Germany: Land & people(© Hans Peter Merten/DZT)
The heart of Europe
Pick up a map of Europe and you’ll find Germany right at its heart, surrounded by its nine neighbours. It stretches from the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in the north, to the towering, snow-clad Alps in the south. Some of the largest European rivers – the Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe – flow through Germany. It’s beautiful Bavaria, vibrant Berlin, Black Forest and much more, all at the cross-roads of Europe.
Enlarge image A graffiti from Berlin's famous Eastside gallery (© dpa Bilderdienste) Germany is home to 82 million people – the largest number amongst the 27 nations that make up the European Union. They include roughly 15 million who have come to Germany from other countries. Nearly 90 percent of the people live in cities. Berlin is the capital and the largest city, followed by the port city of Hamburg; then comes Munich, home of football champions Bayern Munich; Cologne is the city of carnivals, while Frankfurt/Main is Germany’s financial capital.
How’s it governed?
Since 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany has been a democratic parliamentary federation made up of 16 Länder (states), each with its own constitution, parliament and government. The German Bundestag (federal parliament – like the Lok Sabha) and the Bundesrat (federal council of delegates from Länder governments – like the Rajya Sabha), also participate in lawmaking. The Basic Law – Germany’s constitution – forms the legal and political foundation of the government.
Believe it or not, German is the most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union. Around 120 million people in Europe have German as their mother tongue – that is one out of four. Apart from this, millions around the world learn German as a foreign language at schools or institutions in their own country – and so could you!
Enlarge image An impression from the Beethovenfest held in Bonn (© Danetzki & Weidner, Kornelia Danetzki) Germany is the country of great classical poets and writers like Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, musicians such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven.
It's also home of the brothers Grimm – who introduced you and me to Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rumpelstiltskin and the big bad wolf. And today, it’s a cool country for creative people practising graphic arts, films or fashion, especially in vibrant Berlin.
Food for thought
What would you eat when you’re in Germany? Even though your favourites such as ‘frankfurt’ers and ‘hamburg’ers are named after German cities, they are not quite what food in Germany is about. Bread is an important part of German food; about 600 main types of breads and 1,200 different types of pastries and rolls are available throughout the country – from the famous Brezn (pretzels) to Bavarian Apfelstrudel (apple strudel).
A variety of meats are also part of German food and there are more than 1,500 different types of sausages. Apart from meats, Germans love variations of the pasta, dumplings, potato dishes and seasonal delicacies such as asparagus. Not to forget the finger-licking desserts, most commonly made with fresh fruit. One of them you must’ve already tasted – the Black Forest Cake from the Black Forest region of the southern German state of Bavaria.
Made in Germany
Enlarge image Nanotech researchers at the Technical University in Berlin (© TU Berlin/Dahl) Germany has the largest economy in the European Union and the fourth largest in the world. Germany is vice-champion when it comes to exporting goods abroad. Stuff ‘made in Germany’ is in huge demand because of their high quality. Germany’s economic strength is also because it’s the “land of ideas”. It boasts more than a hundred Nobel laureates, of which a majority have received the prize for natural sciences.
Among European countries, Germany tops patent registrations for inventions. You’ll find a German innovation around every corner – the modern automobile that you ride with your parents, the chip that drives your computer games, the printing press where your storybooks came from, the MP3 music you dance to, and of course, the toothpaste you MUST use every morning and night!
We’re not just German; we’re also European. Germany is a member of the European Union and one of the six nations that made up the first European community in 1951, which later became the European Union (EU). Right now the European Union has 27 member nations. We use a single currency, the Euro (€), used in many of the EU countries. People in EU can now live and work without a lot of the paperwork that used to be needed. They can travel from Sweden to Sicily without border control. The EU tries to bring all the different member countries closer together while each country remains independent and has their own traditions. This is how I can be both German and European at the same time.
We love the game
Enlarge image Match between Bayern Munich and Arsenal clubs at the Allianz Arena in Munich (© dpa) We Germans are crazy about sports. One in every three citizens belongs to a sports club. Football (Fußball is how we call it) is Germany’s most popular sport – and not just among men; more than a million girls and women play for a club. Germany is three times world and European champion, the German Football Association (DFB) is the largest world-wide, the German Football League Bundesliga is one of Europe’s strongest leagues. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) is the world’s largest sports organisation.
Apart from football, we also love other sports such as gymnastics, tennis, shooting, athletics and handball. That’s the reason why Germany boasts of so many international celebrity sportspersons, such as F1 icon Michael Schumacher and the world champion Sebastian Vettel, former tennis champions Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, or Bayern Munich footballers Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, or Real Madrid champ Mesut Özil.
Germany is also well known as a winter sport nation. The biathlon is a popular winter sport discipline, in which Germany has won more Olympic medals than any other nation. The Garmisch-Partenkirchen region at the foot of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, is one of Germany’s favourite winter sport areas.