Cambridge is a university town located approximately an hour away from London. I used the word “approximately” because the actual timing really depends on the kind of train you take – some trains make more stops than others. From the train station, one has to walk roughly half an hour to get to the historic city center. or me, Cambridge has pretty unusual vibes because the people in Cambridge seem to be either students or tourists (and the people who make money out of tourists). When I walked past a shop, I could not help but to wonder if the shop caters to the students or the tourists. The bulk of the history of the town is linked to that of the university. The university of Cambridge has many famous alumni, including Sir Issac Newton, John Milton, Francis Crick and James D. Watson. Apparently, Cambridge academics have won the most number of Nobel Prizes in the world! The university was started in the 13th century by a group of scholars who left Oxford after a local dispute. F
For a tourist, Cambridge is pretty easy to navigate but unfortunately, there are very few things that can be done for free in Cambridge. One of the most touristic activities in Cambridge is to do punting. There are so many punters in Cambridge! I wonder if the students feel comfortable with having the punters and tourists around. Punting involves propelling yourself in a long wooden boat by pushing a pole against the shallow river bottom. It was an interesting and comfortable experience, I sat on the nice cushions on the boat, listened to the commentary and admired the passing scenery. The good thing about punting is that you get to learn about the history of the university from the guide. One thing that really struck me was the intense rivalry between the colleges, particularly between the two richest colleges – Trinity College and St Johns College. Apparently, they have some kind of fireworks each year and they try to out-do one another. I feel that it is kind of funny and childish and this is one of the reasons why I am quite glad that I did not choose to go to Cambridge to study. Don’t get me wrong, Cambridge University definitely has a pool of really acclaimed academics but I don’t like to be segregated into groups and made to dislike the other groups for reasons that I don’t understand. It is just not my style.
We passed by several bridges on the boat and one of the most memorable bridges is the Mathematical Bridge that connects two parts of the Queen’s College. A popular myth goes that the bridge was built by Issac Newton without nuts and bolts but when the students took the bridge apart several years later, they could not seem to put the bridge back together without nuts and bolts. The reality is that Newton died 27 years before the bridge was built so this story cannot be possible. I wonder who came up with the tale.
After the boat ride, I decided to explore the various colleges by foot and I was surprised that some colleges charged tourists a nominal fee to enter the premises. I thought that these colleges are rich enough and they don’t need money from the tourists. Maybe it is a way to dissuade tourists from entering the colleges’ premises. I am not sure how effective that is. Anyway, I got a bit lucky because I think I look like a student and I managed to enter St John’s College without paying a fee. Being cheeky, I also walked a little around the restricted area and when I was there, I thought I was at Hogwarts! Another funny thing about these colleges in Cambridge is that you cannot sit on the grass. What is the point of having the grass outside the college if people cannot have picnics there?
I thought I had seen enough of the nice buildings and canals so I took a leisure walk along the river. It is amazing how within 10 minutes of walking, I found myself in the countryside. There was a number of cows grazing on the field. That was a pretty nice surprise to end the day. 🙂