This past weekend, my Bulgarian buddy Dimitrya and ginger-milk-tea-makin’ flatmate Mohammed joined Brunel International on a trip to beautiful, historical, über-intellectual Cambridge!
We kicked off the day with an hour-and-a-half tour that took us around the university town, through King’s College, it’s chapel, about the town and to the market. Here are a few interesting things we learned along the way:
1. Everything is intellectual, including the grass.
The grass situated within the college courtyards is strictly prohibited- unless you are one of the unversity’s “Fellows”. While it might seem as though Cambridge took “worshipping the ground they walk on” a bit too literally, this was historically an exchange. Up until 1882, Fellows were not allowed to marry. Somehow, Cambridge elites felt that a few square meters of grass was a fit exchange for this sacrifice and the tradition has held.
2. The Chapel of King’s College has seen it all.
From lapsed construction during the famous “War of the Roses”, to Henry VIII’s six wives, to the threats of WWII, this chapel has stood the test of time. This chapel was easily my favourite part of the tour as its incredible interior, which is a spectacular sight to see in itself, demonstrates so much of England’s history. I won’t share too much detail because I think experiencing the history is too much part of the tour to give away, but one of the most interesting historical aspects of this building is its expansive stained glass windows. Henry VIII funded and supported their construction and installation, and during WWII each panel was painstakingly deconstructed, numbered and packed away in cellars in an attempt to protect them in the face of bomb threats. If memory serves me correctly, it took 3+ years to reinstall each panel.
3. The pompous pundit’s preferred past-time: Punting.
Beyond these breath-taking brainiacs who are so obviously representing the elite pedantry of Cambridge, you’ll find boats that look akin to the gondolas you might see in Italy. Here, in a city so self-congratulatory that it refers to their rival city Oxford as “the other place”, they bypass any and all recognised watercraft terminology and refer to this sport of “leisure and pleasure” as punting. Visitors can take hour-long rides in the moats around the town, which were originally built and used by the Vikings for trade.
4. Cambridge is a goldmine for arts, crafts, clothing and food markets.
At the end of the tour, we meandered through Cambridge’s main market, through some of it’s enchanting side streets and stumbled on another arts & crafts market not too far away. Despite my grad student’s budget, Dimitrya and I couldn’t resist these brainiac beanies that not only increased our IQ with the subtle intellect woven into its knit, but looked fabulous and were only £5 each!
5. Surprises around every corner.
Distinguished graduates in furry grad gowns, musicians hiding in rubbish bins, tourist trolls hiding behind wooden doors- there’s no end to the list of pleasant surprises we found around the university that graduated world-renowned game-changers like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin.
One quick tip: there is plenty of free things to see and do around Cambridge if you plan ahead and allot yourself enough time (we had hoped to stop in at the Fitzwilliam Museum, but ran short on time.) Eats at the markets are cheap, many of Cambridge’s 8 museums are free, and there are performers galore about the city to see.
Thanks to Brunel International for another successful student trip!