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city ties can fredericksburg help Prince's Town? Sisters, worlds apart About the series ABOUT GHANA Prince's Town Coming up
Fredericksburg and sister city in Ghana are worlds apart

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Date published: 8/26/2007


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PRINCE'S TOWN, Ghana--It is simple to list the similarities between this town by the sea in West Africa and its new sister city of Fredericksburg 5,000 miles away.

There are none.

The city in Virginia and the town in Ghana have almost nothing in common aside from their sister-city proclamations of last year.

By Fredericksburg standards, Prince's Town is remote and poor almost beyond belief.

Many of Prince's Town's 3,000 people make less than Ghana's average per-capita income of $450 a year. Most people in Fredericksburg make that much or more each week.

Prince's Town lies 164 miles west of Ghana's capital of Accra on a palm-fringed coast dotted with old forts and castles. Europeans seeking African gold and slaves built the forts centuries ago.

The main coastal road is paved, but the branch to Prince's Town is not. The 11-mile home stretch is variously bumpy, dusty, steep, muddy, slippery, submerged and occasionally impassable.

Prince's Town has electricity, but not much of it. Like the rest of Ghana, the town is subject to rolling blackouts. Droughts have drawn down Lake Volta, the source of most of the country's electric power.

Many houses in Prince's Town have electric lights. Some even have televisions with antennas mounted atop tall bamboo poles. A few houses have small refrigerators.

But the single transformer that serves the town is not sufficient. Street lights trip the breaker. What power there is is single-phase, not suitable for running motors.

Internet service in Prince's Town? Forget it.

Prince's Town does not even have land-line telephone service. Cell phone users can sometimes make a connection from the tall battlements of Fort Gross-Friedrichsburg on a rocky ledge by the sea at the edge of the town.

two princes, two towns

Germans built the stone fort in 1683 and named it after their Brandenburg prince. Fredericksburg was named in 1727 after his cousin, an English prince.

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HOW DO YOU SPELL IT? The name of Fredericksburg's sister city in Ghana has several spellings. Is it Princes Town, Prince's Town or Princess Town? In my recent conversations with well-educated English-speaking natives, all agreed that the name means "the town of the prince" and that the name should be written "Prince's Town."

In this case, the prince was the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenberg, who authorized the building of the fort in the town in the 17th century.

When I was there, banners strung over the street welcomed American visitors to "Prince's Town." John Atkins also called it "Prince's Town" in his 1735 book "A Voyage to Guinea." So that's the way I'm spelling it.

But it is "Princess Town" on a road sign, an environmental report, the Web site of Ghana's Ahanta West district and signs at a school and health clinic in town.

My host Alfred Kaku Aluade Acquah said, "'Prince's Town' with the apostrophe 's' was the way we were taught to write it in school. Princess Town is a spelling that has come lately."

Nevertheless, a few days later Acquah wrote out a receipt and spelled it "Princess Town."

--Frank Delano

Frank Delano visited Prince's Town, Fredericksburg's new sister city, during a July trip to Ghana, where he served in the Peace Corps 40 years ago.

TOMORROW: Sister-city relationship shines a beacon of hope into Prince's Town. Tale of two soccer balls illustrates town's need, and obsession. TUESDAY: Spotsylvania man leads effort to protect villagers from malaria. WEDNESDAY: Profile of Fredericksburg's Pamela Bridgewater, ambassador to Ghana THURSDAY: What is the future of the sister-city relationship? FRIDAY: Forty years later, reporter's return to Ghana is bittersweet. Read Frank Delano's account in LIFE. SATURDAY: Remembering Prince's Town's Golden Age, and a photo essay on a traditional burial. Find both in TOWN & COUNTY.

LOCATION: West Africa SIZE: Slightly smaller than Oregon CLIMATE: Tropical POPULATION: 22.4 million RELIGION: Christian, 63 percent; Muslim, 16 percent; and indigenous beliefs, 21 percent LANGUAGE: English (official) and African languages including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe and Ga GOVERNMENT: Constitutional democracy. The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms. So are members of the parliament. CAPITAL: Accra

TIME DIFFERENCE: Five hours ahead of Washington standard time

INDEPENDENCE: March 6, 1957, from the United Kingdom EXPORTS: Gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore and diamonds CURRENCY: Cedi PHONE LINES IN USE: 2.8 million INTERNET HOSTS: 380 INTERNET USERS: 401, 300