Travel Tidbit: Unofficial Sister Cities

· Cambridge, US, and Cambridge, UK’s similarities surpass a shared name ·

Cambridge, MA
A set of rowers passes under a bridge on the Charles River. A boathouse can be seen on the left, the Cambridge side of the river. Via Flickr

Anyone who’s been to both Boston and London can see why New England is called, well, New England. The pilgrims made their way to Plymouth Rock and up to Boston, and they decided not to be very creative with their names. You’ll find cities, roads, buildings, parks all with names taken directly from an English counterpart. One such city is Cambridge.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, is, of course, named after the university city in the East of England. Eight years after the Puritans settled at “Newe Towne,” they changed the name to Cambridge after the university. Many of the prominent settlers had graduated from the University of Cambridge, thus their choice. This included John Harvard, whose deathbed gift would earn him the honor of having the local college named after him.

While these early similarities are markedly present, what’s more, interesting is how the cities have continued to maintain resemblances. Both situated on a river with a prestigious and prominent university at its heart (two for Cambridge, MA – both Harvard and MIT), the cities have a similar feel even today. There are the boathouses that line both the River Cam and the Charles River. Those, of course, mean that it’s not out of place to see rowers out on the water. Bikes are another common sight as both choose the two-wheeled contraptions as an alternative to other transportation.

Cambridge, UK
A crew team passes under a bridge on the River Cam near Stourbridge Common in Cambridge, UK. Via Geograph

Meanwhile, their proximity to leading universities has bred robust tech hubs within the relatively small cities. The greater Cambridge, UK area has been named Silicon Fen for its numerous software, electronics, and biotechnology companies. Meanwhile, Cambridge, MA’s Kendall Square was dubbed “the most innovative square mile on earth” for its startups and innovation.

All these continuing similarities – their status as the home of the top universities in the world, their growing tech industries, their love of crew and cycling – create a parallel culture and vibe. A well-educated, driven, athletic feel could be used to describe either city (you would not look out of place in either city in this). Young students and professionals make up a large portion of their populations, which contributes to the parallel cultures. Ironically, the two Cambridges are not officially sister or twin cities. Instead, they try to remain separate. Despite their best efforts, though, there’s no separating the two. No, these two cities will inevitably always be connected.

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