31.07.2012 - Travel

Her Majesty – United Kingdom

The Tower of London, the magnificent gardens and parks of Wales, the bright colors of Ireland… What a joy it is to the soul, when you realize that after all the wonderful places in the world exist not only in Ukraine! I invite you, dear readers, to plunge into this wonderful, colorful world of experience and enthusiasm of the sights, national culture and the traditions of a great kingdom.


How romantic is this mysterious country, the sacred peninsula in western Europe… It is a real kingdom, pleasing not only tourist’s eye but also the one of an ordinary city dweller. Today we’ll have a brief tour around the country and will find out important details of the state and social order, traditions and culture of Britain. My old friends, employees of the travel agency VIP-TOUR will help me in this mission. And so the journey begins!

Isle of rain and fog

Great Britain is a country whose territory is situated on two major islands, separated by the waters of the Irish Sea. The total area of the country is 244,017 square kilometers and its population is more than 58 million people.

Officially, the country is called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – it consists of four countries: England, Scotland and Wales, located on the island of Britain and Northern Ireland, which is located on an island with the Independent Republic of Ireland. Thus, the United Kingdom has the common land border only with Ireland.

The British Isles lie on the north-west coast of Europe. They are surrounded by many small islands. In the south-west of the island of Britain is an archipelago of Scilly, and on the north of Wales lie Azores. On the west and north coasts of Scotland there are numerous small islands that make up the United Kingdom. The most important of these are Scottish Orkney Islands.

In the west, United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the waters of the North Sea. In the south of the country is bordered with France – its the nearest and most economically developed neighbor. The main connection between the states are through the English Channel, that was built on the bottom end of the twentieth century as a tunnel for high-speed rail service. Prior to that, the relationship between the two countries was carried out using water and air transport. Also, the country’s closest neighbors are Belgium and Netherlands, located much further, Denmark, Germany, Norway.

Thus, economic and geographical position of Britain is both a neighbor and the seaside, which is extremely beneficial for the country’s economic development, although, of course, has certain disadvantages in strategic and military terms.

Administrative map of Great Britain has repeatedly changed, since the accession of the countries that make up the United Kingdom, lasted for centuries. Every independent state has its own capital and administrative center. However, the official capital of the UK is London, since the land consolidation was happening around Britain.

In XVIII-XIX centuries,Great Britain, which was in first place in the world in terms of economic development, has created a huge colonial empire, which occupied nearly a quarter of the planet. British colonies were India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a large areas of Africa. In the twentieth century British colonies became independent states, but a significant number of them are still part of the British Commonwealth, led by the British monarch.

Since the UK is situated on the islands, the climate here is very specific. The weather is greatly affected by the warm Gulf Stream, so the climate in the country is wet and soft. You can come to the UK in June, and it will greet you with the air temperature 10 degrees Celsius, and then come in December, but on the street will be the same 10 degrees. Lakes and rivers freeze in the country is rare, and all four seasons often rains. Average rainfall is 1100 mm. The wettest months are from September to January. In addition, the UK is famous for its fogs. Sometimes the fog is so thick that you can not see anything at a distance of two to three meters. Everyone who arrives in Albion say that it seems like a solid big beautiful park. That’s one of the main reasons to visit this romantic place!

All the Queen’s Men

United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, and in the United Kingdom, the legitimacy of the succession was broken only once in ten centuries of the existence of the state. The current British Queen Elizabeth II comes from the bloodline of Saxon King Egbert that united England in 892, and Malcolm II, who ruled Scotland from 1005 to 1034.

The monarch in the UK de jure is the most important person in the state, he directs the executive branch and is a supreme commander of the British Army. But in fact, as a result of changes that have taken place for centuries, monarchs lost their absolute power. The Queen leads the state with the consent of the Cabinet of Ministers, that is “reigns rather than rules.”

Legislature is a bicameral parliament consisting of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Meetings are held in the Parliament building, which is one of the attractions of London. 650 members of the House of Commons are elected by the citizens of the United Kingdom every five years. Membership in the House of Lords is handed down in families of English aristocracy. Thus, the Queen represents the state in the international arena and is a symbol of power. The executive power is vested in the Cabinet of Ministers, formed by the parliamentary majority.

Among the variety of UK’s political parties the leading role is played by the two major political forces. They are conservatives (Tories) and Labour Party (Whigs). Conservatives defend the interests of the landed aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie. The Liberals have the support of medium class and large part of the working class.

Urban trends and the great migration period

The population of Britain is more than 58 million people. Of these 80 % are British, 10 % – Scots, Welsh share is 2 % and 2.5 % are Irish. The majority of the population profess Anglicanism. The exception is Northern Ireland, where most residents are Roman Catholics. This area is considered to be an epicenter of the ongoing conflicts on religious and ethnic grounds.

Since 1921, about 40 % of the population live in the seven major metropolitan areas with centers in London (Greater London) Manchester (South East Lancashire), Birmingham and Wolverhampton (West Midlands), Glasgow (Central Klaydsayd), Bradford (West Yorkshire) Liverpool (Merseyside) and Newcastle upon Tyne (Tyneside). The level of urbanization in the UK is 91 %. Percentage of rural population is very small.

In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of immigrants from the Third World countries, mainly from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Country of the oldest universities

Secondary education in the UK includes an elementary school, middle and high school. Children start school at five years. School is compulsory until the age of sixteen. There are two public school systems, which depends on the county in which they are located. The system includes a primary school (from 5 to 11 years) and secondary school (from 11 to 16-18 years). System B consists of a primary school (5 to 8 years) and secondary school, which is divided into two stages – from 8 to 13 and from 13 to 16-18 years.

In elementary school, children learn to draw with color pencils and paint, sculpt in clay and work with paper and glue. Subsequently, students begin learning the alphabet, learning to read, write and count. In high school, children learn the geography, history, religion and language. Extracurricular activities include sports, drama groups, etc.

More than 90 % of students enrolled in public schools. When students reach the age of sixteen, they can take exams in different subjects to gain qualifications – general certificate of secondary education. After that, students have the opportunity to leave school and start working or continue their studies up to 18 years. After school, they take 2 or 3 A level exams, which is required for entrance to university or college.

Some parents choose private schools for their children (their share is 6 %). Education in these schools are paid, but they provide better knowledge and good opportunities for future employment. The most long-standing private schools – Eton (founded 1440), Harrow (1571) and Rugby(1567).

In England 47 universities and 350 colleges and institutes were founded. The oldest universities in England are Oxford and Cambridge, based at the end of the XII century.

Two-floor England

The British are proud of their ancient traditions and customs. This can be seen both at home and in other areas of British society. The British are still trying to live in their own, separate house. Even some apartment buildings are constructed so that each apartment had its own entrance. Older homes often represent a long two-story brick building with many doors, painted in different colors, because they belong to different owners. Britain is sometimes called “two-floor”. For many English houses typical is vertical location of apartments for two or three floors.

In ancient times, houses were heated with a fireplace – coal or gas. Now, however, central heating is gaining popularity, so that the residents of London and other major cities less suffer from the famous English smog.

In the twentieth century in the cities, new housing estates were built, where were constructed apartment buildings, however, some two-floor cottages for 1-2 family were still building as well, where, as a rule, live more affluent people. High-rise buildings in the UK are still relatively few, but there are projects to build them. The British prefer to maintain a two-story layout, even in large buildings. They have retained a traditional fireplace, but now it is gas or electric.

Since the days of feudalism in Britain many medieval castles belonging to large landowners were preserved. They look very beautiful and are surrounded by large old parks. Inside the palaces are decorated with many sculptures, paintings, antique furniture. In recent years they have turned into museums – for a fee they allow visitors in.

A nation of theater-goers and football fans

Britain is a great sport nation. A lot of sports games and the terms are of English origin, including football, which was born in the UK – the most popular game among the British. They started playing football in the middle of the millennium – in those days it was a ritual game. The echoes of this persist to this day: on Pancake Day or Easter, some villages arrange a specific kind of football, which is often attended by all residents. The game usually goes on all the streets and squares of the village, it not restricted by any rules. Sometimes it lasts all day, as the gates are often at a distance of 3-5 km from each other.

Popular in the UK and such sports as tennis, basketball, hockey and rugby. National sports game of the English is cricket, which, like soccer, originated in England.

The British are a nation of great playwrights. In London there are over a thousand theaters, night rhythm of the city depends on them. After 6 PM people are going to the theater, but first they enter the restaurant for a light dinner. After the performance, they again go to restaurants, to “seize the art”? they just was happy to “absorb”.

The UK is one of four countries that determine the economic power of Europe. UK industry includes a variety of areas, some of which have global significance.Midland- is the main industrial land of the country.

Highways will bring to London

In the UK there are more than 300 ports, their annual turnover exceeding is 140 million tons. The largest ports are London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Southampton. The main navigable rivers are the Thames, Severn, Dover, Trent. Creating a high-speed railway under the English Channel between the UK and mainland simplified the message. At the same time it decreased the load on the ports of the south. High-speed highway, stretching from north to south, connect the various parts of the country. From big cities freeway diverge in radial directions. From London to Dover, Yorkshire, Cardiff, from Birmingham to Bristol, Manchester.

Bridges and tunnels have a great impact on the development of transport system, many of them are part of the highways.

Specialist’s comment

Kukharenko Maxim, manager of customer service of the travel company VIP-TOUR: «Every year more than 12 million tourists arrive to the UK from around the world, they attend major cultural and historical centers: London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol. No less popular are the small-town world-famous museums, such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Windsor, and university centers of Cambridge and Oxford. Resorts of the UK are concentrated mainly in the south coast of England (Brighton). Fans of mountain tourism and mountain climbing can enjoy the beauty of Scotland. City dwellers like to spend the weekend outdoors in a suburban area”.

So, we wish you a successful journey!

Snizhana Tarasenko