Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Oxford - the City of Dreaming Spires

Oxford is a beautiful, elegant and compact city that spoils visitors with things to do and look at.It is one of the oldest cities in the United Kingdom, and it feels almost soaked in history - from the architecture to the traditions still upheld today. Immersing myself in Oxford's rich heritage was a sheer easthetic pleasure and wonderfully educational adventure. Oxford is not just a chic, stylish, scholastic place as one might think; it is also a lively and vibrant, bohemian and underground, upbeat and extremely friendly city. It is a melting pot of cultures, a home to a number of the oldest and biggest museums, libraries and botanic gardens in Great Britain. It is a city of "dreaming spires", picturesque canals, romantic rivers, hidden nooks and impressive yet intimate colleges. It has got tranquil and cultured atmosphere, it has got fantastic, grotesque gargoyles lurking from the outsides of buildings and it is totally dominated by cyclists! If you go to Oxford, watch out for bikes! Oxford cyclists have no rules and respect for pedestrians whatsoever ;-) Nevertheless, it is so easy to fall in love with this charming, inspirational place.

In the picture below you can see fabulous spires of Balliol College. Balliol College, along with Merton and University, lays claim to being the oldest college in Oxford. Founded in about 1263, the college still occupies its orginial site on historic Broad Steet. I took the picture while standing outside Tourist Information Centre and waiting for our University and City Tour guide.

Radcliffe Camera. The word "camera" has nothing to do with photograpy. It derives from the Latin word meaning "circular". Radcliffe Camera is the most recognisable building in Oxford. It was completed in 1749 by James Gibbs, with money bequeathed by the physician, John Radcliffe. Now it is a monumental circular reading room for the Bodleian Library. Radcliffe Camera is not open to the public.

Gargoyles - grotesquely carved heads of animal or human origin, with or without bodies - originally had a practical use as waterspouts (generally) on sacred buildings, throwing rainwater clear of walls. They were also used as educational devices for a largely illiterate population, and were believed to ward off evil spirits with their own grotesqueness. One of the earliest recorded gargoyles is a Classical Greek lion mask on the Acropolis in Athens dating from the 4th century BC.
Gargoyles later became more ornamental in character and assumed many forms - often humourous and very inventive. Most were carved between the 10th and 15th centuries in Western Europe.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, living in 12th-century France, made some interesting (and not wholly complimentary) observations on the gargoyle carvings he saw around him:
"What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters under the very eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, strange savage lions and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent's head, there a fish with a quadruped's head, then again an animal half horse, half goat... Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities we should at least regret what we have spent on them."
You can detect the answer in Pope Gregory's instructions to St. Augustine regarding the conversion of the pagan peoples to Christianity"

Turf Tavern. Not just any pub, but a famous attraction in Oxford. Its foundations date from the 13th century. Popular place among university students and visitors as well. Great ale!

Turf Tavern's mission statement: Education in intoxication

Carfax Tower and the Quarter Boys.

 The Carfax Tower is the last remaining structure of the 14th century church of St Martin. It stands at 23 m and no other building in the centre can exceed that height. The 99 steps are worth the climb.

Enjoying one of the best indoor 360 degree panoramic views of Oxford from the Cupola. In the picture, The Bridge of Sighs, also known as Herteford Bridge. It crosses over New College Lane and links two quadrangles of Hertford College.

Its popular and romantic name comes from an alleged similarity to the famous bridge in Venice. However, it was never intended as a Venetian replica and it is simply that as a covered bridge the name has stuck.

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