Our European Adventure – Day 5

The pastoral view of Baretswil, Switzerland from the trail to the Anabaptist Cave.

This was the day of all the days of our trip that I had most anticipated. Visiting the Anabaptist Cave, or Tauferhole, near Baretswil, Switzerland, was a dream come true.

But there was a catch. Long before our group ever left for Europe, our tour organizer had asked me to share my story of how and why I became Mennonite. Mennonites were some of the most radical of the early Anabaptists during the Protestant Reformation. To be able to share my personal story in that historic, sacred place meant more than I can say. I only knew that I would strive to keep it short and to the point.

We left beautiful Lucerne for the quaint village of Baretswel, Switzerland, where we would meet our local guides at the Reformed Church. Our group enjoyed the scenic morning drive, and after a break of necessity, we followed David and Ruth to where the bus could no longer go.

From there, we hoofed it up the hill through meadows full of wildflowers and marvelous fragrances. We passed dairy cows grazing and huge wood piles curing for next winter’s firing. We regrouped in the shade of the forest near the top of the hill before heading out on the trail to the once-hidden cave.

Once into the woods, the incline lessened. More concerning was the steep drop-off into a ravine created by eons of erosion from a stream flowing from and beneath the cave. Fortunately, a wooden handrail had been erected in recent years at the most dangerous spots.

I quickly explored the deepest reaches of the cave, which were no more than a few hundred feet. Once the entire group assembled, save one who declined the hike for physical reasons, our tour host Ed took over.

We sang a couple of meaningful songs, and another member of our group, a Hospice chaplain in Indiana, shared a meditation. It perfectly set the foundation for my sharing.

To the relief of those who know me, I kept my talk to one type-written page, only once veering from the script. I told about coming of age during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Though my grandfather had served in World War I and my father in World War II, I had no desire to participate in that political conflict.

The week after I met my wife-to-be, Neva took me to the Sunday church service at Beech Mennonite Church near Louisville, Ohio. The sermon was on nonresistance, one of the primary principles of peace churches, which the Mennonite Church still proclaims.

It was what I was looking for, and I gladly accepted. I joined the church nine months later, just a couple weeks before our marriage. Neva has stood by my side for 51 years through thick and thin. I am forever grateful to the late Wayne North for preaching that subject that drew me into the church.

Following my sharing, we sang some more, had a prayer, and took communion together. Had it not been for our ancestors who believed in nonresistance, adult baptism, and service to others to highlight a few critical points, we would not have been there on that special day. It was indeed a bucket list experience.

Students wave to me from the levy along the Rhine River. The mountains are in Liechtenstein.

All too soon, we walked back down the path to the awaiting bus and bid our new friends goodbye. We were off to Innsbruck, Austria. On the way, we stopped along the Rhine River for a late lunch break.

When I learned that Liechtenstein was just across the river, I climbed the many steps to the river levy to at least grab a quick photo. After descending the stairway, a school group bicycling along the levy stopped to rest. Their observant teacher had them wave to me before we left for Innsbruck.

Our stop in beautiful Innsbruck was all too brief. We walked the cobblestone streets around the Old Town section of the city, viewing markets and the Golden Roof home of Emperor Maximilian.

My wife and I strolled along the Inn River, enjoying the pastel-painted homes. The snow-covered Alps hovering above made it a picture-postcard moment.

Singing in the Anabaptist Cave.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2022

Our European Adventure – Day 4

The 13,642 ft. peak of Jungfrau, as viewed from Interlaken, Switzerland.

We knew that the fourth day of our tour would be jam-packed. We couldn’t imagine just how filled the day would be with one wonder after the other.

The day dawned with a bright blue sky and high expectations. We left our hotel in Lucerne and headed into the Swiss Alps. The lovely weather made the incredible scenery all the more amazing.

My wife and I chose seats close to the front of the bus to get a good view of where we were headed. We weren’t disappointed. Snow-capped mountains soon came into view as we traveled along the well-maintained highway system that included several long tunnels.

The view from the front of the bus.

The scenery was green in more than one way. Farmers made hay and cattle grazed on slanting pastures that ran far up the mountainsides. Hiking and biking paths led away from cities and towns far into the country and highlands. The efficient train systems did as well.

I secretly wanted the bus to stop multiple times so I could take photos without window glare. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen. The bus did stop at one pull out to view the valley and Lungernersee below. As beautiful as that was, the best was yet to come.

We stopped at Interlaken for long enough to know that I want to return someday. I could breathe in that fresh mountain air and those incredible sights for a long time. Skydivers entertained us as they swooped overhead beneath their colorful parachutes, landing in a field right in front of us.

Jungfrau’s 13,642 ft. peak shown brightly in the morning sun. It was all I could do to board the bus. Still, even more fantastic scenery awaited.

Our glorious journey continued as we wound our way through the breathtaking Lauterbrunnen Valley. Unfortunately, we had to absorb all we could from the bus as it passed through the charming village. I was able to get a few shots of the famous Staubbach Waterfalls. It was a scene I had seen many times, and now we were passing right by it.

Soon our very capable bus driver turned onto a more narrow road, and up we climbed to Grindelwald at the foot of Eiger Mountain. It was lunchtime, and while most of the others on our bus opted for a restaurant or cafe, my wife and I grabbed some munchies at a grocery store and sat on a bench that overlooked the famous mountain. The blaze away, but the air was cool, the Swiss goodies tasty, and the company at my side couldn’t have been more pleasing to me.

All too soon, we again boarded the bus and headed for the lovely Emmental Valley to visit the oldest operating Mennonite Church in Langnau. Our hosts shared about their growing church and then invited us to wander the cemetery across the street. Familiar last names appeared on the headstones. Many American Mennonite families can trace their family tree to this location.

From Langnau, the bus navigated more narrow country roads to the Trachselwald Castle, where Anabaptists were imprisoned in the 16th and 17th centuries. The view from the castle was likely more appealing for us than it was for those early martyrs.

We wound our way to the farm of a descendent of Hans Hasselbacker, who was imprisoned in the old castle. His namesake relative greeted us and showed us his farmstead, which has the house and barn connected in true Swiss fashion.

The view from the castle.

With the sun nearing the horizon, we drove country roads back to our hotel in Lucerne. It had been a great day, made even better by the news that we had a new grandson born late May 14 in Rochester, New York. Welcome to the world, Teddy!

Our newest grandchild, Teddy!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2022

K Hertzler Art

Artist and nature journalist in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Maria Vincent Robinson

Photographer Of Life and moments

° BLOG ° Gabriele Romano

The flight of tomorrow

Jennifer Murch

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. -Twyla Tharp

Roadkill Crossing

Writing generated from the rural life

ANJOLI ROY

writer. teacher. podcast cohost.

Casa Alterna

El amor cruza fronteras / Love crosses borders

gareth brandt

reflections about God and life

church ov solitude

We are all just babes in the woods.

%d bloggers like this: