America Through My Eyes
Telugu Original : Dr K.Geeta
English Translation: V.Vijaya Kumar
As I was thinking of a long weekend vacation, I remembered that we have not been to “Hearst Castle,” which is on our list. Hearst Castle is about 200 miles south of our house, a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
It is a very tiresome journey to get that far and back in one day. If we go for another day, we can see something else around there. We booked a hotel for two days. If there is nothing to see in the surrounding area, there is the sea to spare our time.
Until the last moment of the last week, we weren’t planning, so there was no proper accommodation available nearby. So we booked online at “Morro Bay,” which is another 20 miles south of there. We didn’t realize how well we did until we went there.
To see Hearst Castle, we need to book a tour in advance. We booked a tour of the “Grand Rooms” at Hearst Castle on Saturday afternoon.
Even if we leave at 9 in the morning, we will get to the castle at 12. We have enough time for lunch somewhere on the way. But it was already ten in the morning when we left the house. Satya was totally upset, and when he realized the delay, he insisted on going to Hearst Castle without any halt. But such things never happen with children! On the way, we stopped at a rest area and ate chapatis we brought from home. He hurried us to leave in exactly ten minutes. We reached the castle on time.
In 1865, George Hearst bought nearly 40,000 acres in the mountains of the central California coast. George’s only son, William Randolph Hearst, succeeded his father in 1919, and it grew to 250,000 acres.
William Randolph Hearst was the newspaper king of the day and head of famous papers like the “San Francisco Examiner” and the “New York Journal.” Yellow journalism is said to have first entered America through these magazines. It is not an exaggeration to say that William, who tried to excel in Yellow Journalism and Politics, became an indirect factor in America’s war with Spain in the later period. His favorite construction of “Hearst Castle” in the long life of his eighty-eight years’ tenure is still remembered by him even generations later. In 1947, William hired an architect named Julia Morgan to design Hearst Castle, a grand mansion with 165 rooms on nearly 127 acres, surrounded by gardens in the most beautiful location. Nowadays, it is flourishing as a historical place in California and a beautiful tourist destination.
During William’s time, to be a guest at Hearst Castle, even for a day, one must receive an invitation from him himself. Politicians and film personalities were entertained here with feasts and luxuries. William spent the rest of his life in luxury in this castle.
When we reached the castle, we had another hour left, so we watched a 30-minute show on William’s life and the construction of Hearst Castle. William’s trip to Europe with his mother, dreaming of creating similar places in America, realizing all those dreams through this castle, and William’s photos and video clips with celebrities were shown. Julia Morgan, the architect who worked on realizing William’s dreams, was California’s first female architect.
When the children came out of the theater, they were hungry again. We ate some snacks and rushed to our tour bus line. The castle is quite far from the visitor center.
There are two or three types of tours at Hearst Castle: the Grand Rooms Tour, the Upstairs Suites Tour, and the Cottages & Kitchen Tour. Each tour costs $25. Regardless of which tour you choose, you have to pay for each tour. We chose only the first tour. After completing the tour, we felt that the ticket prices seemed too high. Another downside is that there is no discount package available for all three tours.
The bus departs from the Visiting Center and winds its way around the hill on muddy roads. The castle is not very close. It takes about 20 minutes of travel in a slow-moving bus to reach the castle. On the way, you can spot deer and bison, as it also serves as an animal sanctuary. During William’s time, it was a full-fledged “zoo,” but now only a few animals like giraffes remain.
The bus stopped at the lower steps in front of the castle. On the opposite side, the castle looks stunning. The numerous stairs everywhere make the place even more beautiful.
Although it’s called a castle, it’s not a large one. We entered the spacious front courtyard, where we were greeted by sculptural features built in European style. The guide explained the ingenuity of the sculptures and the small fountains. The front gate of the main building was closed, so we were led inside through a small side door. First, we entered the large sitting room where guests were welcomed. There were beautiful carpets, sofas, tables, specially carved sculptures on the walls, large Kalankari paintings, and grand chandeliers… The hall felt solid as if all the wealth of the world had been poured into it. Guests would wait here when new guests arrived. William himself would come there and greet the guests. Behind that wall, there is another hall similar to it, accessible from the inside. This is where the guests who had already arrived would spend tea time.
Behind that is a dining room with a large table and chairs where about fifty or sixty people can dine at a time. All the vessels from that time are displayed, giving the impression that someone is about to sit down for a meal. We glanced everywhere at the silverware and admired the richly carved materials. The dining room, which is about sixty feet high, is adorned with flags from various countries. Moreover, the upper ceiling is embellished with wooden panels depicting stories from the Bible. Moving forward, we passed the game rooms and elegant restrooms with billiards for the guests’ entertainment, and a little further ahead, there was a small theater. It was a movie theater that could accommodate up to a hundred people. There were signs instructing us not to touch anything, but we couldn’t help but be tempted to touch and feel everything.
Due to the decorations and lack of proper ventilation, it was quite dark inside the rooms. Additionally, after almost a hundred years, the carpets and pictures hanging on the walls were fading with age. However, the wood carvings were shining due to regular cleaning. As soon as we stepped outside, our eyes were dazzled by the light reflecting off the marble sculptures.
You can explore the building on your own for a long time and discover other features in the vicinity. As I mentioned before, the upper rooms, the bedrooms in a separate building, and the adjacent kitchens are part of different tours. We enjoyed observing them from the outside.
We passed through the stairs surrounded by beautiful flowers and fruit trees and arrived at the nearby swimming pool known as the “Neptune Pool.” True to its name, the pool area was adorned with exquisite white sculptures in European style. The pavilion at the beginning of the pool was built in Roman style.
It was a large bathing pool, big enough to host Olympic swimming competitions. The most beautiful outdoor swimming pool, surrounded by elegant white statues and with elevated relaxation pavilions around it. We sat there for about half an hour, simply basking in the beauty. Unfortunately, there was no water in the pool at the time, otherwise, we could have enjoyed the reflection of the sky more beautifully.
A walk to the other side led us to an “Indoor Swimming Pool” within the premises, known as the “Roman Pool.” It was another stunning pool, with a beautiful blue color, albeit smaller than the Neptune Pool. While being there, it felt like traveling back in time, and my mind was filled with a swirl of thoughts.
I couldn’t help but imagine how mesmerized William must have been as he strolled through the garden, gazing at the distant waves. However, I also felt a strange sense of something lost. It made me realize how fleeting life can be, no matter how much wealth one possesses. In the end, someone else has to take over. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy towards William, who was able to live such a beautiful dream during his lifetime.
Although much has changed since then, Hearst Castle remains a lasting memory. Once a “rich man’s beautiful dream,” it has now become a “dream for everyone” who visits this place.
A post graduate in English literature and language and in Economics. A few of my translations were published. I translated the poems of Dr. Andesri , Denchanala, Ayila Saida Chary and Urmila from Telugu to English. I write articles and reviews to magazines and news papers. To the field of poetry I am rather a new face.