Germany is at the heart of Europe, bordering on nine countries, eight of which: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland are members of the EU, the European Union. Originally a group of six countries that in the 1950’s began a community under the motto, United in Diversity, with Germany as one of the founding members.
Switzerland the ninth country on Germany’s border, although not a Union member, belongs to the EU’s Schengen Area, a region that guarantees free movement within a territory and means there are no longer the borders that until relatively recently used to criss-cross Europe.
United in Diversity sums up Europe and in many ways Germany, because visitors soon realize there is no ‘typical’ German, or a uniform Germany… it remains strongly influenced by the regional culture, history and local government of its 16 individual Laender or States, and here are some facts that cover the entire country.
Germany, officially The Federal Republic of Germany, has been a democratic parliamentary federal democracy since May 23, 1949.
The Bundestag, Parliament or the House of Representatives, was in Bonn from 1949 until 1999 until the seat of government moved to Berlin, which once again became the country’s official capital.
A Chancellor is head of the German Government and Angela Merkel, who lived and was educated in the former GDR, East Germany, is the country’s first female chancellor.
An environmentally conscious country, the “Green” political party was founded in 1980. Called The German Green Party, die Gruenen, they have been influential since that time.
The German flag shows the national colors of black, red and gold in equal horizontal bands, black at the top, a red center and gold on the bottom. Formerly the colors were said to represent: the darkness of servitude (black), the blood of conflict (red), and the light of freedom (gold). Now they stand for the freedom of Germany as a whole and each of its people.
The national emblem is a stylized eagle. Known as the Bundesadler, or sometimes by a nickname “Fette Henne”, Fat Hen, it originates from Germany’s time as “The Holy Roman Empire of The German Nation”, 962 until 1806.
October 3, the Day of German Unity has been an annual State Holiday since 1990, celebrating the anniversary of German reunification.
The National Anthem ‘Das Lied der Deutschen’, The Song of the Germans, set to music previously written by Joseph Haydn, has been used in one form or another since 1922. However after German reunification, only the third verse of August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben’s lyrics was adopted as the official anthem.
Germany’s population was 82,282,988 as of July 2010, the most populated EU state, and a country that at 357,021 km square (137,847 square miles) is smaller than Montana but larger than the USA’s “next size down” state, New Mexico.
42.0 million of the population are women, 7.3 million foreigners, about 8.8 percent of the total, and 1.7 million are Turkish. Approximately one fifth of those living in Germany have a foreign background, their grandparents, parents or they themselves moved to Germany from abroad.
The official language is German, which is also the language spoken most frequently within the European Union.
75 million Germans own a German passport
Germany is densely populated, but one third of its land mass remains covered with forest and woodlands.
There are more than 250 registered Zoos, Animal and Wildlife Parks, Wildlife Protection Areas, as well as over 500 smaller wildlife parks, and animal display areas.
About 150 Castles are to be found throughout the country, and are a huge tourist attraction. Some are occupied by families of the long abolished aristocracy, although many don’t seem to realize they have been abolished; others are restaurants or hotels, while others are in desperate need of repair. It is possible for anyone to buy a German castle relatively inexpensively as long as they are prepared to renovate it to the standard, and style, of its prime.
The Goseck Circle in Goseck, Saxony-Anhalt, is believed to be the earliest sun observatory in the world.
Germany is the world’s fifth biggest economy, and has the largest economy in Europe.
Religion in Germany: Protestant 34%, Catholic 34%, at over 25 million each, 4% Muslim, some estimates are 4.3 million, 28% alternative religions or no religion. There are at least 105,000 of the Jewish faith, the majority having left the former Soviet Union after 1990, but there are also an increasing number of young people arriving from Israel and moving to Berlin.
Germany’s coastline stretches 2,389 km (1,484 miles), and includes everything from low lying land in the sea, grassy dykes, mud flats with nature reserves, marshes, sandy beaches, cliffs, fjords, dunes and sailing ports that were part of a powerful historical trading alliance.
The Zugspitze, at 2,963 m (9,718 ft) the country’s highest point, is known as “The Roof of Germany”. A winter snow sports area, complete with glacier, for the entire year it is a beautiful part of Bavaria with 360 degree panorama across 400 mountain peaks in four countries.
Germany’s longest rivers as they flow through the country are The Rhine at 965 KM (537 miles), Elbe 700 km (435 miles), Danube 647 km (402 miles). The Rhine begins in Switzerland and travels through six countries until it reaches the North Sea via the Netherlands, the Elbe begins in the Czech Republic and flows into the North Sea from the North of Germany, the Danube begins from a well in Germany’s Black Forest and moves through 10 countries ending in the Ukraine.
Denial of the Holocaust is a crime punishable by law in Germany.
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit, “Unity and Justice and Freedom”, is Germany’s motto and as a member of the Eurozone, (EUR 1 = 100 cents), this is inscribed on the side of German euro coins as it was on the Deutsche Mark.