The UK

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The UK is the most interesting country for me. We have learned a lot of things about its history and culture at school. I have read a lot of books about this country besides my school program.

The UK is situated off the northwest coast of Europe between the Atlantic Ocean on the north and northwest and the North Sea on the east and is separated from the European continent by the English Channel and the Strait of Dover. Britain forms the greater part of the British Isles. The full name of the country is the United kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. GB comprises E, S and W. The area of the UK totals 2 hundred 44 thousand square miles.

The scenery in the Britain Isles varies greatly from region to region. There are moors and mountains, lakes and forests. The longest river in the UK is the river Severn, but the Thames is the deepest and the most important. The highest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis in S. It is 1 thousand 3 hundred 44 meters high. The British climate has three main features: it is mild, humid and changeable. The English sometimes say that they have three variants of weather: when it rains in the morning, when it rains in the afternoon, or when it rains all day long.

Over 57 million people live in UK. About 48 million people live in E, 5 million live in S, 3 million live in W and 1,5 million people live in Northern Ireland. For centuries people from overseas have settled in Britain either to escape political or religion persecution or in search of economic opportunities.

Each country in the British Isles has a national symbol. The E's symbol is rose, S has thistle, W has daffodil and shamrock is the emblem of Ireland.

The state system of the UK is very interesting. It is a parliamentary monarchy. It means that the head of the state is a queen or a king who rains but doesn't rule. The legislative power belongs to the parliament. The parliament consists of two houses which are the house of lords and the house of commons. The head of the house of lords is lord-chancellor. One can become a member of the house of lords by heritage or by receiving the title of "sir", "duke" and so on by a queen or a king. The members of the house of commons are elected. The party which has the majority in the parliament forms the government. The government consists of the prime minister and his cabinet. The executive power belongs to the government. The party which has the minority in the parliament forms the shadow cabinet.

The flag of the UK, known as the Union Jack, is made up of three crosses. The upright red cross is the cross of St. George, the patron saint of E. The white diagonal cross (with the arms going into the corners) is the cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of S. The red diagonal cross is the cross of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. David is the patron saint of W.

GB is one of the most important commercial and trading centres in the world. But Britain buys more goods then she sells. Not being a great agricultural country E has to obtain her food supplies largely from abroad. She also has to import many raw materials (wool, petrol, cotton).

London.

London is the capital of England. It is also the largest city in the UK. Today the metropolis of Greater L covers some 1580 square kilometers and the suburbs of L continue even beyond this area. Nearly 8 million people live in L. In fact L doesn't have just one centre, it has a number of centres, each with a distinct character: the financial and business centre called the City, the government centre in Westminster, the shopping and entertainment centre in the West End, the industrial centre in the East End.

The City is the oldest part of L. Nowadays it is the centre of business, trade and commerce. The City of L is one of the major banking cintres of the world and you can find the banks of many nations in the famous Threadneedle Street and the surrounding area. Here, too, you will find the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange. A little further along in Leadenhall Street is Lloyds, the most famous insurance company in the world. Today the General Post Office is in Newgate Street, leading to the west. And not far away is Faraday Building, which links the globe by telephone, radio and cable. Fleet Street is famous as the home of the nation's newspapers but, in fact, only two of them - The Daily Express and The Daily Telegraph - are still in Fleet Street. However, people still say "Fleet Street" to mean "the press".

Just few people live in the city but millions of people come here to work. So during the day the streets of the City are crowded and the traffic is heavy but at nights the City is empty.

There are some historic buildings in the City. St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of L are the most famous of them.

St. Paul's Cathedral has always dominated the centre of L. It is the work of the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. Work on Wren's masterpiece began in 1675 after the Norman church, old St. Paul's was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666. The building of St. Paul's Cathedral went on for 35 years. After his death Christopher Wren was buried in the Cathedral. St. Paul's is the largest protestant church in England. The Whispering gallery is one of the most interesting parts of St. Paul's. You have to climb 263 steps to reach it. The slightest whisper is audible 100 feet away in this gallery.

The Tower on the north bank of the Themes is one of the mast ancient buildings of L. It was founded by Julius Cesar. In 1078 it was rebuilt by William the Conqueror. It has been used as a royal palace, an observatory, an arsenal, a state prison and as a fortress. Now it is a museum of arms and armor. For many visitors the principal attraction is the Crown Jewels.

It is interesting that in the Tower of L there are several ravens. For many centuries they have guarded the Tower. Legends has it that should the ravens ever leave, the White tower would crumble and a great disaster would befall England. That is why the birds are carefully guarded. The security of the Tower is ensured by a military garrison and by the Yeoman Warders popularly called "Beafeaters" who still wear their Tudor uniform.

Many people think that Big Ben is the clock or the whole tower next to the Houses of Parliament. In fact, it is the largest of the five bells at the top of the tower. Parliament itself is in Westminster, a part of L that has long been connected with royalty and government. Opposite the Houses of Parliament stands Westminster Abbey. It was founded by Edward the confessor in 1050. It was a monastery for a long time. One of the greatest treasures of the Abbey is the oaken coronation chair made in 1300. The abbey is also known for its Poet's corner. Graves and memorials to many English poets and writers are clustered round about.

The street called Whitehall stretches from Parliament Square to Trafalgar square. Downing Street, which is a small side street of Whitehall, is the home of the Prime Minister, who lives at number ten. Just around the corner in Whitehall itself are all the important ministries: the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the Treasury.

The most important building in Westminster is Buckingham Palace, which is the official residence of the Queen.

Hyde Park is like many other L Parks, but there is a corner of it the like of which is not to be found anywhere else the world. Here all kinds of men and women stand up and give their views on subjects that range from politics and religion to the best way of getting on with your mother-in-law. A century ago this little corner of L's largest park used to be a favourite place for duelling. Then Englishmen gave up settling their differences with sword and pistol and decided to use their tongues instead.

Three L's most interesting museums - the Victoria and Albert, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum - are also in Westminster.

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