Tarpon Springs, a small piece of Greece in Florida

Once in a while we get surprised, and Tarpon Springs was one super big surprise for sure! Imagine driving into a small town, just to stop for a quick lunch before driving on. Find a parking spot on the edge of the city centre, walk down to the docks, and suddenly you are in “Greece”. Needless to say we had a bit of a giggle first but soon realized that this was a big enclave of Greek sponge fishermen who had settled here and developed the city as the “sponge capitol of the world”.

The Greek immigrants started to arrive in the 1880s and spongers were recruited from the Dodecanese islands in Greece. The heart of the sponge district still resonated with heritage; the main boulevard called Dodecanese Boulevard. It is a strange thing for us Europeans to walk the streets hearing bouzouki music, seeing Greek flags and hearing the occasional “OPA!” from inside the restaurants.

For a short visit and a walk along the old sponge docks, Tarpon Springs is something different. For Americans thinking this is like Greece, they need to see the real Greece to know the difference. We know the difference, and this was just like visiting a cowboy village in Sweden, the look and the feel is close to the real thing but not quite.

We had a good meal at the most busy, biggest, and most popular restaurant along the boulevard. The waiters shouted “OPA!” and our gyros and Greek salad, were both ok. Stop and have a look, Tarpon Springs is unique in its own Greek American way.

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