My favorite thing about moving to a new place is exploring my new surroundings. In Ohio, we loved to take little road trips and discover the tiny towns around us. It was easy to come across something unique even in seemingly empty areas.
My Mom moved to Iowa a few years ago and I always used to tease her. "Having fun out there in that corn field, Mom?" I'd say - sort of joking and sort of serious. I never thought about Iowa much and didn't assume there was much to see. I'm finding out for myself now that I live here that it really is a whole lot of corn (and soy bean!) fields! BUT - between the cornfields are some hidden treasures.
Even things you may not expect to see...
We made a short 45 minute drive to the small town of West Bend, Iowa. A normal tiny town except for one thing. It is the home of the Grotto of the Redemption.
It is a massive monument made of stones, shells and petrified woods. It was built by a man named Paul Dobberstein - a German man who immigrated to America and was studying to become a Priest.
He became ill with pneumonia and promised to build a shrine for the "Blessed Virgin Mary" if he survived. Guess what? This man sure does keep his promises!
Regardless of your religious beliefs - this is an absolute sight to behold. My jaw dropped as soon as we walked up to the structure and I could not blink the entire time. So many questions ran through my mind!
Where did he GET all these different stones? How is this possible?? What the heck???
Was this guy insane????
Insane in a really cool way, obviously.
I mean... it is really intense!
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention - built in 1912!
Know what else happened in 1912?
The Titanic sank.
I was finding some of it a bit eerie. People placed fake roses in different parts of the shrine in honor of loved ones passed. It was very quiet with soft music playing throughout.
We didn't take the formal tour. We just wanted to wander around on our own. More questions may have been answered had we taken the tour.
After touching all of 8,364,988 stones, we come across this sign:
The stones were collected for over a decade in order to create this. He must have had a really big garage. How would you store all these? How did he plan the design? So many questions!
"Talk to the hand!" says the angel.
I like to imagine this angel...
...playing this song...
If you didn't know this already - the baby Jesus was not your average infant. He had a calm and confident demeanor straight away:
As we were leaving (because the next group tour was about to go through and we wanted to escape before they caught up to us) we came across this amazing Canon 50D and Telephoto Zoom Lens guy hanging out with some ducks.
Mom is yelling at her babies.