“Great Britain” has several different names. Some people say “Britain”, or “the United Kingdom”, or just “UK”. There are four different countries in the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Altogether more than 56 million people live in Britain, many of them in big industrial cities like London, Liverpool and Manchester, but people are often surprised by how much of Britain is open country, with lonely hills and woods, quiet rivers, lakes and farmlands.
Many people think that the weather is cold and wet in Britain all the year round. But it isn’t! True, it sometimes rains and even snows for days and days, but every year there are weeks of beautiful sunny weather then the British take off their sweaters and go out to sunbathe.
Britain is only a small country, but every part is different. Scotland is a land of mountains, lakes and romantic castles. The winters are cold, with plenty of snow, but the summers are often warm and sunny. Most farmers keep sheep, and they’re many small factories, which make fine sweaters from their wool. In some parts of Scotland, there are very few people. Deer live in the hills, and the rivers are full of salmon. But Glasgow and Edinburgh are both large and busy, with all that is good (and bad) in modern cities.
Northern Ireland has it problems, but it has beauty, too. In the warm, wet climate, the grass grows a brilliant green, and much of the land is farming country. Belfast is a large industrial city with many fine buildings and big port from which ships come and go to Scotland and England. But Belfast has had many difficulty years, and it is not the busy place it once was.
A hundred years ago the north of England was industrial heart of the country. From the factories came cloth, wool, machines, engines and china. The old factories came have gone now and the workers have to look for jobs in the new “high-tech” industries. Outside the towns, much of this part of England is beautiful countryside, with green hills, lakes and sandy beaches. Fishing is still a big industry in the North East, and every night (except Sunday) the fishing boats go out to sea.
The centre of England (the “Midlands”) is also an important industrial area, especially near the huge cities of Coventry and Birmingham, the centre of the car industry. But everyone, even in the heart of the modern city, there are buildings from older Britain – cathedrals, castles, and houses built hundred years ago.
Wales is a special place, a country of high mountains and pretty valleys. But Wales has plenty of industry, too, with many factories and coal mines.
The west of England is rich farming country. It produces milk, cream, butter, cheese and apples, which go to make cider, a popular drink. In the villages, country people often grow their own fruit, vegetables and flowers.
Some areas of Britain are very crowded. Around Manchester, in north west England, and Glasgow, in Scotland, are large city areas of houses and factories. The south east of England, too, has many towns and cities, including London, the giant capital. But quiet near London there are still some quiet villages and peaceful farms.
Britain is an island, of course, and you are never far from the sea. Some of the coast, especially in the west, is wild and rocky, with small, sandy beaches, and romantic old harbours. Other parts are industrial. The East Coast of Scotland, for example, is busy with oil rings and fishing boats. The most popular beaches are near the many holiday towns on the south coast, where the weather is usually warmer. It is here that Londoners come to relax.
London has been a capital city for nearly a thousand years, and many of its ancient buildings still stand. The most famous of these are the Tower of London (where the Crown Jewels are kept), Westminster Abbey and St. Pals Cathedral, but most visitors also want to see the House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the many magnificent museums.
Once, London was a small Roman town on the north bank of the Thames, but slowly it grew into one of the world’s major cities with more than seven million people. Fewer people live in the centre now, but the suburbs are still growing.
Places now in the heart of London once stood in the middle of green fields. Many small villages, like Hampstead, Chelsea and Mayfair, became part of London, but they still keep some of their old atmosphere. Different areas of London seem like different cities. The West End is a rich man’s world of shops, offices and theatres. The old port area is now called “Docklands”. The great ships have gone, and the area is changing very fast. There are huge new office buildings, and thousands of new flats and houses.
Other parts of London are changing, too. Some of the poor areas have become fashionable, and people with money are moving into them.
A hundred years ago, the river was crowded by ships, leaving for Java and Japan, New Zealand and New York, but now people travel by air, and London’s main airport, Heathrow, is one of the busiest in the world.
Like all big cities, London has streets and concrete buildings, but it also has many big parks, full of trees, flowers and grass. Sit on the grass (you’re allowed to!) in the middle of Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, and you will think that you’re in the country, miles away.
Many people live outside the centre of London in the suburbs, and they travel to work, in the shops and offices by train, bus or underground. The trains are full – and expensive – and the roads are crowded with cars, but every day a million people come from far out of London, even from the coast, and spend up to four hours travelling every day.
Most people work from 9 am to 5 p.m. From 8 till 10 every morning, and 4.30 to 6.30 every evening, the trains are crowded with people, and after the morning “rush hour” the shoppers come.
By the day the whole of London is busy. At night, the offices are quiet and empty, but the West End stays alive, because this is where Londoners come to enjoy themselves. There are two opera houses here, several concert halls and many theatres, as well as cinemas, and in nearby Soho the pubs, restaurants and nightclubs are busy half the night.
Many people think that London is all grey but in fact red id the London’s favourite colour. The buses are red, the letterboxes are red and the mail vans are all bright, bright red. London is at its best when people are celebrating. Then the flags, the soldiers’ uniforms the cheering crowds and the carriages and horses all sparkle in the sunshine – if it’s not raining, of course!
Travelling by train.
Modern life is impossible without travelling. Of course the fastest way of travelling is by plane. But many people make their choice on travelling by train as with a train you have speed, comfort and pleasure combined. Travelling by train is of course slower than by air but it also has its advantages.
If you are going to travel by train you’d better book seats beforehand because many people are fond of travelling by train. There are some reasons why people choose railroad. Train is the cheap means of travelling. If it is summer outside it will be better to think of your trip before the vocation starts. To understand how true this is, you only have to go to a railway station. There you will see hundreds of people hurrying to catch a train. You’ll waste a lot of time standing near the booking-office trying to buy a ticket.
Modern trains have very comfortable seats in all passenger cars, and there are sleeping-cars and dining-cars which make even the longest journey enjoyable. You can buy first-class, second-class and third-class sleepers in a separate compartment. If you are early before the train starts you can leave your suit-cases in the compartment and walk up and down the platform. Some people forget when and from which platform and track their train will be off. They can always ask for the track, platform and train numbers at the railroad station information bureau and also get information about next trains and their schedules. There are express, slow and long-distance trains. If you want to go somewhere and get there as quickly as possible you’d better know that express trains only stop at the largest stations while slow trains stop at all stations. You can get to far countries only by a long-distance train.
Once you are in your compartment you have to ask the guide to bring in the bedding. There are usually two lower and two upper berths in a third-class sleeper compartment. Some people like to occupy upper berths because it is more convenient and exciting to travel. During your way on the train you can read newspapers, books, look out of the window, drink the tea, communicate with your neighbours or sleep. I prefer to look out of the window, because you can see the country you are passing through, and not only the clouds as when you are flying. You can have something to eat at the stations when the train makes stops.
Though we all seem to agree that the future belongs to air transport, the railroads today still carry a lot of passengers and goods.
Travelling by Air.
Modern life is impossible without travelling. Of course the fastest way of travelling is by plane. Many people prefer travelling by air as it is the most convenient, comfortable and quickest means of travelling. Travelling by plane has also its advantages and disadvantages.
If you are going to travel by air you’d better buy tickets beforehand because many people are fond of travelling by plane. There are some reasons why people choose that means of travelling. If it is summer outside it will be better to think of your trip before the vocation starts. To understand how true this is, you only have to go to an airport. There you will see hundreds of people hurrying to catch a plane. You’ll waste a lot of time standing near the booking office trying to buy a ticket.
Modern planes have very comfortable seats in all cabins, and there are first class, business and economy class cabins. Inside the cabin the air is always fresh and warm. Before the plane takes off the stewardess helps everyone get comfortable in the seats and wishes them a pleasant trip. She also gives all the information about the flight, the speed and the altitude. During the flight you can have something to drink and to eat. You can read newspapers and magazines or simply look out of the pothole. But you will sea nothing outside but the clouds. You can buy first-class, second-class and third class. You must be in time for your flight because you must have time to pass custom and passport controls and check in. Before boarding the plane the passenger must register at the airport. While registering he is required to have his luggage weighed. If the luggage weighs more than 20 kilograms you have to pay extra. Sometimes people forget the time and the number of the flight. They can always ask for that at the airport’s information bureau and also get information about next flights and their timetables.
Sometimes passengers don’t feel as if they are walking on good solid ground when on board the plane. They can get airsick and then travelling by air becomes a real torture for them.
Nowadays travelling by air is one of the dangerous means of travelling. There are a lot of air crashes and many people die in them. And I think people prefer safety to comfort on board a ship.
Though we all seem to agree that the future belongs to air transport, other means of travelling are still popular today.
Holiday is a day set apart for religious observance or for the commemoration of some extraordinary event or distinguished person, or for some other public occasion.
National holidays are days set aside by official government proclamation to celebrate different occasions.
The U.S. has no national holidays. Legal holidays – days on which banks, schools, or other public institutions and most places of business are closed.
Memorial Day is a legal holiday, observed annually on the last Monday in May in most of the United States, It honours the nation's armed services killed in wartime. The holiday, originally called Decoration Day, is traditionally marked by parades, memorial speeches and ceremonies, and the decoration of graves with flowers and flags. Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, on the order of General John Alexander Logan for the purpose of decorating the graves of the American Civil War dead. It was observed on May 30 until 1971, when most states changed to a newly established federal schedule of holiday observance.
Independence Day is an annual holiday commemorating the formal adoption by the Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia. Although the signing of the Declaration was not completed until August, the Fourth of July holiday has been accepted as the official anniversary of United States independence and is celebrated in all states and territories of the U.S.
The Fourth of July is traditionally celebrated publicly with parades and pageants, patriotic speeches, and organised firing of guns and cannons and displays of fireworks. Family picnics and outings are a feature of private Fourth of July celebrations.
Thanksgiving Day, a legal holiday in the U.S., was first celebrated in early colonial times in New England. The actual origin is probably the harvest festivals that are traditional in many parts of the world. After the first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists in 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving.
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of thanksgiving, and since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, generally designating the fourth Thursday of November as a holiday.
New Year's Day is the first day of the year, January 1 in the Gregorian calendar. In the Middle Ages most European countries used the Julian calendar and observed New Year's Day on March 25, called Annunciation Day and celebrated as the birth to the Son of God. With the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, Roman Catholic countries began to celebrate New Year's Day on January 1.
The custom of visiting friends, relatives and neighbours on New Year’s Day is one of the Old World traditions that has taken on a new form in the United States. A favourite place to see the old year out is New York City’s Time Square.
Christmas is an annual festival, held on December 25, to celebrate the Nativity, or birth of Christ. The Christmas tree, an evergreen trimmed with lights and other decorations, is derived from the so-called paradise tree, symbolising Eden.
Saint Valentine's Day, a holiday honouring lovers, is celebrated on February 14. There is a custom of sending greeting cards or gifts to express affection. The cards, known as valentines, are often designed with hearts to symbolise love. The holiday probably derives from the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalis (February 15). The festival gradually became associated with the feast day (February 14) of two Roman martyrs, both named St. Valentine, who lived in the 3rd century. St. Valentine has traditionally been regarded as the patron saint of lovers.
Washington is the capital city of the United States. It is located on the north bank of the Potomac River.
George Washington, the first President of the USA, after whom the city was named, selected an area for the capital. A hundred square miles were taken from states of Maryland and Virginia. It was called the District of Columbia. The city is divided into four sections: NW, NE, SW, and SE. Numbered streets run north and south: First Street, Second Street… Lettered streets such as A-street, B-street run east and west. Bear in mind that every section has an independent street system. If you’re looking for Third Street, you need to know what section of the city it is in.
Washington is one of the most beautiful and unusual cities in the United States. It has little industry, and only one million people. One reason Washington looks different from other cities is that no building in the city may be more than 40 metres tall. There are no skyscrapers, because they would hide the city’s many monuments from view. One can easily find a park, a square or an open area there. The most impressive and the best-known ones are the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The heart of Washington is the Capitol, which is connected with the White House by Pennsylvania Avenue. It dominates the city of Washington. All the tourists begin sightseeing from the Capitol and see the Senate Chamber, the Hall of Representatives, the Statuary Hall and some others.
Thousands of tourists visit Washington every day. People from all parts of the United States come to see their capital and the monuments to those who in past centuries struggled for the independence of their country. The Washington Monument, the tallest stone structure in the USA, is in the Potomac River. It was opened to the public in 1888. It is 555 feet tall, is called the “Pencil” because of its shape. It is three blocks south of the White House. There is an elevator, which will carry you to 500-foot level observation windows. The Lincoln Memorial is in the west of the Washington Monument. It is designed like a Greek temple. The dominant figure is the realistic figure of Abraham Lincoln seated in the centre of the open temple. The Jefferson Memorial is worth seen, too. It is situated south of the Washington monument near the Potomac River. The Library of Congress contains millions of books and manuscripts. People are also interested in churches and cathedrals. The Washington Cathedral is on Massachusetts Avenue, and the Arlington National Cemetery is outside the city limits just across the Potomac River near the Pentagon in Virginia. The famous Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is visited by millions of people every year.
Washington is the place where mass demonstrations take place against unemployment and racism, for democracy and civil rights.