London is the capital city of England and of the United Kingdom situated on the Thames river, the largest city in Britain and one of the largest cities in the world.
From the earliest times the Romans, the Saxons, the Danes and the Normans settled there in turn. With the passing years London continued to grow in importance and prosperity. The existence of London depended on its water-bom trade which still makes London one of the world's largest ports. Historical and geographical circumstances have turned London into one of the world's most important commercial and cultural centres. The first mayor of London was elected in 1193, but for more than a thousand years before that London had been a place of some importance.
London survived the Plague, which killed nearly 70. 000people, and the Great Fire which followed. Little damage occured during World War I, but World War II brought tremendous destruction to the city: a great number of buildings of historic value were laid in ruins. Yet much was spared, including the Tower, St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey which remain the major tourist attractions of the city.
London manages in a unique way to reflect the past and, at the same time, to live a life of a modern city. There is always something new to be discovered, some fresh approach to a familiar scene, some curious piece of life in the city where the old and the new exist side by side in mutual tolerance and respect.
There are two main districts of London - the West End and the East End. These are not merely geographical names. The West End consists of the fashionable houses of the rich, art galleries, famous museums, theatres, palaces and parks. The East End is still a poorer district full of factories and plants; it is a district were poorer people live too, though it can no longer be called a district of the poor as housing conditions have improved.
Piccadilly is a fashionable shopping centre. Its famous fountain with a statue of Eros, the Greek god of love, attracts crowds of tourists.
There are many public parks in London; Hyde Park, Regent Park, Kengsington Gardens, to name only a few. Hyde Park is Londoners1 favourite resting place, where crowds of people may be seen in the «Speaker's Corner» listening to Hyde Park speakers. During the day a lot of people sit on green grass lawns eating sandwiches, drinking beer or soft drinks and talking and having rest, some In the shade, some in the sunshine. Not only in Hyde Park, all along the Thames side gardens peoples are resting, taking their midday «Breath of air». Everything is still and peaceful around. You could hardly imagine that an enormous city with its traffic and noise is but a few paces away.
The Tower of London.
Whoever comes to Loonndon is eager to see the Tower of London, the scene of nearly 900 years of England's history. The Tower has in the past been a fortress, a palace, a prison and a mint. William the Conqueror began building the Tower for the purpose of protecting the city; other monarchs made additions in later centuries.
The Tower comprises several towers, and the Jewel House where the Crown Jewels are on public display. The White Tower, a massive bmlding inside the walls, was the place where Kings of England held their Court. There is the Bloody Tower too, believed to be the scene of the murder of Edward V and his brother, the Duke of York. Some terrible deedstook place inthe grim old Tower. Though kings were bom, lived and were married in the Tower, it happened so that they were murdered there, too. Queen Anne
Boleyn, the Princess (afterwards Queen) Elizabeth, Sir Thomas More and many other persons of high rank passed under the arch of the Traitors' Gate on their way to prison or the scaffold.
Now the Tower is a museum attracting tourists from all over the world. The Ceremony of the Keys which is centuries old taking place every night an 10 p. m., adds to its attraction. It was said that whoever held the keys to the Tower, held the keys to the kingdom. Five minutes before the hour the Chief Warder and an escort of four approach the gates. The sentry call out:
«Halt, who comes there?»
«Queen Elizabeth's keys».
«Advance Queen Elizabeth's keys. All is well».
All towers are locked and the keys are finally carried by the Chief Warder to the Queen's House where they are secured for the night.
Now the only inhabitants of the Tower are ravens. There is a legend that the Tower will fall if it loses its ravens. Therefore the birds with clipped wings are carefully guarded.
In 1805 England defeated the allied French and Spanish fleets in a great naval battle at Trafalgar; this was a triumphant victor}1 of the British nation over Napoleon. To commemorate the victory of Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar, Trafalgar Square was constructed. The Nelson Column was erected in 1842 in commemoration of Admiral Nelson, who was killed in this battle.
The statue of Nelson on the top of the column was made by a well-known English sculptor Edward Bailey. Round the base there are four bronze carvings representing scenes from famous naval battles. In 1867 four great lions were placed at the foot of the Nelson Column.
On the north side of Trafalgar Square stands the National Gallery, one of the world's leading art galleries, comprising extensive collections of various European schools of art. The square is popular with visitors who come to relax, watch pavement artists, or eat their lunch and feed the pigeons. Like Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square is often referred to in the British press as a place where mass meetings and demonstrations are held, the traditional anti-war march among them.
Westminster Abbey is noted for its architecture and historical associations.It is the church where nearly all the kings and queens have been crowned and where many of them are buried. It is an honoured resting-place for those who have served the nation, whether in science, like Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, literature, like Charles Dickens, or politics.
Westminster Abbey is a national shrine where the kings and queens are crowned and famous people are buried. Founded by Edward the Confessor in 1050, the Abbey was a monastery for a long time. The present building dates largely from the time of Henry III who began to rebuild the church, a task which lasted nearly 300 years. The West towers were added in the eighteenth century. Since William I almost every English monarch has been crowned in this great church, which contains the tombs and memorials of many of Britain's most eminent citizens. One of the greatest treasures of the Abbey is the oaken Coronation Chair made in 13 00.
Westminster Abbey is noted for its Poets' Corner, containing memorials to William Shakespeare -a dramatist and poet of universal fame, to Robert Burns - Scotland's most famous poet, to George G. Byron and many others.
Near the West Door of the Abbey the Unknown Warrior lies in a simple grave commemorating the men who died in the First World War.