Neubergthal Mennonite Street Village

by • March 31, 2016 • Cultural Immersion, Food & Drink, Galleries & Museums, Historic Places, Surprising DiscoveriesComments (2)23931

Menno-toba: Top spots in Manitoba to make like a Mennonite

Some people work harder than others at finding peace and quiet. Take the Mennonites, for example. Evolving out of the 16th century Reformation, they were persecuted for their pacifist beliefs for 400 years. With stops in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia, the Mennonites dreamed of a home that would give peace a chance.

Finally, Manitoba beckoned with its vast prairies and a need for settlers. Given their desire for simple communal living off the land, the Mennonites thrived as prairie homesteaders, particularly in our province’s southern reaches.

Mennonite Heritage Village

Your first stop for a crash course in Mennonite history is Steinbach, a 65 km drive southeast of Winnipeg. The Mennonite Heritage Village includes a blacksmith shop, print shop, church, school and several homes that give you a glimpse of daily life for 16th century Russian Mennonites. Hint: it wasn’t easy. You’ll also find exhibits of arts and crafts and farm equipment, including a fire engine and tractors. The museum’s impressive windmill is the only operational one in Canada. It was erected in 2001 after an arsonist destroyed the museum’s first windmill built in 1972. Pioneer Days – held every August long weekend at MHV – is a highlight of the summer for many Steinbach Mennonite families.

And while you’re here, don’t forget your Mennonite munchies. Stop at the museum’s Livery Barn for some authentic vereniki (cottage cheese perogies) and plautz (a fruit cake dessert).

Wall of Remembrance

Located in Bethel Heritage Park in Winkler (132 kms southwest of Winnipeg), this monument honours Manitoba’s conscientious objectors (COs) during the Second World War. The wall is composed of 3,021 bricks, one for each Manitoban CO who refused military duty based on religious beliefs. About 75 per cent of these COs were Mennonite, who alternatively served community service in places such as national parks, hospitals and lumber camps. The Wall of Remembrance is located across the park from the war memorial, which some interpret to be symbolic. The choice to refuse military service was a divisive one, creating rifts in communities and families. Even seven decades later, the wall’s organizers have received letters of protest.

Ten Thousand Villages

The Mennonites believed in fair trade way before it was cool. In 1946, a Mennonite Central Committee missionary named Edna Ruth Byler bought several pieces of embroidery from Puerto Rican women. She brought it home, sold it, and used the profits to buy more. Her ideals of fair commerce through ethical partnerships have ballooned into Ten Thousand Villages, a chain of almost 50 stores across Canada. The non-profit retailer now sells fair-trade handicrafts, ranging from Andean worry dolls to Nepalese carpets, created by more than 100 artisan groups in 35 developing countries. Get your shop on in Winnipeg, or you’ll also find stores in Steinbach, Winkler, Altona and Brandon.


Just outside Altona (117 kms south of Winnipeg), this Mennonite street village was settled in the late 19th century and showcases the typical Mennonite homestead, the signature feature being living quarters that were attached to the barn. In many cases, people lived in the same building as the animals with only a wall separating them. Each family’s buildings followed the same formation, creating a visually clean, humble community that aspired to interdependent living.Third and fourth generations of Klippensteins, Hamms, Hoeppners and Funks who originally settled the village remain in Neubergthal. They offer tours of their community and homes.

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2 Responses to Menno-toba: Top spots in Manitoba to make like a Mennonite

  1. Natasha Romanova says:

    The food is “vAreniki”, not “vEreniki”.

  2. Neubergthal is exactly the same typical type of barn-house combination that you still see in northern Germany to this day. Thi shows the heritage of the Mennonites coming from there as there are also examples of housing of this type in southern Holland and Denmark where, if you do any travelling, you will see the same names Loewen, Funk, Friesen, Doerksen Etc on businesses etc. This at one time (1535) still belonged to Germany. The Great Migration started during these years until the Prince of Orange declared independence from Germany in the 1580s. The old language spoken there amongst the mainly older population is the same Low German (low countries) as is amongst the Mennonites. High German is simply the language that became predominant (it is spoken originally in the high country ie middle German hills and down to the Alps). and is now the common language in Germany. Nothing to do with high class. Each village has its own form of Low German throughout Germany
    which mainly only the older generation even barely remembers. There are accents of High German throughout Germany Bavaria Austria Switzerland Lichtenstein, etc the same as there are English accents in Newfoundland to B.C. I am an Albertan and I have lived in Manitoba 40 years yet I still have certain words such as coyotee, wrastle etc that people here look at me and ask where are you from. The false implication that the Mennonites are Dutch is pushed because of the terrors of especially WW2, so some do not want to be German. They are all Germans and borders changed during the different migrations, which does not mean your ethnic background has changed. After all do they speak Low Dutch or Low German. Mennonites should be proud of All their heritage including being German. It is not the fault of the people of Germany that despots took over government at times, it happened in all nations in Europe, ie the Napoleons, Communists in Russia, and the Nazis in Germany. I am a Canadian born German, was taught High German by my parents for which I am gratefull as 95% of my Family still lives in Germany, none of which were Nazis or other, married a wounderful Mennonite girl, of whose heritage I am very proud of since they experienced much the same as my Family, having to move around Europe due to Political issues and persecution. My family had to escape to Sweden in 1932 – 1939 were ejected back to Nazi Germany, suffered tremendously by the Gestapo, were taken prisoner by the Russians (Communists) and endured atrocities. Does this make me say that the Russians are bad. Of course not. It was the Political situation which most Russian people despised especially over time when the promises of the Communists were not kept. The same happened in Germany, over 90% of the population despised the Nazis but were forced membership. My Grandmother refused to vote in 1932 and the Gestapo picked her, took her to the polling station , forced her to vote, open table, with one name on the ballet, Adolf Hitler. That is how history recorded that 95% voted for the Nazis. My Family is only a tiny miniscule of the experiences of the ordinary population of Germany. I am proud to be a Canadian of German heritage and also proud of my wife and her Mennonite Heritage. There are still many Neubergthal type villages in Germany Holland Denmark to this day, not just in Russia. I have seen them.

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