It became America’s 29th state on December 28, 1846. It’s the birthplace of the 31st American president, Herbert Hoover, legend of music Glenn Miller, and Marion ‘John Wayne’ Morrison. It’s also where Captain Kirk was born and Arabella Mansfield, the first female lawyer in the United States. The Winnebago motor home company was founded in this state, in Winnebago County in 1958. I don’t think the founder knew that ‘Winnebago’ means ‘people dwelling by the fetid or ill-smelling water’. Snake Alley, in the city of Burlington, was once named the most crooked street in the world by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. This state is where sliced bread was actually invented. And it is the home of the National Hobo Convention, held in the city of Britt since 1901. Today, we’re in the Hawkeye State, Iowa.
Iowa is a considerate and hospitable landlocked state in Midwestern America, bordered by Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, plus the Big Sioux, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. It is the 29th largest state at 56,000 square miles, with the 30th largest population with three million residents. The name of the state comes from the Ioway people, an indigenous tribe of the area, thought to mean ‘asleep’. The motto of the state, ‘Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain’, is a bit of a mouthful.
This musical land, occupied by extremely friendly, hardworking and well-mannered locals, is greatly diverse, from rugged hills and cliffs, to cornfields and prairies. Yet it also offers gently rolling hills and plains, perhaps a state defined by a simpler rural existence and remote farms, but one that also offers a slice of exciting and colourful metropolitan life. But the one thing that makes this state so loved is its world-famous cuisine. Iowans love nothing more than a good old chinwag over a home cooked traditional Midwestern meal. Bigger conversationalists are hard to find.
There are sights to see such as Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in the city of Dubuque. 25 acres of the most luscious and wondrous gardens, almost magical because of some fairytale and alien aura that permeates this joyful canvas. Then there’s the Iowa State Capitol, a grand palatial-esque building, almost like a hefty barrel-chested man shouting with the deepest booming voice. Except this building’s voiceful nature is a song of the highest architectural design.
There’s also Reiman Gardens in the city of Ames. The most sumptuous and kempt grounds ooze an Elysian and ageless quality, a charming and lovely place indeed. And then there’s Pikes Peak State Park, founded in 1935. Covering 960 acres, this amazing and pristine wilderness soothes one with a warming embrace like a gentle lullaby. The gorgeous green hues are simply breathtaking.
But I think the best sight of the state is the Basilica of Saint Francis Xavier in the city of Dyersville. This church, a masterpiece of gothic architecture, was completed in 1889. It stands dominant and victorious, proud of its ornate stained glass windows, frescos and supremely grand decor. Its elegance is simple yet utterly captivating. This colourful and majestic prelapsarian wonder breathes an atmosphere ethereal. It’s a soulful building of the utmost beauty and grace.
Iowa. The state of music, sliced bread and Captain Kirk.
1) The exterior of the Basilica of Saint Francis Xavier in Dyersville (credit: flickr.com)
2) The interior of the Basilica of Saint Francis Xavier (credit: crgardenjoe.wordpress.com)
3) Pikes Peak State Park (credit: flickr.com)
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