Sunday, October 17, 2010

Putting the "Bridge" in "Oxbridge"

Yesterday I decided to get out of Oxford and travel to see its sister school (and, yes, friendly rival) Cambridge for the day. It ended up being a whirlwind trip (what with a three-hour bus ride each way and needing to be back early to do something for rowing), but well worth it.

"What is there to do in Cambridge?" a few people asked me upon hearing of my plans. "Isn't it just like Oxford?" Well, I wanted to say, isn't it worth visiting anyway? Just to have been there? And, I found, Cambridge isn't just like Oxford. Not exactly. Yes, in many ways the two universities are strikingly similar. Both operate under the system of many autonomous colleges within a single city, all with their own quadrangles and libraries and chapels. Much of the architecture is similar, with castle-like or Gothic buildings of stone, elaborate gates and gargoyles, and beautiful gardens and parks. Even the cities themselves feel alike, a mix of old streets and new shops and bustling crowds.

Yet - Cambridge gave me an entirely different vibe. In some ways, I think I liked it better. Its parks and open spaces were more incorporated into the city, and the sights alongside the river (with its many bridges and punters) were more stunning than those in Oxford. Also, it's a slightly younger university, so some of the buildings were more modern - that is, modern in the sense of 16th, 17th, and 18th century architecture (in addition to the medieval). Finally, the fact that there weren't many buses swerving down the narrow roads, and that many streets were completely closed to cars, made it a more pleasurable place to walk. There are some other subtle differences, too, that I can't quite put my finger on.

All in all, I wished I could have stayed longer, seen more colleges and maybe taken a walk by the water. But at least I have now experienced Oxbridge!

One of the many gorgeous bridges. Pictures don't do this place justice.

The beautiful architecture of Trinity College. There was sun! (after a torrential rainstorm at lunchtime)

King's College and chapel from the outside - with cows. How pastoral.

Inside King's Chapel. The screen and fan were stunning. Yes, I know - haven't I seen enough chapels/churches/cathedrals here already? 

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