Monday, March 28, 2011

Greek Independence Day

Most cities celebrate St Patrick's day, Thanksgiving Day etc.; Tarpon Springs celebrates Greek Independence Day. It is done with the same fervor that strikes other communities to show their uniqueness. In Tarpon, a city already overwhelmed with beautiful blue skies, the Greek Community adds to it by painting most houses in the combination of colors of their flag. So there is no dearth of blue and white. So yesterday, Independence Day, the community dressed in their colors and waved flags to their heart's content to show their pride. It was a lot of fun!

As I have said before the town was founded by the rich from the northeast to escape the cold. Yesterday it was 28 in Collingswood NJ and 88 in Tarpon Springs! Then in the 1920'a the sponge industry took off. The Greeks came to fish for sponges and the industry still remains.

Today, on any street or market the language of choice is Greek not English. It makes for a very colorful town. The town has a section called the Sponge Docks where Greek shops and restaurants thrive catering to other Greeks from the area and the entire country. Greeks come from Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo and you name it to escape the winters. Their Mecca is Tarpon Springs in the U.S.

Yesterday, everyone was out and I have never seen so many flags being waved and all manner of costumes and dancing and floats festooned with more Greeks. The day was also referred to as GLENDI which for all I know means Greek Independence day. Not being Greek I don't know what that is, but I will check it out with one of my English speaking neighbors (not many!). If you know let me know

This little Greek made my day. Isn't she a doll?
Quickly abandoned for dining and other amusements this Trireme facsimile decorated a street near my house. But all was not white and blue. Around town Spring is in full bloom. The Azaleas and camellias are almost finished, but what remains is truly wondrous. Above, Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia) is one of two hundred species of plants that share this name and flower in a variety of colors. The small tree or large shrub can get to be a 20-25 feet ball. I was speaking with two gardeners who were tending their front yard where a solid white version of this flowering tree stood. One gardener told me to come back in a month and I could have all the seeds in the world. The other told me not too bother with seeds. He will pull up hundred of trees that volunteer in this tropical paradise. He also said that it was way too much work for the little time it is in bloom. Oh well, you can't win them all.

On a less than glamorous old property, the greatest of the local beauties is the majestic Red Kapok Tree (Bombax ceiba). It blooms on bare wood before any leaves appear. Typically it looses the leaves during the dry season, although here there has been enough cold to warrant a rethink on that premise. It is a towering tree some 50-60 feet tall and across. The flowers are fleshy and a most incredible carnelian red color imaginable.

Years, ago when I visited Cuba I was astonished to find versions of this tree towering in the landscape but with spines on its trunk and an orchid colored flower. I travelled there during December and did not see any of these marvelous red flowering varieties which I suspect have a small window of time when they bloom. It is a very magnificent tree and must provide that little house a lot of shelter from the summer sun. Maybe I need to consider one of these for my empty lot? Happy Gardening!


  1. Hi Rene,,,Loved the Greek Independance day pics! My name day is the 25th of March, I call it my greek birthday because in Greece one celebrates the name day as a birthday. Cant wait to visit you there when you are all settled. Vange.

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