Germany

Introduction:

Germany is a country in Central and Western Europe. Covering an area of 357,022 square kilometres (137,847 sq mi), it lies between the Baltic and North seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, and France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands to the west.

Various Germanic tribes have inhabited the northern parts of modern Germany since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented before AD 100. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the center of the Protestant Reformation. After the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, the German Confederation was formed in 1815. In 1871, Germany became a nation state when most of the German states unified into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. After World War I and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the Empire was replaced by the parliamentary Weimar Republic. The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to the establishment of a dictatorship, World War II, and the Holocaust. After the end of World War II in Europe and a period of Allied occupation, two new German states were founded: West Germany and East Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany was a founding member of the European Economic Community and the European Union. The country was reunified on 3 October 1990.

Germany on the Globe

Today, Germany is a federal parliamentary republic led by a chancellor. With 83 million inhabitants of its 16 constituent states, it is the second-most populous country in Europe after Russia, as well as the most populous member state of the European Union. Its capital and largest city is Berlin, and its financial center is Frankfurt; the largest urban area is the Ruhr.

Germany is a great power with a strong economy; it has the largest economy in Europe, the world’s fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the fifth-largest by PPP. As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world’s third-largest exporter and importer of goods. A highly developed country with a very high standard of living, it offers social security and a universal health care system, environmental protections, and a tuition-free university education. Germany is also a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, and the OECD. Known for its long and rich cultural history, Germany has many World Heritage sites and is among the top tourism destinations in the world.

History:

Pre-History:

Ancient humans were present in Germany at least 600,000 years ago. The first non-modern human fossil (the Neanderthal) was discovered in the Neander Valley. Similarly dated evidence of modern humans has been found in the Swabian Jura, including 42,000-year-old flutes which are the oldest musical instruments ever found, the 40,000-year-old Lion Man, and the 35,000-year-old Venus of Hohle Fels.

Nebra Sky Disk

The Nebra sky disk, created during the European Bronze Age, is attributed to a German site.

Germanic Tribes and Frankish Empire:

The Germanic tribes are thought to date from the Nordic Bronze Age or the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From southern Scandinavia and north Germany, they expanded south, east and west, coming into contact with the Celtic, Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes.

Under Augustus, Rome began to invade Germania. In 9 AD, three Roman legions were defeated by Arminius. By 100 AD, when Tacitus wrote Germania, Germanic tribes had settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus), occupying most of modern Germany. However, Baden Württemberg, southern Bavaria, southern Hesse and the western Rhineland had been incorporated into Roman provinces.

Around 260, Germanic peoples broke into Roman-controlled lands. After the invasion of the Huns in 375, and with the decline of Rome from 395, Germanic tribes moved farther southwest: the Franks established the Frankish Kingdom and pushed east to subjugate Saxony and Bavaria, and areas of what is today eastern Germany were inhabited by Western Slavic tribes.

East Francia and Holy Roman Empire:

Charlemagne founded the Carolingian Empire in 800; it was divided in 843 and the Holy Roman Empire emerged from the eastern portion.

East Francia 843

The territory initially known as East Francia stretched from the Rhine in the west to the Elbe River in the east and from the North Sea to the Alps. The Ottonian rulers (919–1024) consolidated several major duchies. In 996 Gregory V became the first German Pope, appointed by his cousin Otto III, whom he shortly after crowned Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy under the Salian emperors (1024–1125), although the emperors lost power through the Investiture controversy.

Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138–1254), German princes encouraged German settlement to the south and east (Ostsiedlung). Members of the Hanseatic League, mostly north German towns, prospered in the expansion of trade. Population declined starting with the Great Famine in 1315, followed by the Black Death of 1348–50. The Golden Bull issued in 1356 provided the constitutional structure of the Empire and codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors.

Johannes Gutenberg introduced moveable-type printing to Europe, laying the basis for the democratization of knowledge. In 1517, Martin Luther incited the Protestant Reformation; the 1555 Peace of Augsburg tolerated the “Evangelical” faith (Lutheranism), but also decreed that the faith of the prince was to be the faith of his subjects (cuius regio, eius religio). From the Cologne War through the Thirty Years’ Wars (1618–1648), religious conflict devastated German lands and significantly reduced the population.

Johannes Gutenberg

The Peace of Westphalia ended religious warfare among the Imperial Estates; their mostly German-speaking rulers were able to choose Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, or the Reformed faith as their official religion. The legal system initiated by a series of Imperial Reforms (approximately 1495–1555) provided for considerable local autonomy and a stronger Imperial Diet. The House of Habsburg held the imperial crown from 1438 until the death of Charles VI in 1740. Following the War of Austrian Succession and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Charles VI’s daughter Maria Theresa ruled as Empress Consort when her husband, Francis I, became Emperor.

From 1740, dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1772, 1793, and 1795, Prussia and Austria, along with the Russian Empire, agreed to the Partitions of Poland. During the period of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic era and the subsequent final meeting of the Imperial Diet, most of the Free Imperial Cities were annexed by dynastic territories; the ecclesiastical territories were secularized and annexed. In 1806 the Imperium was dissolved; France, Russia, Prussia and the Habsburgs (Austria) competed for hegemony in the German states during the Napoleonic Wars.

German Confederation and Empire:

Following the fall of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna founded the German Confederation, a loose league of 39 sovereign states.

German Confederation 1815

The appointment of the Emperor of Austria as the permanent president reflected the Congress’s rejection of Prussia’s rising influence. Disagreement within restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, followed by new measures of repression by Austrian statesman Metternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, furthered economic unity. In light of revolutionary movements in Europe, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, a temporary setback for the movement.

King William I appointed Otto von Bismarck as the Minister President of Prussia in 1862. Bismarck successfully concluded war on Denmark; the subsequent decisive Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation which excluded Austria. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German princes proclaimed the founding of the German Empire in 1871. Prussia was the dominant constituent state of the new empire; the King of Prussia ruled as its Kaiser, and Berlin became its capital.

In the Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Bismarck’s foreign policy as Chancellor of Germany secured Germany’s position as a great nation by forging alliances and avoiding war.

The German Empire from 1871–1918

However, under Wilhelm II, Germany took an imperialistic course, leading to friction with neighboring countries. A dual alliance was created with the multinational realm of Austria-Hungary; the Triple Alliance of 1882 included Italy. Britain, France and Russia also concluded alliances to protect against Habsburg interference with Russian interests in the Balkans or German interference against France. At the Berlin Conference in 1884, Germany claimed several colonies including German East Africa, German South West Africa, Togoland, and Kamerun. Later, Germany further expanded its colonial empire to include holdings in the Pacific and China. In what became known as the “First Genocide of the Twentieth Century”, the colonial government in South West Africa (present-day Namibia) ordered the annihilation of the local Herero and Namaqua peoples, as punishment for an uprising.

The assassination of Austria’s crown prince on 28 June 1914 provided the pretext for the Austrian Empire to attack Serbia and trigger World War I.

Assassination of the Archduke

After four years of warfare, in which approximately two million German soldiers were killed, a general armistice ended the fighting. In the German Revolution (November 1918), Emperor Wilhelm II and the ruling princes abdicated their positions and Germany was declared a federal republic. Germany’s new leadership signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, accepting defeat by the Allies. Germans perceived the treaty as humiliating, which was seen by historians as influential in the rise of Adolf Hitler. Germany lost around 13% of its European territory and ceded all of its colonial possessions in Africa and the South Sea.

Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany:

On 11 August 1919, President Friedrich Ebert signed the democratic Weimar Constitution.

Friedrich Ebert

In the subsequent struggle for power, Communists seized power in Bavaria, but conservative elements elsewhere attempted to overthrow the Republic in the Kapp Putsch. Street fighting in the major industrial centers, the occupation of the Ruhr by Belgian and French troops, and a period of hyperinflation followed. A debt restructuring plan and the creation of a new currency in 1924 ushered in the Golden Twenties, an era of artistic innovation and liberal cultural life.

The worldwide Great Depression hit Germany in 1929. Chancellor Heinrich Brüning’s government pursued a policy of fiscal austerity and deflation which caused unemployment of nearly 30% by 1932. The Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler won a special election in 1932 and Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933. After the Reichstag fire, a decree abrogated basic civil rights and the first Nazi concentration camp opened. The Enabling Act gave Hitler unrestricted legislative power, overriding the constitution; his government established a centralized totalitarian state, withdrew from the League of Nations, and dramatically increased the country’s rearmament. A government-sponsored program for economic renewal focused on public works, the most famous of which was the German autobahns.

Adolf Hitler

 

In 1935, the regime withdrew from the Treaty of Versailles and introduced the Nuremberg Laws which targeted Jews and other minorities. Germany also reacquired control of the Saar in 1935, remilitarised the Rhineland in 1936, annexed Austria in 1938, annexed the Sudetenland in 1938 with the Munich Agreement, and in violation of the agreement occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Kristallnacht saw the burning of synagogues, the destruction of Jewish businesses, and mass arrests of Jewish people.

In August 1939, Hitler’s government negotiated the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact that divided Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II in Europe; Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September. In the spring of 1940, Germany conquered Denmark and Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, forcing the French government to sign an armistice. The British repelled German air attacks in the Battle of Britain in the same year. In 1941, German troops invaded Yugoslavia, Greece and the Soviet Union. By 1942, Germany and other Axis powers controlled most of continental Europe and North Africa, but following the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, the allies’ reconquest of North Africa and invasion of Italy in 1943, German forces suffered repeated military defeats. In 1944, the Soviets pushed into Eastern Europe; the Western allies landed in France and entered Germany despite a final German counteroffensive. Following Hitler’s suicide during the Battle of Berlin, Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, ending World War II in Europe. After World War II, Nazi officials were tried for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials.

German Occupied Europe in 1942

In what later became known as the Holocaust, the German government persecuted minorities, including interning them in concentration and death camps across Europe. In total 17 million were systematically murdered, including 6 million Jews, at least 130,000 Romani, 275,000 persons with disabilities, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses, thousands of homosexuals, and hundreds of thousands of political and religious opponents. Nazi policies in German-occupied countries resulted in the deaths of 2.7 million Poles, 1.3 million Ukrainians, 1 million Belarusians and 3.5 million Soviet war prisoners. German military war casualties have been estimated at 5.3 million, and around 900,000 German civilians died. Around 12 million ethnic Germans were expelled from across Eastern Europe, and Germany lost roughly one-quarter of its pre-war territory.

East and West Germany:

After Nazi Germany surrendered, the Allies partitioned Berlin and Germany’s remaining territory into four occupation zones. The western sectors, controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, were merged on 23 May 1949 to form the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD)); on 7 October 1949, the Soviet Zone became the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)). They were informally known as West Germany and East Germany. East Germany selected East Berlin as its capital, while West Germany chose Bonn as a provisional capital, to emphasise its stance that the two-state solution was temporary.

German Occupation Zones 1947

West Germany was established as a federal parliamentary republic with a “social market economy”. Starting in 1948 West Germany became a major recipient of reconstruction aid under the Marshall Plan. Konrad Adenauer was elected the first Federal Chancellor of Germany in 1949. The country enjoyed prolonged economic growth (Wirtschaftswunder) beginning in the early 1950s. West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community.

East Germany was an Eastern Bloc state under political and military control by the USSR via occupation forces and the Warsaw Pact. Although East Germany claimed to be a democracy, political power was exercised solely by leading members (Politbüro) of the communist-controlled Socialist Unity Party of Germany, supported by the Stasi, an immense secret service. While East German propaganda was based on the benefits of the GDR’s social programs and the alleged threat of a West German invasion, many of its citizens looked to the West for freedom and prosperity. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, prevented East German citizens from escaping to West Germany, becoming a symbol of the Cold War.

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Tensions between East and West Germany were reduced in the late 1960s by Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik. In 1989, Hungary decided to dismantle the Iron Curtain and open its border with Austria, causing the emigration of thousands of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary and Austria. This had devastating effects on the GDR, where regular mass demonstrations received increasing support. In an effort to help retain East Germany as a state, the East German authorities eased border restrictions, but this actually led to an acceleration of the Wende reform process culminating in the Two Plus Four Treaty under which Germany regained full sovereignty. This permitted German reunification on 3 October 1990, with the accession of the five re-established states of the former GDR. The fall of the Wall in 1989 became a symbol of the Fall of Communism, the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, German Reunification and Die Wende.

Reunified Germany and the European Union:

United Germany is considered the enlarged continuation of West Germany so retained its memberships in international organisations. Based on the Berlin/Bonn Act (1994), Berlin again became the capital of Germany, while Bonn obtained the unique status of a Bundesstadt (federal city) retaining some federal ministries. The relocation of the government was completed in 1999, and modernization of the east German economy was scheduled to last until 2019.

Since reunification, Germany has taken a more active role in the European Union, signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, and co-founding the Eurozone. Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban.

Angela Merkel

In the 2005 elections, Angela Merkel became the first female chancellor. In 2009 the German government approved a €50 billion stimulus plan. Among the major German political projects of the early 21st century are the advancement of European integration, the energy transition (Energiewende) for a sustainable energy supply, the “Debt Brake” for balanced budgets, measures to increase the fertility rate (pronatalism), and high-tech strategies for the transition of the German economy, summarized as Industry 4.0. Germany was affected by the European migrant crisis in 2015: the country took in over a million migrants and developed a quota system which redistributed migrants around its federal states.

Geography:

Germany is in Western and Central Europe, bordering Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria to the southeast, and Switzerland to the south-southwest. France, Luxembourg and Belgium are situated to the west, with the Netherlands to the northwest. Germany is also bordered by the North Sea and, at the north-northeast, by the Baltic Sea. German territory covers 357,022 km2 (137,847 sq mi), consisting of 348,672 km2 (134,623 sq mi) of land and 8,350 km2 (3,224 sq mi) of water. It is the seventh largest country by area in Europe and the 62nd largest in the world.

Topographic Map of Germany

Elevation ranges from the mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,963 metres or 9,721 feet) in the south to the shores of the North Sea (Nordsee) in the northwest and the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) in the northeast. The forested uplands of central Germany and the lowlands of northern Germany (lowest point: Wilstermarsch at 3.54 metres or 11.6 feet below sea level) are traversed by such major rivers as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. Significant natural resources include iron ore, coal, potash, timber, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, and nickel.

Economy:

Germany has a social market economy with a highly skilled labor force, a low level of corruption, and a high level of innovation. It is the world’s third largest exporter of goods, and has the largest national economy in Europe which is also the world’s fourth largest by nominal GDP and the fifth by PPP. The service sector contributes approximately 69% of the total GDP, industry 31%, and agriculture 1% as of 2017. The unemployment rate published by Eurostat amounts to 3.2% as of January 2020, which is the fourth-lowest in the EU.

Frankfurt

Germany is part of the European single market which represents more than 450 million consumers. In 2017, the country accounted for 28% of the Eurozone economy according to the International Monetary Fund. Germany introduced the common European currency, the Euro, in 2002. Its monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank, which is headquartered in Frankfurt.

Being home to the modern car, the automotive industry in Germany is regarded as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world, and is the fourth largest by production. The top 10 exports of Germany are vehicles, machinery, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment, basic metals, food products, and rubber and plastics. Germany is one of the largest exporters globally.

Of the world’s 500 largest stock-market-listed companies measured by revenue in 2019, the Fortune Global 500, 29 are headquartered in Germany. 30 major Germany-based companies are included in the DAX, the German stock market index which is operated by Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Well-known international brands include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens, Allianz, Adidas, Porsche, Bosch and Deutsche Telekom. Berlin is a hub for startup companies and has become the leading location for venture capital funded firms in the European Union. Germany is recognised for its large portion of specialised small and medium enterprises, known as the Mittelstand model. These companies represent 48% global market leaders in their segments, labelled Hidden Champions.

Transportation:

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 advisory speed limits are given 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 transport 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.

Cologne–Frankfurt High-Speed Rail Line, Running Parallel to Bundesautobahn 3

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 technically outlawed by a law dating to 1935. Only in 2012 was this law officially amended and thus a long distance bus market has also emerged in Germany since then.

Since German reunification substantial effort has been made to improve and expand transport infrastructure in what was formerly East Germany.

Roads:

The volume of traffic in Germany, especially goods transportation, is at a very high level due to its central location in Europe. In the past few decades, much of the freight traffic shifted from rail to road, which led the Federal Government to introduce a motor toll for trucks in 2005. Individual road usage increased resulting in a relatively high traffic density to other nations. A further increase of traffic is expected in the future.

High-speed vehicular traffic has a long tradition in Germany given that the first freeway (Autobahn) in the world, the AVUS, and the world’s first automobile were developed and built in Germany. Germany possesses one of the most dense road systems of the world. German motorways have no blanket speed limit for light vehicles. However, posted limits are in place on many dangerous or congested stretches as well as where traffic noise or pollution poses a problem (20.8% under static or temporary limits and an average 2.6% under variable traffic control limit applications as of 2015).

Autobahn Network in Germany

The German government has had issues with upkeep of the country’s autobahn network, having had to revamp the Eastern portion’s transport system since the unification of Germany between the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). With that, numerous construction projects have been put on hold in the west, and a vigorous reconstruction has been going on for almost 20 years. However, ever since the European Union formed, an overall streamlining and change of route plans have occurred as faster and more direct links to former Soviet bloc countries now exist and are in the works, with intense co-operation among European countries.

Intercity bus service within Germany fell out of favour as post-war prosperity increased, and became almost extinct when legislation was introduced in the 1980s to protect the national railway. After that market was deregulated in 2012, some 150 new intercity bus lines have been established, leading to a significant shift from rail to bus for long journeys.

The market has since consolidated with Flixbus controlling over 90% of it and also expanding into neighboring countries.

Germany has approximately 650,000 km of roads, of which 231,000 km are non-local roads. The road network is extensively used with nearly 2 trillion km travelled by car in 2005, in comparison to just 70 billion km travelled by rail and 35 billion km travelled by plane.

Three Lane Autobahn

The Autobahn is the German federal highway system. The official German term is Bundesautobahn (plural Bundesautobahnen, abbreviated ‘BAB’), which translates as ‘federal motorway’. Where no local speed limit is posted, the advisory limit (Richtgeschwindigkeit) is 130 km/h. The Autobahn network had a total length of about 12,996 kilometres (8,075 mi) in 2016, which ranks it among the most dense and longest systems in the world. Only federally built controlled-access highways meeting certain construction standards including at least two lanes per direction are called “Bundesautobahn”. They have their own, blue-coloured signs and their own numbering system. All Autobahnen are named by using the capital letter A, followed by a blank and a number (for example A 8).

The main Autobahnen going all across Germany have single digit numbers. Shorter highways of regional importance have double digit numbers (like A 24, connecting Berlin and Hamburg). Very short stretches built for heavy local traffic (for example ring roads or the A 555 from Cologne to Bonn) usually have three digits, where the first digit depends on the region.

East-west routes are usually even-numbered, north-south routes are usually odd-numbered. The numbers of the north-south Autobahnen increase from west to east; that is to say, the more easterly roads are given higher numbers. Similarly, the east-west routes use increasing numbers from north to south.

The autobahns are considered the safest category of German roads: for example, in 2012, while carrying 31% of all motorized road traffic, they only accounted for 11% of Germany’s traffic fatalities.

German autobahns are still toll-free for light vehicles, but on 1 January 2005, a blanket mandatory toll on heavy trucks was introduced.

Bundesautobahn 14 Crosses Leipzig Halle Airport

The national roads in Germany are called Bundesstraßen (federal roads). Their numbers are usually well known to local road users, as they appear (written in black digits on a yellow rectangle with black border) on direction traffic signs and on street maps. A Bundesstraße is often referred to as “B” followed by its number, for example “B1”, one of the main east-west routes. More important routes have lower numbers. Odd numbers are usually applied to north-south oriented roads, and even numbers for east-west routes. Bypass routes are referred to with an appended “a” (alternative) or “n” (new alignment), as in “B 56n”.

Other main public roads are maintained by the Bundesländer (states), called Landesstraße (country road) or Staatsstraße (state road). The numbers of these roads are prefixed with “L”, “S” or “St”, but are usually not seen on direction signs or written on maps. They appear on the kilometre posts on the roadside. Numbers are unique only within one state.

The Landkreise (districts) and municipalities are in charge of the minor roads and streets within villages, towns and cities. These roads have the number prefix “K” indicating a Kreisstraße.

Rail:

Germany features a total of 43,468 km railways, of which at least 19,973 km are electrified (2014).

Rail Routes in Germany

Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) is the major German railway infrastructure and service operator. Though Deutsche Bahn is a private company, the government still holds all shares and therefore Deutsche Bahn can still be called a state-owned company. Since its reformation under private law in 1994, Deutsche Bahn AG (DB AG) no longer publishes details of the tracks it owns; in addition to the DBAG system there are about 280 privately or locally owned railway companies which own an approximate 3,000 km to 4,000 km of the total tracks and use DB tracks in open access.

Railway subsidies amounted to €17.0 billion in 2014 and there are significant differences between the financing of long-distance and short-distance (or local) trains in Germany. While long-distance trains can be run by any railway company, the companies also receive no subsidies from the government. Local trains however are subsidised by the German states, which pay the operating companies to run these trains and indeed in 2013, 59% of the cost of short-distance passenger rail transport was covered by subsidies. This resulted in many private companies offering to run local train services as they can provide cheaper service than the state-owned Deutsche Bahn. Track construction is entirely and track maintenance partly government financed both for long and short range trains. On the other hand, all rail vehicles are charged track access charges by DB Netz which in turn delivers (part of) its profits to the federal budget.

Deutsche Bahn Headquarters in Berlin

High speed rail started in the early 1990s with the introduction of the Inter City Express (ICE) into revenue service after first plans to modernize the rail system had been drawn up under the government of Willy Brandt. While the high speed network is not as dense as those of France or Spain, ICE or slightly slower (max. speed 200 km/h) Intercity (IC) serve most major cities. Several extensions or upgrades to high speed lines are under construction or planned for the near future, some of them after decades of planning.

The fastest high-speed train operated by Deutsche Bahn, the InterCityExpress or ICE connects major German and neighbouring international centres such as Zurich, Vienna, Copenhagen, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. The rail network throughout Germany is extensive and provides excellent service in most areas. On regular lines, at least one train every two hours will call even in the smallest of villages during the day. Nearly all larger metropolitan areas are served by S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Straßenbahn and/or bus networks.

High Speed ICE Train

The German government on 13 February 2018 announced plans to make public transportation free as a means to reduce road traffic and decrease air pollution to EU-mandated levels. The new policy will be put to the test by the end of the year in the cities of Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim. Issues remain concerning the costs of such a move as ticket sales for public transportation constitute a major source of income for cities.

Almost all major metro areas of Germany have suburban rail systems called S-Bahnen (Schnellbahnen). These usually connect larger agglomerations to their suburbs and often other regional towns, although the Rhein-Ruhr S-Bahn connects several large cities. A S-Bahn doesn’t skip stations and runs more frequently than other trains. In Berlin and Hamburg the S-Bahn has a U-Bahn-like service and uses a third rail whereas all other S-Bahn services rely on regular catenary power supply.

Regional Train in Bavaria

Relatively few cities have a full-fledged underground U-Bahn system; S-Bahn (suburban commuter railway) systems are far more common. In some cities the distinction between U-Bahn and S-Bahn systems is blurred, for instance some S-Bahn systems run underground, have frequencies similar to U-Bahn, and form part of the same integrated transport network. A larger number of cities has upgraded their tramways to light rail standards. These systems are called Stadtbahn (not to be confused with S-Bahn), on main line rails.

Cities with U-Bahn systems are:

Berlin (U-Bahn)
Hamburg (U-Bahn)
Munich (U-Bahn)
Nuremberg/Fürth (U-Bahn)

Munich U Bahn Map

Germany was among the first countries to have electric street – running railways and Berlin has one of the longest tram networks in the world. Many West German cities abandoned their previous tram systems in the 1960s and 1970s while others upgraded them to “Stadtbahn” (~light rail) standard, often including underground sections. In the East, most cities retained or even expanded their tram systems and since reunification a trend towards new tram construction can be observed in most of the country. Today the only major German city without a tram or light rail system is Hamburg. Tram-train systems like the Karlsruhe model first came to prominence in Germany in the early 1990s and are implemented or discussed in several cities, providing coverage far into the rural areas surrounding cities.

Air:

Short distances and the extensive network of motorways and railways make airplanes uncompetitive for travel within Germany. Only about 1% of all distance travelled was by plane in 2002. But due to a decline in prices with the introduction of low-fares airlines, domestic air travel is becoming more attractive. In 2013 Germany had the fifth largest passenger air market in the world with 105,016,346 passengers. However, the advent of new faster rail lines often leads to cuts in service by the airlines or even total abandonment of routes like Frankfurt-Cologne, Berlin-Hannover or Berlin-Hamburg.

Lufthansa from Munich

Germany’s largest airline is Lufthansa, which was privatised in the 1990s. Lufthansa also operates two regional subsidiaries under the Lufthansa Regional brand and a low-cost subsidiary, Eurowings, which operates independently. Lufthansa flies a dense network of domestic, European and intercontinental routes. Germany’s second largest airline was Air Berlin, which also operated a network of domestic and European destinations with a focus on leisure routes as well as some long-haul services. Air Berlin declared bankruptcy in 2017 with the last flight under its own name in October of that year.

Charter and leisure carriers include Condor, TUIfly, SunExpress Deutschland, MHS Aviation and Germania. Major German cargo operators are Lufthansa Cargo, European Air Transport Leipzig (which is a subsidiary of DHL) and AeroLogic (which is jointly owned by DHL and Lufthansa Cargo).

Frankfurt Airport is Germany’s largest airport, a major transportation hub in Europe and the world’s twelfth busiest airport. It is one of the airports with the largest number of international destinations served worldwide. Depending on whether total passengers, flights or cargo traffic are used as a measure, it ranks first, second or third in Europe alongside London Heathrow Airport and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. Germany’s second biggest international airport is Munich Airport followed by Düsseldorf Airport.

Frankfurt Airport

There are several more scheduled passenger airports throughout Germany, mainly serving European metropolitan and leisure destinations. Intercontinental long-haul routes are operated to and from the airports in Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Berlin-Tegel, Cologne/Bonn, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport is expected to become the third largest German airport by annual passengers once it opens, serving as single airport for Berlin. Originally planned to be completed in 2011, the new airport has been delayed several times due to poor construction management and technical difficulties. As of September 2014, it is not yet known when the new airport will become operational. In 2017 it was announced that the airport wouldn’t open before 2019. In the same year a non-binding referendum to keep Tegel Airport open even after the new airport opens was passed by Berlin voters.

Flag of Germany:

The flag of Germany or German flag is a tricolor consisting of three equal horizontal bands displaying the national colors of Germany: black, red, and gold. The flag was first adopted as the national flag of modern Germany in 1919, during the Weimar Republic, until 1933.

Flag of Germany

Since the mid-19th century, Germany has two competing traditions of national colors, black-red-gold and black-white-red. Black-red-gold were the colors of the 1848 Revolutions, the Weimar Republic of 1919–1933 and the Federal Republic (since 1949). They were also adopted by the German Democratic Republic (1949–1990), albeit, since 1959, with an additional (‘socialist’) coat of arms.

The colors black-white-red appeared for the first time only in 1867, in the constitution of the North German Confederation. This nation state for Prussia and other north and central German states was expanded to the south German states in 1870–71, under the name German Empire. It kept these colors until the revolution of 1918–19. Thereafter, black-white-red became a symbol of the political right. The national socialists in 1933 re-established these colors along with the party’s own swastika flag. After World War II, black-white-red was still used by some conservative groups or by groups of the far right – as it is not forbidden, unlike proper national socialist symbols.

Black-red-gold is the official flag of the Federal Republic of Germany. As an official symbol of the constitutional order, it is protected against defamation. According to §90 of the German penal code, the consequences are a fine or imprisonment up to five years.

Federal Agencies Flag of Germany

The German association with the colors black, red, and gold surfaced in the radical 1840s, when the black-red-gold flag was used to symbolize the movement against the Conservative European Order that was established after Napoleon’s defeat.

There are many theories in circulation regarding the origins of the color scheme used in the 1848 flag. It has been proposed that the colors were those of the Jena Students’ League (Jenaer Burschenschaft), one of the radically minded Burschenschaften banned by Metternich in the Carlsbad Decrees; the colors are mentioned in their canonical order in the seventh verse of August Daniel von Binzer’s student song Zur Auflösung der Jenaer Burschenschaft (“On the Dissolution of the Jena Students’ League”) quoted by Johannes Brahms in his Academic Festival Overture. Another claim goes back to the uniforms (mainly black with red facings and gold buttons) of the Lützow Free Corps, comprising mostly university students and formed during the struggle against the occupying forces of Napoleon. Whatever the true explanation, these colors soon came to be regarded as the national colors of Germany during this brief period, and especially after their reintroduction during the Weimar period, they have become synonymous with liberalism in general. The colors also appear in the medieval Reichsadler.

Common Unofficial Flag of Germany

A very detailed historical review of the flags of Germany is available elsewhere.

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