Before heading to Iowa last weekend, the only thing I could remember about that particular state was the boredom of driving through it as a child on the way to Colorado. In fact, up until last weekend, every time I thought of “Iowa,” the only thing that came to mind was a golden brown rectangle somewhere west of the Mississippi and cornfields as far as the eye could see.
I take my identity as a city girl pretty seriously. While some people might find the so-called concrete jungle nerve-racking – with all of the strange characters, honking of horns, screaming of sirens, and strange smells – I could not be any more at home. So when I venture out of the Chicago, I sometimes feel the same anxiety many people feel when they venture in, but opposite. All of the trees, and open empty spaces, forlorn gas stations and enormous grocery stores, and the silence…!
My trip to Iowa was different. First of all I was amazed about how beautiful north-western Illinois is. It was my first time ever driving through Galena, a quaint little town with beautiful old houses built up in the hills that reminded me of Europe. In that area, just as we were crossing the border into Iowa is hilly with valleys of trees that were just beginning to lose their leaves for winter. We stayed with my roommate’s grandparents in a very rural area of northeastern Iowa, very near Amish country, and very far from any city.
I must have asked 100 questions over the course of the weekend, about the crops and the livestock, about the Amish and the economy. It truly is a different world out there. My roommate’s grandparents drove us around and showed us all of the family land, which to me looked like an inconceivable amount of work. I could imagine his grandparents getting a good laugh after we left: us kids, constantly pulling out our phones to take pictures of things that are quite ordinary in Iowa.
Soon it was time to head home. On the way back we had time to stop and spend a few hours in Galena. I was in love within minutes of stepping out of the car. Galena was a mix of everything I appreciate in America with the atmosphere of a little European town. We were able to visit the local brewery and even had time to take a short tour. My favorite part of the day, however, was driving up in to the hills and checking out some of the old houses. I know now, that I would consider leaving the city — but only if it meant moving to Galena!