Great Britain or United Kingdom, officially United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a parliamentary monarchy in northwestern Europe. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast respectively. The United Kingdom’s flag is the Union Jack. It’s red, white and blue. Each country also has a national ’’emblem’’ or sign. The English emblem is a red rose. The Welsh emblem is a vegetable or flower. The Scottish emblem is a wild plant - a thistle. And the Irish emblem is another wild plant - a shamrock. It’s traditional in Britain to wear your country’s emblem on its saint’s day. The leek doesn’t go in a buttonhole, so the Welsh often wear a daffodil. These are Britain’s patron saints and their days. The Scots, Welsh and English don’t really celebrate their national saint’s days. But St. Patrick’s Day is important for Irish people all over the world. In New York, for example, the Irish people always have a big St. Patrick’s Day parade. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales and does not include Northern Ireland. But in everyday speech ‘Great Britain’ is used to mean the United Kingdom. The capital of the UK is London. London is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in the world. Traditionally it is divided into several parts: the City, Westminster, the West End and the East End. They are very different from each other and seem to belong to different towns and epochs. The Tower of London is associate with many important events in the British history. The Tower of London was founded by Julius Caesar and in 1066 rebuilt by William the Conqueror. It was used as a fortress, a royal palace and a prison. Now it is a museum. Westminster Abbey- more correctly, the Collegiate Church of St. Peter in Westminster- is the most famous church in the English-speaking world and one of the world’s great religious temples. Its stones and monuments tell a story of English history over more than nine centuries. It houses the shrine of the only English king to be recognized as a saint. Since 1066 it has been a Coronation church. Across the road from Westminster Abbey is Westminster Palace, or the Houses of Parliament, the seat of the British Parliament. The Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament is famous for its big hour bell, known as ’’Big Ben’’. Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of Her Majesty. The Queen and as such is one of the best known and most potent symbols of the British monarchy. Buckingham House- the building now completely enveloped by Buckingham Palace- was built for John, first Duke of Buckingham, between 1702 and 1705. It was sold to the Crown in 1762 his illegitimate son, Sir Charles Sheffield, for the sum of 28000 pounds. Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s official London residence. St. Paul’s Cathedral is Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. It was built since 1675 until 1709. It is crowned with a huge dome. Inside the dome there is a famous Whispering Gallery. There are many memorials in the Cathedral, including memorials to Wellington and Nelson. London is noted for its museums and art galleries. Among them are the National Gallery, the Museum of London, the Museum of Mowing Image, Madame Tussau’s Museum and many others. Britain has been many centuries in the making. The Romans conquered most part of Britain, but were unable to subdue the independent tribes in the West and the North. England waged numerous colonial wars and was the empire for many centuries. England was the first country was capitalism was established. The UK is a highly developed industrial country. It is known as one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of machinery, electronics, textile, aircraft and navigation equipment. One of the chief industries of the country is shipbuilding. The country is a world leader in international trade. In January 1973, Great Britain became a member of the European Community (now called the European Union). A primary question facing in the middle of 1990s is the terms on which it will participate in the on-going financial and economic integration of Europe. Great Britain is country with old cultural traditions and customs. The Queen is the only person in Britain with two birthdays. Her real birthday is on April 21st, but she has an ’’official’’ birthday, too. That’s on the second Saturday in June. And on the Queen’s official birthday, there is a traditional ceremony called the Trooping of the Colour. It’s a big parade with brass bands and hundreds of soldier at House Guard’s Parade in London. The most famous educational centers are Oxford and Cambridge Universities. They are considered to be the intellectual centers of Europe. The education is not free, it is very expensive. Cambridge is situated at a distance of 70 miles from London. It is one of the most beautiful towns in England. The dominating factor in Cambridge is its well-known University, a centre of education and learning. A college is a place where you live no matter what profession you are trained for: so students studying literature and those trained for physics may belong to one and the same college. Every college is headed by a dean. Oxford is one of the great English universities too. Cambridge and Oxford are almost identical. They trace their long history back to the same period. By the end of the thirteenth century both universities already had colleges. Every country and every nation has its own traditions and customs. You cannot speak about England without speaking about its traditions and customs. Englishmen are proud of their traditions and carefully keep them up. The English are stay-at-home people. “There is no place like home”, they say. When they don’t work they like to spend their days off at home with their families. They say that English people keep to their traditions even in meals. Porridge is the dish Englishmen are very fond of. Many of them eat porridge with milk for breakfast. As for the Scotch they never put sugar in their porridge, they always put salt in it. The English are tea-drinkers. They have it many times a day. Some people have tea for breakfast, tea in lunch time. Tea after dinner, tea at tea-time and tea with supper. Pubs are an important part of British Life. People talk, eat, drink, meet their friends and relax there. The word ‘’pub’’ is short for ‘’public house’’. There are thousands in Britain. An important custom in pubs is ‘’buying a round’’. In a group, one person buys all the others a drink. This is a ‘’round’’. Then one by one all the other people buy rounds, too. Pub names often have a long traditions. Some come from the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Every pub has a name and every pub has a sign above it is door. The sign shows a picture of the pubs name.