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Drives On: Right
Phone Code: +49
National Day: Oct 3
Internet Domain: .de
Electrical Outlets: Type C, F
German World Heritage Sties: 42
Germany is a federal parliamentary republic in western-central Europe. The entire country has a total land area of over 357,000 square kilometers with 80.7 million in population. The country’s capital city is Berlin, which is also the largest city in Germany. Other famous cities that you should visit on your travel to Germany include Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich.
The local translation of the name Germany is Deutschland. The history of the country is unsettled and comprehensive with the Nazi regime being one of the most widely read and recorded in history books.
As of this year, Germany has earned the recognition of having the largest European economy. In fact, several companies have their origin in Germany which includes BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Bayer, Nivea, Adidas, Volkswagen, and many more. In addition to a flourishing economy, it is also a source of various important natural resources like natural gas, coal, uranium, nickel, and copper.
History of Germany
Even though the modern nation of German only goes back to 1871, people have lived in the area now called Germany for over 100,000 years.
The German peoples first united in a loose confederation during the Roman Empire to beat back Roman Expansion. Unlike Gaul (modern-day France) Germania, as it was known to the Romans, was never conquered. At the Battle of Teutoburg Forest which took place in the year 9 CE, Germanic tribes united to ambush and decisively defeated three Roman legions. After that, Rome never attempted to conquer Germania again. The divisions between Germanic and Romantic parts of German can still be seen today, down to the divisions between Dutch and French speakers Belgium, which follows the old boundaries of the Roman Empire.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the Germanic people remained in small tribes until they were unified under Charlemagne in the late 8th and early 9th centuries. For centuries, despite a common language, like most of Europe, the German-speaking people were divided into dozens of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, and other divisions.
In 1871, under the leadership of Otto von Bismark, the various German kingdoms, duchies, principalities and free cities unified into the German Empire.
Modern saw itself as a belligerent in two of the greatest wars of the 20th Century: World Wars I and II. In both wars, Germany was defeated, and in both cases, it resulted in a loss of territorial integrity. It lost Alsace-Lorraine to France after WWI and it was split into two countries, East and West Germany, after WWII.
German was formally split for 41 years, from 1949 to 1990. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, which split East and West Berlin, Germany finally reunified.
Today Germany is the largest economy and population in the European Union.
German Travel Basics
Connectivity: In 2010, a ruling in Germany punished public providers of internet connection for any illegal activities done by customers when browsing the internet. For this reason, it can be difficult to find free WiFi hotspots in Germany.
There are three major companies that provide mobile service in Germany: Deutsche Telekom (formerly known as T-Mobile), Vodaphone, and O2. The travel tech website TooManyAdaptors.com recommends using Vodaphone.
Germany is one of 140+ countries in which American subscribers of T-Mobile can roam without any additional cost.
International Airports: There are 10 airports in Germany that service more than 10,000,000 passengers per year. They are:
- Frankfurt FRA
- Munich MUC
- Düsseldorf DUS
- Berlin Tegel TXL
- Hamburg HAM
- Berlin Schönefeld SXF
- Cologne/Bonn CGN
- Stuttgart STR
- Hanover HAJ
- Nuremberg NUE
Given its location in Europe, almost all airports can be considered “international” airports, however, it is these airports which are most likely to have flights from outside of the EU.
Rail Transportation Deutsche Bahn is one of the largest train systems in Europe with over 33,000 km of rail. Trains in Germany are quite efficient and generally run on time. Most large and mid-size towns in Germany are connected to the rail system. The largest cities in Germany also offer high-speed rail service to neighboring countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, France, and Denmark.
Automotive Transportation Roads in Germany are some of the best in the world and feature the famous Autobahn system where there are no speed limits. Driving in Germany, especially on the Autobahn, does require more attention than driving on other highways in the world as the speed differentials between cars can be so great. As with many older European towns, parking can sometimes be difficult. Click to rent cars in Germany.
Visa Required: Germany is a signatory to the Schengen Treaty and is a member of the Schengen Zone. Tourists who wish to visit Germany are subject to Schengen restrictions. Most visitors from developed countries are able to enter Germany (and the Schengen Zone) without a visa. This included the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, UK, and Ireland.
Absent applying for a longer-term visa, visitors from visa-free countries can only stay for 90-days in any 6 month period. A list of countries that require a visa can be found here.
Crime: Overall, Germany is a very safe country for tourists and crimes are low-scale. Germany ranks 190th among all countries in terms of murder rates. Petty theft and pickpocketing is possible in tourist areas.
Top Attractions in Germany
Germany has several attractions which are major tourist draws. Here are some of the most population attractions in the country:
- Neuschwanstein Castle. Built in the late 19th Century by King Ludwig of Bavaria, it was designed to evoke memories of Wagnerian operas and romantic fantasies. It was used as the basis for Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World.
- Brandenburg Gate. Perhaps the most iconic image of Berlin, the Brandenburg gate was built in the 18th Century by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a symbol of peace. It was an iconic backdrop to the Berlin Wall during the Cold War.
- Cologne Cathedral. One of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the world.
- Sanssouci. The summer palace of Frederick the Great in Potsdam. Often overlooked by tourists, Sanssouci is one of the best palaces in Europe and is very close to Berlin.
- Aachen Cathedral. Built by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, the Aachen Cathedral is one of the most significant and important cathedrals in all of Europe. It was named one of the first 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978.
- Rhine Valley The Rhine has traditionally been the most important river in Germany for both transportation and industry. Today places like Lorelei along the river are major tourist attractions.
- The Walls of Trier. While most German lands weren’t conquered by the Romans, some territory in present-day Germany was part of the Roman Empire. The city of Trier was an important Roman outpost and the Roman walls surrounding the city can still be seen today.
Books About Germany
- Germany: A History by Francis Russell. The dramatic story of Germany – from the rise of Charlemagne to the age of Martin Luther, from the Thirty Years’ War to the iron rule of Otto von Bismarck, and from the formation of the Weimar Republic to the fighting of two world wars.
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Hailed as “one of the most important works of history of our time” by The New York Times, this is the definitive chronicle of Hitler’s rise to power.
- Stasi: The Untold Story Of The East German Secret Police by John O Koehler. In this gripping narrative, John Koehler details the widespread activities of East Germany’s Ministry for State Security, or “Stasi.” The Stasi, which infiltrated every walk of East German life, suppressed political opposition and caused the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of citizens, proved to be one of the most powerful secret police and espionage services in the world.
Germany Podcasts and YouTube Channels
- Don’t Trust The Rabbit. Trixi is a German YouTuber who’s videos are about the German Language and living in Germany.
- Wanted Adventure. Dana, an American living abroad in Germany. I make videos about the cultural differences between Germany and the USA.
- Amateur Traveler Podcasts. The Amateur Traveler has recorded over 20 episodes about Germany.
Cuisine of Germany
The cuisine of Germany is very distinctive from other European cuisines. Majority of the notable dishes in Germany traces its roots from Swabia and Bavaria. If it were any proof of German cuisine’s status as one of the best in the world, the country ranks second to France with the most number of Michelin-rated restaurants. You should definitely keep an eye out for these restaurants when you travel to Germany.
Some popular dishes you should try when you are in Germany include:
- Bratwurst. Found all over Germany, it is a pork sausage which is normally served with a roll and mustard. They are longer and thinner than the types which are found in the United States
- Currywurst. Popular in and around Berlin, it is a sausage (often a bratwurst) with a curry peper infused ketchup.
- Schnitzel. A thin, tenderized cut of veal which is usually covered in a flour batter and fried.
- Pretzel. A bread type snack which originated in Germany and is locally called a brezel.
- Schweinshaxe. A roasted ham hock. Especially popular in Bavaria.
- Strudel. A layered pastery which is usually a desert. Variants are found all over Central Europe.
- Gluehwein. A spiced heated wine which is often found at Christmas markets.