Sunday, September 29, 2013

Experiencing History and Magic

On this lovely sunny and breezy Sunday, I made my way into Cambridge to see what this town is all about since it is so near and dear to my nearest and dearest friends. It was described to me by a friend as, "one of my favorite places on the planet" and another as "just a magical little bubble."

I was guided by my incredibly knowledgeable host, who had something to say about literally everything we passed. In essence, I just followed her and listened.

We first made our way to Chesterton's St. Andrew's Church, to see a medieval wall painting of the Final Judgement.

Walking into town by way of the Midsummer Common and through Jesus Green, we first stopped at St. John's College. Entering St. John's through the gateway with the Tudor coat of arms, we walked along the quads (not through the grass because only Fellows (American equivalent are Professors) are allowed to walk on the grass*) to stand on Kitchen Bridge to see the Bridge of Sighs and watch people punting on the Cam. The Bridge of Sighs, built in the 19th century, was inspired by the covered bridge at the Doge's Palace in Venice.

*According to Cambridge lore, there is evidently "a load of special ducks" that would sit on the green in Emmanuel College. It was noticed that the ducks would sit on the green, which is not allowed since only Fellows are allowed on the green. Therefore, logic would dictate the following three options:
1. It doesn't matter that ducks are on the green. Ducks sit on grass and do not abide by historic precedent for their nesting needs.
2. Let anyone walk on the green.
3. Make the ducks Fellows so that they would be aligned with Cambridge rules and traditions and therefore allowed on the green.

Emmanuel College went with the most logical option, number three. No examples are yet known of students being lectured by a duck, yet.

Venturing onwards to see the next in the series of the "Big Three" Colleges, Trinity College. The largest college, Trinity College was founded in 1546 when Henry VIII consolidated many smaller colleges on the site. The one thing I really wanted to see was the Wren Library. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1695, the library contains many special collections,such as 1,250 medieval manuscripts, early Shakespeare editions, and many of Sir Isaac Newton's own book. Unfortunately, we weren't able to go inside, but I did at least see it from the outside.

To see the College that I've heard the most about, we next went to Trinity Hall, which was founded in 1350. Trinity Hall was founded by the Bishop of Norwich to promote the study of law since so many lawyers had died of the Black Death. Law still remains one of the College's strengths.

Lastly, we ended the College tour with King's College. Founded by Henry VI in 1441, the College's most famous feature is it's Chapel. The most exquisite aspect is the glorious van faulting, which is the largest fan vault in the world measuring 289 feet. Henry VIII sponsored the stained-glass window and gifted the organ, which is engraved with his initials and Anne Boleyn's thus dating the organ to the three years he was married to her from 1533 to 1536.

Walking through the center of town, we wandered around the Market, which has been in place since the Medieval age. It was quite amazing to be perusing goods in the same place that people have been doing the very same activity for hundreds of years. 

That time period of several hundred years pales in comparison to my next stop - The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I held a hand axe that is 800,000 years old and a pebble chopper that is approximately 1.2 million years old. It was honestly astounding. Receiving literally the Grand Tour of the museum from my tour guide (who happens to work there), it was amazing to see all the hard and very cool work she does every day.

Walking home along the Cam, I concluded that Cambridge is magical.

Photos from the day can be found here.

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