The Classic Charm of Cambridge
Most people probably think of Cambridge University when they hear the English city Cambridge mentioned. The University was founded in 1209 which makes it the second oldest university in the English-speaking world after Oxford. Its fame is well-earned as it usually ranks among the 5 best universities in the world. But there is plenty to see and do in Cambridge that doesn't involve higher learning.
Just over 130,000 people live in Cambridge which means that even though it’s a city it’s no metropolis and maintains its country charm with a colorful city culture. The small-town feel is most evident in the city’s transportation system and Cambridge is often called the cycling capital of Britain. Additionally, Cambridge boasts the world’s longest guided busway in the world, The Busway, with a total of 25 km, a mixture of bus and train. The bus runs on its own tracks so there’s no need to panic when the bus driver turns around and starts talking with his hands.
Cambridge isn’t much of a car city and locals increasingly use the so-called Park & Ride system, giant parking lots outside the city where they can park for free and catch a bus or bike the rest of the way downtown.
Cambridge is named after the river Cam that runs through it and adds a lovely character to the city. A local favorite is to go “punting,” sailing on the river in flat boats steered with long sticks, not unlike Venice’s gondolas. This is obviously an incredibly romantic and serene way to take in the city but the riverbanks of the Cam are also a wonderful place to hang out on sunny days.
The University of Cambridge is one of the most famous universities in the world and is made up of 31 constituent colleges. The most famous among those has to be Trinity College which alone has graduated 32 Nobel Prize Winners and renowned individuals such as Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Sir David Attenborough and Vladimir Nabokov. For the science nerds, it’s worth noting that the apple tree outside Trinity College is claimed to be a descendant of the famous tree that taught Isaac Newton a valuable lesson in gravity.
Cantabrigians, like the locals, are often called, are a wonderful people and a lot of good has certainly come out of this city. Aside from all the geniuses who studied at the University the musical virtuosos of Pink Floyd come from Cambridge where the band often played in the 1960s. On a side note, the Pink Floyd song Grantchester Meadows was written about the band’s hometown.
There’s plenty to see and do in Cambridge but aside from all the architecture and historical sites, the “Mathematical Bridge" is definitely worth a visit. It’s an interesting wooden pedestrian bridge designed in 1749 although it has been rebuilt a few times since. The design is unique and sophisticated for its time, making the bridge resemble an arch while made entirely from straight wooden planks.
Those who need to up the heartbeat a bit in this relaxing town should check out some of the numerous festivals held annually in Cambridge, such as the Strawberry Fair in Midsummer Common or the Cambridge Beer Festival in Jesus Green park.
Cambridge is just a hop, skip and a jump away from London Stansted Airport so find your cheap flight to London with WOW air and visit the classical jewel of Cambridge while you’re at it.
Photos from iStockphoto.com