Oxford Has Shrunken Heads

…and it’s not a pun based on the unreasonable smartness of people who study there. It’s because there are actually shrunken heads in a museum there. More on that later.

Some friends and I took a day-trip a last week to commemorate the fact that we were so close to the end of term. It was amazing. Amazing to get out of the city, amazing to get to know some new friends better, and amazing to see how much history can be contained in such a small little village. Because the city is synonymous with its educational institutional, I’m now going to make the next simile in the form of a true literary analogy. London : Big City, Anywhere World :: Oxford : True Britain.

Jokes aside, the trip was amazing and full of many hilarious experiences. I’ll provide a brief overview of some of the funny events (Sorry, guys – to protect the innocent, you don’t get the best story of all. If you were there, just take a moment and remember.)

  • We had breakfast at the oldest cafe in Oxford, in an effort to seek an authentic experience (plus, who doesn’t love Heinz baked beans for breakfast?) I had the following conversation with the guy while ordering my veggie traditional breakfast.
    Me: Listen up, I hear you’re ‘the oldest cafe’ in Oxford. True or Not True?
    Him: *a knowing stare.*
    Me: …I’m going to go with Not True.
    Him: There are things we’re supposed to say for the customers. But I’m a little suspicious.
    Please note, the breakfast was delicious and the scone I had was still warm from fresh home-baked amazingness. Worthy of a post on its own (but I’ll spare you.)
  • Just a note: the UK (including the only other places I’ve been during the past three months – Cardiff and London) is full of these covered markets and little shopping ‘malls’ that occur in covered courtyards between buildings. They serve basically as indoor streets, and connect in unbelievable maze-like ways. I love them. This one had a butcher with headless deer hanging from their feet. (If you don’t want to see the photo, you should note I posted it below. Beware.)
  • Walking out of the pub (The Eagle and Child) that is famous for the hours that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis spent here, a friend was watching two older gentlemen playing cards. Gentleman 1 plays a good hand. Gentleman 2 says: “Lovely.” My friend giggles to herself, because if you can’t say lovely in an old British pub, when can you say it? Gentleman 2 says: Oh, not you honey. Gentleman 1 interrupts: Although, you are quite lovely too.
  • Walking through Christ Church, on the Oxford campus, we befriended a friendly old man who serves as a curator of the space and its amazing details. He gave us an impromptu and very informative tour, including explaining every pane of some of the oldest known stained glass in the UK (circa 1500s!)
  • Pausing in a different pub for a brief respite and some hot mulled cider, we spotted precisely 1 priest ordering at the bar, in his white collar. We also made friends with multiple very nice people, all of whom pointed out how lucky we were to have stopped in that pub (which was packed with locals), and then expressed disappointment that we were only taking a day trip and had to leave so soon.
  • Finally, and most importantly, we visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, where we found (among many, many, many other things) the following collection of … collectables: shrunken heads, a woman’s cloak made out of seal intestine, replicas of HMS ships, dinosaur bones, musical instruments from across the world, fossils, pottery from…everywhere, an Egyptian mummy (along with other things that were buried with it), and mounted animals that had seen expert taxidermists prior to arriving at this museum. They were created with the sole intention of allowing visitors to pet them. Did you know that foxes are softer than any dog I’ve ever known? Petting the cheetah made me wish they were more friendly and less fastest-animal-in-the-world, because he was adorable. The badger, however, was too course for my liking.

And now, the photos:

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