Humble beginning make for amazing stories and that is just what you have in historic Oxford. A city’s name forged out of the practicality that in the time of the Saxon’s they used Oxford’s very spot to cross their Oxen at the Ford. These days when you mention the name Oxford most people think of the university. It’s hard to fault them for that given Oxford University is the oldest university in the english speaking land with a history that dates back to a time when nobody can say for sure.
Those humble beginnings forged ahead and created a city of endless knowledge and to me the quintessential english city a rogue Aussie might look to seek out on a gap year. If you rise early before the hustle and bustle of everyday life begins that is.
Be it a wander along the river Isis (yes it’s not the Themes inside the town boundary) as those eager brits perfect the art of rowing in the freezing morning or a stroll around the city where some 26 previous British Prime Ministers and 3 Australia Prime Ministers along with a string of Nobel Prize winners, Olympic Medalists and even a couple of actors once roamed.
I found myself a little in awe of the city to be honest, especially as I sat in the bar of the Turf Tavern where well-respected past Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke once set the Guinness world record for drinking a yard of ale (2.5 imperial pints or 1.4 litres) in just 11 seconds… I decided to drink mine a littler slower.
Beer aside within just one day I managed to climb the original tower at St Michael at the North Gate which is the oldest building in Oxford and then not 5 minutes walk away be inside the cosy Covered Market tucking into a Piemaster pie before heading back out into the open air to tour the city and university to get a glimpse into its life.
Until my visit to the university I had no idea about the education system there compared to back home in Australia and possible everywhere. Made up of a series of self-regulated tutorials conducted in the colleges or staffers homes with lectures provided by the university there is a huge onus on the student to do the work. Far removed from my studies where the teachers laid out the rules on just what you did and when you did it.
As i walked around the university I couldn’t help but be envious of the students as they sat in silence and studied in buildings bursting with history and filled with books many generations old. if only those walls could talk I say…..