After a long weekend spent in Cambridge, I've come to realize how little I know about the town and the university. I took many photographs of gorgeous buildings, activities on the Cam River, beautiful flowers and trees, and interesting people.
As I work through my posts, I hope those of you who are much more familiar with Cambridge than I will add comments as desired and make corrections when needed. Even though I spent two and a half days walking the streets of the city and colleges, I feel like I've just begun to learn about a beautiful steeped in history, tradition and intellectual discovery.
I have absolutely no idea where to begin this thread so, since I'm such a linear person, I suppose I will begin at the beginning.
I caught a direct train from London Kings Cross Station. Since there were no stops in between I was in Cambridge, sixty miles away, within about 45 minutes.
I took a few photos from the train, but there wasn't much to see besides lots of green pasture.
Sitting on the train at Kings Cross.
We went through several tunnels leaving London, and then there was green, open space.
We arrived in Cambridge and most walked from the train station into town. The walk to my hotel was less than a mile. While the traffic in Cambridge always seems to be a gridlock, walking is very easy and many locals ride bicycles.
After checking into my hotel and getting a quick lunch, I set off to explore the city and university, which are just about one and the same.
My big mistake was thinking my cell phone map would be enough to help me navigate. I learned fast the best thing is to take a tourist map since streets change name, and then change back, and the streets wind, twist and turn.
I should have appreciated these deserted streets more on Thursday afternoon, because they were packed with crowds on Saturday.
The streets look nice but are eerily empty for a university town.
I guess the school year is over.
Thanks for this, htmb. My imagined Cambridge was based on old Dorothy Sayers' detective stories, so I had idea what to expect. Lugg posted some photos from the river a while ago, but they didn't show the city.
It does look rather dark and damp, but maybe that's due to the weather you were having? Although the bottom of the building in the last picture makes me think it's not just that.
It had been raining a lot and, though it was the end of term, many students still seemed to be finishing up exams. It was also late in the afternoon and many folks were out in their cars, gridlocked in traffic on the main streets. Just remember these empty streets. Soon the view will change.
I overheard someone say they could stand around and watch the river activity all day and I tend to agree. It's fun to watch neophytes learn how to pole the punt. It's also great to see so many people having a wonderful time doing something so simple.
I also found myself going back and taking photos of many of the same doors and buildings because the light had changed, or I saw something just a little different.
This woman's job was to keep the riff-raff from entering Kings College.
But I was able to sneak one picture through the gate.
It was at this point I realized I had no clue how to get back to my hotel. My phone was not working so I couldn't check google, and it was starting to pour. I probably wandered around for an hour in some not so picturesque areas of town before finally getting back on track.
It's fun to watch neophytes learn how to pole the punt. It's also great to see so many people having a wonderful time doing something so simple.
Like a lot of simple things, it can be quite complicated getting the knack (no keel, no rudder, you have to do everything with the one pole). In three years, I never quite mastered the knack of sliding the pole through my hand on the way up (so that the water gets swept off it back into the river) rather than the way down (so the water tended to splash all over me).
It does not look like the kind of university that breeds revolutionaries
Well, there were the "Cambridge" spies of the 30s (but a surprising number of Tory cabinet members over more recent decades turn out to have been at Cambridge rather than Oxford). And 1968-70, though somewhat febrile in atmosphere (I joined a protest march by accident), was less than tumultuous, as I recall. One of the issues of the time was to do with the LSE's attempt to prevent occupations by erecting gates and security doors, sparking off occupations in a number of universities, Cambridge included. One such group decided that what was needed was a symbolic removal of some of the iron railings around the place, so they had a whip-round to raise money to buy hacksaws. Eventually, the delegation sent to buy them returned empty-handed. They'd forgotten it was early closing day.
There certainly has been a bit of rebellion in past years. A little Cambridge history:
The first notable settlement of the area was by the Romans in AD 43. The Anglo Saxons built the first bridge, and later the Vikings established a trading post along the river.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, William the Conqueror built a castle in Cambridge in order to bring law and order to the area.
The year 1209 saw the arrival of another group of rebels, although this time they were scholars who had been forced to leave the violent quarrels with the residents of Oxford. These scholars were the early founders of what now is the University.
My hotel was located across the street from Parker's Piece, a 25 acre park-like area where I spent a lot of time people-watching. I saw everything from Italian kids playing ball to dog walkers; punk rockers singing anti-government songs to what appeared to be a small group of skin heads who were carrying a baseball bat. Mostly I saw people riding their bikes back and forth across the park, or groups of people out enjoying themselves.
Parker's Piece is a 25-acre (100,000 m2) flat and roughly square green common located near the centre of Cambridge, England and is now regarded as the birthplace of the rules of Association Football. The two main walking and cycling paths across it run diagonally, and the single lamp-post at the junction is colloquially known as Reality Checkpoint. The area is bounded by Park Terrace, Parkside, Gonville Place, and Regent Terrace. The Cambridge University Football Club Laws were first used on Parker's Piece and adopted by the Football Association in 1863. "They embrace the true principles of the game, with the greatest simplicity" (E. C. Morley, F.A. Hon. Sec. 1863). 'The Cambridge Rules appear to be the most desirable for the Association to adopt' (C. W. Alcock 1863, FA committee member and founder of the FA Cup). A statue is due to be erected in October 2013 to celebrate the 150th anniversary on the Football Association and their adoption of the Cambridge Rules.
The grass is well manicured and it is known today chiefly as a spot for picnics and games of football and cricket, and serves as the games field for nearby Parkside Community College. Fairs tend to be held on the rougher ground of Midsummer Common. In 1838, a feast for 15,000 guests was held on Parker's Piece to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria.
The next afternoon, armed with my tourist map, I returned to search out more interesting sights.
I walked past this church several times, but never had the chance to go inside.
I'm sorry I wasn't able to visit the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, pictured on the left side of the next photo.
The Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (MAA) has been announced as one of the ten finalists for the prestigious Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013. Celebrating the very best UK museums and galleries, it is the largest arts prize in the UK. The prize aims to reward and highlight innovation and creativity in bringing objects and collections to life.
Nycgirl, interesting that you asked about the oldest building remaining in Cambridge. That would be St. Bene't's Church, dedicated to St. Benedict and dating back to 1025. It features an Anglo Saxon tower.