The British Isles is the name given to England, Scotland, Wales and the whole of Ireland in the geography books. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is the name of the land the Queen reigns over. Southern Ireland is independent of the UK. Great Britain is surrounded by the Atlantic-ocean. The highest mountains are in Scotland and Wales: Ben Nevis and Snowdon. The south coast has a mild and sunny climate which makes it popular with both holiday-makers and the elderly. The east coast is flat and it is dominated by agriculture.
England occupies about 244,100 square kilometres area. Its population is 57 million and currency is Pound Sterling (£, font). The capital is London and the spoken languages are English and Welsh.
Britain has a two-party system of the Labour and the Conservative Party. The governmental model that has been operating in Britain since 1688 is called Constitutional Monarchy. This means that it has a monarch (king, queen) as the Head of State. The monarch has very little power and can only reign with the support of Parliament. Parliament consists of two houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. There were several well-known prime minister in the UK. Margaret Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minister. John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown is the current one. Queen Elizabeth II. has been reigning in the country for more than 50 years. Her son, Charles is going to succeed her. In 1990 John Major was elected as PM, he had a very successful European policy and adopted a more compromising attitude.
British people watch a lot of television and also said to be the world’s most dedicated home-video users. This doesn’t mean that they’ve given up reading. In Britain more papers are sold than in any other country in the world. Some of these people have the reputation of being shy and reserved with strangers. But others are extroverts and talk to anybody. British people don’t like answering personal questions about their private lives. You must never ask them how mush money they earn, or how old they are. Everybody knows that all Englishmen wear bowler hats, pinstripe suits and carry umbrellas; Scotsmen are mean, hate spending money and drink whisky all day long; Welshmen do nothing play rugby and sing (and some British people tell jokes about Irish). Interestingly enough, the English drive on the left. Tourists must be very careful if they want to drive and walk in England. It is difficult to get used to their traffic. What’s more, the steering wheel of their cars is on the right side.
(Several peoples tried to invade England and its other territories. Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings all endeavored to conquer all the country. A Norman man, William the Conqueror was the first king to be crowned in 1066. In 1666 there was a fire which destroyed more than half the city of London including the old St. Paul’s Cathedral.)
There are three large geographical areas in Scotland: the Highlands, the Lowlands and the Islands, 5 million people live in Scotland. Edinburgh is the capital; Glasgow is the chief industrial and commercial city. Places to visit:
– The Edinburgh Festival – for music and drama
– Loch Ness – to catch a glimpse of the monster?
– Hadrian’s Wall – named after the Roman Emperor Hadrian – was completed in the 2nd century. It is huge fortification all along the Scottish border.
– The Lake District – an area of mountains and lakes which looks larger than it really is. It has dramatic, romantic scenery.
– Stratford-on-Avon – the birthplace and burial place of William Shakespeare. The Royal Shakespeare Company plays here at the Festival Theatre as well as in London.
– Stonehenge (it is made of stones, the great circle of standing stones is believed to have had some religious or astronomical purpose)
– Windsor – the town on the River Thames. Its castle is a royal residence.
– Eton – close to Windsor. The famous public school here was founded in 1440.
– Canterbury – the cathedral and the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the religious head of the Church of England.
– Oxford and Cambridge – the famous (and the oldest) university towns in Britain.
The Sights of London
– The Tower of London (an ancient fortress; to play an important part in British history; to serve as a palace and a prison; to be a museum; crown jewels; to be guarded by beefeaters), raven (holló)
– Buckingham Palace (residence of the queen; changing of the guard at 11:30)
– Westminster Abbey (to contain tombs and monuments of famous Britons; to be the scene of coronations and royal weddings)
– Houses of Parliament (to have parliamentary sessions; a flag on Victoria Tower; Clock Tower – Big Ben), House of Lords, House of Commons
– ST. Paul’s Cathedral (second largest dome in the world; built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century)
– Trafalgar Square (heart of London; fountains and pigeons; Nelson’s Column (Nelson was an admiral, who defeated Napoleon’s troops in a battle at Waterloo ; The National Gallery)
– The Monument (to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666)
– Downing Street No. 10. (residence of the Prime Minister; Gordon Brown, to be guarded all day)
– Famous bridges: Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge
– Famous museums: The British Museum, The New London Museum, Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum
– Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks (in Baker Street, famous people, politicians, actors… in waxwork)
The capital is Cardiff. There are 2.9 million inhabitants in Wales. The highest number live in the industrial areas of South Wales. There is a Welsh language. Welsh folklore and language strengthen each other. Every year a national festival of traditional poetry and music is held. It’s called the â€œEisteddfod”.
The country’s capital is Belfast. It is a land of lakes, rivers and a varied sea coast. It is a great place for outdoor sports and for tourism – when times are peaceful. Above all, the Northern Irish people are friendly and generous.
- The most well-known festivals in England
14th February: It’s St Valentine’s Day; many people send a card to the one they love or someone whom they have fallen in love with. People usually do not sign these cards and a lot of time is spent trying to guess who has sent them.
31st October: Hallowe’en means ‘holy evening’ and takes place on 31st October. Although it is a much more important festival in the United States than Britain, it is celebrated by many people in the UK. It is particularly connected with witches and ghosts. At parties people dress up in strange costumes and pretend they are witches. They cut horrible faces in potatoes and other vegetables and put a candle inside, which shines through the eyes. People may play difficult games such as trying to eat an apple from a bucket of water without using their hands. In recent years children dressed in white sheets knock on doors at Hallowe’en and ask if you would like a ‘trick’ or ‘treat’ (csokit vagy csalunk). If you give them something nice, a ‘treat’, they go away. However, if you don’t they play a ‘trick’ on you, such as making a lot of noise or spilling flour on your front doorstep.
5th November (Guy Fawkes Day): In 1605 King James I was on the throne. As a Protestant, he was very unpopular with Roman Catholics. Some of them planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November of that year, when the King was going to open Parliament. Under the House of Lords they had stored thirty six barrels of gun powder, which were to be exploded by a man called Guy Fawkes. However one of the plotters spoke about these plans and Fawkes was discovered, arrested and later hanged. Since that day the British traditionally celebrate 5th November by burning a dummy, made of straw and old clothes, on a bonfire, whilst at the same time letting off fireworks. This dummy is called a ‘guy’ and children can often be seen on the pavements before 5th November saying, ‘Penny for the guy’. If they collect enough money they can buy some fireworks.
(Blow up – explode; Carol – a Christmas hymn; Dummy – an object made to look like a real person; Hanged -killed by hanging from a rope tied round the neck; Public holiday – a day when nobody goes to work; Witch – a woman who uses magic)