Rejoice, spring has arrived! Melancholic winter has fled from our gardens and is now replaced by skirts, barbeque, and laughter. A group of friends and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to go visit Cambridge last Sunday, which is only an hour by train from London. Clouds were nowhere to be seen and temperature was already comfortably high when we arrived at 10 in the morning. I did not quite know what to expect as we walked towards the historic centre of the city, as I had deliberately decided not to research Cambridge on the Internet before going. In all my naïvity, I thought its historic centre would look similar to other historic centres in cities such as Bruges or Ghent. To my surprise, however, this was not the case at all, as Cambridge proved to be very different. Rather than being a city, Cambridge is a town that fully revolves around its well renowned university. The University of Cambridge ranks as one of best universities in the world, and has influential alumni ranging from 16-century-poet John Donne to mathematical genius Stephen Hawking. Founded in 1209, it is the third-oldest surviving university, behind the University of Bologna and the University of Oxford, Cambridge’s rival since the very beginning. Cambridge is an incredibly beautiful university town steeped in history.
The two pictures below show two colleges we randomly stumbled upon. It took us (or at least me) a while to figure out all the different colleges we encountered in Cambridge were all part of the same university. In fact, the Cambridge University consists of 31 colleges, each with its very own history, own accommodation and own subjects. We were told Cambridge students often stay within their own college and do not mingle with students of the other colleges.
As the day spurred itself onwards, we decided to take a boat trip on the River Cam, the river that cuts the town in half. We basked in the sun, drank white wine, and admired the scenery. The first picture below was one of the first buildings we passed. It was an amazing castle that housed dormitories for £80 a week where students lived up to this day, which pretty much blew my mind. Ironically though, the dormitories in the ugly building on the other side of the river were much more expensive, as they had a view on the castle. The next picture is the King’s College Chapel, the most beautiful church in Cambridge (and beyond, I’d say), built in phases from 1446 to 1515 during the Wars of the Roses. All this was told by an incredibly intruiging guide, Elliot Mason, who knew much all of Cambridge, although he’d never studied there. When he pointed out the bar where all four members of Pink Floyd had met each other, Elliot and I burst out singing the song “bike“, a classic psychedelic song on the album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It was arguably the best moment of the day. When I asked him of his background, he told us he was a writer, poet, and singer-songwriter. He had written a book called Goodnight Gustav Klein, which seems like an incredible book from reading its synopsis on the Internet, albeit, with a depressing outlook on life and society, perhaps more a book for autumn or winter. Yet Elliot had not yet found his way into money, and therefore peddled tourists backwards to history on the River Cam.
I could highly recommend Cambridge to anyone. But perhaps especially to those who enjoy history, architecture, and even literature, as I found the town to breathe a certain poetry. Its atmosphere is much more relaxed than in London; people walk slower and seem more at ease. Cambridge lends itself to study, and its brightest students use all its resources to test human boundaries between walls of beautiful bricks.