CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Iowa, like most states in the US, was built by immigrants moving here to build a life. One group came here from what is now known as the Czech and Slovak republics in Europe. Many came to live in Cedar Rapids due to available jobs.
“Czech Village and the surrounding area, generally about 120 or 130 years ago, there was a need for labor and meat processing,” said Steven Prochaska of the Anvil Meat Market. “Some enterprising individuals advertised in the Czech Republic to bring European immigrants over to Cedar Rapids.”
They came and filled jobs at what was called the Sinclair Packing Plant. For a time it was the largest Cedar Rapids employer. For those Czechs who came and stayed, they built meat markets and bakeries. Some of that flavor still remains in Czech Village in Cedar Rapids.
At Sykora Bakery, the Czech pastry kolaches are sold.
“A kolache is a round red pastry that has fruit filling on the inside of it,” said Marna Trcka of Sykora Bakery. “Kozak’s was a dime store. You could go in there and buy Czeck candy. My grandpa came from Czechoslovakia. We get his birthday card written in Czech.”
The cornerstone of Czech Village is the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.
“We have a pretty extensive collection of 14,000 items that have to do with Czech and Slovak history and culture,” said Stefanie Cohen, curator of the museum. “We have art. We have glass with a lot of textiles because a lot of Czechs make beautiful folk art on their textiles.”
The museum also features a carousel with costumes from various areas of the Czech Republic. A display shows how many brought one suitcase and came over on a ship to a new life in the US.
“We’re standing here at the Carousel of Kroje. Kroje is the Czech word for folk costume or folk dress,” said Cohen.
The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library was founded in the early 70s in order to celebrate the people in the Czech and Slovak heritage around here,” said Cohen. “They worked really hard to gather artifacts and build a museum, build a library.”
The museum’s new building was constructed after the Iowa flood of 2008.
Visitors to Czech Village can stop at a number of shops including antiques and Anvil Meat Market.
“My favorite sandwich would be the Double Dogs, natural casing Czech wieners, stone ground beer mustard, and sauerkraut on a French roll,” said Prochaska. “It’s a little bit of old, a little bit of new.”
While not in Czech Village, a stop at Parlor City Ice Cream is great on a hot summer afternoon in Cedar Rapids.
If you would like information on the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, click here.
For more on Sykora Bakery, click here.
Here’s information on the Anvil Meat Market and Deli.
Here’s information about visiting Cedar Rapids.
If you like ice cream: Parlor City Ice Cream.