Prabhupada's Palace of Gold and City of God
New Vrindaban, West Virginia
Billed as "America's Taj Mahal" in its literature, built and run by the Hare Krishnas, the Palace of Gold is a tourist attraction on a grand scale (We can only hope that the Krishnas maintain their momentum and one day finish their even more ambitious City of God). It's in a secluded spot in the rolling hills of West Virginia, reached via four miles of crumbly mountain back roads.
The Palace of Gold, a golden shrine with domes and other elaborate architectural flourishes, has the feel of a great, glittery ship that somehow drifted off the set of a Bollywood production. From its balcony one can see gardens lining footpaths; a giant seated figure sits in the distance against the hills. Elephant and sacred cow statues allow for novelty photo opportunities. Anglo-looking people in pink robes mingle with sari-wrapped tourist families of Indian descent, while peacocks hoot somewhere in the deep shadows.
Everyone removes their shoes before entering to tour the Palace.