Jessica and Her Pen Pals

Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe Jessica and Her Pen Pals Jessica got a wonderful present from her Aunt Georgia last summer. The present was ...
Author: Aubrey Flynn
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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Jessica and Her Pen Pals Jessica got a wonderful present from her Aunt Georgia last summer. The present was a silver bracelet from Ireland, with Celtic patterns etched into it. Jessica’s Aunt Georgia gave her the new bracelet after returning from a trip to Europe. She told Jessica the patterns in the silver were supposed to bring good luck. Aunt Georgia had traveled all over Europe. After she came back, she spent hours telling Jessica and her family stories about her travels, and showing them pictures she had taken. Jessica thought France sounded like an interesting place. She liked the pictures of Paris. She thought the stained glass windows in the Notre Dame cathedral were beautiful, and Aunt Georgia’s story about the prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux in France fascinated her. It was almost impossible for her to believe that the pictures in the cave were 17,000 years old! Jessica also liked the pictures of the city of Venice, in Italy, where the streets were made of water, not pavement, and there were no cars, only boats. Every picture her aunt showed her seemed strange and different from Jessica’s home in New Mexico, and Jessica decided right there to learn all she could about Europe. A few weeks later, school started. Jessica’s teacher began teaching her class about the differences between North America, which included the United States and Canada, and Europe, a continent across the Atlantic Ocean to the east, with a large variety of languages and cultures. Europe is the second-smallest continent, after Australia, but is home to about 730 million people, 11% of the world’s population. In addition to Russia, the world’s largest country in terms of area, Europe is also home to Vatican City and Monaco, the smallest countries in the world, with a combined area of less than one square mile. There were also many differences in geography, culture, language, and climate, both between North America and Europe, and between the many European countries themselves. That fascinated Jessica. Jessica asked her teacher how she could find out more about kids her age that lived in Europe. Her teacher told her about a group called the “Pen Pals of Europe*.” It was a sort of long-distance club for kids, where everybody wrote letters to each other, from Europe to America and from America to Europe. That was just what Jessica was looking for! She joined right away and sent letters to a boy or girl in eighteen different European countries, four or five in each of the four regions of Europe. Pretty soon, she started receiving mail from European children her age … (the letters are all on the following pages) What a wonderful bunch of letters! Jessica wrote back to each one of her new pen pals: Lidiya, Pavel, Agnieszka, Claudiu, Maarit, Jaagup, Jona, Cathal, Zlata, Estevao, Xanthia, Mauro, Maria, Klaus, Laura, Jules, Ute, and Laurent. And she started getting more letters back from them. Soon, she had many new friends and was learning more and more. Jessica wants to take a trip to Europe some day! *note: Pen Pals of Europe is not a real group.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Dear Jessica, Hello from Bulgaria. My name is Lidiya. I live in the city of Sofia, which is the capital of my country and the largest city. In your letter, you wrote that you were interested in learning about Europe. Bulgaria is in the south-east of Europe, between Turkey and Romania. We have nice beaches on the Black Sea, where my family likes to go on summer vacation. You asked if Bulgaria is still Communist. We were until 1990 (before I was born!), when democratic elections were first held. Bulgaria joined the EU at the beginning of 2007. My parents say life is much better now. My father has a good job at a chemical company. I heard that in America, you shake your head to say ‘no’ and nod to say ‘yes’. That sounds strange, is it true? Here in Bulgaria we do the opposite. Please write back. Regards, Lidiya.

Dear Jessica, Hi from the Czech Republic. My name is Pavel. My family and I live only fifteen miles away from Prague, and both my parents work there. You asked if my country has beaches. Not really, unless you count rivers and lakes, because the Czech Republic is landlocked. We are located in the center of Europe, southeast of Germany and north of Austria. In 1989, the Communist government was peacefully overthrown in the “Velvet Revolution”. We used to be half of Czechoslovakia, but in 1993 the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. People call it the “Velvet Divorce” because it was also peaceful. Summers are mild here, which is good because I don’t like hot weather. I enjoy skiing in the winter, when it usually snows a lot. What is it like in the winter where you live? Best wishes, Pavel

Dear Jessica, Dzień dobry from Poland! My name is Agnieszka. I am a girl. Poland is easy to find on a map, it’s a big country east of Germany and south of the Baltic Sea. I live in a small town outside Warsaw, the capital. My father works for the government and my mother is an artist. What do your parents do? I like to cook, and I want to have my own restaurant when I grow up. My favorite thing to cook (or eat) are pierogi, which are dumplings with meat, cabbage, and other good things inside. If you come to Poland, I promise to cook some for you. You are right: Poland used to be a Communist country, but that ended in 1989, a long time before I was born. We joined the EU in 2004. Please tell me more about yourself. Your pen friend, Agnieszka.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Dear Jessica, Hi from Claudiu in Romania. I live with my parents and my sister in Bucharest, the capital. My hobby is playing the guitar and singing while I play. You asked me if we really have vampires in my country. I hope you were joking. Transylvania is part of my country, but there are no such things as vampires. At least I have never seen one! Romania is in the south-east part of Europe, between Ukraine and Bulgaria. We also share borders with Hungary, Moldova, and Serbia. We have nice beaches on the Black Sea, where I enjoy swimming. Romania used to be a Communist country, from the end of WWII until 1989. We joined the EU in 2007, and now we can travel in Europe without passports. Watch out for vampires! Your pen friend, Claudiu.

Dear Jessica, This is Maarit in Finland. I am a girl. I live in Helsinki with my parents. My most important interest is music. Jean Sibelius was a famous Finnish composer, but I prefer the rock band The Rasmus, have you heard of them? What can I tell you about Finland? It is a big country in the north of Europe between Sweden and Russia. It is cold and dark in the winter and the summer days are long. We have thousands and thousands of lakes. We also have lots of cell phones – more per person than any other country. Do you know Nokia cell phones? Nokia is a Finnish company. Finland used to be poor, but now the economy is much better. We joined the EU in 1995. Please write me back and tell me about yourself. What bands do you like? Regards, Maarit.

Dear Jessica, Greetings from Estonia. My name is Jaagup. I am a boy. I live in Tallinn with my parents and two brothers. Tallinn, as you know, is the capital city of Estonia. Estonia lies on the Baltic Sea between Latvia and Russia. It is a small country, the size of Switzerland, but with fewer people, only 1.5 million instead of 7.5 million as in Switzerland. That makes Estonia one of the most sparsely-populated countries in Europe. We gained our independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and we joined the EU in 2004. Some people say Estonians invented the Christmas tree, because the first Christmas tree recorded in history was put up in Tallinn in 1441 at a Christmas party (it burned down at the end of the party!). Sincerely, Jaagup.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Dear Jessica, Hello! Ég heiti Jona. That is Icelandic for “My name is Jona.” I am a girl. I live with my parents and two sisters not far from Reykjavik. You asked me if I have ever seen the singer Björk. I am sorry: although she is from Iceland I have never seen her. I like her music though. One thing I have seen a lot of in Iceland are volcanoes and geysers. Also lots of ice: more than ten percent of our country is covered by glaciers. Iceland is an island in northern Europe. We are a small country with only about 300,000 people. We are in the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland and Europe. Did you know that Iceland has the oldest parliament in the world? It is called the Althing and was founded in 930. That is more than 500 years before Columbus sailed to the Americas! Sincerely, Jona. Dear Jessica, Greetings from Ireland. My name is Cathal. I’m a boy, by the way. I’ve got two sisters and one brother and we all live with our parents in Galway, which is on the west coast across the country from Dublin, the capital. Galway is in the Gaeltacht, which is part of western Ireland where people still speak Irish. Most people learn Irish in school, but English is the first language for most of us now. What can I tell you about Ireland? It is an island west of Great Britain. You asked if there is fighting in Northern Ireland, which still belongs to Great Britain. I am happy to report that things are mostly peaceful there now. My favorite thing to do is play Irish rules football, which is similar to what you call soccer. I also like computers. What are your hobbies? Cheers, Cathal.

Dear Jessica, This is Zlata writing from Croatia. Like you, I am a girl. Croatia is a country in southern Europe. You mentioned the war: we used to be part of a country called Yugoslavia, but we declared independence in 1991 and fighting began because other parts of the country didn’t want us to leave. The war lasted about four years. I am glad it is peaceful now. Croatia is a beautiful country. We have a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea that is pretty, and it’s popular with tourists from all over the world. I have one sister and live in Zagreb, the capital, with my family. I want to be President when I grow up, or a pop singer. Maybe both. What are your plans? Write back and tell me. Regards, Zlata.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Dear Jessica, Hi from sunny Portugal. My name is Estevao. I like playing football (or, as you call it, soccer). I hope to play professionally someday. My family and I live in a small town thirty kilometers northeast of Lisbon, the capital. Portugal is in southern Europe on the Atlantic Ocean west of Spain, on the Iberian Peninsula. Centuries ago, Portugal was a rich and important seafaring country with overseas colonies. Many famous explorers came from Portugal. Vasco de Gama found a route to India, and Portuguese traders got rich from the spice trade. Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil and claimed it for Portugal, which is why they speak Portuguese in Brazil today. Please write back and tell me about America! Sincerely, Estevao.

Dear Jessica, Hi from in Greece. My name is Xanthia. I live in Thessaloniki with my family, including one sister and two brothers. Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece, after Athens, the capital. Greece is at the southern edge of Europe, so as you guessed, it is hot here in the summer. Sometimes it gets so dry that forest fires are a big danger. But you were wrong about the landscape: it is not flat here, four-fifths of the country is mountainous, in fact. Have you heard of Mount Olympus? It is the highest mountain in Greece. In our mythology the gods were said to live there. Do you know any Greek myths? Greek philosophers are also famous, such as Plato and Aristotle. Greek culture is very old and has had a big influence on culture and art in other countries. Your new pen pal, Xanthia.

Dear Jessica, Buon giorno! My name is Mauro, and I live in Italy. Italy is the boot-shaped country in the south of Europe. I can tell you a lot about Italy, as I am very good in school and I can speak English well. I live with my parents and two younger sisters in Rome, the capital. Rome is the biggest city, almost 4 million people live in the city or nearby. It is also old: it is more than 2,500 years old. It is loud and busy and I like it. To answer your question, yes, I have been to Venice. In person it is even more beautiful than in pictures, but I got tired walking around so much. My favorite city is Pompeii, which was buried by a volcano in the year 79. My favorite food is ice cream, called gelato in Italian. What is yours? Regards, Mauro.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Dear Jessica, Hello from Spain. I am Maria. My family and I live in a big house near Madrid, the capital. You asked if Spain still has a king. Yes, it does, but Spain is a parliamentary monarchy, meaning although the king is head of state, the government is elected. Spain is a large country in the southwest of Europe. It has a population of about 40 million people. Most people speak Spanish, but Catalan, Galician and Basque are also spoken. Spain has a long history. The oldest human fossils in Europe were found in caves in Spain, and in the 16th and 17th centuries Spanish explorers conquered much of North and South America. Please write me again and tell me more about yourself. Yours truly, Maria.

Dear Jessica, Servus from Austria! We speak German here in Austria, and “servus” means both hello and goodbye in Austrian German. My name is Klaus. I live in a small town west of Vienna. I do like to ski, how did you guess? However, I cannot ski near my home because it is flat where I live, although more than half of Austria is covered with mountains. Our highest mountain is the Grossglockner, it is 3,798 meters high. Austria used to be a large empire in Europe, but after the first World War it lost much territory and now it is a small country of eight million people in the center of Europe. We have many neighbors: the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland. I like music. I play the violin. Can you play an instrument? Servus, Klaus.

Dear Jessica, Nice to meet you. My name is Laura. Thank you for your interest in Belgium. I am interested in the United States, too. My family lives in Brussels, where my father works for the EU. Brussels is the capital of both Belgium and the European Union. Belgium used to be part of the Netherlands but became independent in 1830. Because Belgium is near the sea, it is often foggy here. I like fog. Belgium is also famous for its beer. We have more than 450 different kinds of beer! As you mentioned in your letter, we have a king, but we also have an elected government: Belgium is a constitutional monarchy. The official languages are French and Dutch. I can speak both, as well as English and German. What languages do you speak? Write back soon! Laura.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Dear Jessica, Bon jour from Jules in France! I live with one brother and my parents in Paris. My older sister goes to university and no longer lives with us. To answer your question: Yes, I have been to the Eiffel Tower, but I have not been to the Notre Dame Cathedral because I don’t go to church that much. I have also not seen the caves in Lascaux, because they are closed to the public, although they have a reproduction in caves nearby. France is in the west of Europe, across the English Channel from Great Britain. It is a large country, with a population of more than 60 million people. In the summer my family goes to the South of France on holiday. It is warmer there. In the winter we go skiing in the mountains near Grenoble. What do you do on your holidays? Regards, Jules.

Dear Jessica, Hi from Germany. My name is Ute. I am a girl. My family and I live near Berlin, the capital of Germany. There used to be two Germanys. In 1949, the country was divided into West Germany and East Germany. East Germany was Communist. Germany was reunited in 1990. Germany is a large country in central Europe. The population is over 80 million, the second-biggest in Europe (after Russia) and the economy is strong, so we play an important role in Europe. Germany was a founding member of the EU in 1957. The German landscape is quite varied. It ranges from flat plains in the north, near the North Sea, to mountains and Alps in the south. Our highest mountain is the Zugspitze, it is 2,963 meters high. Write back soon and tell me about your country! Tschüß!

Dear Jessica, My name is Laurent. Hello from one of the smallest countries in Europe: Luxembourg. Luxembourg was founded in 963, but didn’t gain full independence until 1867. Our population is only about 480,000. Our capital city, where I live with my family, is also called Luxembourg. We are a constitutional monarchy, meaning the head of state is the Grand Duke or Grand Duchess, and the head of government is elected. Personally, I find the climate here pleasant, because it is mild, meaning the winters are not so cold, and it doesn’t get too hot in the summer, unlike other countries further in the north or south of Europe. My hobbies are horseback riding and reading. What do you like to do? Please write soon and tell me more about yourself. Sincerely, Laurent.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Name ________________________________ Date ________________________ Part I: Mark each of the following statements T for TRUE or F for FALSE. 1. __ It is very hot and dry throughout all of Europe. 2. __ English, French, and German are the only languages spoken in Europe. 3. __ Luxembourg is the second-largest country in Europe. 4. __ There are no glaciers in Europe. 5. __ Many European countries ceased to be Communist around the year 1990. 6. __ No European countries are landlocked. 7. __ All European countries are more than 1,500 years old. 8. __ English is spoken in Europe. 9. __ There are volcanoes in Europe. 10. __ European countries all share the same culture. 11. __ Germany is the northernmost country in Europe. 12. __ The Eiffel Tower is in France. 13. __ It is often foggy in Belgium. 14. __ Austria used to be an empire. 15. __ The Czech Republic is landlocked. 16. __ Europe is home to 11% of the world’s population. 17. __ Cavemen used to live in Europe. 18. __ Some European countries are quite mountainous. 19. __ “Servus” means “thank you” in German. 20. __ Monaco and Vatican City are the smallest countries in Europe.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Name ________________________________ Date ________________________ Part II: Write a brief answer to each of the following questions. 1. Why did Jessica become interested in Europe? 2. How did Jessica get the names and addresses of all the children she wrote? 3. How many people live in Europe? 4. How old are the caves of Lascaux, France? 5. Which country has the largest area in Europe? 6. What languages are spoken in Spain? 7. Which countries have the largest and second-largest populations? 8. Ice covers 10% of which European country? 9. Which European country split off from Yugoslavia in 1991? 10. Which European country is famous for having many brands of beer? 11. Does the Czech Republic have ocean beaches? 12. What is Brussels the capital of? 13. Where is Portugal? 14. What are the smallest European countries? 15. What is the Grossglockner and where is it? 16. What are pierogi? 17. Why are forest fires sometimes a problem in Greece? 18. In which European country is Transylvania located?

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Name ________________________________ Date ________________________ Part III: Choose the correct missing portion for each statement. 1. Jessica lives in ______________. a. Canada b. Germany c. The United States d. Ireland 2. Her Aunt Georgia visited ____________. a. Ireland b. Venice, Italy c. Paris, France d. All of the above 3. In the story, Pen Pals of Europe was a club where kids from the United States and Europe could _______________ other kids. a. adopt b. write letters to c. learn to speak European languages with d. send gifts to 4. From Klaus’ letter from Austria, Jessica learned that __________. a. The Eiffel Tower is in Austria b. No one in Austria can ski c. Austria used to be a large empire d. All of the above 5. Finland is cold and dark in the winter because __________________ a. It is so far north b. It is so mountainous c. It is covered with ice d. The government forgot to pay its utility bill 6. The Christmas Tree may have been invented in __________________. a. Latvia b. Greece c. Portugal d. Estonia

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Name ________________________________ Date ________________________ Part III: Choose the correct missing portion for each statement. 7. From Lidiya, Jessica learns that Bulgaria _______________ . a. has a coastline on the Black Sea b. is presently a Communist country c. shares a border with Spain d. all of the above 8. Pavel tells Jessica that peaceful split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 is called _________________ . a. the “Cotton Annulment” b. the “Satin Split-up” c. the “Velvet Divorce” d. none of the above 9. Which statement is not true about Poland? a. It is a big country b. It is Communist c. It is East of Germany d. It is South of the Baltic Sea 10. Which of the following does Romania not have? a. a border with Hungary b. vampires c. a communist past d. beaches 11. Jessica learns from Maarit that Nokia is _________, a. a Belgian beer b. a Finnish company c. a Polish dumpling d. a Portuguese explorer and navigator 12. A good way for Jessica to learn more about Europe is to ___________ . a. write more letters to her new European pen pals b. eat European food c. study European fashions d. go to a museum

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Name ________________________________ Date ________________________ Part III: Choose the correct missing portion for each statement. 13. Estonia gained independence from ____________________ in 1991. a. the Soviet Union b. Yugoslavia c. the Netherlands d. Monaco 14. The oldest parliament in the world is located in ____________. a. Greece b. France c. Iceland d. Sweden 15. The capital of Ireland is ____________. a. Dublin b. Galway c. Gaeltacht d. Reykjavik 16. ____________ is a former Yugoslavian country with a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea. a. Slovenia b. Croatia c. Italy d. Greece 17. The combined land area of Monaco and Vatican City is ____________. a. the size of Alaska b. nearly twice as large as the United States c. less than one square mile d. all of the above 18. Many famous explorers came from ____________. a. Portugal b. Belgium c. Austria d. None of the above 19. The highest mountain in Greece is ____________. a. Mt. Plato b. Mt. Olympus c. Mt. Athens d. Mt. Olympics

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Name ________________________________ Date ________________________ Part IV. On another sheet of paper, write a short paragraph about each of the following topics. 1. What you would like to see if you went on a trip to Europe 2. Which letter you liked best and why 3. What you learned that was new information 4. What you know about Europe that wasn’t in the story 5. What languages are spoken in various countries in Europe 6. What the food is like in some European countries 7. What the climate is like in different parts of Europe 8. What sort of landscapes you think can be found in Europe Part V. Match the following items with the name of the country: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain. 1. __________ Notre Dame Cathedral 2. __________ Former empire (lost much territory after WWI) 3. __________ Population 480,000 4. __________ Pierogi 5. __________ Transylvania 6. __________ Black Sea 7. __________ Velvet Revolution 8. __________ Grand Duke is Head of State 9. __________ Formerly split into two halves, East and West 10. __________ Gained independence from Netherlands in 1830 11. __________ Vienna 12. __________ Sibelius

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

13. __________ Tallinn 14. __________ oldest human fossils in Europe were found in caves here 15. __________ Pompeii, Rome, Venice 16. __________ Gaeltacht 17. __________ geysers 18. __________ Plato 19. __________ Vasco de Gama 20. __________ Zagreb 21. __________ Brazil 22. __________ Official languages are French and Dutch 23. __________ Big country east of Germany 24. __________ Population is about 80 million 25. __________ Boot-shaped country in the South of Europe 26. __________ Spanish, Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken here 27. __________ Mt. Olympus 28. __________ Full independence in 1867 29. __________ Björk 30. __________ Aristotle 31. __________ Berlin 32. __________ Prague 33. __________ Oldest parliament in the world 34. __________ Eiffel Tower 35. __________ Country and capital city have same name

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Part VI. Use the map of Europe below to answer the following questions. 1. Which is the largest country? 2. Which is the northernmost country? 3. Which countries are islands? 4. Which country is the furthest west? 5. Which countries share a border with Germany?

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Part VII. There more than forty European countries in all. What if Jessica had gotten a letter from each country? Write an imaginary letter to Jessica from someone in one of those other countries. Be sure to include: The name of the country, capital city, region in Europe the country is located in, name of the writer, the city or town that the writer is from, a brief description of the climate or geographical features, and at least one interesting fact. Draw and color the flag in the space provided, or have your teacher print one out for you.

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Answer Key Part I 1. false 2. false 3. false 4. false 5. true 6. false 7. false 8. true 9. true 10. false

11. false 12. true 13. true 14. true 15. true 16. true 17. true 18. true 19. false 20. true

Part II 1. because of the bracelet her aunt gave her, and her stories and photos 2. she signed up with a club for kids to write to each other from America and Europe 3. about 730 million 4. they are 17,000 years old 5. Russia 6. Spanish, Catalan, Galician, and Basque 7. Russia and Germany 8. Iceland 9. Croatia 10. Belgium 11. no 12. Brussels is the capital of both Belgium and the European Union (EU) 13. Portugal is in southern Europe on the Atlantic Ocean west of Spain, on the Iberian Peninsula 14. Monaco and Vatican City 15. the Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria 16. Polish dumplings 17. because it sometimes gets so dry in the summer 18. Romania Part III 1. c 2. d 3. b 4. c 5. a 6. d 7. a 8. c 9. b 10. b

11. b 12. a 13. a 14. c 15. a 16. b 17. c 18. a 19. b

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Reading Comprehension/ Geography/ Europe

Part IV Answers will vary according to student experience. Part V 1. France 2. Austria 3. Luxembourg 4. Poland 5. Romania 6. Bulgaria 7. Czech Republic 8. Luxembourg 9. Germany 10. Belgium 11. Austria 12. Finland 13. Estonia 14. Spain 15. Italy 16. Ireland 17. Iceland 18. Greece

19. Portugal 20. Croatia 21. Portugal 22. Belgium 23. Poland 24. Germany 25. Italy 26. Spain 27. Greece 28. Luxembourg 29. Iceland 30. Greece 31. Germany 32. Czech Republic 33. Iceland 34. France 35. Luxembourg

Part VI 1. Russia 2. Norway 3. Iceland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Malta 4. Portugal 5. Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland Part VII. Answers will vary.

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