We were in Neubergthal with friends who are not Mennonites. We saw photos from 100 years ago of fashion-plate women, posing sassily at the front of a group. We saw the fancy lattice-work lining the second balcony of the Friesen housebarn. We saw the patterned floors. We glimpsed inside the Herdsman House… a riot of colour and pattern, warmth and imagination. My friend exclaimed, “Everything I thought about Mennonites is being challenged!”
To those who only know Mennonites to be a people of suppression, repression and dour expressions, Neubergthal is a surprise.
Me, being a Mennonite, I’m not so much surprised… it’s more like relieved, that this atmosphere is being maintained somehow. Neubergthal’s atmosphere reminds me of the farm of my childhood, and ignites my memory with flashes of my great-grandmother’s farm, too.
I first heard of Margruite Krahn when I stepped inside the summer kitchen at the Mennonite Village Museum in Steinbach. Its vivid floor pattern arrests your attention. I read the accompanying write-up, and thus learned this was the work of Margruite. She has taken note of these floor patterns, and has restored them in the Herdsman house, recreated them for the MHV, and these patterns have inspired her art moving forward. And right now ’til the end of December, you can see her exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Our stay at the Herdsman House felt kind of like a dream. So different from everyday life… yet so comfortable and strangely familiar. The bed was wonderful, we slept so well. The fire in the Russian Bake Oven was lovely. We hung our socks near the wall and they were warm in the morning. The kitchenette and bathroom have been added for more comfort, and there is a claw foot tub! In the morning, we prepared for ourselves farm-fresh eggs. We ground coffee in the antique coffee grinder that’s attached to the wall.
I have an inclination to keep this place a wonderful secret… but the truth is, anyone can reserve a stay at the Herdsman House. If you’re an artist or if you cycle there, you get a reduced rate. To plan your stay, visit this page.