Discovering the Altona-Gretna Rhineland Trail!

Yes, there’s MORE! Following the MMHS AGM in Neubergthal in late April, Andrew and I saw the Altbergthal village and cemetery for the first time, and visited the taproom at Dead Horse Cider. But that wasn’t all!

On our way from Neubergthal to Altbergthal, we went through Old Altona, because I wanted to see that cemetery as well. I’ve been there before… not well, mind you, but still — I have been there. On this occasion we didn’t stop at all, because we had a bit of a packed agenda which included more taprooms than cemeteries to be honest. (I won’t write about it this time, but I’ve written before about our visits to Rendezvous Brewery in Morden — and yeah, that was another stop of ours on this day.)

But then we did stop for this:

I’m very annoyed with myself that I didn’t know about the Altona-Gretna Rhineland Trail! It sounds amazing! I should go!

The sign says:

“Welcome to the West Reserve. You have reached the western border of what was once the West Reserve — land set aside for the Mennonites in the late 1800s. The Mennonites were the first large group to immigrate to Manitoba en masse, recruited by the Canadian government. They negotiated with the government for two blocks of land. The first was the East Resserve — eight townships or 737.3 sq km on the east side of the Red River which you will travel through on the Trans Canada Trail around Niverville. In 1876, 17 more townships were set aside on the west side of the river — the West Reserve. The West Reserve formed a block, from about 10 km west of the Red River, across the open prairie for 48 km. Originally these lands were for the exclusive use of the Mennonites, but in 1898 the reserves were opened to general settlement.”

The sign also has a picture of Mennonites arriving by steamboat in 1874, and a map of the East and West Reserves.

This other sign talks about the street villages that populate the West Reserve (but are largely extinct from the East Reserve, aside from our beloved Mennonite Heritage Village museum).

Here is what this sign says:

“As you travel along the Trans Canada Trail through the East and West Mennonite Reserves, be sure to stop to visit the villages. In the West Resesrve you can still see the traditional street villages where about 20 families built their homes along a central street or strassendorf. Often the central street ran along a creek. The village design allowed for a communal working relationship among villagers while alllowing each family to have their own home. Watch for the traditional housebarns in the villages. The housebarns are similar to these in Europe where the house and barn are part of the same structure. In Europe they are often built into the side of a hill. Here the housebarn forms a long structure — the house is a roomy rectangular building and the barn slightly larger than the house. The trail takes you close to the Neubergthal National Historic Site, which has many original housebarns. You can also see them in other villages throughout the West Reserve.”

The sign has pictures of typical street village layouts, a housebarn, and a barn door.

These signs are informative but maybe a little worse for wear. I wonder how long they’ve been there!

There’s another sign as well:

The sign was put up by the Municipality of Rhineland, and it says:

“Trans Canada Trail upgrade project. This is what the trail from Altona to Gretna will look like when completed, and construction will continue as funds are available until the project is complete. Feedback is encouraged, email”

Looks to me like the trail is good to go, and I need to check it out! I think this is a pretty neat part of the Trans Canada Trail and I want to walk it this summer!