Germany is a country with a rich political and cultural history dating back to the advances of the early Romans. As a series of loosely, united small states, the area was consolidated by the 6th century under the Franks when Christianity was introduced, only to break apart again a few hundred years later.
Medieval Germany used a feudal system like much of Europe and was ruled by various dynasties as they came into power including the Saxons and the Holy Roman Empire. By 1701, Prussia became a German state and Germany once again began to consolidate her power. By the time the Napoleonic Wars began in 1803, Germany was ready to stand strong as the Holy Roman Empire was crumbling.
Further conflict in the form of the French-Prussian War led to a unified Germany in terms of social, political and economic endeavors and an enormous sense of nationalism that carried her citizens through WWI and into WWII. Unfortunately, the hideous acts of Hitler and other members of the Nazi party led to the genocide of millions of innocent people in Germany and Eastern Europe. This attempt at ethnic cleansing in order to create a pure German race horrified the rest of the world and, ultimately, led to Germany’s crushing defeat in WWII.
In addition to the humiliation of defeat, Germany and the city of Berlin were divided into sections that were to be supervised by the Allies for 50 years. This decision unintentionally led to the construction of the Berlin Wall and the creation of many Eastern bloc countries.
Thankfully, at the end of the Cold War and with the forward-thinking of politicians like Mikael Gorbachev, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, which led to the reunification of Germany’s two halves into one unified state.
Germany has a lot of neighbors. Nine, in fact. It is bordered by Poland, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, France, Denmark, Luxemburg, and the Czech Republic.
Germany, with over 80 million people in about 140,000 square miles, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. To their credit, they have managed to preserve over 30% of that as untouched forests.
The country of Germany is divided up into 16 states, including the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. Much like the United States, each state has its own rules and regulations, but the national constitution supersedes all.
Germany has many rivers running through it, including the infamous Rhine, but the city of Passau sits at the confluence of three rivers. The city enjoys the banks of the Inn, Ils and Danube rivers. In fact, its nickname is The City of Three Rivers.
- The Autobahn, the infamous freeway system in Germany, deserves its freewheeling reputation - 65% of its length has no speed limit.
- One of the first books printed on a press with movable type was printed in Germany around 1450. Johannes Gutenberg’s revelation changed the printing world forever.
- If you rent an unfurnished apartment in Germany, it means there will be no kitchen either.
- If you hail a taxi cab in Germany, it will probably be a Mercedes Benz.
- Everyone knows that Germans love their beer, but did you know that they also love bread? In fact, there are over 300 different types of bread in Germany. That’s a lot of carbs!
- Dogs can go anywhere in Germany, including pools, stores and restaurants.
- Oktoberfest is held in September. Yeah, we haven’t figured that one out either.
- Cologne Cathedral: This gorgeous architectural landmark is arguably the best example of Gothic style in all of Europe. Construction took almost 700 years to complete, but the Germans like to joke that the English would still be trying to finish.
- The Rhine River: From Koblenz to Bingen, the Rhine River travels through beautiful stretches of undisturbed villages and romantic wine country. Originally a highly-traveled trade route, it is now popular with tourists who want to experience it for themselves.
- Brandenburg Gate: After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this magnificent gate is all that remains. It is celebrated today as a long-lasting symbol of German reunification. In fact, it was actually constructed in the 18th century, long before Berlin was physically divided into two separate cities.
- Neuschwanstein: There are over 150 castles in Germany, with some still occupied by their original owners. Neuschwanstein is often touted as the most beautiful and is even rumored to have inspired Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland.
- Munich: This famous city is a tourist hotspot year round, but come September almost 6 million people arrive for Oktoberfest. In fact, the first celebration of this Bavarian festival was in 1810.
- Rugen Cliffs: Towering high above the Baltic Sea, Jasmund National Park was created to protect the almost 400 foot high cliffs.
- Lindau: Uniquely located at the border of Austria, Switzerland and Germany, this island-city is reached by bridge and is a popular tourist attraction for those who love medieval timber buildings.
How to Get Cash
As a modern country, getting additional cash in Germany is fairly easy. In fact, they are conveniently part of the Euro system. However, there is currently talk of leaving the system in favor of a German dollar.
- ATMs: Like many modern countries around the globe, ATM’s (bankomats) are located everywhere, in banks, retail establishments and hotels. They are convenient and the fees are similar to what one would find in their home country.
- Credit card: You can use your credit cards for both purchases and cash advances in Germany. If you happen to have a Discover card, please be advised that, unlike Visa, Mastercard and AMEX, it is not accepted at many places in Germany.
- Debit cards: Like credit cards, debit cards are used almost everywhere in Germany.
- Traveler’s Checks: Although banks can exchange traveler’s checks for cash, this is rarely done in Germany. In fact, rates can be high for this very reason.
- Currency Exchange: There are exchange booths (geldwechsel) at airports and larger train stations however, be warned, they offer notoriously low exchange rates.
- Banks: You can get additional cash inside most German banks; they are only open Monday through Friday.
- In an emergency, you can also receive fund transfers via Western Union at various locations throughout the country.