As a traveller , I do like to visit diverse places of interest, some offering natural beauty, some history, some an experience and some purely matters of the heart. Oxford is one such place, close to my heart. The colonial past ingrained in me, dreams and awareness of the presence of such great institutions like Oxford and Cambridge. Never managed to make it as a student but what the heck I did reach it as a tourist!
I felt like Alexander the Great, I came , I saw and I captured it all in my heart! Each building has a history behind it and all the buildings in this town together forms the University as is known worldwide. The Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, The Headington College, The Bridge of Sighs, the Divinity School are such historical monuments, which forms the charm of Oxford. These buildings are still in use today and classes are very much held here at present. Such is the charm of Oxford that much of Hogwarts School shown in Harry Potter movies are in fact some of the great halls and rooms of Oxford.
There are many tours conducted here, some specifically dealing with The University life and some gives you a brief peek of the existence of the town Oxford along with its historic university. I just had a day to spend there, so after walking and admiring many such buildings, I decided to take a walking tour of the town. The tour saw me walking through the high street past souvenir shops and cafes, into the botanical garden, past the famous Christ Church College, along the Thames, finally ending in front of the Divinity School. All the while I got an overview of the town, its history, local jokes and funny incidents. For example since much of the town has been taken over and owned by the university, there has always been a tussle between the townspeople and the students who attend the university. This famous and till date stand off is known as Town vs Gown. The ‘Gown’ was coined from the graduate gown each student is required to wear at their graduation ceremony, receiving their formal degree. There are many incidents big and small surrounding the Town vs Gown conflict.
The university itself has a very colourful history. Earlier on, only students from rich, famous backgrounds (implies royalty mostly) were allowed admission. Till now there is a 50 – 50 ratio between students admitted from private schools as compared to students from state funded schools.Girls were not allowed at all till as late as 1974, which is quite late considering the university had a notable presence for centuries before. The first college within the university to allow girls was the Headington College, the others followed suit gradually. Great names, scientists, politicians and philosophers are associated with Oxford. How can one not be inspired?!
That day I spent in Oxford, was a sunny, beautiful day. There was an air of festivity everywhere, made one feel that university life here was one big party! There were cyclists everywhere, student groups hanging around colleges.There were lots of tourists too, all mesmerised by the place.
The Thames flow through this town, after a lot of walking I decided to take an Oxford boat trip on the Thames. The boat went past boating docks, belonging to the different colleges each with its crest on the building . Beautiful gardens, lush grass and picturesque bridges is what greeted my eyes. There were people canoeing, boating and swimming, there were some simply lazing by the waters while others were enjoying a picnic. University life was tough certainly but Oxford had its own leisure spots.
This place also had a book shop called Blackwell, this is one of the first bookshops in the world. So tiny it was in the beginning that there was just room for one person to stand inside it. Today it is a legacy in its own right, under the street it has one of the largest rooms holding the a biggest collection of books, possibly in the world.
Every building in this university town has a history, colourful and long. Just like the path to reach here. As I boarded the bus to head out of the city, one long last look and one long sigh! Aah Oxford! You inspire me.Someday maybe someday.