On the final evening of My Big, Fat Greek Getaway, I admit to feeling torn. I hear it is snowing in northern Indiana. It’s chilly here, but I went to dinner in sandals. I miss my husband and my kids and I’m beginning to feel a little restless, but then again I also feel quite rested.
My birthday vacation in Tarpon Springs, Florida has been a blessing in so many ways — great food, a good friend, much needed exercise and healing sunshine. And on top of all that, I’ve savored the cultural heritage of a nation half a world away. This community of Greek immigrants represents its mother country well, and has given this country girl a sampling of life on the Mediterranean.
My quite comfortable abode for the past four days has been a cozy efficiency apartment in The 1910 Inn. The beautiful, Victorian-style structure was indeed built in 1910. A large part of its charm is thanks to owner and innkeeper Annie Samarkos. Annie is a local girl of Greek heritage who grew up wondering what the inside of this beautiful house looked like. When it went on the market several years ago, she and her husband, Charles, made an offer. In September, they took possession of the once-abandoned home and by the first of this year, they were welcoming guests. Charles and Annie have raised three daughters and their roots in Tarpon Springs go deep. The Samarkos girls are the fifth generation of women from Annie’s family to live in Tarpon Springs, and Charles is a descendant of a well-known local sponge-diving family.
Just around the corner and down Pinellas Avenue is The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Every morning, the chimes from St. Nicholas ring out a welcome. This morning, I accepted the invitation to step inside the cathedral and the sight left me breathless. The cathedral is a tribute to God’s creativity. Beautiful, intricate paintings and carvings wrap around the walls and fill the towering dome of the cathedral. The Orthodox church is known for its ornate sanctuaries and St. Nicholas has to be among the most beautiful. Literature offered in the narthex of the church explains:
“The Orthodox Church believes that God is the Creator of heaven and earth. The Creator is present through His handiwork. This means that the material world, being valuable and good (Genesis 1:31), is an important means through which God shows His love for us.”
Even if your theology does not match up with that of the Orthodox Church, it is hard not to be moved by the beauty and reverence of such a place of worship.
After a good Florida cloudburst, the afternoon turned sunny so we drove north to Fred Howard Park for a walk on the beach. The winds off the Gulf made it a little chilly for sunbathing, but it was a perfect day for bird-watching, water-gazing and shell-gathering.
We’ll make the most of our last day in Florida with a stroll through the nearby village of Dunedin, stopping at the dock for a last look at the Gulf of Mexico and tracking down a restaurant where we can squeeze in one more Greek delicacy — flaming cheese!