Another post from Josh and Alison:
Last Thursday, Alison and I took our first out-of-Prague excursion with fellow students as part of an educational retreat. The mission was to trace Anabaptist roots throughout the south of Moravia into the northwest of Slovakia. In the 16th century, it was in these towns and under the various princes and rulers that a persecuted group of protestant Christians found sanctuary, albeit for only a limited time. IBTS traces their theological and historical roots in part to these various Anabaptist movements, and it was a treasure for us to participate in a very meaningful trip along with our friends here in the Czech Republic.
The first town we explored, a place called Mikulov, is on the southern border of Moravia in what is now the southeastern part of the Czech Republic, right near Austria. Alison and I actually drove through this place on our way to Vienna a couple months back – I remember thinking how beautiful it looked from the road, and actually lamenting that there were so many places that I would never have a reason or opportunity to visit . Mikulov is the former seat of the line of Lichtenstein (now the tiny nation between Austria and Switzerland), and under the Lichtenstein princes a little Anabaptist community flourished here in the early 1500′s. One of the main reasons for visiting Mikulov is that it was the final residence of one of the most famous Anabaptist theologians, a man by the name of Balthasar Hubmaier. This was a theological nerd-out moment for me, because I studied Hubmaier a bit at Fuller and it was great to see a place connected with him and the movement in general. Aside from that, the place is just gorgeous! We walked around the towering castle and saw the old neighborhood the Anabaptists used to inhabit.
We had a little extra time, so our group of 12 traveled to the nearby town of Valtice, one of the wine-producing centers of Moravia and home to a beautiful chateau that we had a chance to walk around. Furthermore, there were countless wine shops and I had the chance to try out my Czech in one of them with the little-old-lady shopkeeper. It was actually pretty horrible. The only thing I understood was at the end, when we were trying to leave and I realized she was sadly saying “you don’t want anything?” over and over again as we made our way to the door. The joy of context clues.
Our final stop was a town just across the border in Slovakia, a place called Sobotište, which I don’t believe has ever seen a tourist outside of IBTS folks. We had some strange looks shot our way by the locals, especially kids who seemed blown away to hear someone speaking something other than the local dialect. IBTS owns a house in Sobotište which they are hoping to turn into a museum of Anabaptist history – it’s a barely refurbished Anabaptist home from the 1600′s – quite a trip to explore! No running water, barely electricity, no furniture…and it was inhabited until about 10 years ago! Seriously village living. We walked around a bit, and saw some people with a horse-drawn plow working in a plot of land about the size of the average suburban living room. It felt like true ‘off the beaten path’ tourism.
Overall a great trip, not for all of the exciting stories or wonders of the world we saw, but rather for the fellowship of friends and the glimpse at the amazing history of a region that has seen so much it boggles the mind.