Regime: Federal parliamentary constitutional republic
Area: 357 168 km2
Population: 80 716 000 (2014)
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Time Zone: GMT +1 (winter) / GMT +2 (summer)
Official language: Germany
Calling Code: +49
GDP (PPP per capita): $ 46 896
Holding the title as the capital of Germany as well as being the largest city in the country is the cosmopolitan city Berlin. A city where there is always something to do or see, with more than 170 museums and art galleries, over 7000 bars and restaurants and 300 clubs.
Berlin is amazing not only for the activities proposed, but also for its rich history, which is visible through the variety of architectural styles. All of which can be taken in on a walking tour passing the Brandenburg Gate, the national symbol of the country, or the wall that once separated the east from the west.
A name which originates from the old German name for monk, and was chosen due to the history of the city. A time when the city of Munich was not the capital of Bavaria, but a Benedictine monastery.
With a mix of Bavarian culture, a high tech industry and modern living, the city that plays host to the annual Oktoberfest is definitely one of the places not to be missed. So whether you are in search of baroque palaces or first class museums, the gateway to the German Alps and Germany’s third largest city is the place to be.
With its futuristic skyline and historic cobble stone streets, Frankfurt offers a contrast between history and modern architecture on every street corner. History buffs will appreciate the Staedel museum, with its vast collection of art illuminated by 200 skylights, or the half-timbered houses and traditional wine bars sitting strangely next to modern skyscrapers. Both of these should be viewed, with the skyscrapers offering a bird’s eye view of the whole city, and the old town shows you the history of the town dating back to medieval times. These sites can all be accompanied by a tangy arfelwein (apple wine) which is available in the cider houses displaying a green wreath on their signpost.
A city that offers the largest Japanese garden in Europe, the famous Reeperbahn Street and many historically rich venues that allow you to enjoy the 300 year old markets or the harbour, which is over 800 years old. If however all this sound a tab big and overwhelming, Miniatur Wunderland allows you to take in an amazing amount of sights with an incredible level of detail.
Situated on the banks of the river Rhine since 38 BC, when it was founded by the Romans, Cologne is the home to one of Europe’s oldest universities as well as well over 100 museums and art galleries. Although the city was badly damaged during the Second World War, the restoration of historic buildings allowed one of Germany’s oldest cities to keep its historical architecture.
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The options are without limit in most the German towns, with some including unique room such as those found at the Propeller Island City Lodge in Berlin. These rooms are works of art which range from upside down rooms to coffin-beds.
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Weather / When to leave:
With most the country receiving its annual rainfall during the months of summer, a warm trip can also be an unpredictability wet trip. Late spring and early autumn, however, provide warmth and if the weather is good enough for the German harvest season it should be perfect for getting lost in the small streets of a new town. If the cold weather is what you’re after, the ski season runs from the December to the end of March.
History / culture:
As a country that has been divided since before the time of the Romans, Germany recently took the final step to becoming a united country in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall. This wall was simply a divide running through one town, whereas in the past the entire country was divided into hundreds of states. The division, whether for religious, or differences in culture seemed likely to end with the unification of the German people during the revolutions of 1848. But the king and other rulers saw this democracy as a threat and put an end to it. But the people would have the last word and Germany eventually came together.
In more recent years Germany has had a huge influence on the world, whether it be for their role in the world wars, or for their contributions in terms of technology which include the automobile, aspirin and the printing press, just to name a few. On top of these inventions are the great minds such as Albert Einstein, Karl Marx Beethoven and many more.
Almost 70%, 66.8% to be exact, of the population declares to be Christian and the runner up with less than 2% is Muslim. Germany has the third largest Jewish community in Europe, after France and the United Kingdom.
Whether you opt for beer or wine, Germany has a menu of food and drinks to suite any palate. Of course the classic, and well-known dishes such as pretzels, sausages and roast pork deserve a taste, but many of the regions in German have their own specialities that allow tours of ancient cellars while sipping on a glass of Riesling. The food and drink of the German people is as rich and varied as the history of each of the cities visited.
Places not to miss:
Brandenburg Gate – A monumental sandstone gate that was built for King Frederick William II, modelled on the Acropolis from Athens in 1791 and stands 26 meters tall. Any visitors to Berlin need to include this gate, which once formed part of the berlin wall.
Cologne Cathedral – The cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Mary sits on the banks of the Rhine as one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. With stained glass, a treasury full of precious objects and the Reliquary of the three kings, this cathedral which dates back to 1248 cannot be missed.
Black Forest – It’s dark, it’s dense, and it covers more than 6000 km2. Nestled within this fairy like region lies the Baden-Baden spa, Triberg with its open air museum and the Todtnau ski area.
The Berlin Wall – So it’s not exactly beautiful, nor is really there anymore, but the history that this piece of architecture represents cannot be missed whilst visiting Germany. From 1961 to 1989 this wall spanned 155 kilometres. Today only small portions of the wall remain at Checkpoint Charlie, near the Reichstag building and at the Berlin Wall Exhibition.
Caslte Hozenzollen – A fairy like castle perched atop a hill near Stuttgart. This castle remained uninhabited since it was built in the 11th century, except for brief periods in which never spanned more than a few months.
Things to do:
- Head south of Munich to the Bavarian Alps and ascend Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze.
- Travel through the Bavarian countryside along the 350km of the Romantic Road that starts out in the Franconia wine country and ends in the foothills of the German Alps.
- Hop between three countries (Germany, Switzerland and Austria) with ease as you visit the Lake Constance for swimming and camping.
- Karneval (40 day period before Ash Wednesday/mid-February)
- Leipzig book fair (March)
- Thuringia Bach festival (April-May)
- Rhein in Flammen spectacular firework shows all around the country (May-September)
- Oktoberfest in Munich (late September)
Passport and Visa:
All holders of European passports can enter Germany without a visa. Holders of other passports can often visit without a visa if the length of the stay is less than 90 days, others will require a Schengen visa. This visa provides access to the countries within Europe. The list of countries that do not require a visa in order to enter Germany can be found here.
With its developed economy and big cities, transport within Germany is usually pretty simple. Buses, trams, U-Bahn (metro) and S-Bahn (suburban) trains all provide rapid transport to your final destination.
As with almost every country in existence it is possible to use taxis, but they are expensive, and with the excellent public transport system, it is not really worth the extra cost.
Health and safety:
Visitors should be up to date with their routine vaccinations, but other than that there are no additional risks.
Tourists arriving in Germany are often approached by people selling train tickets, the problem is that these tickets have already been used.
As with many countries that welcome large numbers of tourists each year, the tourist attractions tend to attract pickpockets. The usual approach if to distract the tourist by offering a petition to sign. There is an elevated number of pickpockets near the red light districts, but Germany is a safe country and tourists have no reason to be scared.
- Fire brigade and medical emergencies: 112
- Police: 110
Germany uses a Schuko plug and socket which is very similar to the rest of Europe. This means 230V via a two prong plug (type E).
- Seems like a bit of a cliché, but the honest truth is being punctual is extremely import. You should not arrive late and if you manage to arrive early wait until the appointed time.
- Before eating, have a nice meal is “guten appetite”, to which the response is “Danke. Gleichfalls” which simply means thank you, you too.
- With drink the usual cheers becomes, “prost” or “Zum Wohl” which means good health
- It is polite to address everyone usinf their family name and “Sie”. When in private “sie” can be changed to “du”, but it is up to the older person present.