Guided Tour of Oxford

It is always a great pleasure when the shades and secrets of the new place are professionally uncovered during the first days of being at the site. If someone knows it well enough to put you in the atmosphere of past and present intertwined on the old streets and young trees, the feeling of being a complete stranger starts evaporating. New Ertegun scholars had a chance to feel this relief last Friday during the tour around central Oxford led by a professional guide. Accompanied by Jonathan Cross, newly appointed director of the Ertegun House, we went through fifteen centuries of the town's history, glancing at the post-Roman trade roots and first university scholars who drastically shaped the site's past.

"We have to mention Harry Potter in Oxford," – the guide was precise enough from the very beginning of the tour. It is difficult to resist the publicly recognized, iconic images even in this place, where the academic spirit constantly shapes the minds and hearts of newcomers. Knowing nothing about the university's buildings, it is still possible to grasp familiar shapes and corners that appeared in the movies shot more than a decade ago. Still, that feeling did not last long because the guide led us through the centuries of the complicated and fascinating history of a relatively small place to the west of London. We traveled from a bridge between the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia through the Norman castle and first colleges to the capital of England and the appearance of modern architecture. However, we covered less than a mile during this trip. It was our imagination catalyzed by the lively stories of the guide that simultaneously reached several epochs in one place. Those stories about the burning of "heretics" or corpses, dead animals, and beggars beyond the city walls were not too pleasant to imagine, but they reveal the richness of the place that we all still need to explore more.

The chance for exploration appeared after we reached the Bodleian library. I will definitely spend days within its walls, but for now, it is great to know a piece of its gorgeous past and magnificent present. To be one of its 80,000 current readers and experience the fruit of Thomas Bodley's deeds seems to be an amazing element of our academic journey here.

Our first trip in this academic year had a sweet end. Thanks to Maria, the Ertegun house was full of cakes whose names I still need to learn but whose taste I will remember for a while. Lovely weather and great people in the house's yard only empower the memories of that important Ertegun House experience. I am not feeling like a stranger anymore, I already have something attached to this place.

Yevhen Yashchuk