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, and 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.
Known for its rich cultural history, Germany has many World Heritage sites and is among the top tourism destinations in the world. Berlin has become the third most visited city destination in Europe. Germany's most visited and popular landmarks include Cologne Cathedral, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Dresden Frauenkirche, Neuschwanstein Castle, Heidelberg Castle, the Wartburg, and Sanssouci Palace. The Europa-Park near Freiburg is Europe's second most popular theme park resort.
Germany is a great power with a strong economy. It is a well-developed country with a high standard of living. It offers social security and a universal health care system, environmental protections, and a tuition-free university education. Germany is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, and the OECD.
Germany has a social market economy with an extremely skilled labor force, a low level of corruption, and an elevated level of innovation.
Germany is part of the European single market that represents more than 450 million consumers. In 2017, the country accounted for 28 percent 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.
The 2011 German Census showed Christianity as the largest religion in Germany, with 66.8 percent identified as Christian, 3.8 percent not being church members, 31.7 percent as Protestants, including members of the Evangelical Church in Germany, which encompasses Lutheran, the free churches, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox believers.
German is the official language. It is one of 24 official languages of the European Union, and one of the three procedural languages of the European Commission. German is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union, with approximately 100 million native speakers.
Recognized native minority languages are Danish, Low German, Low Rhenish, Sorbian, Romany, North Frisian, and Saterland Frisian. The most frequent immigrant languages are Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, Polish, the Balkan languages, and Russian. Germans are typically multilingual, 67 percent of German citizens communicate in at least one foreign language and 27 percent in at least two.
Education in Germany is primarily organized within the individual federal states. Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children three to six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory for at least nine years. Primary education is usually four to six years. Secondary schooling is divided into tracks based on whether students pursue academic or vocational education.
A system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung leads to a skilled qualification that is almost comparable to an academic degree. It allows students in vocational training to learn in a company and in a state-run trade school. This model is reproduced around the world.
Most German universities are public institutions, and students traditionally study without fee payment. The general requirement for university is the Abitur. According to an OECD report in 2014, Germany is the world's third leading destination for international study. The established universities in Germany include some of the oldest in the world, with Heidelberg University (established in 1386) being the oldest. The Humboldt University of Berlin, founded in 1810 by the liberal educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt, became the academic model for many Western universities. In the contemporary era Germany has developed eleven Universities of Excellence.
Significant natural resources in Germany include iron ore, coal, potash, timber, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, and nickel.
Most of Germany has a temperate climate. Winters range from cold in the southern Alps to mild and are generally overcast with limited precipitation, while summers vary from hot and dry to cool and rainy. The northern regions have prevailing westerly winds that bring moist air from the North Sea, moderating the temperature and increasing precipitation. The southeast regions have more extreme temperatures.
The territory of Germany can be divided into two ecoregions: European-Mediterranean montane mixed forests and Northeast-Atlantic shelf marine. As of 2016, 51 percent of Germany's land area is agriculture, 30 percent is forested, and 14 percent is settlements or infrastructure.
Major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular, have shaped culture in German states.
Creative Arts & Philosophy
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. A global opinion poll for the BBC revealed that Germany is recognized for having the most positive influence in the world in 2013 and 2014.
Germany is 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 41 properties in Germany on the World Heritage List. There are numerous public holidays in Germany determined by each state. October 3rd has been a national day since 1990, celebrated as the Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day).
German classical music includes works by some of the world's best known composers. Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Georg Friedrich Händel were influential composers of the Baroque period. Ludwig van Beethoven was a crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras. Carl Maria von Weber, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, and Johannes Brahms were significant Romantic composers. Richard Wagner was known for his operas. Richard Strauss was a leading composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. Karlheinz Stockhausen and Wolfgang Rihm are important composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries.
As of 2013, Germany was the second largest music market in Europe, and fourth largest in the world. German popular music of the 20th and 21st centuries include the movements of Neue Deutsche Welle, pop, Ostrock, heavy metal/rock, punk, pop rock, indie, and schlager pop. German electronic music gained global influence, with Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream pioneering in this genre. DJs and artists of the techno and house music scenes of Germany have become known (e.g. Paul van Dyk, Paul Kalkbrenner, and Scooter).
German painters have influenced western art. Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Younger, Matthias Grünewald, and Lucas Cranach the Elder were important German artists of the Renaissance, Peter Paul Rubens and Johann Baptist Zimmermann of the Baroque, Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Spitzweg of Romanticism, Max Liebermann of Impressionism, and Max Ernst of Surrealism.
Several German art groups formed in the 20th century; Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) influenced the development of expressionism in Munich and Berlin. The New Objectivity arose in response to expressionism during the Weimar Republic. After World War II, broad trends in German art include neo-expressionism and the New Leipzig School.
Architectural contributions from Germany include the Carolingian and Ottonian styles, which were precursors of Romanesque. Brick Gothic is a distinctive medieval style that evolved in Germany. Also in Renaissance and Baroque art, regional and typically German elements evolved (e.g. Weser Renaissance). Vernacular architecture in Germany is often identified by its timber framing (Fachwerk) traditions and varies across regions, and among carpentry styles.
When industrialization spread across Europe, Classicism and a distinctive style of historism developed in Germany, sometimes referred to as Gründerzeit style. Historism is a philosophical and historiographical theory, founded in 19th-century Germany (as Historismus) and especially influential in 19th and 20th century Europe.
Expressionist architecture developed in the 1910s in Germany and influenced Art Deco and other modern styles. Germany was particularly important in the early modernist movement: it is the home of Werkbund initiated by Hermann Muthesius (New Objectivity), and of the Bauhaus movement founded by Walter Gropius. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became one of the world's most renowned architects in the second half of the 20th century. He conceived the glass façade skyscraper. Renowned contemporary architects and offices include Pritzker Prize winners Gottfried Böhm and Frei Otto.
German designers became early leaders of modern product design. The Berlin Fashion Week and the fashion trade fair Bread & Butter are held twice yearly.
German literature traces back to the Middle Ages and the works of writers such as Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach. Known German authors include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and Theodor Fontane.
Folk tales published by the Brothers Grimm popularized German folklore on an international level. The Grimms gathered and codified regional variants of the German language, grounding their work in historical principles; their Deutsches Wörterbuch, or German Dictionary, sometimes called the Grimm dictionary, begin in 1838 and the first volumes were published in 1854.
Influential authors of the 20th century include Gerhart Hauptmann, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass. The German book market is the third largest in the world, after the United States and China. The Frankfurt Book Fair is the most important in the world for international deals and trading, with a tradition spanning over 500 years. The Leipzig Book Fair also retains a major position in Europe.
German philosophy is historically significant: Gottfried Leibniz's contributions to rationalism; the enlightenment philosophy by Immanuel Kant; the establishment of classical German idealism by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling; Arthur Schopenhauer's composition of metaphysical pessimism; the formulation of communist theory by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels; Friedrich Nietzsche's development of perspectivism; Gottlob Frege's contributions to the dawn of analytic philosophy; Martin Heidegger's works on Being; Oswald Spengler's historical philosophy; the development of the Frankfurt School has been particularly influential.
The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Oscar) went to the German production Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) in 1979, to Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) in 2002, and to Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) in 2007. Various Germans won an Oscar for their performances in other films. The annual European Film Awards ceremony is held every other year in Berlin, home of the European Film Academy. The Berlin International Film Festival, known as Berlinale, awarding the Golden Bear and held annually since 1951, is one of the world's leading film festivals. The Lolas are annually awarded in Berlin, at the German Film Awards.