Every year crowds gather on Putney Bridge in London to watch the famous Oxford v. Cambridge rowing competition. While the two universities are often intertwined, the cities could not be any more different.
While the origins of the city date as far back as the prehistoric age, the University of Cambridge was not founded until 1209. Archeological excavations have found evidence of settlement throughout the history of Great Britain from the first men, to the Roman empire, medieval, stretching to present day.
The name derives from the city’s medieval era when the the village was known as Grantebrycge, roughly translated Granta Bridge. Over time the name shifted from Granta to Cam to reflect the importance of the river Cam flowing through the heart of the old town.
The main attraction in Cambridge is punting down the River Cam. You can hire a guide, or try punting for yourself. It’s quite easy to tell the experts from the newbies as most guides will seamlessly glide through the waters past tourists darting about somehow running into every wall and bank, all in the name of good fun. From the river you get a gimpse at some of the thirty-one colleges that make up the University of Cambridge, the backs, and many famous bridges and crossings.
One of the greatest feats of engineering is the Mathematical Bridge that connects the gardens to Queen’s College. The bridge is designed without the aid of screws or nails… instead the wooden beams are held together by mathematical calculations.
Cambridge to this day is still very old school in thought and even visitors will find it’s elitist class structure prevalent in the layout of the university town. Unless one were to be a member of a specific college, you are unable to walk along the banks of the River Cam. While it would be understandable that particular buildings would be private from touring, the fact that certain gardens and bridges can not be accessed on-foot further illustrates this point. To avoid this, many colleges offer a paid tour of there grounds. Both Trinity College and Queen’s College are worth the extra shillings.
Trinity was founded by the infamous King Henry the Eight (VIII) and is the largest college in the University of Cambridge catalogue. Trinity was a merger of three older colleges and has one of the best views of the Backs. Queen’s College, one of the oldest surviving colleges boast an incredible preservation of medieval buildings still in use to this day. Both colleges can be found along the River Cam.
To some irony of this article, the University of Cambridge was founded by students fleeing the hostility of Oxford. Today it is ranked one of the top five universities in the world!
The city is North of London. Less than an hour by train, visitors can either leave via Kings Cross Station, or Liverpool Street Station.