 24,000 in Pinellas County is known for the sponge docks and Greek food. Situated  on the edge of a collection of barrier islands within the bayous, the sponge docks are like stepping into a Greek fishing village. The street is lined with shops selling the usual tourist fare of trinkets, plus piles of natural sponges.
Sponge Docks

You'll also find Greek restaurants filled with the wonderful pastries. The bakeries have sweet delights such as baklava, that phyllo dough classic layered with honey syrup and nuts served in small wedges. It's so rich, that's all you can handle. Then there's spanakopita, phyllo dough layered with spinach and cheesed, baked to perfection. Dolmades--stuffed grape leaves is another specialty of the Helles Restaurant which is where we like to eat when we're visiting.

Spanakopita 
In 1905, sponge diving was introduced to Tarpon Springs by John Cocoris. He recruited sponge divers from Greece and a flourishing sponge business was born.  Unfortunately in 1947, a red algae tide bloom took its toll on the sponge crop and pretty much wiped it out.  Only recently has it begun to return to its former glory, so most of the sponges you purchase are imported. A bit of a disappointment.

Diving Memorial






There is more focus on fishing excursions and dolphin watching today. You can easily find a charter along the docks and there is also a small aquarium which is fun for the kids. Fishing and shrimping are the main industries for the town. You may spot a manatee in the waters off the docks. They enjoy the quiet bayou waters there.

Tarpon Springs boasts a large Greek population as you might guess and you'll hear folks conversing in Greek along the sidewalks. Probably the largest event of the year is Epiphany, celebrated on January 6. The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church hosts the event and people flock to the celebration, sometimes tripling the population for that day. The elaborate ceremony includes throwing a wooden cross into the water and 16-18 year old youths dive to retrieve it. The one who is successful is said to be blessed for the entire year. Besides a church service, the boats are blessed and then the partying begins.
Helles Bakery

So if a trip to Greece is a little out of your budget, Tarpon Springs will give you a sweet taste of a Greek fishing village and you won't need a passport.


Helles Restaurant and Bakery

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Positively encouraging

11/09/2013

Sponges and Baklava

Less than an hour from Tampa, Florida, you'll find Tarpon Springs. The small city of about 24,000 in Pinellas County is known for the sponge docks and Greek food. Situated  on the edge of a collection of barrier islands within the bayous, the sponge docks are like stepping into a Greek fishing village. The street is lined with shops selling the usual tourist fare of trinkets, plus piles of natural sponges.
Sponge Docks

You'll also find Greek restaurants filled with the wonderful pastries. The bakeries have sweet delights such as baklava, that phyllo dough classic layered with honey syrup and nuts served in small wedges. It's so rich, that's all you can handle. Then there's spanakopita, phyllo dough layered with spinach and cheesed, baked to perfection. Dolmades--stuffed grape leaves is another specialty of the Helles Restaurant which is where we like to eat when we're visiting.

Spanakopita 
In 1905, sponge diving was introduced to Tarpon Springs by John Cocoris. He recruited sponge divers from Greece and a flourishing sponge business was born.  Unfortunately in 1947, a red algae tide bloom took its toll on the sponge crop and pretty much wiped it out.  Only recently has it begun to return to its former glory, so most of the sponges you purchase are imported. A bit of a disappointment.

Diving Memorial






There is more focus on fishing excursions and dolphin watching today. You can easily find a charter along the docks and there is also a small aquarium which is fun for the kids. Fishing and shrimping are the main industries for the town. You may spot a manatee in the waters off the docks. They enjoy the quiet bayou waters there.

Tarpon Springs boasts a large Greek population as you might guess and you'll hear folks conversing in Greek along the sidewalks. Probably the largest event of the year is Epiphany, celebrated on January 6. The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church hosts the event and people flock to the celebration, sometimes tripling the population for that day. The elaborate ceremony includes throwing a wooden cross into the water and 16-18 year old youths dive to retrieve it. The one who is successful is said to be blessed for the entire year. Besides a church service, the boats are blessed and then the partying begins.
Helles Bakery

So if a trip to Greece is a little out of your budget, Tarpon Springs will give you a sweet taste of a Greek fishing village and you won't need a passport.


Helles Restaurant and Bakery

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