Tag Archives: Europe

Za3tar goes to England .. (or what have I been up to this summer)

Gosh! I haven’t blogged in ages. I know, I know, I am terrible. So for the sake of the good ol’ times let me share a long-overdue post about what I did these past few months.

This summer was nothing short of amazing! I got the opportunity of a lifetime to go do summer research at a lab in Cambridge University in England, and it was spectacular.

King's College Chapel as seen from "The Backs"
King’s College Chapel as seen from “The Backs”

It was really amazing being in Cambridge. At the time of my visit the university was already 800 years old! Affiliates of that university have contributed to literally every field of science, and they include among others: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, James Maxwell, and Alan Turing. Isaac freaking Newton was there! How cool is that! I never expected to be able to go to pub and have dinner at the same table where the discovery of DNA was first publicly announced. This was unreal.

Besides the university, the town of Cambridge is amazing. It is old, has lots of history, and very bike-friendly. People use bikes to get everywhere, and there are bike parking spaces all over town. As a matter of fact, policemen hassle you if you break traffic rules with your bike! I was really shocked by that, and I can’t say that I really obeyed the rules 🙂 I just learned to avoid the police if I am going backwards on a one-way street 😛

Houses in Cambridge
Houses in Cambridge are more “European” than I’m used to

The town and university had much more religious affiliations than I would have thought. There were churches all over the place, and several places in town were named after iconic Christians, e.g. “Magdalene Bridge” and “Jesus Green”. Other than that, the weather in Cambridge was horrible unfortunately. It was cold for most of the time and almost constantly raining, and I was there in the summer! At the end I was glad to go home just to get some sunlight.

I am usually not an outgoing person. However, given that this was my first time in Europe, I decided to take the opportunity and tour around. If you are young and single you can get around Europe very cheaply. They have a huge number of deals for students in almost every country. For example, you can literally find good accommodation for just €18 a night! So I went on a few weekend trips.

Granted, you can never experience a city in just 48 hours. However, you can still have a great time and get a taste of the local culture. The process itself was really amazing. I would wake up Saturdays at around 4am and bike to the bus station, then go from there to the airport to catch the 6am flight to any European capital. I would then spend the weekend there, and travel back on Monday morning. The awesome thing is that Monday noon I would be back in my lab working. Never in a million years would I thought I’d ever get to do that. I’ll tell you more about my weekend trips later, for now let me share some photos from London.

Westminster Palace from the London Eye
A view of Westminster Palace from the London Eye

London was nice. We happened to go there on the Queen’s coronation anniversary, so there were very nice shows and marches around town. We went to Westminster Abbey where various kings, queens, and other famous people are buried. I got to see Newton’s and Darwin’s burial grounds which is very surreal.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

Big Ben from street level
A view of Big Ben from street level

All-in-all, England was very nice. Unfortunately I didn’t see much besides Cambridge and London (I opted to go out to other places instead). It took me some time to get used to their accent and coins (they have so many coins) but at the end I was a professional :-P. Probably the only two things I didn’t like were the weather (it rained constantly, and it was cold even though it was “summer”), and the local food. Everybody told me that English food sucks but I didn’t believe that until I went there. The food was bland and tasteless at best. Luckily, you can get plenty of non-English food all over the place. So over all, England was nice place to visit.