Iowa Stories and Tips

Cedar Rapids: Immigrant Pride

Bobbin Lace Photo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Flood Museum:
Cedar Rapids is famous for Quaker Oats, Ashton Kutcher and having its city government located on an island in the Cedar River. That is until 2008. That was the year of the great flood. After that the city government decamped to higher ground. At least three earlier floods have occurred here and all are featured in a wonderful little museum located in the Czech Village Visitor Center (87 16th Street). It is open Mon-Sat 9:30 am to 4:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Strolling through the museum be mindful of the almost 32 foot high highwater mark on the wall. On display are objects that have been found in the flooded area and restores. Some are fine collectible pieces from the National Czeck and Slovak Museum. At a couple of stations, you can watch video interviews with those who lived through the flood. A small Czeck house in on display with the yucky water line on the walls and the furniture and family belongs arranged as they were found after the water receeded. The gift shop offers a lovely selection of Bohemian glass, and a wall of brochures for other places to tour in Iowa.

Sykora Bakery:
The Visitor Center is a good start for touring Cedar Rapids, particularly because it is located just down the street from Sykora Bakery. This is a must stop. Besides a plethora of flavors of Kolace (I liked the creamed cheese filled but shy away from the poppy seed filled), there are other Bohemian bakery specialties like houska, rohlik and bablovka; and my absolute favorite Bohemian Rye bread. Located in an old white building with creaky floors and good smells. You can carry out, or if your are lucky and find an available table, you can eat in and watch the traffic on the street. I took my purchase to one of the many benches along the street. After my treat, I wandered through some of the antique stores nearby.

National Czeck & Slovak Museum & Library,
The main draw for my trip to CR this trip was the National Czeck & Slovak Museum & Library. It is located at 1400 Inspiration Place Sw Originally located on the bank of the Cedar River, this beautiful building and contents were badly damaged in 2008. Items in the displays where shipped out to professional restorationist around the country. While that was being done the building was moved to higher ground and a large addition added. The original part of the building is used for events, a theater and a fabulous gift shop. The new section of the building holds the library, the permanent exhibit, a recent acquisitions gallery, and a good sized special exhibit gallery. When I was there the special exhibit was "Read my Pins": The Madeleine Albright Collection. While she served at the United Nations and as Sccretary of State under Bill Clinton, fellow diplomats always checked to see what pin she wore as it set the tone of the meeting. The collection was well organized and it was a treat to read the sometimes-humorous descriptions at each display. There is an amazing variety. In the main exhibit hall is a huge collection of traditional Czech and Slovak costumes. Primarily the museum focuses on immigration, why they left Europe, how they were transported to America, and why they selected Cedar Rapids. In the theater three films rotate covering these same subjects. Outside the building is an Immigrant Home that emphasizes how primitive ( no electricity or water), but home the houses in the village were. The recent acquisitions included a diverse collection of lace, toys and art. The Museum is open Mon-Sat 9:30 am to 4 pm and on Sunday from 12:00 pm to 4 pm. Admission is Adults $10, Seniors $9, Students $5, Youth $3 and children free. There is a free will offering coffee stand outside the gift shop. Plan on spending a good chunk of the afternoon here, especially if you like museum stores.

Minor stop:
Another neighborhood of Cedar Rapids located across the river is New Bohemia. Looks like a good place for a pub crawl, or at least a place to get a meal. Shopping areas looked deserted so we moved on down the road.

If you have time:
On previous trips to Cedar Rapids I have visited the mansion Brucemore and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, which includes a large collection of Grant Wood. Both are well worth the time.

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