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The Germanic people go all the way back to the Nordic Bronze Age or the Pre-Roman Iron Age, located in the far north of modern-day Germany and Scandinavia. In 843, Germany emerged as a separate entity from the Frankish empire. German Territories became the central part of the Holy Roman Empire in 962, and King Otto I of Germany became Roman emperor.
In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was abolished by Francis II, who then became emperor of Austria. Germany was reunified with the leadership of Otto von Bismarck in 1871. The government had an elected national parliament, the Reichstag, and a Kaiser, or emperor, who was very powerful. In 1888, when William II became emperor, Germany began its colonial expansion and military strengthening.
From 1914 to 1918, Germany played a major role in World War I, signing an armistice after their defeat in 1918, and Emperor William II was exiled. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 forced Germany to give back its colonies and pay reparations from the war. The same year, the Weimar Republic was formed with a new constitution, and during its first years, the country struggled economically.
In 1923, Germany saw the rise of Adolf Hitler, who headed the National Socialist German Workers Party. After years of unemployment and depression in Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Hitler became chancellor in 1933, soon proclaiming the Third Reich in 1934. During this time, the persecution of Jews began, sometimes depriving them of citizenship. From 1939 to 1945, Germany played a central role in World War II. The genocide of millions of people (especially targeted groups like Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, and the disabled) occurred from 1942 to 1945, now known as the Holocaust. Germany was defeated in 1945, and the Allied Nations then divided and occupied the country. The US, French, and British divided West Germany among themselves into thirds, along with West Berlin. The western half of Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany, while the Soviets controlled the east, which they turned into the communist German Democratic Republic. The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961, physically dividing the two halves of the city.
The Berlin Wall was finally torn down in 1989, and Germany began to reunify for the second time in 1990, with Berlin as the capital. The Allied and Russian forces remained in Germany until 1994.
In 2002, Germany adopted the Euro as their currency, replacing the Deutsche Mark (DM). Like much of the rest of the world, Germany faced an economic recession from around 2008 to 2010.
Germany is located in western and central Europe, and is bordered by nine countries: Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The North Sea and Baltic Sea border Germany in the north. With a total area of 357,021 square kilometers, Germany is the seventh largest country in Europe by area.
Major geographic features of Germany include the Alps, where glaciers can be found, forested uplands in areas like central Germany, the Bavarian Forest and Black Forest of southern Germany, and the low-lands of northern Germany. The major rivers in Germany include the Rhine, Danube, and Elbe.
Germany is a federal parliamentary republic, with the president as the head of state, at the highest level of government. The second highest official is the President of the Bundestag, or parliament, who is elected by the Bundestag. The next level official is the chancellor, whose role is similar to that of a prime minister.
Germany is divided into sixteen states, or lands, each with its own constitution. These states are fairly autonomous, and are subdivided in different ways because of their variations in size. Berlin and Hamburg are city-states that are further divided into boroughs, while Bremen is a city-state that is split into two districts.
The subdivisions of the states can be either area associations, government districts, administrative districts, offices, or municipalities. In all, Germany has 403 districts on the municipal level: 301 rural districts and 102 urban districts.
There are many places for tourists to visit throughout Germany, and options for every type of traveler. From the big cities, like Berlin and Hamburg, which have both modern and historical landmarks for sightseeing, to the many castles, the Black Forest, which is the setting for most of the fairy tales we know today, Germany offers a variety of travel options. With such a long, storied history, there are many historical monuments and destinations within Germany, like the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gates in Berlin. Munich offers great cultural experiences, beautiful architecture, natural beauty, and the world famous Oktoberfest event in the fall. Dresden, situated along the Elbe River, offers great landscapes and cathedrals and other historical buildings.
Aside from the many famous landmarks and monuments that are available in Germany, vibrant, unique cultures with their own culinary and musical specialties are found in each of the regions. Known for their liberal drinking laws and love for beer, Germany has a strong nightlife in several of its major cities like Berlin and Hamburg.
Education in Germany is handled at the state level, thus each state has its own system. The school system begins with Kindergarten, which is optional, and is provided for children aged three to six. This is followed by Grundschule, or primary school from six to either ten or twelve.
Germany has a few types of secondary schools which vary according to state. Gymnasium is a college-preparatory high school, which ends after grades twelve or thirteen. Realschule is for intermediate students, and finishes after tenth grade. Hauptschule prepares students for a vocational education, finishing after ninth or tenth grade. One path for Hauptschule can be a path leading to Realschule. Another type of school is Gesamtschule, which is a comprehensive school that uses a combination of approaches. A reform movement in the 1960s sought to unify secondary education to make them all Gesamtschule.
Those on the university-track, who have finished Gymnasium, are eligible for higher education. The universities in Germany are usually public schools with free or low-cost tuition. The university system is well regarded, with international recognition. Students on the other tracks can move on to an apprenticeship or vocational school. Dual education programs are available, which are vocational training courses alongside general education.
Beer is the national alcoholic drink of Germany - German beer consumption was about 143 liters per person in 2014.
There are about 1,300 beer breweries in Germany.
- Germany is the most populous member state in the EU.
- Germany has the largest economy in the EU and the fourth largest economy in the world
- In 1957, Germany was a founding member of the European Community, the precursor to the EU.
- The most common surname in Germany is Muller.
- Oktoberfest actually begins in September.
- The first printed book was in German.
Last Updated on: February 10, 2016
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