Is there anything more beautiful than the city of Cambridge? There is only one possible answer to this question. Yes! It is Cambridge by night. It is not one of the recommendations that you will be made at the tourist office, nor one of the many activities suggested on the websites. But no one who comes to Cambridge can leave without knowing the other side of the city, as different from each other as yin and yan, literally, night and day.
During the day Cambridge is an awake and lively city. Waves of people wander its streets and admire its buildings, visit its shops and taste the delights of its restaurants. Not only tourists, but also students, workers, grandparents with their grandchildren, schoolchildren, etc. make the most of the daylight hours enjoying the city.
But what happens at night? At night Cambridge is transformed. When the light goes out, and in winter it happens at around four o’clock in the afternoon, the rhythm of the city begins to slow down. Shops close, working hours come to an end, people return home, and by seven or eight o’clock in the afternoon, Cambridge sleeps. It is at this point that the tourist has two options. You can return to the hotel for a well-deserved break, stopping earlier at one of the many pubs, or you can embark on an adventure and discover a totally unknown facet of Cambridge.
Option B is only for the brave. Wrapping yourself in gloves and tying your scarf tightly around your neck to face the cold winter wind takes a lot of courage, but it’s still worth it. The streets are lit at dusk, but the lighting of the lanterns is very soft and dim. This gives buildings an orange light that envelops them in a haze more like an image taken from a storybook than from real life. It creates an atmosphere of unreality in which the echoes of our footsteps bounce off the walls of centuries-old buildings, which had never before seemed so medieval.
Not only the streets, but also all the colleges and churches of Cambridge become fairy-tale buildings. The process begins when it slowly gets dark, transforming the sky into a canvas of deep blue, but not dark, on which the already dark buildings are cut out. At no better time than now can one appreciate the contrast between heaven and earth, of the battlements and towers over the blue sky.
Little by little the windows of the buildings are illuminated, projecting towards the outside world small pieces of the lives of their inhabitants, as if they were boxes of warm light in front of the cold of the streets. And the river also comes to life: the punts no longer run through its waters, but rest tied to the docks of the colleges, swinging on the waves, and sometimes serving as a bed for the ducks, the original inhabitants of the river.
In spite of the unreal atmosphere, or perhaps because of it, the bridges still communicate with the backs of the colleges, which allow a walk during which to appreciate the lighting of these buildings as a whole, from a distance a little further away. All this under a sky covered with stars, more than those imagined for an urban night.
Like a box of secrets when it opens, Cambridge transforms at night and discovers hidden wonders in the light of day. And for once, the fact that it gets dark so early is almost an advantage, allowing our Cambridge adventure to begin earlier.