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Text 13. Australia
If you go to Australia it will seem to you rather an upside-down world. The seasons are the other way round. Summer is from December to February, autumn from March to May, winter from June to August* and spring from September to November. New Year is at midsummer, midwinter is in June. Hot winds blow from the north; cold winds blow from the south. The farther north you go, the hotter it gets.
You will be dazzled with magnificent landscapes and unusual plants. It will seem strange to you that trees lose their bark, not their leaves, and a lot of flowers have no smell. Even stranger than plants are the animals. Many of them are found nowhere else in the world. There live kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, platypi and a lot of rare birds.
Australia is the world's largest island and its smallest continent. People often call Australia the "land down-under" because it lies entirely south of the equator.
Australia is the oldest of all continents. Its mountains are the worn and ancient stumps that were once higher than the Himalayas; its desert sands rose from the waves of the sea millions of years ago and still contain fossils of the marine creatures that formerly swam over them, Its animals are ancient and unique. Its wandering aboriginal tribes still live like the men of the Stone Age.
Australia is the driest continent on earth. The four great deserts of central Australia cover 2,000,000 square kilometres. There are few rivers there. Australian lakes which look impressive on the map, are usually little more than clay and salt pans.
Australia is the flattest of all continents. Unlike any other continent, it lacks mountains of truly alpine structure and elevation. Its most significant mountain chain is the Great Dividing Range running down most of the east coast.. Because of its overall flatness and regular coastline, Australia is often called a "sprawling pancake".
An island continent, Australia was cut off from the rest of the world for millions of years. As a result, it was the last continent to be discovered and settled by Europeans.
Australia is the only continent that is also a country. As a country, it has the sixth largest area in the world after Russia, Canada, China, the United States and Brazil.
Australia is the least populated of the continents. Only 0,3% of the world's population live there. However, Australia is the most urbanized country in the world. Two out of three of its citizens live in the eight largest cities.
The capital of Australia is Canberra.
Canada is the second largest country in the world. It covers the northern part of North America and its total area is 9,975,000 square kilometres. Canada's only neighbour is the USA. The border between the two countries is the longest unguarded border in the world.
Canada's motto, "From Sea to Sea," is particularly appropriate because the country is bounded by three oceans — the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic. Its vast area includes some of the world's largest lakes and countless smaller ones. One-third of all fresh water on Earth is in Canada.
Canada's name comes from an Indian word kanata, which means "village". The first French settlers used the Indian name for the colony, but the official name was "New France". When the area came under the British rule in 1897, the new country was called the Dominion of Canada, or simply Canada. Canada is a union of ten provinces and two territories.
Compared with other large countries, Canada has a small population, only about 27,300,000. The country, however, is one of the world's most prosperous. Canadians developed its rich natural resources and, in the process, have achieved a high standard of living.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth II is its official head of state. Although the Queen holds this high position, she doesn't rule. She serves as a symbol of British tradition. Her representative in Canada is the Governor General, whom she appoints on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister. The Governor's duties are limited to symbolic, mostly ceremonial acts.
The real power belongs to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The Canadian Parliament consists of two chambers: the House of Commons and the Senate.
There are two official languages in the country: English and French. All Canadian children have to learn both French and English at school, but Francophones and Anglophones do not enjoy learning each other's language.
"We have two races, two languages, two systems of religious belief, two sets of laws ... two systems of everything," said one Canadian journalist.
There was a time when Quebec Province (its population is 90% French) decided to separate from Canada and form a new country. Fortunately, the movement has waned.
The capital of Canada is Ottawa.