Friday, July 21, 2006


You just know that under the stately veneer of Cambridge is an undercurrent of radical thought. I ventured to Cambridge today with Tim and Susan. On the walk into town you are greeted with this message.




Perhaps it was meant to be read walking the other direction, but I like this iteration better. While Mies is no longer considered radical, I found traces of a counter-culture everywhere.

St Mary's is a quaint little church in the center of town. There we sat among the headstones and ate our lunch.


Afterwards we climbed the tower and got a bird's eye view of Cambridge.



This is King's College Chapel which hosts magnificent fan vaulting. Outside St.Mary's is a message board to sign in support of human rights. It has become a place for legal grafitti. I'm glad this joke was something I could photograph. (Click for a larger view.)


Out front was a busker playing 60s protest songs, with a bit of Eric Clapton thrown in.


We went on a fabulous walking tour of the city. The amount of history here, like everywhere else, is staggering. You could get lost in it, which is probably what prompts a bit of rebellion. In the US we are able to create our own future with little regard for the past. That's good and bad. We often loose our responsibility in our freedom, but here when you disregard the past you are doing so consciously.

This is Pembroke University, one of the 31 universities that make up Cambrigde. It was designed by Christopher Wren.



This is our tour guide. I missed his name but he did a fabulous job showing us around the city he loves.


Architectural details like this are everywhere.


King's College is the most exciting complex of buildings in town, with spires everywhere. If you name it after the king (founded in 1441) it has to be flashy.

King's College

King's College Chapel is stunning. No photography of the elaborate fan vaulting and stained glass windows was allowed so I sketched like mad.


Outside this poignant sign in a window throws you back to the present.


We also took a punting tour of the Cam River. From this vantage point we could see the back end of the colleges we had toured earlier. These were our companions on the boat. They're from Taiwan and took more pictures of themselves than we did of the architecture.


The bridges over the river are beautiful and distinctive. This is the "Bridge of Sighs" named after the famous bridge in Venice popularized by Byron. The original connects the courtroom with the execution chamber. This bridge connects the classroom with the exam room.

Bridge of Sighs

This is the Wren Library designed, surprisingly, by Christopher Wren. It is very stately and perfectly proportioned.

Wren Library

This is a new library built in 1998. It is meant to look like a ship. Old and new mix well together.


"This is a wooden bridge. Why is it a wooden bridge? Because it's made of wood. Some people call it the 'Mathematical Bridge.' Why? Because they're idiots!"

Mathematical Bridge

That's the story we overheard by a satirical guide on another boat passing by. The version we got from our guide, John, was that the bridge is built with a formula that evenly dristributes the weight put on it. I like the idiot version better.

Cambridge is a charming and intriguing city. It is so shrouded in tradition and history, yet is a modern and, I suspect, radical bed of thought. It's also a great place to watch people, for all of those reasons.

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