The Florida Keys offers a truly American experience

Big Pine Key, Florida (dpa) – The Florida Keys is usually explored by car but the island landscape and its shallow, crystal-clear waters are probably best discovered using a kayak. The effort is also rewarded by seeing the wide and varied wildlife that live among the mangrove of the Florida Keys. The mangroves hang so low over the water in places that sometimes it is necessary for the kayakers to bend over so much that their heads are almost in the boat. The tour from Big Pine Key to No Name Key is organized by Greg Lepock. “We’re now going to do some kayak yoga,” says Lepock. The yoga involves the kayakers putting their paddles in the boat, stretching out their feet and moving forward by pulling themselves from mangrove branch to mangrove branch. Even the more experienced kayakers in the group have difficulty making their way through the mangroves as their boats get caught in branches and roots time and again. “Not much longer and we’ll be out of this,” shouts Lepock in encouragement. After nearly an hour of toil, the kayakers are rewarded for their efforts by arriving in a unique and virtually undisturbed natural environment that is home to countless pelicans, cormorants and ibises. The shallow waters, meanwhile, are teeming with tropical fish and stingrays. No Name Key is inhabited but its residents live without electricity or running water. “There are approximately three dozen houses,” says Lepock. The situation is completely different at Big Pine Key, which is located opposite and looks like anywhere else in the United States with its paved roads, numerous traffic signs, shops and marinas. The No Name Pub, an establishment with a chequered past, is also found here. “The No Name Pub opened its doors in 1936,” says manager Kevin Chicoski. Originally, the pub supplied everything the local fishermen needed but soon became a brothel before closing down. Today, the walls and ceilings are covered with dollar notes and other currencies. “This comes from the time when fishermen were paid in cash for their catch,” says Kevin. The fishermen pinned dollar notes to the wall on paydays so that they always had money for beer. No visit to the Florida Keys would be complete without savoring some Key lime pie, a delicious dessert made of Key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk in a pie crust.“The base is made from crushed biscuits, while the filling is made from eggs, condensed milk and the juice from some Key limes. The dessert is completed with a meringue topping,” explains Barbara Cockerham, who runs Ma’s Fish Camp in Islamorada. The pie’s unusual flavor is caused by the Key limes, which are more tart and aromatic than the common Persian limes, while Cockerham also has an explanation as to why condensed milk is used. “This dates back to the time when there was virtually no fresh milk in the Keys because nobody was able to keep any cows,” she says.BM, Source; Bikya Masr

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