The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The British Isles are a group of islands lying off the north-west coast of the continent of Europe. The largest islands are Great Britain and Ireland.
England, Wales and Scotland are in Great Britain; Northern Ireland is situated in the north-easten part of Ireland. The larger part of Ireland is the Irish Republic .
Now a few words describing the British Isles.
As you know, there are no high mountains on these islands. Ben Nevis in Scotland, the highest mountain, is 1.343 meters high. The northern part of Scotland is called the Lowlands. The highest mountain in Wales is Snowdon. It is 1.085 meters high. In Ireland much of the land is low, but there are green hills and low mountains.
The British Isles have many rivers, but they are not very long. The Severn in England is the longest river. It is 350 kilometers long. It flows south-west into the Irish Sea.
There are many beautiful lakes, but no great forest in the British Isles today. The lakes are mostly in Scotland and north - west England. The sea is naturally most important to the British Isles and seaports play a great part in the life of the country.
The climate of Great Britain is typically maritime with frequent rains, cloud-covered skies, continuous fogs and strong winds; the close proximity of the Gulf Stream makes the winter extremely mild; frosts are very rare; it seldom snows and snow covers the ground but for short time (mountain regions excepted); the summer is cool and rainy. These climatic conditions are typical of the Western coast.
The climate of the British Isles is not very cold in winter and never very hot in summer. As a rule, there is no ice on the lakes and rivers in winter, and snow never lies on the ground for long. All parts of the British Isles get a lot of rain in all seasons.
But the weather changes very often. This explains why the British people are always talking about the weather. And when they are planning to do anything, they will very often say "...if lt's fine", or "... if it's very nice weather".
London is the capital of Great Britain. It is one of the largest and most interesting cities in the world. Great London covers an area of about 600 square miles and has the population of nearly 9 millions people. London is situated on the river Thames, where the Romans landed nearly 2,000 years ago, about forty miles from its mouth. It is divided into two parts by the river. The more important part, with most of the chief buildings, stands on the north bank. In fact there are several parts of London. First there is the City in London.
Nowadays the City is London's commercial and business center. The City is only one square mile in area and only a few thousand people live there. During the day it's full of energy and life, but towards the end of the day it grows almost desolate. It contains the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange and the head offices of numerous companies and corporations. Thanks to them, the City is often referred to as «the money» of London. But the City is also a Mecca for a museum-goer. Here is situated the Tower of London that comes first among the historic buildings of the British capital. Founded by Julius Caesar and rebuilt by William the Conqueror, it was used as a fortress, a royal residence and a prison. Now it is a museum of Armour and the place where the Crown Jewels are kept. A twenty-minutes' walk from the Tower will take you to St. Paul's Cathedral, the greatest of English churches. In one of its towers hang one of the largest bells of the world, Great Paul.
Second part of London is West End. Here one can see the Houses of Parliament, most governmental offices, such as Foreign Office, Home Office, etc. All these areas are called the West End. Visitors with plenty of money to spend come chiefly to the West End of London, its shopping and entertainment center. The heartland is stretched around Piccadilly Circus. Not far from it one can see the British Museum and the Covent Garden Opera House. Expensive shopping promenades - Regent Street, Oxford Street and Bond Street - would lead you to Regent Park and Hyde Park.
Another important part of London, where most of the Government buildings are located, is Westminster. Tourists are invariably taken to see Westminster Abbey, where many English sovereigns, outstanding statesmen, poets and artists are buried; Westminster Palace, the seat of the British Parliament, with its famous Big Ben that strikes every quarter of an hour.
The last - but not the least - of London's functional zones is the East End. It is the district inhabited by workers and the poor. Industry is chiefly found in that part of the capital, gray with soot and smoke. In the East End one can see numerous dirty houses and many slums. The centre of British press is Fleet Street, governmental offices are concentrated in White Hall and Downing Street No 10 is the residence of the Prime Minister.
London is the main centre of Britain's printing and the manufacture of clothing, food and drink, precision instruments and aircrafts, cars and ships. London is not only the capital of the country. It is also a very big port, one of the greatest commercial centres in the world, a university city, and the seat of the government of Great Britain.
Like many big cities, London has problems with traffic and pollution. Over 1,000,000 people a day use the London Underground, but there are still too many cars in the streets. The air isn't clean, but it is cleaner than it was 100 years ago. Until the Clean Air Act in 1956, London was famous for its fog or “smog", which is a mixture of smoke and fog.