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Great Britain

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.

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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.)

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Regions

Scotland

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?

England

  • 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)

Wales

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 “Eisteddfod”.

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