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Friday, February 13, 2015

Cambridge, England

I haven’t exactly tried to keep it a secret on this blog that I love the UK. The first trip I ever blogged about was an epic two-week whirlwind through Scotland and ever since then I’ve been going on and on about how I believe that England and Scotland are two of the most beautiful places on earth for me (haven’t been to Wales yet, so I can’t weigh in on that).

One of the things that continues to astound me about this love is just how much it extends to smaller cities: Oxford and Bath are both towns that I've visited time and time again, while York had my heart from the moment I first laid eyes on its medieval architecture - I've never felt this way about small towns in Germany! So it should come as no surprise that I though that Cambridge was very lovely as well.

I had been to Cambridge once before, but back then my aim had been to check out the university and not to do sightseeing and so I was definitely due for another visit. The university - or rather, the individual colleges - are obviously a big part of what makes Cambridge so attractive for visitors, but only having to appreciate the outer beauty of a place is definitely a different experience from trying to figure out if a place could be right for your further education.

We took the train from London - an easy 45-minute ride from Kings Cross - and after strolling through the Cambridge city centre for a bit made our way to King's College. King's College is one of the most iconic colleges of Cambridge and was founded over six hundred years ago by King Henry VI, one of the tragic figures of English history. Its most prominent feature is a Gothic cathedral that almost seems more befitting as the main sight of a town and not the grounds of a university college and so there was no question that we wanted to have a closer look at the college grounds.

The visitor entrance was directly by the cathedral and when we entered, an orchestra and a choir were in the midst of rehearsal. The music followed our steps as we walked through the House of Prayer  and it created a special atmosphere in which we pointed out different old royal insignias to each other.

From the cathedral we stepped into a large courtyard that was rimmed by historic buildings of the college on all sides. It was almost hard to remember that people actually live, work and study on these grounds and that the main significance of the college didn't stem from its looks, but from the academic achievements made there since its establishment.

My favorite thing in Cambridge were the large amounts of green spaces all over the city: I'm a country girl at heart, so I love a good park - it makes every city less stuffy. Every college seemed to have its own perfectly immaculate green space (what else do you expect in England?) and they added a great countryside feeling to a place otherwise made completely of stone.

We exited King's College at the river Cam, watching other visitors on their punting tours as we were crossing. Punting is a popular activity in Cambridge and we contemplated going on a little boat tour ourselves, but it was a chilly day and we were feeling cheap and so we decided to postpone it to some other visit.

We had a look at Clare College, King's College's next door neighbor, but quickly headed back to the river where a path following along the stream eventually led us to glorious Trinity College.

The sun finally decided to make a proper appearance and seeing the amount of colorful little crocuses that had started to bloom felt like a revelation to me after the long and dark winter in Norway. With the blue sky and the puffy clouds, the setting of the college was incredibly peaceful and we admired the architecture that seemed so very British to me.

We kept on walking until we eventually found a bridge that led us back to Cambridge's city centre - don't understand the difficulty of finding a way back over the river: Everytime you need a bridge, you probably won't find one. We grabbed some sandwiches and I narrowly escaped a handbag purchase at the Cambridge Satchel Company which I now sorely regret: They had a pretty good outlet collection of bags with tiny flaws that are very nicely reduced. Just a little heads up to all the fashionistas out there!

Thinking that we could do with some more culture, however, we headed to St. John's College whose grounds we had already spotted from across the river at Trinity College. Visiting St. John's is a little bit like taking a walk back through time. In comparison to many other colleges, the buildings represented many different architectural styles: Some were constructed in the Tudor style, others in the Georgian and there were even some modern buildings. Needless to say, the most modern ones where also the least remarkable.

We passed the Bridge of Sighs that was modeled after the original one in Venice and reached the college's green space just as the sun began to set. The golden light was illuminating the yellow stone of the buildings and knowing that the evening was soon upon us, we started to walk back to the train station.

I have to admit: Cambridge is beautiful and very well worth a visit. But when it comes down to it, I probably prefer Oxford a little bit more - but maybe it's just because of Harry Potter! ;)


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