Located in Central Europe, Germany is made up of the North German Plain, the Central German Uplands (Mittelgebirge), and the Southern German Highlands. The Bavarian plateau in the southwest averages 1,600 ft (488 m) above sea level, but it reaches 9,721 ft (2,962 m) in the Zugspitze Mountains, the highest point in the country. Germany's major rivers are the Danube, the Elbe, the Oder, the Weser, and the Rhine.
Eighty million citizens make Germany the most populous country belonging to the European Union. Considered the primary major political and economic power of Europe, Germany also possesses the fourth largest economy in the world.
Bordered by Poland, Denmark, Austria, France, and Switzerland, Germany is also home to a large number of immigrants and claims an ethnic composition of 80 percent German, two percent Polish, five percent Middle Eastern, four percent Turkish, and two percent Asian.
People all over the world are attracted to Germany's high standard of living, comprehensive universal health care and social security system as well as the continued stability of its economy even through the global recession.
With the reunification of East and West Germany in the early 1990s, Berlin became the capital of Germany again while the city of Bonn, the capital of West Germany during the split, gained the unusual status of a federal city (Bundesstadt). Germany is a representative democratic, federal, parliamentary republic with a political system operating under the guidelines described in the 1949 Grundgesetz.
Essential Facts about Germany
- The sixteen states comprising Germany are called Länder, with each state possessing its own constitution.
- In 2002, Germany introduced the euro and also set the monetary policy of the euro according to the regulations issued by the European Central Bank, located in Frankfurt.
- Contributions by Germans to the fields of science, mathematics, and technology cannot be emphasized enough. Brilliant individuals like Einstein, Max Planck, Herman von Helmholtz, Johannes Gutenberg, Gottfried Leibniz and Carl Gauss are just a few German scientists who have supplied the world with famous inventions such as the first automatic digital computer, the printing press and mathematical calculations that have paved the way for modern telecommunications development.
- In Germany, if you need the police, dial 110;if you need an ambulance, dial 112
- Germany is one of the world's most technologically advanced manufacturers of coal, iron, cement, steel, machinery, vehicles and chemicals. It also has large investments in green energy, especially solar power and the use of windmills for electricity.
- Popular tourist attractions in Germany include the Bavarian Alps, the Black Forest, the Rhine Valley and its ancient castles and the capital Berlin, which still exhibits the stark living conditions left over from East German occupation.
Located between the continental climate of Eastern Europe and the oceanic climate of Western Europe, Germany has a temperate seasonal climate moderated by waters from the Gulf Stream called the North Atlantic Drift. On average, most of Germany receives around 30 inches (790 mm) of rain each year which occurs regularly throughout the year. Summers are warm and winters are generally mild, with temperatures reaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) during the summer months and decreasing to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 Celsius) during the winter. Snowfall can be heavy at times, while some winters in Germany may not see any snow.
Religion in Germany
About 60 percent of Germans belong to the Evangelical Church which adheres to the Christian faith. Thirty percent of Christian Germans are Catholics and 30 percent are Protestants. A large percentage--nearly 30 percent--of Germans state they are atheists or agnostics, with most non-religious people living in eastern Germany and larger cities like Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin.
Languages in Germany
German is, of course, the official language of Germany but many Germans are fairly fluent in English as well. In fact, recent research found that 65 percent of Germany's citizens are bi-lingual or possess an adequate, if not perfect, ability to understand and communicate in several languages. This is due to the fact that Germany shares its borders with so many other countries, which facilitates Germans visiting a variety of culturally different regions.
German is not the easiest language to learn and has a few"quirks" that foreign students often find difficult to assimilate and remember to use when writing or speaking German. For example, the first letter of all nouns are capitalized, with nouns divided into masculine (der), feminine (die), and neuter (das) genders. Additionally, the language employs cases concerning article usage which is referred to as the accusative, the dative, the genitive, and the nominative cases.