Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Colleges: from All Soul's to Hogwarts!

Bridge of Sighs.
A few more days in Oxford and I have seen much of this amazing town. The buildings are magnificent, the colleges that form Oxford University are amazing, and the weather is.... terribly English. It is the middle of Summer, or so I am led to believe, however the weather is probably better in Melbourne right now, where it is the middle of Winter. Rain, wind and tempertures around the mid-teens!
Luckily Oxford has enough sites to keep one's mind, slightly at least, off the weather. There are some impressive structures to walk past, such as the Radcliffe Camera, a large circular building that doesn't appear to take photos, and the Bridge of Sighs (pictured above), which reminds me of the bridge in Mostar, Bosnia.

Mr T. Rex, the Pitt Rivers Museum.
Then there are the museums and libraries, of which there are many. The T-Rex above can be found at the wonderfully Victorian Pitt Rivers Museum of Natural History along with many other skeletons. There's information on the Dodo, other displays on Evolution and then in a second room, dimly lit, are hundreds of glass cases filled with objects from all over the world from Papua New Guinea to the Americas. There was also the biggest Totem Pole I have ever seen! It was wonderfully English and dim and dusty, with far to many objects to be displayed properly, they just crammed as many things into the cases as they could, and then as many cases into the room as they could.
Then there was the Ashmolean Museum, another wonderful museum following in the British tradition of invasion, pilferring followed by display. Both museums were in amazing buildings too.

All Soul's College.
 But the cream of Oxford is its university, and the colleges. Why, today alone I visited four colleges, and a couple yesterday. Above is All Soul's College, typically Anglican in name (Church of England) with a remarkable Chapel, and as with all the colleges here, immaculate lawns and fantastic quadrangles. I have also visited Merton, Whadham & Exeter College (this last one had a fantastic chapel as well).
Outside Christ Church College on Sunday, the queue is unbelievable!
 But the cream of the cream is Christ Church College. Yes, it does get the most visitors because of one singular reason - it is known as the Harry Potter College. This is the building used as Hogwarts, or part of Hogwarts. But it is also a magnificent college, the largest I saw with more wonderful lawns and quadrangles. Unfortunately the chapel was closed for the Georgian Boys Choir, but just walking around the buildings was breathaking enough.
The 'Harry Potter Hall', Christ Church College.
And then there was the most popular room in the house - what the lady at the entrance called 'The Harry Potter Room'. Well, this grand hall had people in and out all the time, and I am pretty sure it was the dining hall in the Harry Potter films. I visted Christ Church College today, although I went yesterday but saw queues like you wouldn't believe. I estimated there was between a one and two hour wait, so I passed yesterday, but today was Monday and I could basically walk straight in.
Of further note is a building called the Bodleian Library, a grand building yes, but inside was one of the more interesting displays on the making of the King James Bible, one of the first fully-translated English-language bibles (after two others I think) first published in 1611. It was translated and put together by many literary men here in Oxford over many years leading to its publication. The display showed different translations, the history, even a note about the 'Wicked' version of the bible printed many a century ago now. Why was it wicked? Instead of the Seventh Commandment reading: 'Thou shalt not commit adultery', the printers omitted the 'not'. Needless to say, scandel ensued!

Interior courtyard view of the Bodleian Library.
And so, that is that for Oxford. This place goes back nearly 1000 years as a learning centre, and some of the colleges are almost that old. It's been a brilliant place to stop for five nights. Next on the agenda is a bit of rest for me, but I will be back in just over a week blogging about the northern English town of York!

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