Day trips can be a good way to fit in a mini “vacation” without breaking the bank or having to take time off work. You’d be surprised at what you may be able to find close to home. This was the case for me when I discovered The Palace of Gold.
I never would have thought I could drive less than two hours from home and find myself in a town called New Vrindaban – in West Virginia. The more I look into what West Virginia has to offer, the more surprised I am. But I can go more into that some other day. New Vrindaban is located about half an hour south of Moundsville, WV and truly seems to be in the middle of nowhere. It’s definitely worth the drive.
Last week, my friend, Carley, and I decided we wanted to take a day trip to see The Palace of Gold. Although their website says your GPS will take you down unfinished roads and through a riverbed (?!?), we didn’t have an issue with our GPS – other than the fact that my phone was being glitchy, but I won’t get into my personal problems with Siri today. We had two options for getting to New Vrindaban – the highway or the “scenic route.” If there’s anything you should take away from this post, it’s that any scenic route in West Virginia will be well worth an extra ten or twenty minutes of driving time. Lucky for us the drive was made even better by the blue sky and the (super) fluffy clouds.
It took us nearly two hours to get to the Palace (like I said before – glitchy phone). Once there, we were free to roam as we pleased. Although there were renovations being done, the area was still beautiful and impressive. Signs pointed us towards tours in the main building and towards the rose garden nearby. We started out slow and just took in the view, the architecture, and the details of everything around us.
When we were ready for more, we ventured over to the rose garden, complete with a fountain, then circled back around to the front of the Palace. We walked down the front steps and found a large pond completely covered in lily pads. The pathway next to it was lined with large pots with trees in them.
Our trip up until this point was full of oohs and ahhs and Instagram-worthy photos. But then we ventured inside the Palace, where they were offering tours. We talked to our tour guide – a lovely girl who just graduated high school – until it was time to begin, paid our $9.50 entrance fee, took off our shoes, and entered the first hallway. The floor was made of marble, the windows were all stain glass, and the walls had depictions of the teachings of ISKCON – International Society of Krishna Consciousness. Our first stop was a life-size statue of the man the Palace was meant for – Prabhupada.
Our guide gave us a brief history of the man – he was the first missionary from India to come to the United States to teach people about ISKCON and he began his work in New York City in 1965. Due to the difference in cultures, he decided the best way to talk to people was to let them come to him. He bought a bongo drum, sat in Central Park, and played and sang for the people walking by. When they approached him, he would answer their questions and talk to them about India and ISKCON. During his time here, he also translated texts into English.
How the Palace ended up being built in West Virginia, I have no idea. I’m kicking myself now for not asking why. The purpose of the Palace being built, though, was as a thank you. Followers wanted to thank Prabhupada for teaching them about ISKCON, so they decided to build him a palace so that he would have a place to stay even though they wouldn’t receive a paycheck and they had no experience in construction or architecture.
Many of the builders learned on the fly and read “how to” magazines to figure out what they needed to do to achieve the outcome they desired – a beautiful palace. They most certainly achieved exactly what they set out to, but with a few mistakes. The first is that they used actual gold leaf on the outside of the Palace – a beautiful detail, but one that wore away with time. It is now painted gold. The second mistake was that much of the cement that was used had too much water mixed into it. This caused the cement to erode more quickly than usual, hence the restoration work in process while we were there.
There were a few alterations to the original palace for preservation purposes. The hallway we first stepped into was actually meant to be a porch surrounding the actual living area. The stain glass windows – some with more than 400 pieces – were added in later to preserve the intricate details inside. The gold leaf pressed onto the walls and ceilings in this area were protected due to the addition of the windows and are still there today.
The layout of the home itself was a giant square. In the middle is the temple room. The next loop around are a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and office. The next loop is the “porch.” The wooden furniture inside is from India and is made of teak wood. Chandeliers’ crystals come from Austria and other foreign countries. The chandelier inside the temple room was actually made in Italy and later altered to handle light bulbs and electricity rather than just candles. There are decorations within the office made from peacock feathers that had been dropped by the many peacocks kept in a garden a short walk from the Palace. In short, everything was intricate and carefully put together.
After the tour we went to see the peacocks, not only because peacocks are beautiful creatures, but also because our guide mentioned to us that a peacock had mated with a turkey. We had to see the bird that resulted from that match up.
By this point in the afternoon, we were dying for food so we headed up the road to Moundsville. There wasn’t much to choose from, but we found a Dairy Queen that quickly cured my hanger. Just down the road from the Dairy Queen is the West Viginia State Penitentiary that closed down in 1995 and the Grave Creek Mound and museum. They’re literally across the street from each other.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the penitentiary in time for a tour, but we were able to explore the Grave Creek Mound museum and climb up the mound for a nice view of the penitentiary. If I’m not mistaken, this mound is the largest burial mound of its kind in the United States. It was built by the Adena people over 2,000 years ago. Honestly, this is the most information I got out of this part of the trip. I was exhausted by this point, but I definitely see a trip back to Moundsville in the future!
How Much Did This Trip Cost?
The beauty of a day trip is how inexpensive it can be, especially if you pack a lunch or go to attractions without entrance fees.
Gas – $15 – I drove, therefore I paid
Food – $7 – (Dairy Queen meal)
Tour – $9.50 – The indoor tour of the Palace
Final Cost – $31.50