We had quite a drive heading to the Palace of Gold today. We made the HUGE mistake of following our GPS unit. The website for the Palace warns about using GPS but it gives you the GPS coordinates. There should be a further note on their site saying "DO NOT USE YOUR GPS until you get to the town of Moundsville". It took us over an hour and a half to go from the campground to the Palace which was only about 10.8 miles away. In a straight line, it would have been 7 miles! The reason is that the GPS took us on narrow winding roads all over the place. Most were worse than the logging roads that we encountered in Maine. We took a lot of them and had bunches of odd looks from people wondering what the devil we were thinking being on this road with our vehicle! The last time the GPS tried to take on another road, I told Lee to just turn around and find the nearest highway. That is what we did and we ended up in Moundsville and, what do you know, there were signs to the Palace. From Moundsville, it took us maybe 10 minutes and the road was narrow but a lot nicer than what we had encountered thus far today. Have to say that the scenery was gorgeous along the way but probably was not worth that feeling of panic at every turn!
Well, we finally arrived at the Palace of Gold and we were not disappointed. This place is sitting in the middle of nowhere and could be called the Taj Mahel of West Virginia or maybe the USA. We've certainly not encountered anything like this before on our travels.
The Palace of Gold was originally built to serve as the home for His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Swami Prabhupada is the founder of the Hare Krishna movement (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). In 1968 the New Vrindaban Community was founded. Their first year they lived on a rundown farm with no running water and no electricity. They managed to make it through the winter and through their efforts the farm expanded from 100 acres to 500 acres. This was done while the Swami was traveling extensively around the world preaching his vision.
In 1973 the group decided to build the Swami a home near the farm where he could write all his books and enjoy the serenity of nature. They chose a location and probably got a bargain price for it as it was being used as a dump. They removed the debris and cleared the land and started building his home. What is just almost unbelievable is that these people were not trained builders or craftsmen. They learned on-the-job and did a fantastic job of it. The Palace is full of carved teak wood, marble floors and walls, stained glass windows and ornate molded cast plaster around doors, etc. Unfortunately, they do not let you take pictures inside the palace because the insides are kept in perfect condition. The outside is in need of repairs in many areas but you can still see just how beautiful it was at one time and will probably be again as funds become available.
The Swami passed away before the Palace was completed although he did visit it on a couple of occasion before he died. Now it is used as a shrine to him.
The setting, the palace and the gardens are just magnificent and we are so glad we made the trip over to see it.