Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jacob Kaufmann farm

Tonight is our last night in Switzerland. I again will have an internet connection in an off and on sort of way. Sorry I have blogged so many entries all at once. But that is the way it will probably be for the rest of the trip. And while I have a few more Amish and Mennonite sites to visit, the blog will probably be more travelogue at this point.

The morning began with a lot of rain in Grindelwald, but then we went again to Thun. I wanted to hike out to the farm that once belonged to Jacob Kaufmann, the brother of my ancestor Isaac, and it may very well have been the farm where he grew up as well. It is in Dornhalte, in Heimberg. This is a small and out of the way place, though by taking the train between Thun and Konolfingen to Heimberg, I only had to walk about 20 minutes to reach it.

To get there I headed north on the bike path between the highway and the railroad tracks. When I saw the Dornhalde sign I turned right. Then I almost immediately made a left onto a Wanderweg, which is to say a farm road that prohibits other vehicles from using it. The street name was Rothachenweg, or something like that. And then I saw the main farm house.

There are two farms there now, and the one is owned by a Shenk family, the name of my uncle. They are both dairy farms, and the one also has an orchard. The building are tucked away in a small valley and there really is a beautiful view of some nearby mountains.

This was again a strongly emotional experience for me, like when I sat in the prison in Thun and imagined Isaac Kaufmann there. I have focused a lot on places where Isaac was incarcerated, but this was now a place where he was productive and worked the land. This is where he contributed to his own welfare and the welfare of his community. It was a beautiful place to me. It felt good to imagine what he did there but then to also see that today there are farmers there who are also taking care of the land and contributing to their own welfare and the welfare of the community.

I found it interesting that the Reformed Church of Switzerland, once a bitter enemy of Mennonites, but now working at reconciliation in a number of positive ways, has a poster about loving enemies with an image of George Bush. Is he the enemy to be loved or the person being questioned? The translation is something like this: "Do you really have to love your enemies?" Then the subtitle is "What touches the world, touches us." It is for the Reformed church magazine. The Swiss Reformed have done a lot of work on acknowledging the dark episode of Anabaptist persecution in their past. Just in the last couple of years great strides have been made in the relationship. All the Mennonite churches I visited were working with the Reformed church in their area. It was heartening to see.

We ended our day in Basel. This was a last minute change to the itinerary. It partly was a way for me to see Basel again. I really love this city and I will miss it. We ate in a sidewalk café and then took the ferry across the Rhine River. These ferries have no engines. They use a cable and the current of the river to pull them across. The Rhine River will keep reappearing in the upcoming blogs. The Rhine finds its source in Switzerland but then journeys through the Alsace in France and then Germany, and finally to the Netherlands. It is the river that has defined European Mennonite identity for centuries.

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