The campus of the University of California at Berkeley, home of 29,000 students and countless political legends, is a spectacular mixture of natural scenery and intellectual tradition perched on the western edge of the continent.
Sitting on an idyllic 1,232 acres in the center of Berkeley, the campus rolls gently from the Berkeley hills into the city's downtown. Self-contained and unspoiled by urban surroundings, it offers students and tourists a rare collection of elegant landscapes, architectural styles, panoramic views and political monuments.
In the early morning, the campus is often dewy and gray, blanketed by thick fog that rolls in during the night from the Pacific, 15 miles to the west. But by midday, the campus basks in sunshine, the fog having given way to clear skies and breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Visitors might well begin a tour of the university at the south entrance, where Telegraph Avenue runs into Sproul Hall, the main administration building. This is Berkeley's most-famous intersection, the site of the Free Speech Movement in 1964, campus sit-ins, the anti-war demonstrations in the late '60s and early '70s, and a gathering point since then for political orators, food vendors, musicians and transient dogs of every sort.
But before going onto the campus, take a quick stroll down Telegraph Avenue, a historic monument of its own. In the '60s, this was Berkeley's thoroughfare for flower children and hippies, a commercial area that for nearly a decade devoted itself to cafes, bookstores and other businesses specializing in anti-war garb and trade.
Nowadays, Telegraph is a mixture of tacky commercial, leftover '60s and new urban chic. There are endless frozen yogurt parlors, cafes, record outlets, chocolate-chip cookie stores. (Milk 'n Cookies on Durant, just east of Telegraph, will deliver batter in the middle of the night.) But the most visible transformation has come on the sidewalks, which for the past few years have been lined with vendors selling jewelry, pottery, clothes, souvenirs and drug paraphernalia.
Those who want to see every relic of Berkeley's political heyday should turn left (east) on Haste Street. On the right, up a few steps, is the site of the old People's Park, which in 1969 was the center of sometimes-violent protests, one of which left a man dead. Students and community residents wanted campus administrators to designate the university-owned land a "people's park." For years after the protests, the plot served as a university playing field and parking lot, although many Berkeley residents, students and some faculty members refused to use it. Now, part of it has become a public park with overgrown shrubs and plants.
Return to Sproul Hall and nearby you will find the Cal student union (the bookstore sells T-shirts and other Golden Bears memorabilia), and beyond it is the 2,000-seat Zellerbach Hall for the performing arts. Another good place to eat is in lower Sproul Plaza, where a cafeteria offers a variety of ethnic foods.
One important landmark in Sproul Plaza is Ludwig's fountain, commemorating a dog (a short-haired pointer) named Ludwig von Schwanenberg who came to the plaza regularly in the 1950s to play in the fountain's cool water. In 1961, the fountain was officially named after him.
Sather Gate, a metal archway at the end of Sproul Plaza, was donated by Jane Sather in 1909. It used to mark the entrance to the campus, before the unversity expanded beyond its portal, and became a favorite spot for political leafleting and booths in the 1960s.
Inside Sather Gate is Moffitt Library and beyond it, along twisting, narrow paths and up a hill, is the Earth Sciences Building on the northern edge of the campus. Inside the main lobby, on display for the public, is a seismograph that registers the earth's movements.
On Gayley Road, at the uphill end of the campus, stands the famous Greek Theater, donated by the Hearst family and modeled after the amphitheater in Epidaurus, Greece. In the shade of an eucalyptus grove, musical events of all types are presented throughout the summer. A walk south along Gayley Road provides glimpses of the bay, San Francisco and the bridge.
Just up Stadium Road, clinging to a hillside at the top of a leg-wrenching series of steps, is a sprawling Tudor-style castle, turrets jutting into the sky. This is Bowles Hall, a famous freshman dormitory and rallying point for Cal football games because it overlooks Memorial Stadium just ahead.
High above Bowles, on a steep hillside (known as "Tight-Wad Hill" because of the crowds who gather there to watch the football games for free) is "The Big C," a huge landmark for football fans that can be seen from much of Berkeley. Above the stadium on Canyon Road is Strawberry Canyon, site of a country-club-like complex of tennis courts, playing fields and a swimming pool.
The canyon itself is dramatically beautiful, and if you have a car it is worth driving up its winding roads to the university's botanical gardens (which boast a huge variety of cacti), and even further to the Lawrence Hall of Science. From the parking lot is a magnificent view of the bay area. The Hall of Science is also an interesting tour stop (it has pinball games explaining the motion of atoms).
Back on mid-campus, you will easily find the 307-foot Sather Tower, more commonly known as The Campanile, which is said to resemble the bell tower in St. Mark's Plaza in Venice. The Campanile is open daily, and for 10 cents you can ride to the top and have another exquisite view of the bay, as well as the red-tiled roofs of the campus buildings that provide a unity to the diverse architectural styles. Anyone on the campus for long will surely hear the bells, which are rung by hand three times daily.
Nearby is Bancroft Library, which specializes in California history and has on display gold nuggets from the '49ers Mother Lode country as well as Drake's plate. The plate was found on the California coast, and for years scholars presumed that British explorer Sir Francis Drake had left it there after coming ashore centuries ago.
To the south, through a maze of narrow paths, is Faculty Glade, a lovely area of gentle rolling lawns and trees surrounding the Faculty Club. Beyond is Hertz Hall, where free concerts are presented every Wednesday at noon. Further south is one of the most architecturally controversial buildings on campus, Wurster Hall, a massive concrete tower built in 1964 to house the architecture and design departments. All of the plumbing and pipes in the building are clear, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of everything that passes through them during the day.
If, from The Campanile, you walk downhill toward the bay, you will reach the western edge of the campus, which is one of university's most beautiful areas. Here, across from Cal's baseball field and track stadium, is Eucalyptus Grove, a forest of eucalyptus trees planted in 1877, some of which are now 200 feet tall. This lovely spot offers a striking contrast to the constant commotion of Sproul Plaza and Telegraph Avenue. The grove is quiet and peaceful, and filled with the wonderful scent of eucalyptus.