If you would really like to climb to the top of a mountain in search of someone or something willing to impart wisdom to you, then you should go right ahead. But most people interpret the guru-atop-a-mountain thing as a metaphor and realize that the search for enlightenment doesn’t have to be physically strenuous. This is especially true if you simply take the highway to Bloomington, Ind., home of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center.

You would never know that you’re actually in the city of Bloomington when you arrive at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. Situated on over one hundred acres of wooded land, the TMBCC is a place where you might see a fox, deer or wild turkey before you even get out of your vehicle. Founded with the primary purpose of preserving Tibetan and Mongolian culture, the TMBCC is often visited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who keeps private quarters on the premises.

Visitors are welcome when the Dalai Lama teaches here, but self-guided walking tours are permitted every day during daylight hours. Highlights of the tour include the Kalachakra stupa, inside of which is an intricately designed “medicine Buddha mandala” made with colored sands, the Mani Korlo where you’ll find a succession of Tibetan prayer wheels to spin (always clockwise), the Kumbum Chamtse Ling Interfaith Temple with its exotic public shrine room, and the lotus pond that during certain Buddhist ceremonies receives the sacred sands from deconstructed mandalas.

Nature trails and meditation spaces are in abundance too, and you’ll find statuary and other surprises as you roam the grounds. If you want to spend more than a few hours or the day at the TMBCC the center has four retreat cottages that can be rented by the day, week or month. TMBCC.net.

Bloomington is also the home of Indiana University, and the city’s small but thriving downtown area abuts the campus and this is the part of town where you can find lots of fun things to do every day. There are a few hotels in this area, and if you lodge at the Hilton Garden Inn, for example, you’ll be no further than a few blocks from all the action.

Unique indie eateries abound, so you can forget the fast food while you’re in Bloomington; how about a huge breakfast plate at Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse (where they also have an enormous selection of fresh homemade pastries, so save room), a pide (Turkish pizza) and a strong cup of Turkish coffee at lunch spot Turkuaz Café where you can opt to dine Turkish style (sitting on the floor on cushions) and a supper at Janko’s Little Zagreb where it’s almost mandatory to sample the spicy meatballs (Have a cold beer nearby!).

Speaking of beer, you’ll find a selection of locally-brewed Upland beers at most Bloomington restaurants, but Upland Brewing Company is located right in the downtown area and they operate an eatery too so you can gobble a burger while sipping a Double Dragonfly Imperial IPA, Helios Pale Ale, Rad Red Amber Ale or (and this is a favorite) Bad Elmer’s Porter. If you want to take a free tour of the brewery just show up at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. on Saturday or Sunday, and you’ll see the entire beer-making process from raw malt to finished product.

There are of course lots of things to do on the Indiana University campus, but if you only have a couple hours to explore the institute the “must-see” place is the Lilly Library. This is the rare book and manuscript library of IU where they store nearly eight million pieces and display all sorts of quirky works on a rotating basis. You’ll see rare sheet music, political cartoons, collectible comics and more serious stuff like documents relating to the French Revolution of 1789. The Lilly is also where you’ll find the Slocum puzzle room, filled with an eclectic collection of brain-boggling puzzles and antique mysteries like a Chinese lockbox. Rare and delicate items are behind glass but, as with the rest of Bloomington, lots of the fun here is hands-on.



For more information, visit visitbloomington.com.