Oxford and comparison with "the other place"
Trip Start Oct 17, 2011
24Trip End May 22, 2012
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Historically, Cambridge was born out of Oxford: in 1209 some Oxford scholars left Oxford University after a dispute with the townsfolk and eventually set up what was to become Cambridge University.
I attended a “choral meditation” by the choir at Christ Church Cathedral and a wonderful rendition of Bach’s St. John Passion by the Magdalen College Choir (young people and boy sopranos) at the Sheldonian Theatre.
Oxford has a large Covered Market (dates from 1770) with every kind of food and craft on offer, and there are some major shopping streets. Truth to tell, I was not comfortable with the huge numbers of tourists, including many touring school groups from the Continent. Travelling through the less-popular winter months has spoiled me.
The 158th annual Boat Race took place the day after I left Oxford. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the least ideal races in its history. First, a protester (against elitism) stopped the race by swimming directly into the boats’ path (and narrowly missing being decapitated by an oar). Oxford had a slight lead at that point. The race was re-started from a halfway point, and right away one of Oxford’s oars lost a blade, its boat having got too close to Cambridge’s. So Cambridge was able to pull way ahead and won the race. When Oxford passed the finish line, one of its members collapsed unconscious from exhaustion and was hospitalized for two days. There was no big celebration and no podium presentation. It’s not the way a team wants to win such a prestigious race. (Cambridge now leads by 81 wins to Oxford’s 76.)
The inevitable comparison arises between Oxford and Cambridge. All things considered, I preferred Cambridge. I found the university buildings in Oxford more spread out; in Cambridge things seem more compact. But my opinion is no doubt coloured by the following: Oxford was swarming with tourists when I was there (school break); I had much nicer accommodation in Cambridge; and I visited Cambridge earlier in my travels and was likely “fresher.” I would like to visit Oxford again during the calmer, less crowded, late-fall or late-winter times.