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Germany

Brief history of Germany:
Germany was ruled by the Romans until the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century. The Francs, a Germanic tribe, ruled the area of Germany and France for the next three hundred years until it was divided into East and West Frankish Kingdoms, which roughly correlate to the areas which are now France and Germany.

In an attempt to create a new Roman Empire, The Holy Roman Empire was established in 800 with the blessings of the Pope. An Emperor of the land was elected by dukes, kings or leaders of the kingdoms or territories of Germany and crowned by the Pope in Rome. This first German Empire ended in 1806 when the mighty Napoleon I conquered Germany. The German Confederation, an association of 39 independent states, most of them monarchies, was established in 1815 to fill the void. These states consisted of all of the current German bundeslands, Austria, Belgium, the North of Italy and others. In 1866, the war between Austria and Prussia, two of the largest states in the union, caused the German Confederation to dissolve and left the kingdom of Prussia, the largest and most powerful kingdom in Germany, in control of the much of the area of Germany. In 1870, a coalition of German states, led by Prussia united in war against Napoleon III and defeated France (Franco-Prussian War). In 1871 some German states (Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Württemberg and some other territories) unified to form the (second) German Empire which lasted until 1918 and the end World War I. From 1919-1933 Germany was held together by the Weimar Republic, Germany’s first attempt at a democracy.

The Weimar Republic failed in 1933 when Hitler created the Third German Empire (Third Reich) and led Germany into World War II. After Germany’s surrender, the country as well as the capital city of Berlin were carved into four zones, which were controlled by the four major allies from World War II: the USA, France, Britain and Soviet Union. In the process of dividing up the country the allies formally dissolved what was left of Prussia. In 1949 the western three zones of the country were unified to form West Germany and Soviet controlled eastern zone became East Germany. To stem the growing tide of its citizens fleeing the country, East Germany constructed a giant wall around the divided city of Berlin in 1961. In 1989 the Soviet control of East Germany ended and the Berlin Wall was broken down. In 1990 East and West Germany were reunified and the capital of unified Germany, became once again, Berlin.

Maps
Map of Germany

Map of Europe

Transportation
From inside Europe the most common form of transportation to Germany is airplane or train. Germany has several large discount airlines such as Condor, German Wings and Air Berlin. 

The German train network is excellent and probably the best form of travel within Germany, though train delays are frequent. The high speed ICE trains are particularly quick, comfortable and popular. However, on major lines (for example Cologne to Frankfurt), ICE trains are very frequently full. Hint: if traveling in Germany and the train is full, go to the dining car and order a beer or drink. Dining cars frequently have empty space, even when the train is full. Even if tables seem to be full and you spot an empty seat, ask if it is free. In Germany there is no problem if you share a table with a complete stranger.

General Information

* Capital City: Berlin
* Language: German is the native language, though in urban areas knowledge of English is high particularly amongst younger people. In large cities it is usually no problem to find service people who speak English, however in villages and suburbs English may not be frequently spoken. If you are having difficulties, look for someone who appears to be a student or a business person.
* Size: Germany is a relatively large country. At 357,022 Km2 it is the 63rd largest country in the world. For comparison Germany is smaller than France and Spain but slightly larger than Poland. Germany is about 25% smaller than the US state of California.
* Population: With nearly 82 million people, Germany is the most populated country in Europe.
* Money: The official currency of Germany is the Euro. Other currencies such as the US Dollar are not generally accepted; however exchange booths and ATMs are widely available.
* Visas: US citizens do not require visas only a valid passport. Schengen visas, accepted by many European countries are valid here. For information about visas to Germany, see this list of German Embassies and Consulates.
* Religion: The Christian population of Germany is almost equally divided between Catholic and Protestants with the Catholics more dominant in the south and the Protestants more dominant in the North. About 5% of the population is Muslim, which reflects Germany’s strong ties to Turkey. Germany has a relatively large population of Jewish citizens, most having arrived relatively recently from Russia, but they make up less than 1% of the population.

Key Cities of Interest:

When is the best time to travel to Germany?
Interestingly, Germany's climate is very similar from the north to the south, with little difference in temperature from Hamburg to Munich. German winters are cold with snow and rain and summers are very nice, but rain is common. For most people, the best time to visit Germany will be May through September.

Climate Averages for Berlin, Germany from World Meteorological Organization.
(Values are averages, Temp Max is the average of the highest temps for the month).

    Jan  Feb  Mar Apr  May   June  July Aug   Sept  Oct Nov   Dec
 Sun (hours/day)   2  2 5  6  8  8  8  7  6  4  2  1
 Temp Max C -2  -2  1   4  9  14  14  11  11  6  2
 Temp Min C  2  4  9  13  19  22  24 24   19  13  7  4
 Rain mm  42  33  41  37  54  69  56  58  45  37  43  55
 Rainy Days  10  8  9  8  9  10  8  8  8  8  10  11