02.07.2017 | Hohenstein - Sachsenring
Location: Western/Central Europe.
Area: 357,021 sq km (137,847 sq miles).
Population: 81,147,265 (2013).
Population Density: 227.3 per sq km.
Government: Federal Republic since 1949.
Geography: Germany borders Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland. The northwest has a coastline on the North Sea while the Baltic coastline in the northeast stretches from the Danish to the Polish border. The country is divided into 16 states (Bundesländer) and has an exceedingly varied landscape. In what was once known as West Germany, the Rhine, Bavaria and the Black Forest stand as the three most famous features, while in the east, the country is lake-studded with undulating lowlands. River basins extend over a large percentage of the region, and some of Europe’s most prominent rivers flow through the country. These include the Elbe, the Danube and the Rhine. The highest point in the country is the 2,962m (9,718ft) peak of Zugspitze Mountain in the Bavarian Alps. Cable cars run to the summit – it can also be climbed.
Language: German is the official language. Regional dialects often differ markedly from standard German. Minority languages include Danish and Sorbic, while some English and French is also spoken.
Religion: Approximately 34% Protestant, 34% Roman Catholic, 4% Muslim, with Jewish and other non-Christian minorities.
Time: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Social Conventions: Handshaking is customary, and it is considered rude to address people by their first name unless invited to do so. Normal courtesies should be observed. Before eating, it is normal to say "gutenAppetit" to the other people at the table to which the correct reply is "danke, gleichfalls" (“Thank you, the same to you”). If you’ve been invited to eat at a German house, it is customary to present the hostess with unwrapped flowers (according to tradition, you should always give an uneven number, and it is worth noting that red roses are exclusively a lover's gift).
In shops and other businesses, courtesy dictates that visitors should utter a greeting such as "gutentag" (or "grüssgott" in Bavaria) before saying what it is that they want; to leave without saying "aufwiedersehen" or "tschüss" can also cause offence. Similarly, when making a telephone call, asking for the person you want to speak to without stating first who you are is impolite. Casual wear is widely acceptable, but more formal dress is required for some restaurants, the opera, theatre, casinos and important social functions. Smoking is prohibited where notified and on public transport and in most public buildings.
Electricity: 230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style round two-pin plugs are in use.
Head of Government: Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2005.
Head of State: President Joachim Gauck since 2012.
Recent History: The territory that we now know as Germany was for many centuries a loose collection of independent (and often warring) states, attaining unification after victory in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871. There followed a period of political, military and economic advancement that placed it as a genuine world power.
Following defeat in World War I, however, the Treaty of Versailles led to the country being divided once more, this time into East and West Germany. An economic crisis led to the emergence of the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party, making Adolf Hitler head of state.
Initial military success in World War II ended in further defeat, although the country’s economy this time recovered more quickly. Reunification took place in October 1990.
From 1995 onwards, a new leadership under would-be chancellor Gerhard Schröder emerged to challenge the long-standing Helmut Kohl Christian Democrat (CDU) government. Schröder came to power in 1998, his reign coming to an end amid confusion following September 2005's inconclusive election. Germany faced weeks of uncertainty resulting in a deal that saw Angela Merkel sworn in as Germany's first female chancellor. She currently faces major economic challenges as a result of the global recession.