Germany Country Overview

Germany is a federal state in Central Europe with Berlin as its capital. Three major landscapes can be distinguished: The ice age formed North German lowlands stretches from the coasts of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Harz, Weser Uplands and Teutoburg Forest. This is where the low mountain range begins. To the south it extends to the Swabian Alb and Franconian Alb, its border in the west is the Rhenish Slate Mountains and in the east the Ore Mountains. The Alpine foothills south of the Danube is a young moraine land with large lakes. In the extreme south it is joined by the narrow high mountain strip of the Alps with the Zugspitze (2962 m) as the highest elevation. Almost a third of Germany is covered with forest, mostly secondary forest. Except for the Danube, the largest rivers – Rhine, Weser, Elbe and Oder – flow from south to north. Visit for Europe geography.

Germany lies in the transition area between maritime and continental climates. The winters are mild, the summers rather cool. Precipitation is mostly brought in from the Atlantic by low pressure areas. The season with the highest rainfall is usually summer. The Baltic Sea coast is one of the sunniest areas and the Upper Rhine Plain is one of the warmest. Significant global warming has been noticeable since the 2000s.

With around 83 million residents, Germany is the most populous state in the EU and densely populated in a European comparison. More than a dozen metropolitan areas are spread across the entire state, the largest being the Rhine-Ruhr areain North Rhine-Westphalia with around eleven million residents. The greater Berlin area comprises four and a half million people. Society is aging rapidly; since the 1970s, more people have died than are born. The birth rate is among the lowest in the world. On the other hand, there is growing immigration. A quarter of the population has a migration background. The most important countries of origin are Turkey, Poland and Russia. The largest religious group is made up of Christians, around half are Catholics and Protestants. More than a third of the population is non-denominational. The division of faith since the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation shaped culture, society and politics up to the 20th century.

German history is rooted in the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which brought together the Germanic and Latin-influenced cultural areas under Christian auspices. Since the late Middle Ages, decentralized tendencies have prevailed in the empire, which have their modern counterparts in contemporary federalism.

The standard German language developed from the 16th century. The time of Goethe (1770–1830) was a high point of German literature. At that time, Germany became conscious of being a “cultural nation”. The formation of a nation state did not take place until 1871 (German question). Like literature, German art, German music and German philosophy were formed over the centuries by examining models and tendencies, particularly from Italy, France and the Netherlands. Even wars and conflicts did not affect the exchange until the National Socialist dictatorship (1933-45) drove writers and artists into emigration (exile literature).

The first German democracy, which emerged as the Weimar Republic after the First World War, was unstable and was replaced by the Nazi dictatorship under Hitler in 1933. It unleashed World War II and led to the mass extermination of European Jewry in the Holocaust. Germany divided in the Cold War (1949) belonged to two opposing blocs. German unity could only be restored with the end of the East-West conflict.

Germany is one of the most powerful and prosperous industrialized countries (G 20). Its economy is heavily export-oriented. The leading sectors are the automotive and mechanical engineering as well as the chemical and electrical industries. There are a multitude of medium-sized companies that are world leaders in their field of activity. More than three quarters of the workforce now work in the service sector.

Germany is a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system. Its constitution, the Basic Law, protects basic rights to a special degree and promotes orientation towards the political center (militant democracy). The Chancellor has as head of government a strong position (“chancellor democracy”). Interdependence characterizes the interaction between the federal government and the 16 federal states, which have their own constitutional body, the Bundesrat.

Germany’s weight in foreign policy had grown since German reunification. This can be seen in the increased mediation in international conflicts, for example in eastern Ukraine or in the so-called nuclear dispute with Iran. Relations with the People’s Republic of China became more and more important. Together with France, Germany formed the strongest political force in the European Union. Both states were the “engine” of European integration.

Alpine foothills and Alps

The up to the Danube reaching foothills, one filled with Tertiary sediments edge of the Alps sink, similar to the North German Plain because of the overlap with glacial deposits. As wavy to hilly plateau it inclines from approximately 800 m gently to the north and northeast to the Danube, 400 meters above sea level on the northern edge of the Alps. In front of the edge of the Alps, the Endmoränenkränze the surround würmeiszeitlichen Alpine glaciers the Jungmoränenhügelland with many lakes and bogs. The largest lake is Lake Constance, located in the basin of the former Rhine glacier (German portion 305 km 2). Vast lakes area also Chiemsee, Starnberg, Ammersee, Tegernsee, Kochelsee and Schliersee. In front of the extensive old moraine area (Iller-Lech-Platte, Munich Plain) is the Tertiary hill country cut through by the lower Isar and partly loess-covered, the most fertile part of which is the Dungau between Regensburg and Vilshofen.

The German part of the Alps consists mainly of the Swabian-Upper Bavarian foothills and peripheral Alps. They stagger from the wooded, more rounded Flysch foothills further inwards to the ever higher, occasionally over 2000 m high chains of the limestone foothills with partly rocky peaks. These include the Ammergebirge, Herzogstand and the Benediktenwand on the Kochelsee, the Wendelstein and the Chiemgau Alps. The state border with Austria partially runs in the Northern Limestone Alps: in the Allgäu Alps (up to 2645 m), in the Wetterstein Mountains (Zugspitze 2962 m; highest mountain in Germany) and Karwendel Mountains (up to 2537 m), in the Berchtesgaden Alps (Watzmann 2712 m).

Germany Country Overview