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     Australia is a continent lying in the southern hemisphere between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is about as large as the continental USA, but vast areas, especially in the interior and in the tropical North, are completely uninhabited.( area about 7,686,000 sq km= 2,775,600 sq miles). The population is concentrated on the coast, mainly in the south-east. Australia has a population of around 18.5 million people and is part of the British Commonwealth. 95 % of inhabitants are of British origin, 3% are made by other European ethnic groups and 1.5% are Aborigines. The density is one of the lowest in the world- only two people to one sq km.  It is the driest continent in the world- 30% of the area gets less than 250 mm of rain each year. The Commonwealth of  Australia (the official name) consists of six states, (Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New Sout Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, which is an island located to the south of the east coast), two mainland territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory) and several external territories.  The hottest temperature ever recorded in Australia was in Queensland (53 oC) and lowest was in New South Wales(-23 oC). The distance from north to south points is 3,100 km and from east to west is 3,900 km. The coastline of Australia is 17,000 km long. The capital is Canberra. The head of the state is Queen Elizabeth II represented by the Governor General. But the actual head of Australia is the Prime Minister.

     HistoryThe country was first inhabited by the Aborigines who reached Australia from southern Asia over 20,000 years ago. Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, sailed around the southern coast of Australia in 1642. The island of Tasmania and the Tasman Sea are named after him. In 1768 captain James Cook sailed from England and eventually landed at Botany Bay near Sydney after sailing around New Zealand. He claimed the  whole east coast  for King George III. and called it New South Wales. The British government soon established a penal settlement there, where convicts were sent to serve their sentences in very harsh conditions. Free settlers, however, soon began to arrive and exploration gradually opened up the whole continent. Transportation of convicts stopped in 1840. The discovery of gold in 1851 attracted many more immigrants. In 1901 six British colonies  formed a federation to become the Commonwealth of Australia. Since that date, the period of modern development started. Sydney continued to grow and by 1925 became a metropolis of one million people. Australia played an important part in the WWI, supporting Britain in what was, to Australians, a very distant fight. In the WWII Australia again supported Britain. This time the war affected Australia more closely with 15,000 Australians captured by the Japanese at Singapore. The Japanese also attacked Darwin in 1942. After the war Australia prospered, developing closer relations with Asian countries and trading with Japan and America.

     An interesting thing for Europeans is that in Australia the seasons are just opposite to ours. This means that when in Europe it is a cold winter, in Australia it is a hot and sunny summer. If you travel there for Christmas, you will have an opportunity to spend it on the beach with temperatures higher than during summer holidays in your country.

     Land: Two thirds of Australia consist of  a huge plain, the Western Plateau. The only high mountains are in the east, and much of the interior is desert or semi-desert. The Great Dividing Range along the eastern coast (The Australian Alps) has the highest Australia´s mountain Mt. Kosciusko (2,228m). The longest rivers are the Murray and the Darling. In the dry, dusty interior known as the „outback“, there are huge sheep and cattle stations wherever there is a source of water. Many of these farms cover several thousand square kilometres. Wool and meat are major exports.

     Nature: Due to its isolation, Australia has a lot of unique wildlife. We can find there some very interesting animals that, except in zoos, do not live anywhere else in the world - kangaroo, koala, emu, cockatoo, platypus, dingo, Tasmanian Devil, wombat, barking lizards, Magpie.

     The name kangaroo applies to about 45 different species, including smaller (1-1.5m tall) kinds, which are called „wallabies“. The larger ones, sometimes over two metres tall, are able to jump over six metres in one jump. The most interesting thing, besides how they move, is that theit mothers, in some sort of pocket, carry babies till they are old enough to live alone. These animals are generally friendly and don´t attack people unless they are injured or feel danger. The kagaroo is Australia´s official national symbol.

     The emu, which is not able to fly, is the largest bird in the world and is able to run over 50 km per hour. This bird lives freely in the bush but is also raised in emu farms for its meat. Australian parrots kookaburra, are also very interesting birds.

     The cute koalas were once hunted fot their coat, but  are now a protected species. They live in trees, are about 40 cm tall and sleep most of the time. This is thanks to their food - a leaf from eucalyptus tree- which contains a drug that makes them sleepy.

     Eleven of the world´s top 15 poisonous snakes call Australia home, including the Fierce snake, Taipan snake and Brown snake, which are considered the world´s three  most dangerous. Also some of the Australian spiders are very venomous and their bite is deadly.Two of the most deadly ones are the Funnelweb and Austalian Red-Back spiders. Nowadays, an antivenene, curing bites from all existing kinds of both snakes and spiders, already exists, but must be given to the victim in a short period of time.

     The country is also well-known for its beaches, which are very popular among Australians and tourists. In Queensland, the most tropical part of Australia, is a set of coral reefs. It is called the Great Barrier Reef and is the biggest reef in the world.

     Canberra is the capital of Australia with a population 307,700 people. The federal Government is run from Canberra; the city was founded in 1928. The name of the city is an aboriginal word meaning „meeting place“.

Sydney  has a population of around 3.9 million people, is the capital city of New South Wales and the oldest city in Australia. In 1850, its first university was built. The shores of Sydney Harbour are 240 km long. The most famous building in Sydney is the Opera House, which was built in 1973 and cost 100 million dollars. The oldest part of the city is called the Rocks. The Olympic Games 2 000 took place here.

Melbourne is the Australia´s second largest city and the only city in the country in which trams are still used. About 30 % of the people living in Melbourne were born overseas.

Other big cities ate Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin,...

     Free time:

There are many interesting opportunities for spending free time in most Australian cities, especially if you are by the ocean. The large number of beaches located mainly in new South Wale s and Queensland are sometimes very exotic. To be there is like a trip to paradise. Almost everyone in Australia goes to the beaches for surfing, swimming, skateboarding, jogging or just to lie on the beach and to have fun with their friends and families.

     If you decide to find another way to enjoy yourself, you have many more opportunities. In larger cities it is always worth visiting cinemas, operas, museums or attractions like fun parks or adventurous trips to the bush. Nightlife is also located mostly in large cities where you can visit concerts, pubs and clubs almost every night in week.

     Food in Australia is a mixture of many cuisines from all over the world, but there is also typical Australian cooking. An outdoor grill, called a barbecue, on which you can prepare all sorts of very tasty meals. Many travellers come to Australia to take a trip up the east coast or they choose a way also inside the Australian continent. Many of them use their own cars, which they simply buy at the beginning of their trip and sell at the end. For the others there is a possibility to buy a bus ticket that is valid for up three months and you may choose the stops according to your travelling plan. A large number of student hostels, where you can get cheap accommodation, are also available.


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