29 March 2007

Follow me... to Oxford!

My old travel partner and I united again this Easter to undertake new adventures! Our first trip takes us to Oxford. After some hassle with the coach company (more on that in another blog post) and a brief shock at the prospect of the journey being terminated before it has even begun, Kat and I arrived in Oxford on a beautiful day! Our first impression: It is wonderful, quite relaxed in character, (Kat compares it to Baden, Lower Austria) and classic! I was particularly delighted to see a city which is the opposite of London, namely with a lot of green areas, cycles insteads of cars and nice little shops in a clean environment.

I might have mentioned that I am considering moving out of London for next year or at least during the summer in order to relax? Well, Oxford and Cambridge are on my short list. I have heard, Cambridge is nicer than Oxford (less tourists and more green areas), but I will see during the next weeks! I realised that living in London, I should seize the opportunity and travel to the surrounding cities in Southeast England once a fortnight or so. After all, if you book on time, a trip the distance of Oxford can be cheaper than a tube single fare in zone 1 (2,25 £ compared to 4 £). I know that if I move out it might cost the same as living in London if you count the commuting costs but I am at a point where I value life quality over money (within reason).

Anyway, so Kat and I headed for the Bodleian Library which is the second largest uni in England and the third largest in the UK (behind the BL and the National Library of Scotland) and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. They have Shakespeare's First Folio, one of 42 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible and even some of Mozart's manuscripts (I was wondering why they sold mugs with Mozart scores in the University of Oxford Souvenir Shop). It also provided the set for the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter movies.

Since a full tour cost 6 £, Kat and I split up. She went on the one hour tour (which is really worth the money, according to her account) and I went to see Christchurch Cathedral from the inside. It is a huge building, with a wonderful Hall (which in fact, is the one from Harry Potter), a beautiful square with a fountain and colourful tainted glass windows. Also, so the warden (a retired Cambridge alumni, in fact) told me, the organ is made in Austria (Rieger?) and a team of Austrians actually flies in for major repairs and regular maintenance! Christchurch Cathedral is also famous for its world-renown choir, the Sunday Times Literary Festival and other scenes of Harry Potter as well (I only noticed when I was looking around and the guide confirms it).

I decided to save the rest of Oxford for a weekend trip in the near future, maybe after my exams? Due to time pressure (we had to catch our coach to Amsterdam in the evening), Kat and I could not pay our respects to Tolkien's grave (Did you know that the inscription on his gravestone reads Luthien & Beren? This is so romantic!), nor was I able to indulge in the Pitt Rivers Museum (I only found out about the existence of this treat for anthropologists from the direction signs).

It remains to say that the whole city is basically a university. The majority of the local population is probably either student or professor, the rest of the people who crowd the city centre are tourists. Below you see in order of appearance: part of the Bodleian Library (professor-ish passer-by included), Christchurch Cathedral quadrangle, the Hall of the cathedral and the entry to Hertford College (it says "closed to visitors" on the sign).

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