West Virginia A Close Encounter of the First Kind... Moundsville Prabhupada's Palace of Gold - the Temple of Krishna Wheeling the Old Suspension Bridge Article Hare Krishna Other pages other states | articles
This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: South Atlantic - Part 2
In the travel series View America, South Atlantic - part 2 covers Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.
My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.
~ ~ ~ ~
WEST VIRGINIA is also known as the Mountain State, because of its many mountains, and as the Panhandle State, because of its peculiar form, a pan with two handles ! West Virginia joined the Union in 1863 as the 35th state, in the midst of the Civil War. It separated from Virginia, which joined the Confederation (the South). The capital and largest city is Charleston.
West Virginia has a surface of 62,800 km2, and it is forested for 79%. The state counts some 1.8 million inhabitants, with a density of 29 per km2. With only 36% of the population living in cities, it can best be described as rural.
West Virginia has an abundance of natural resources, such as coal, oil, gas and timber. Nevertheless, the state is one of the poorest in the US. A remarkable point of interest is certainly Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in Wheeling (Hare Krishna).
~ ~ ~ ~
THINGS TO SEE
The traditional tourist information ‟harvest" about West Virginia proves to be rather lean, and a trip to the Visitor Center doesn't really do much to alleviate this situation.
Apparently there seem to be but relatively few points of interest in this state, but at least West Virginia's State Capitol is certainly worth a picture. It is located in Charleston, and was finished in 1932 for the cost of ten million dollars.
Even campgrounds seem to be rather sparse, but we managed to locate one in Beckley. The hilly landscape gradually changes into a real toboggan, with wildly twisting, steep and narrow roads.
When, after a series of breakneck turns and hair-raising climbs, we eventually managed to reach the campground and mentioned the awful roads, the owner wittily told us: "but you'll always remember West Virginia". He was right...
Highway 250 leads to the south of Wheeling. The very hilly landscape leaves virtually no room for agriculture, but strangely enough, the region is well-populated and counts many homes. Prabhupada's Palace of Gold is located some thirty minutes from Wheeling.
The buildings and the streets are now more than thirty years old. Here and there they start to show signs of wear, and perhaps everything seems to be a little less well maintained. The hype of the seventies is over, and today's more selfish spirit certainly is not a good thing for their movement.
Read more about Hare Krishna and Prabhupada !
The visit starts with a guided tour through the Temple of Krishna. At the entrance, a flower wreath is offered to the ladies, and shoes need to be taken off. A guide leads the guests through a beautiful interior with three alcoves. The temple is adorned with very special images, beautifully carved woodwork, gilded columns, and everything is highly decorated. The roof is made of exquisite stained glass. The deities in the alcoves are presented food six times a day as an offering, and the members unite in front of them, for their traditional prayers and singing. Photos can be taken without any restraint, and the guide explains the basics of their teachings.
We were given a very interesting tour through Prabhupada's Golden Palace by a Russian disciple, who had been a member of the movement for fifteen years. His exposé was not only interesting, but also entertaining and witty. As in other religions, the worship of the Deity takes place in the temple, and this magnificent palace is merely a workshop, and a shrine in honor of the prophet Prabhupada, who is highly valued.
The construction took place between 1972 and 1979. Every single thing was built by neophytes and non-professional volunteers, who often first had to look up in books and ask others how they were supposed to work ! The Krishna community received ornately carved wooden furniture from India, delicately decorated vases from China, magnificent chandeliers from France, and more than 250 tonnes of marble from India and Italy. The procedure of gilding with gold leaf was widely used, and the end result truly merited the name of the Palace of Gold ! A most interesting visit !
AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada was born in Calcutta, India in 1896. In 1922 he became a disciple of Srila Saraswati, a Prophet of the Indian Lord Krishna movement. This religious sect worships Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Twenty years later he founded the English magazine Back to Godhead. this was a pure one-man-business, for he wrote it, printed it, and distributed it completely on his own. In 1960, at the age of sixty-four, he started with what would become his life's work, an English translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This was an episode from the ancient book of Mahabharata (400 BC), an encyclopaedia of God, that was written in Sanskrit. He literally begged to raise the money for the first three volumes !
In 1965, he received a free trip to New York. By now, he was sixty-nine years old. He made the trip with his books, some clothes and exactly seven dollars in his pocket ! Getting through the first year was very tough, but he stubbornly continued writing, and now and then sold a copy of his writings. Fairly soon, however, the news spread about the lifestyle and the preaching of the new Swami, who had developed "a new and far-out Yoga" !
Prabhupada lived an ascetic life, and he preached a strict doctrine of respect for animals, no meat, no extra-marital intercourse, no intoxicating drinks, no tobacco, and no gambling. Such a lifestyle seemed way out of place, for remember, this took place during the times of Woodstock, Flower Power and Peace on Earth !
In Wheeling, Interstate 70 crosses the Ohio River. A little more to the south, there is a Suspension Bridge that is one hundred and sixty years old , since it was built in 1849 ! The bridge was calculated by engineer Charles Ellet Jr, and for those days, the construction of this bridge was certainly a particularly fine piece of engineering.
Today, the bridge is still in use. As sole concession to its reverential age, traffic is one-way only, and heavy vehicles are prohibited to limit vibrations.