13 Januari 2015

Away from London, Oxford and Stonehenge

Besides visiting London, my friend (Anne) and I were also visiting Stonehenge and Oxford over our 5-day adventure in London. First thing first: check the weather forecast when you are going to Stonehenge and if the colleges in Oxford are open. Don't be like us: coming to Stonehenge when the it was windy and raining hard, and coming to Oxford when the colleges are closed for holiday.

Nonetheless, Stonehenge was really cool!

And I'm taller than the Stonehenge!
Oxford, just like Cambridge, is filled with scholarly atmosphere. Totally feel like a world-class university!

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford
Let's start with Oxford. Yes, I can hear you screaming, "Wow, Oxford! Best university in the world!" Remember, MIT and Cambridge are also best universities in the world :)

One thing that I realize as soon as I step in the college-area of the town, this is a great place to study. The town is big enough to provide you with what you need, but it's not as busy as London. Cambridge is also the same, but Oxford feels older and has more tradition.

I heard, that during the exam time, Oxford students still need to wear their gown, while Cambridge students no longer do it. I don't know though, this morning I had a mock exam and the invigilator was wearing gown. Well, I guess I will figure this out during my real exam time on April-May.

I also heard, that there is one huge library in Oxford, filled with books from different ages. Even the copy of Magna Carta is stored in this library. Because their effort of preserving the book, back then, people were not allowed to read with candles on in the library, and there was not any heater during heater because of fire hazard. That was another reason, why the students back then wore gown anywhere, so they could stay in library although it was cold. 

Oxford colleges from far.
'An education in intoxication', the famous turf tavern where students grab some drinks.
The gate where people come out after exams. They bring red flowers to celebrate the end of the exam period. That is why you can see the flowers on details of the gate.
Christ Church College. Apparently, the dining hall in this college was the setting for Hogwarts' dining hall on Harry Potter. We had to pay to get in, though.
Let's move on to Stonehenge. You may have seen Stonehenge before... on your Windows XP desktop background.

Yep, this one. Taken from Knowth.com.
What is Stonehenge exactly? It was built by people on 3000 BC. There are some speculations about why this was built, and people are still not sure. Look at the diagram below.

Source: calgary.rasc.ca.
During summer solstice and winter solstice, you can see the sun is aligned with the altar stone and the heel stone. That's why people think that Stonehenge was used as a calendar to find out about seasons, which affect their activities of farming and harvesting.

However, there's also a circular ditch around the Stonehenge, where the archaeologists found human remnants. Therefore, people also think that Stonehenge might be a temple back then, where sick people are being healed.

Stonehenge, now.
Nonetheless, Stonehenge was a witness of change in ages. This area was also used as a military camp during World War, and this caused some parts of Stonehenge destroyed. Back then, people were also allowed to walk into the inner circle, but some irresponsible people decided to draw some graffiti on the stones. Therefore, the inner circle cannot be accessed now. 

However, there is a cool exhibition near the visitors center.

The approximate method of how the stones were brought there.
I don't think I was strong enough. Photo credit: Anne.
So, how do we get to Oxford and Stonehenge?

There is a direct train every hour to Oxford from London Paddington Station. It takes about one hour. Oxford itself, just like Cambridge, can be explored by walking.

For Stonehenge, there is also a direct train every hour to Salisbury from London Waterloo Station. After you arrive in Salisbury, you need to find the Stonehenge tour bus, where you pay for the bus ride and also the entrance ticket. When you arrive at the Stonehenge Visitor Center, you still need to hop on to another shuttle bus that will bring you to the site. Yes, Stonehenge is in the middle of nowhere. The total time you need to get from London to the site is about 2.5 hours. You also need to remember, that Stonehenge opening hours are really limited, so make sure to check it on the website first.

When I was looking at Stonehenge, I wish Indonesia would be a bit more serious to manage our tourist sites. Make them more interesting and more (international) visitor-friendly.

On a side note, this Thursday school is going to start again. Wish me luck for Lent term!

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