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Germany Facts

 

 

Map of Germany

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Flag of Germany

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Germany has the largest population of any country in western Europe and also the largest economy. Despite its long history, the nation of Germany is one of the newest in Europe, much younger than the United States of America.

Until being unified as Prussia in 1871, the area we now call Germany was a quiltwork of many small kingdoms, duchies and principalities. That is one reason that even today, Germans tend to take their identity more from their local region, dialect and traditions and less from any sense of national patriotism.

Official Name: Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BRD (Federal Republic of Germany, FRG)

Currency

The Deutsche Mark (DM) was the primary currency of Germany until 2002, when it was replaced by the Euro. Germany won’t accept Deutsche Marks as valid currency any longer, but you can exchange them into Euros at Bundesbank (the German Central Bank) branches or by mail. Otherwise, no other currencies are widely accepted across Germany.

Government: Federal republic; parliamentary democracy with two legislative bodies: the Bundestag (lower house of representatives) and the Bundesrat (upper house); members of the Bundestag serve a term of four years. About half are elected by direct mandate (representing a specific district), while the others are “listed candidates” who are elected in a “second vote” system in which voters also select a second choice. Members of the Bundesrat are selected by the 16 state (Bundesland) parliaments.

Chancellor (Bundeskanzlerin): Angela Merkel (since 2005)

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The German office of chancellor is similar to that of a prime minister in other parliamentary systems of government. The chancellor is chosen by the members of the Bundestag following a national election.

President (Bundespräsident): Joachim Gauck (sworn in on March 18, 2012),

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The office of German president is a largely ceremonial position with no political power. The president normally serves a term of five years (max. 2 terms). He or she is elected by a special body made up of members of the Bundestag, state parliament (Landtag) delegates and public figures.

Size: 137,847 sq mi (357,021 sq km), slightly smaller than the US state of Montana (145,552 sq mi)

Population80,681,358 (2016)

Capital City: Berlin (since Oct. 3, 1990), Bonn (West Germany, 1949-1990)

National Holiday: October 3, Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit), since 1990 – More: Other German holidays

Largest Cities: Berlin 3.3 million, Hamburg 1.7 million, Munich (München) 1.2 million, Cologne (Köln) 1.0 million, Frankfurt am Main 648,000, Essen 588,800, Dortmund 587,600, Stuttgart 581,100, Düsseldorf 568,900, Bremen 527,900, Hanover (Hannover) 516,300, Duisburg 513,400.

Geography

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. Germany is about the size of Montana.

Climate

Most of Germany has a temperate seasonal climate dominated by humid westerly winds. The country is situated in between the oceanic Western European and the continental Eastern European climate. The climate is moderated by the North Atlantic Drift, the northern extension of the Gulf Stream. This warmer water affects the areas bordering the North Sea; consequently in the northwest and the north the climate is oceanic. Germany gets an average of 789 mm (31 in) of precipitation per year; there is no consistent dry season. Winters are mild and summers tend to be warm: temperatures can exceed 30 °C (86 °F).

The east has a more continental climate: winters can be very cold and summers very warm, and longer dry periods can occur. Central and southern Germany are transition regions which vary from moderately oceanic to continental. In addition to the maritime and continental climates that predominate over most of the country, the Alpine regions in the extreme south and, to a lesser degree, some areas of the Central German Uplands have a mountain climate, with lower temperatures and more precipitation.

Economy of Germany

Germany is the largest national economy in Europe, the fourth-largest by nominal GDP in the world, and fifth by GDP (PPP). The country is a founding member of the European Union and the Eurozone. The economic model of Germany is based on the concept of the social market economy.

In 2014, Germany recorded the highest trade surplus in the world worth $285 billion, making it the biggest capital exporter globally. Germany is the third largest exporter in the world with 1.13 trillion euros ($1.28 trillion) in goods and services exported in 2014. The service sector contributes around 70% of the total GDP, industry 29.1%, and agriculture 0.9%. Exports account for 41% of national output. The top 10 exports of Germany are vehicles, machineries, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipments, pharmaceuticals, transport equipments, basic metals, food products, and rubber and plastics.

Germany is rich in timber, iron ore, potash, salt, uranium, nickel, copper and natural gas. Energy in Germany is sourced predominantly by fossil fuels (50%), followed by nuclear power second, then gas, wind, biomass (wood and biofuels), hydro and solar. Germany is the first major industrialized nation to commit to the renewable energy transition called Energiewende. Germany is the leading producer of wind turbines in the world. Renewables now produce over 27% of electricity consumed in Germany.

99 percent of all German companies belong to the German “Mittelstand,” small and medium-sized enterprises, which are mostly family-owned. Of the world’s 2000 largest publicly listed companies measured by revenue, the Fortune Global 2000, 53 are headquartered in Germany, with the Top 10 being Volkswagen, Allianz, Daimler, BMW, Siemens, BASF, Munich Re, E.ON, Bayer, and RWE.

Germany is the world’s top location for trade fairs. Around two thirds of the world’s leading trade fairs take place in Germany. The largest annual international trade fairs and congresses are held in several German cities such as Hanover, Frankfurt, Cologne and Düsseldorf.

Transport in Germany

As a densely populated country in a central location in Europe and with a developed economy, Germany has a dense and modern transport infrastructure.

The first highway system to have been built, the extensive German Autobahn network famously has no general speed limit for light vehicles (although posted speed limits are in force in most sections today, and there is a blanket 80 km/h limit for trucks). The country’s most important waterway is the river Rhine. The largest port is that of Hamburg. Frankfurt Airport is a major international airport and European transportation hub. Air travel is used for greater distances within Germany but faces competition from the state-owned Deutsche Bahn’s rail network. High-speed trains called ICE connect cities for passenger travel with speeds up to 300 km/h. Many German cities have rapid transit systems and public transport is available in most areas. Buses have historically only played a marginal role in long distance passenger service, as all routes directly competing with rail services were in essence outlawed by a law dating to 1935. Only in 2012 was this law changed and thus a long distance bus market has also emerged in Germany since then.

Since German reunification substantial efforts have been necessary to improve and expand the transportation infrastructure in what had previously been East Germany.

Science and technology

Germany’s achievements in the sciences have been significant, and research and development efforts form an integral part of the economy. The Nobel Prize has been awarded to 104 German laureates. In the beginning of the 20th century, German laureates had more awards than those of any other nation, especially in the sciences (physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine).

Notable German physicists before the 20th century include Hermann von Helmholtz, Joseph von Fraunhofer and Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, among others. Albert Einstein introduced the relativity theories for light and gravity in 1905 and 1915 respectively. Along with Max Planck, he was instrumental in the introduction of quantum mechanics, in which Werner Heisenberg and Max Born later made major contributions. Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays. Otto Hahn was a pioneer in the fields of radiochemistry and discovered nuclear fission, while Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch were founders of microbiology. Numerous mathematicians were born in Germany, including Carl Friedrich Gauss, David Hilbert, Bernhard Riemann, Gottfried Leibniz, Karl Weierstrass, Hermann Weyl and Felix Klein.

Germany has been the home of many famous inventors and engineers, including Hans Geiger, the creator of the Geiger counter; and Konrad Zuse, who built the first fully automatic digital computer. Such German inventors, engineers and industrialists as Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, Otto Lilienthal, Gottlieb Daimler, Rudolf Diesel, Hugo Junkers and Karl Benz helped shape modern automotive and air transportation technology. German institutions like the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are the largest contributor to ESA. Aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun developed the first space rocket at Peenemünde and later on was a prominent member of NASA and developed the Saturn V Moon rocket. Heinrich Rudolf Hertz’s work in the domain of electromagnetic radiation was pivotal to the development of modern telecommunication.

Research institutions in Germany include the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association and the Fraunhofer Society. The Wendelstein 7-X in Greifswald hosts a facility in the research of fusion power for instance. The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is granted to ten scientists and academics every year. With a maximum of €2.5 million per award it is one of highest endowed research prizes in the world.

Health

Germany’s system of hospices, called spitals, dates from medieval times, and today, Germany has the world’s oldest universal health care system, dating from Bismarck’s social legislation of the 1880s, Since the 1880s, reforms and provisions have ensured a balanced health care system. Currently the population is covered by a health insurance plan provided by statute, with criteria allowing some groups to opt for a private health insurance contract. According to the World Health Organization, Germany’s health care system was 77% government-funded and 23% privately funded as of 2013. In 2005, Germany spent 11% of its GDP on health care. Germany ranked 20th in the world in life expectancy with 77 years for men and 82 years for women, and it had a very low infant mortality rate (4 per 1,000 live births).

In 2010, the principal cause of death was cardiovascular disease, at 41%, followed by malignant tumours, at 26%. In 2008, about 82,000 Germans had been infected with HIV/AIDS and 26,000 had died from the disease (cumulatively, since 1982). According to a 2005 survey, 27% of German adults are smokers. Obesity in Germany has been increasingly cited as a major health issue. A 2007 study shows Germany has the highest number of overweight people in Europe.

Culture

Culture in German states has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular. Historically Germany has been called Das Land der Dichter und Denker (“the land of poets and thinkers”), because of the major role its writers and philosophers have played in the development of Western thought.

Germany is well known for such folk festival traditions as Oktoberfest and Christmas customs, which include Advent wreaths, Christmas pageants, Christmas trees, Stollen cakes, and other practices. As of 2016 UNESCO inscribed 40 properties in Germany on the World Heritage List. There are a number of public holidays in Germany determined by each state; 3 October has been a national day of Germany since 1990, celebrated as the Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day).

In the 21st century Berlin has emerged as a major international creative centre. According to the Anholt–GfK Nation Brands Index, in 2014 Germany was the world’s most respected nation among 50 countries (ahead of US, UK, and France).  A global opinion poll for the BBC revealed that Germany is recognised for having the most positive influence in the world in 2013 and 2014.

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