Evolution and Genius
Let’s be honest, humankind, as a species, really hasn’t evolved much since we crawled out of the primordial soup. The proof is all around us. Violence is rampant, we still lack compassion and empathy, and greed and corruption abound. But every once in a while, something magical happens. Something so beautiful and rare, that it provides a glimmer of hope for the species. It’s called genius. And this genius has placed mankind, for better or for worse, in the position that it is in today. Machines that heal and that kill, timeless literature, world leaders, and our understanding of the cosmos, to name but a few, are all a result of this rare thing called genius.
And it seems that when genius happens, it gravitates to Oxford, England. Physicist Stephen Hawking, astronomer Edwin Hubble, William Harvey the discoverer of blood circulation, are all alumni of Oxford. Authors from Oxford are in abundance and include Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. Jethro Tull, not the rock band, but the agriculturalist and inventor is also an Oxford alum.
Smokem’ if Ya Gottem
Bill Clinton famously smoked but didn’t inhale, his marijuana joint at an Oxford pub while attending Oxford. Albert Einstein lectured here and the list goes on and on.
So, when you walk the streets of Oxford, you are literally walking in the footsteps of the people who changed the world. When you enter one of the colleges, you are standing where the great minds had great thoughts. It can be overwhelming and a bit emotional. At least it was for me.
Could It Be the Weather?
So why Oxford? Why would the oldest university in the English speaking world be built in the city of Oxford? Well, I think that it could be due to the horrific weather. What better place to build a university than a place where it rains 90% of the time. There are only a few things to do: study, think, drink ale, and smoke joints. And to entice these jewels of humanity they built incredibly
beautiful buildings, they became the caretakers of precious artifacts from throughout history, they have collected nearly every book ever written, and have some of the best pubs to be found anywhere.
How To Experience Oxford
So what’s the best way to see and experience all this amazing stuff when you only have a few days?
For us, it was a combination of a formal walking tour and, after some internet research, self-guided touring. There were many walking tours available, we just searched the internet or headed over to Broad Street, to find one, although some required advanced booking. Many advertise as free but asked for a ‘donation’ at the end of the tour. Most also claimed to be hosted by a struggling Oxford student. Ours claimed, and we have no reason to doubt him, to be preparing for his master’s thesis. There were university tours, Harry Potter tours, and pub tours. Pick one or all, but just get out there and explore.
The Must Sees
Here are the must sees from our point of view, assuming that you’ve done a walking tour. The first thing to do is to just walk around the Broad Street area, 3 blocks in any direction, and simply gawk at the architecture.
Make sure that you have plenty of memory in your camera. As VinoHikers, we would be remiss if we didn’t suggest that you visit as many pubs as possible. These three should give you a good start. All have been around a long time and boast of having the rich, famous, and brilliant as their regular clientele.
The Pubs and The Destroyers of Brain Cells
First, the Turf Tavern, most famous as the place where President Clinton smoked but did not inhale, marijuana. They seemed very proud of the fact that it happened on their premises, but they didn’t say if they acted as his dealer. After all their motto is “An education in intoxication since 1381”. Who knows how many marvelous brain cells were killed on this very spot. How much further might mankind have come without these devilish purveyors of evil substances. Perhaps they should all be burned at the stake!
Second, The White Horse, which is conveniently located next to Blackwell’s Bookstore.
Who doesn’t need a pint of real ale after shopping for books on quantum physics?
Third, “when logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead” head over to The White Rabbit Pub, famous for their pizzas. Yes, geniuses eat pizzas like normal people. After you’ve properly studied where some of the most famous and influential people in recorded history destroyed some of their precious brain cells
and, in the process, hopefully, killed some of yours, let’s find out where they gained enlightenment.
And Now the Serious Stuff
The Bodleian Library was just mind-blowing. There were two featured exhibitions while we were there.
The 24 pairs exhibition featured an iconic document or book paired with a less famous article that shared some type of relationship. My favorite was a 1217 copy of the Magna Carta. There are only 17 known copies that predate 1300 and The Bodleian Library has 4 of them; 3 from 1217 and 1 from 1225.
To stand within a few feet of one of the most important and influential documents in recorded history was as awe-inspiring as seeing the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas for the first time. The second featured exhibition was titled Shakespeare’s Dead. Its purpose was not to convince us that he is actually dead, we already knew that, but rather to enlighten us on the many ways Shakespeare’s characters met their demise. The exhibition included manuscripts and props dating from the Shakespearean period to make their point. I really need to read more Shakespeare. Plan to spend at least a few hours to properly see the exhibits. Just across the street from The Bodleian and, our next stop, was the Museum of the History of Science. Again, amazing artifacts of antiquity highlighting the ingenuity of man. My favorite was a blackboard filled with equations written by Albert Einstein while he was lecturing at the University.
OK, call me a geek, but it gave me goosebumps.
Our third stop was the unbelievable Ashmolean Museum. It’s the oldest university museum, dating back to 1678, and was huge. I have no idea how to advise someone on how much time to allow to properly see the museum, but if you have an interest in Egypt and Nubia, you may want to spend your entire vacation here.
Our Time Here Was Just Too Short
I’ve really only touched on the amazing things the city of Oxford had to offer. If you’re looking for a place to spend your next vacation, do a little googling on Oxford. Then become enlightened as you take a walk with the greatest minds of our species, to finally know what they’ve known for centuries: it’s OK to inhale. More photos below.
Apero Time—>Hike Drink Live Laugh
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