Off the Beaten Path: New Vrindinban, West Virginia

Patti and Tom Burkett

In 1959, a young pharmacist in India gave up his family, his business, and his professional life for the sake of a religious vision. Over the next decade he studied scriptures and began writing commentaries. His work became the foundation for the international Society for Krishna Consciousness, known in the U.S. as the Hare Krishna movement.

Swami Prabhupada traveled and taught all over the world, but when he was here in this country, he often spent his time in the hills of West Virginia. That’s where his followers founded a town called New Vrindiban, near Moundsville (see map below).

Visitors are welcome at the complex, which includes an elaborate home, a worship center and conference space, motel style dormitories, pleasant walking paths, a lake with swans, a gift shop, and a restaurant. Scattered throughout the grounds are large statues of animals and people, often with benches to allow the visitor time to sit and contemplate.  The residence is elaborately painted with gold and jade, and furnished with whimsical and fantastically carved furniture.  The faithful still gather here on a regular basis for retreats and study, and you may have the opportunity, when visiting, to sit in awn a session.  It’s free to wander the grounds and to visit all the buildings but the palace. The palace, when not in use, can be toured for a fee.

You can easily spend two or three hours enjoying the palace complex. Arrive early in the morning, and take golden hour photos. When you’re ready to leave, head down the road toward Fairmont. There are two good reasons to visit this little berg. If your rig has an Onan generator, you’ll find one of the best Onan service centers in the country here.

Call ahead for an appointment.  Even if you have no generator troubles, it’s still worth making a stop here. Giuseppi Arjiro left his pregnant wife behind in Italy and came here to work in the coal mines in 1920. Within a few years, he’d made enough money to return for her, and the family settled down to work in his soda pop bottling factory.

In 1927 Giuseppi had a brainstorm and sold the bottling plant to open a bakery. He knew, from his years working in the mine, that miners needed the right kind of meal for long days underground, and he had realized what it was. Start with a good piece of meat, he thought, one that won’t go bad after hours in a lunchbox. Wrap it in bread, both for necessary carbs and to keep the meat contained. After some experimentation with dough recipes and baking methods, the pepperoni roll was born. It was instantly successful, and the bakery sold little else for several years. At first, he sold them to local bars for 45 cents a dozen. Now you can buy them anywhere, and they’re even a regular part of military MREs. Visit the Country Club Bakery for the real deal, baked in these ovens for nearly 100 years.

We suggest one more stop here in the corner of the Mountaineer State. After the extravagance of the Palace of Gold, and with your belly full of pepperoni rolls, ease on down U.S. 50 to Horseshoe Run and find Our Lady Of The Pines. We’re big fans of tiny churches, and this one is a winner. Made of stone, with a steeple and stained glass windows, it even features a period set of Stations of the Cross. Feel free to sit and contemplate the beauty of this secluded spot and the lovely grounds, which include a pond and picnic area. Before you go, you can pick up a postcard in the two square foot gift shop just inside the door.

Next time you’re headed through Wheeling, turn south on U.S. 250 and wander into the heart of the West Virginia mountains.  You’re guaranteed to see things you didn’t expect and things you’ve never seen before.  You might even see us, Patti & Tom Burkett, somewhere out there, off the beaten path.

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