Category Archives: Radical Europe 2017

RADICAL EUROPE: The Journey Home

We arrived in Berlin on Sunday evening and began our city exploration the following morning. During our time in Berlin, we visited Wittenberg to see the home and church of Martin Luther. However, more important than the places we visited is the idea of the Cross Cultural program itself. On our final night in Berlin, we met for a debriefing session to evaluate where each of us stood on the program and what we had learned. A few days ago, people were ready to return home, but now they have become reluctant to leave.
As the trip ends, several students have begun to describe the cheeseburgers that they plan to eat upon arrival in the States. We are excited to return the land of free public bathrooms and air conditioning. We are excited to return to a land where water fountains are common everywhere, and drinking water isn’t carbonated. We cannot wait to read road signs and restaurant menus in English.
Now that the final day of Cross Cultural is here, we wish we didn’t need to leave for the airport at 4 am. We wish we could ignore national politics a while longer. We wish Kinder Eggs were sold in the US. We wish that the public transportation in our hometowns was as good as the Viennese U-bahn.
We’re going home.

-Tim Martin

RADICAL EUROPE: Free Travel Explorations

Free travel has been the part of this cross cultural I have been so excited for since before we left! Three of my peers and I were originally going to go to Geneva, Switzerland, but there were a sudden change of plans. So, we decided to go to Lyon, France for our 3.5 days. We figured it wasn’t too far from our departing station, Basel, Switzerland. It also wasn’t too far from our meeting destination, Strasbourg, France. Getting to Lyon was easier than I thought it was going to be. Walking around a city I have never been to before wasn’t half bad either. The places we visited were over a mile away from our Airbnb place, but it was an easy walk. On Tuesday, we went to the Basilique of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

We admired the view (pictured below) for a good 15 minutes before going inside to look at the basilica and crypt. Afterwards, we went down onto the Renaissance district called Vieux Lyon. We ate lunch at a pizza shop and walked around some other cute, little shops.

Wednesday we decided to do a day trip to Paris since it was only a 2-hour train ride. Once in Paris, we headed over to the Notre Dame. The cathedral was breathtaking! We spent about 15 minutes inside. Once done there, we went to the Louvre. This is where the Mona Lisa is. We ate our lunch while in line to get through security. See, Kim has always gone to the grocery store to get sandwich making ingredients because it is cheaper. So, that’s what we did. We went to a Simply City and bought ingredients to make PB&Js! This was perfect because we didn’t have to go sit down and wait for our food to come out. We spent 2 hours there and I’m sure we didn’t get to see everything because it’s just that big. We were also on a tight schedule. After the Louvre, we walked to the Eiffel Tower! This was my favorite part of the day. We went up to the 2nd floor. The view from there was amazing!

Free travel was definitely a learning experience with a bunch of firsts, but I wouldn’t trade the experiences or memories for anything.

RADICAL EUROPE: And Up the Alps We Go

Since we’ve arrived in Europe we’ve caught glimpses of some mountains. The more we’ve traveled, the more of them we’ve seen. I’ve grown up around mountains, and I’m quite familiar with them, but the Alps are an entirely different story. At the bottom you’re hot and burning up in the 80 degree weather, but you’re staring up at snow covered peaks. And let me tell you, they are breathtaking.

Today, we got the opportunity to hike one. We didn’t get to the snow peaks, but where we ended was actually a spot that was covered with some snowy patches just a few weeks prior.

Our trek up the mountain was led by Dr. Werner Schwartz, an official “Bergführer” (mountain guide) and “Naturschützer” (nature protector) for 30 years. He taught us about the rocks, plants, animals, and water of the area on our journey to the top.

We came out onto the ridge where the top of a ski lift ended, and climbed just a little further to the tippity-top. With nearly a 360 degree view, I think it’s fair to say that the little breath we had left was stolen.

After admiring the view, we began our descent and took a shortcut down through the ski slopes. At the base was a large lake where the remainder of the group welcomed us back. We ate our lunch together and then decided to go for a swim.

We took the polar bear plunge into the pool. After dipping our toes into the glacial lake and thinking it would be warmer, we jumped off the dock and into water that was just as cold as the pool.

Taking advantage of the free time we had for the rest of the afternoon, we joined the masses and lounged around the lake in the   grass, soaking up some sun and relaxing after our journey.

-Sam Jacob

RADICAL EUROPE: Cross-Cultural: Extreme Follow the Leader

Kim and Seth in Vienna, Austria

As a child, I played follow the leader. I mimicked the actions of others for fun.

As a college student, I find myself in a very similar situation. This cross cultural is an extreme game of follow the leader.

Our leaders, Kim and Seth, model how to function in contemporary Europe. They guide us through cities and on public transportation. They gladly share their wisdom and calm our nerves. We follow. We learn by example.

These times of mimicking prepare us for times of independence. Almost daily we are given opportunities to explore or assignments to find specific locations. This is when the roles reverse. My peers and I will take turns directing, learning through practice.

Although this ever changing game of follow the leader is fun and challenging, it has a specific focus. We are tracing the paths of our Anabaptist roots. We are walking streets where they were beheaded or burned for refusing to recant their faith. We are crossing rivers where some were drowned and where some fled by boat. We are visiting towns where their communities thrived for a short amount of time and towns where they were forced to leave. We are following the steps of our Anabaptist leaders, imagining what life and faith meant to them.

A new perspective on Karlskirche in Vienna, Austria

Looking back over the last three weeks, I have learned a lot in this game of follow the leader. Navigating a new European city is no longer daunting. Ordering food, when the menu is only in German, is exciting. Boarding trains has become a normality. Walking tours are necessary. Overall, I have become more confident, learning the tools I need to navigate within a new culture.

I have also realized how comfortable my faith experience has been. My choice to follow Christ does not have life or death consequences. My life as an Anabaptist is so much easier than my fellow Anabaptists during the Radical Reformation. This shift in perspective has given me an avenue to reevaluate my faith and relationship with God.

Playing follow the leader is much more challenging than it sounds.

🙂 Madalynn Payne

Reflections on Life in Europe

I started off this cross cultural thinking that I had a leg up because I had traveled out of the country to Europe before, but I was sadly mistaken. Last time I was with my group of 20 something people carrying huge suitcases and matching backpacks, moving like a herd through towns with a tour guide on a big bus. This time around, we are a group of 11 students, and are encouraged to try to live like the locals. This way is definitely more scary for a 19 year old who is used to having my parents be a call and a 30 minute car ride away.

European culture in general is very different than American culture. The population as a whole is generally more reserved, in anything from clothing to personal expression. Personally I have received mixed receptions. Sometimes there are people that would love to talk to you and hear your story, and patiently wait for you to figure out what the heck you’re trying to get in the Billa when you can’t read a lick of German and have to rely on pictures. Then there are some that give you the, “I can totally tell you’re American by the way you enter a room” look and aren’t having it. Luckily there have been far less of the latter looks.

Something else a small town southern girl such as myself had to get used to is living in the city. There are people talking and laughing, car horns, street cleaners, and more at all hours of the night and very early in the morning. But then there are the advantages; like being able to walk to everything, having regular access to public transportation, and having things to do at 9pm when you’re bored and can’t journal any longer. Other things I’ve had to get used to are having to pay for water (you learn to just bring your water bottle and not ask for drinks), different foods, people trying to speak to you in different languages, pesky tour groups that are like 40 strong, and apparently they don’t like ketchup as much as we do. Also can I just mention that while I was well aware that they don’t drink sweet tea over here, that’s on my top 10 most missed list.

So far I have talked about a lot of disadvantages, but there are some pretty great aspects to this trip as well. I have redefined my definition of “lost”. Before I used to rely on my cell phone GPS or call my dad (a human atlas) when I didn’t instantly recognize my surroundings. Now if I don’t it’s not a big deal, we’ll figure it out eventually. Another HUGE plus is the scenery. There are so many places that look like they’re straight off a postcard, except I get to see them in real life. There are plenty of photo opportunities over here. Also, this trip has been great for whipping some of us into shape. There has been a lot of walking, which obviously there are some downsides. If your body isn’t ready, the first two weeks will be quite an adjustment. The plus side is that you’ll come back looking better than ever. Plus all that exercise means you can eat an apple strudel after dinner a few nights a week.

This week has been kind of travel heavy with going from Vienna to Salzburg to Innsbrück with a couple day trips to different towns thrown in the mix, so we have gotten well acquainted with the OBB (train station). Time is passing quite quickly, but the memories we’re making will be unforgettable.

-Madison Streett

Week Two: Vienna

Group photo after tea, coffee, and snacks at Ilse’s apartment.

Ilse Friesen has been a great connection for us here in Vienna. Because of her, I feel like we have been able to immerse ourselves more into the culture than we would have otherwise. On Sunday, she invited us to her apartment for a proper cup of Viennese coffee and tea. It was great for us to be able to interact with her inside her home. On Tuesday, Ilse came to our little classroom and gave a lecture on female crucifixes. Ilse is extremely intelligent and has written numerous works of females and saints in the church. On Thursday, we were invited by her and her brother to a private piano concert. This was an amazing opportunity to her professional piano players that we wouldn’t have gotten without her.

Inside the Wiener Riesenrad

On Friday we visited the Prater and had the chance to ride the Wiener Riesenrad. The Wiener Riesenrad is one of the largest and oldest Ferris wheels in Vienna. It was fun to be able to take an afternoon to relax and bond even more as a group. Although it’s sometimes stressful to be in a group all day everyday, we are mixing and working very well together. Exploring a new country and culture is a great experience on its own, but even better when you’re surrounded by wonderful people.

-Miriam Beck

View from the top

First explorations in Vienna

13 May 2017

Overall the past six days have been crazy and fun. I chose to go on this trip to experience traveling across the world for the first time. My second trip via plan e was a lot better than my first, less motion sickness and more sleep than I thought. Going through customs for the first time was easy too. Overall everything was good until we had to travel from our host family’s house to the classroom.  We have gotten lost almost every day this week on the Ubahn. Our daily commute takes an hour. We walk to a bus stop then get on the bus to the station then get on the S -train until we reach the U-trains until we get into actual Vienna. As of Friday we have officially figured it out. This week we have walked all around the inner ring of the city, also known as the old city. We have done a scavenger hunt, two walking tours and spent most of our free time in here. This city is nothing like New York or D.C. The buildings are all different shapes. Each building looks as if it is from another time period. Most are covered in a mural or decorative statues to show the history of the city. So far I have been able to visit a lot of historical places for music. I found the statue s or graves of Johann Strauss, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Schubert. We also got to find the school where Beethoven and Haydn met and one of the houses Beethoven lived in on our tour. I am very excited for next week and the rest of our cross-cultural.

-Hannah Menefee


Prior to leaving for the cross-cultural, I was incredibly excited to visit Germany and Switzerland. I’ve often learned about Germany in history classes and knew of personal Mennonite connections to Switzerland. I knew little of Austria and, therefore, was unsure about the visit here. My hesitancy, however, was completely unfounded. The past few days in Vienna have been a great experience that I hope to never forget for several reasons.

Since being in Vienna, we have visited some amazing sights. I’m a history major, and love visiting old buildings and museums. We have visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a Gothic-style Roman Catholic Cathedral dating back to the twelfth century, along with others. On Thursday, we went to the Art History Museum and the Natural History Museum. 

While I have loved the classic sights, the unexpected experiences have been some of the best. As a woman from a small town, I was unsure about public transportation and city navigation, but it has been a great experience to travel the city and learn how to navigate on our own. Also, a street near the Donaukanal (a canal), offers some fantastic graffiti. Overall, Vienna has been an incredible visit so far, and I know it will be difficult to leave.

-Emma Yoder