Thames

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Die Fahrt nach Cambridge dauert für uns rund zweieinhalb Stunden. Trotzdem ist es ein rundum lohnenswerter Tagesausflug. Einmal durch diese Stadt spaziert, fühlen wir uns gleich ein bißchen klüger. Schließlich sind durch diese Straßen und Gassen vor uns schon Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russell und Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Maynard Keynes, Francis Bacon, Karl Popper und viele andere große Denker gewandelt. Nicht zu reden von Größen ganz anderen Kalibers wie John Cleese, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Sacha Baron Cohen.

Im 13. Jahrhundert wurden hier die ersten Colleges gegründet. Heute gibt es deren 31, die in der Cambridge University zusammengeschlossen sind. Trotzdem haben die Colleges ihre Eigenständigkeit weitgehend bewahrt und können autonom über Zulassung von Studenten oder Einstellung von Personal entscheiden. Ein Student in Cambridge identifiziert sich zuerst mit seinem College und erst in zweiter Linie mit der Universität.

Die Altstadt von Cambridge wird von den Gebäuden der Colleges dominiert. Zu jedem der Colleges gehören in der Regel ein Hörsaal, eine Kapelle, Büros, Wohn- und Schlafräume für Studenten und Lehrer, eine Bibliothek und Aufenthaltsräume. Traditionell sind diese Einrichtungen alle zusammen um einen Hof, den College Courtyard, angeordnet. Entsprechend ist jedes College wie eine kleine Universität für sich, wo alles dicht beisammen ist. Diese aus Tradition gewachsene Struktur sorgt für eine ungemein gelehrte Atmosphäre. Dieses Flair zu erhalten liegt auch so manchem Neubau als Motiv zugrunde. So beherbergt beispielsweise auch das neuste Gebäude des Magdalene College sowohl Unterrichtsräume als auch Büros und Studentenzimmer.

Da unser Freund Carl Watkins am Magdalene College mittelalterliche Geschichte lehrt, bekommen wir Zutritt, der sonst nur Studierenden und anderen Collegeangehörigen gewährt ist. Der Collegeeingang ist ein recht unscheinbarer Torbogen. Dort befindet sich die porter’s lodge, das Pförtnerhäuschen, wo für jeden der im College wohnt oder dort ein Büro innehat ein pigeon hole (Postfach) zu finden ist. Durch den Torbogen gelangt man in den Innenhof, von wo sich alle Gebäude über kleine Wege zwischen gepflegten Rasen erschließen.

Magdalene College trägt diesen Namen seit 1542. Sein berühmntester Alumnus ist Samuel Pepys. Entsprechend ist das repräsentativste Gebäude die Pepys Library. Dort werden die original Tagebücher des Marinebeamten aufbewahrt, für die er so berühmt ist, da sie uns einen weitgehend ungeschminkten Einblick in das Leben im London in der Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts verschaffen. Leider sind die Manuskripte unter Verschluss und nicht ohne Weiteres einsehbar.

Magdalene College ist außerdem berühmt-berüchtigt dafür, dass es das letzte College in Cambridge war, das Studentinnen zuließ. Erst seit 1988 dürfen hier Frauen studieren. Dieser scheinbar reaktionäre Fakt wird relativiert, wenn man weiß, dass Gleichberechtigung der Geschlechter in Cambridge noch immer nicht hergestellt ist, denn es gibt noch drei Colleges, an denen sich ausschließlich Frauen einschreiben dürfen (Newnham, Murray Edwards, Lucy Cavendish).

Carl Watkins’ Büro befindet sich in einem der ältesten Gebäude von Magdalene. Auch an diesem Sonntag, dem 11. Dezember, arbeitet Carl dort. Wir gehen durch enge Gänge und viele Brandschutztüren, bis wir in seinem Büro stehen. Das erste was einem auffällt: Bücher. Die linke Wand wird komplett von einem Bücherregal eingenommen. Davor steht ein bequemes dunkelrotes Sofa, dem gegenüber vor der großen doppelflügligen Verandatür zwei Schreibtische stehen, die flankiert sind von zwei zum Sofa passenden Sesseln. Dazwischen ein Couchtisch und gegenüber der Eingangstür der große Kamin. Und überall stapelweise Bücher. Ich fühle mich an das Büro von Donald Trefusis erinnert, einer Figur aus Stephen Frys Roman The Liar. Auch er hat überall Bücherstapel. Eine Sitzgelegenheit in Trefusis’ Büro lässt sich nur nach langer Suche in diesem “librarinth” finden. Ganz so schlimm ist es bei Carl nicht. Schon nach wenigen Minuten ist für jeden eine Sitzgelegenheit freigeräumt. Bei einer Tasse Tee quatschen wir eine Weile bevor wir wieder gen Heimat aufbrechen.

Vieles in Cambridge ist im wahrsten Sinne altehrwürdig. Dennoch wird aus keinem der Colleges ein Museum gemacht. Die größte Ehre, die man dem Alten hier angedeihen lässt, ist, dass es genutzt wird. Historisch wertvoll und dennoch nicht museal zu sein macht den Reiz dieser Stadt aus.

The drive to Cambridge takes us about two and a half hours. Still, it is thoroughly worthwhile. After walking through this town we already feel a bit more intelligent. After all, the likes of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russel and Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Maynard Keynes, Francis Bacon, Karl Popper and countless other great thinkers have walked these streets before us, not to mention other famous Cambridge alumni like John Cleese, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Sacha Baron Cohen and the like.

The first colleges were founded here in the thirteenth century. Today there are thirty-one of them, all incorporated into Cambridge University. However, the colleges have largely maintained their autonomy over matters such as hiring staff or admitting students. A Cambridge student usually identifies with his college first.

The old town centre of Cambridge is dominated by the colleges’ buildings. Each of the colleges usually has a hall, a chapel, offices, living quarters for students and teachers, a common room and a small library that mainly serves as a study. Traditionally all these facilities are grouped around the college courtyard. Accordingly each college is like a small university in itself, everything you need close by. This traditional structure makes for the famously scholarly atmosphere and new buildings often follow tradition. For example, the latest addition to Magdalene College comprises a lecture hall as well as student accommodation and staff offices.

We are lucky to have a friend working as a lecturer for medieval history at Magdalene College. Carl Watkins grants us access to where normally only students and other college members can go. The college entrance is an inconspicuous archway housing the porter’s lodge where every college member’s pigeon hole is located. Through the archway you reach the courtyard where a number of paths criss cross the neat lawns and give you access to all the college’s facilities.

Magdalene College has been going by that name ever since 1542. Its most famous alumnus is Samuel Pepys and accordingly the Pepys Library is the most representative building. It houses the original manuscripts of Pepys famous diary in which the high ranking naval officer allows us an unadorned glimpse of life in mid-seventeenth century London. Unfortunately the manuscripts are firmly under lock and key and cannot be viewed without much ado.

Magdalene is also famous for being the last college in Cambridge to allow women to enrol. Only since 1988 female students have been allowed to apply. However, this seemingly reactionary fact is put into perspective when you learn that there are still three colleges which to this day allow no male students (Newnham, Murray Edwards and Lucy Cavendish).

Carl Watkins’ office is located in one of Magdalene’s oldest buildings. Carl is at work even on this third Sunday of advent. We pass through narrow corridors and countless fireproof doors to get to his study. The first impression is: books everywhere. The left hand wall is taken up completely by a fitted bookshelf in front of which there is a dark red sofa. If you sit on the sofa you can look across the desk out the french doors into the college garden. To the left of the desk there is a comfortable armchair to match the sofa and the far wall is dominated by a large fireplace. And books are stacked everywhere. I am reminded of Donald Trefusis‘ office in Stephen Fry’s novel The Liar. He also has books everywhere and only after a navigating Trefusis’ “librarinth” thoroughly for a while you can find a place to sit if you are lucky. It’s not quite as bad in Carl’s office. After only a few minutes there is a chair cleared for everyone and we can all enjoy a lovely cup of tea together before we go back home.

Much of Cambridge is time-honoured, buildings, customs and traditions. Still, the colleges are not memorials. The greatest honour these time-worn buildings are afforded is that they are put to use. Being historically soaked and valuable but not museums, that’s what makes Cambridge so appealing.

The drive to Cambridge takes us about two and a half hours. Still, it is thoroughly worthwhile. After walking through this town we already feel a bit more intelligent. After all, the likes of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russel and Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Maynard Keynes, Francis Bacon, Karl Popper and countless other great thinkers have walked these streets before us, not to mention other famous Cambridge alumni like John Cleese, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Sacha Baron Cohen and the like.

The first colleges were founded here in the thirteenth century. Today there are thirty-one of them, all incorporated into Cambridge University. However, the colleges have largely maintained their autonomy over matters such as hiring staff or admitting students. A Cambridge student usually identifies with his college first.

The old town centre of Cambridge is dominated by the colleges’ buildings. Each of the colleges usually has a hall, a chapel, offices, living quarters for students and teachers, a common room and a small library that mainly serves as a study. Traditionally all these facilities are grouped around the college courtyard. Accordingly each college is like a small university in itself, everything you need close by. This traditional structure makes for the famously scholarly atmosphere and new buildings often follow tradition. For example, the latest addition to Magdalene College comprises a lecture hall as well as student accommodation and staff offices.

We are lucky to have a friend working as a lecturer for medieval history at Magdalene College. Carl Watkins grants us access to where normally only students and other college members can go. The college entrance is an inconspicuous archway housing the porter’s lodge where every college member’s pigeon hole is located. Through the archway you reach the courtyard where a number of paths criss cross the neat lawns and give you access to all the college’s facilities.

Magdalene College has been going by that name ever since 1542. Its most famous alumnus is Samuel Pepys and accordingly the Pepys Library is the most representative building. It houses the original manuscripts of Pepys famous diary in which the high ranking naval officer allows us an unadorned glimpse of life in mid-seventeenth century London. Unfortunately the manuscripts are firmly under lock and key and cannot be viewed without much ado.

Magdalene is also famous for being the last college in Cambridge to allow women to enrol. Only since 1988 female students have been allowed to apply. However, this seemingly reactionary fact is put into perspective when you learn that there are still three colleges which to this day allow no male students (Newnham, Murray Edwards and Lucy Cavendish).

Carl Watkins’ office is located in one of Magdalene’s oldest buildings. Carl is at work even on this third Sunday of advent. We pass through narrow corridors and countless fireproof doors to get to his study. The first impression is: books everywhere. The left hand wall is taken up completely by a fitted bookshelf in front of which there is a dark red sofa. If you sit on the sofa you can look across the desk out the french doors into the college garden. To the left of the desk there is a comfortable armchair to match the sofa and the far wall is dominated by a large fireplace. And books are stacked everywhere. I am reminded of Donald Trefusis’ office in Stephen Fry’s novel The Liar. He also has books everywhere and only after a navigating Trefusis’ “librarinth” thoroughly for a while you can find a place to sit if you are lucky. It’s not quite as bad in Carl’s office. After only a few minutes there is a chair cleared for everyone and we can all enjoy a lovely cup of tea together before we go back home.

Much of Cambridge is time-honoured, buildings, customs and traditions. Still, the colleges are not memorials. The greatest honour these time-worn buildings are afforded is that they are put to use. Being historically soaked and valuable but not museums, that’s what makes Cambridge so appealing.

PS: If ever you are applying for a place at Magdalene and you face Dr Watkins in the interview, don’t mention you’re only there for the sports.

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