Northlanders Take Trip Of Lifetime To Prague

By KBJR News 1

October 7, 2012 Updated Nov 7, 2012 at 2:48 PM CST

Prague, Czech Republic (Northland's NewsCenter)
This is Charles Bridge over the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic.
It's been home to musicians, artists and beggars for hundreds of years.
Last week, John Ritacco from Mountain Iron took his friend Barb Shosten there to see the sights.

"Her granddaughter told her what beautiful place this was so we decided to come and look."

So did Al Ross from Nashwauk.

"Well, I've got free time to enjoy myself so it's better than sitting home, I guess."

Regis Hallgren of Duluth brought her daughter Kathy on the trip as a birthday present.
Kathy used to attend a Czech church while living in New York.

"Prague I knew had a statue of Jan Hus who is the founder of the religion." said Kathy.

Norm Nelson from Golden Valley signed up for the tour as a tribute to his late wife Bozena, a woman of Czech heritage from New Prague, Minnesota.

"Every time I thought of coming here without her I didn't want to do it and now after ten years, I finally decided it's time to do it."

Other people on the tour came from Green Bay, Eau Claire, the Twin Cities, Nebraska, Washington and Wyoming.
Despite being thousands of miles from home, some of the scenes were very American like the Model A Fords prowling Old Town.
Model A restorer Stan Hansen from Wyoming says Henry Ford spread his empire overseas in the 20's.

"He came over here and put a small plant in and built Fords over here."

Other sights evocative of the Northland included iron mine head frames like those still standing in Chisholm, Soudan and Ely, mine dumps like those in Eveleth and farm plots near forested hills like the Bayfield Penninsula.
Differences included castles, cathedrals, dungeons and an ancient armory defended by cannon and cross bow.
Most of these tourist attractions were allowed to decay during the communist era.
After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, though, national pride increased and freedoms like travel returned to the people.

"We can afford some holidays abroad. It was impossible to travel; mainly just behind the Iron Curtain." said tour guide Jana Filova.

The Prague trip was put on by Holiday Vacations out of Eau Claire.
A trip like this is a bit spendy so most attendees spent time saving up ahead of time.

"They're already thinking ahead hey, I want to do this tour. They know how much it costs and they sign up and say hey, we have to put this much away." said Arlet Jorgensen of Holiday Vacations.

The thirty Americans in a foreign land bonded well after a week together.
Norm Nelson succeeded in paying tribute to his wife via a brief but heartfelt message.

"I wish you were with me and I got tears in my eyes and I'm starting to get tears in my eyes now."

Now home after what was marketed as the trip of a lifetime, thirty new friendships mean many of these people will see each other again.

"When I do go skiing up at Spirit Mountain this winter, I'm going to specifically think of Prague and the Duluth people I met here!" said Diane Sands of the Twin Cities.

In Prague, Czech Republic, Dave Anderson, the Northland's News Center.

Another similarity between Prague and the Northland – is they had a devastating flood similar to ours ten years ago.
And...Like our region, they are still cleaning up from that flood, too.