Germany is the largest country in Central Europe, is one of the world’s powerhouses and, additionally, very influential in European culture.
Perhaps not as well known, is that Germany has produced many some of Europe’s most celebrated composers, philosophers and poets. Germany is known the world over for its precision (including instruments) but additionally for its old-world charm and “Gemütlichkeit” (coziness) or hospitality.
Germany is faced with a conundrum regarding its ageing populace. Recent history has seen Germany provide significant welfare to all its peoples including the large immigrant numbers that have assisted the country attain its economic standing.
Germany is a member of the Schengen Agreement and therefore has no formalities with countries of similar standing. However, be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. Airports in Europe are divided into “Schengen” and “non-Schengen” sections, which effectively acts like “domestic” and “international” sections elsewhere. If you are arriving from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Customs and Immigration at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks.
Citizens of non-EU/EFTA countries will generally need a passport for entry to a Schengen country and most will need a visa.
German, English, French, Russian or Spanish. If you can’t speak German, English is your best bet.
The overall climate in Germany can be described as temperate. Rain falls throughout the year. The average January daytime temperature is 3°C (38°F) and in July is 22°C (72°F). Extremes commonly reach -10°C (5°F) in winter and 35°C (95°F) during summer.
When to go
The most popular time to visit Germany is during the summer months (May to September). Naturally, snow holidays are also popular (including Christmas). For those that appreciate fewer crowds, a good time to go is January through to April. Berlin, however, rarely has a ‘quite’ period.
The suggested clothing to take is light to medium weight in summer and medium to heavyweight during the winter months.
Germany has 36 UNESCO World Heritage Sites 33 cultural and 3 natural sites.
The top cities to visit are:
Hamburg is a harbour city, yet the mighty Elbe only flows into the North Sea several miles away. This northern landmark is more akin to the cities of Copenhagen and Amsterdam and, In fact, Hamburg has more bridges than Venice or Amsterdam. Cutting edge architecture stands next to the traditional buildings of an era long past. This city is home to the Reeperbahn, the famous red light district, where The Beatles made their name many years ago.
Munich, the third largest city in Germany, personifies the traditional lederhosen clad, rosy cheeked German drinking his beer from a 1 Lt. glass. It is also the home of BMW. Situated north of the Bavarian Alps, Munich plays host to the Oktoberfest and synonymous to the typical German Gemütlichkeit (cosy, heartfelt hospitality). This is a popular year round destination.
Frankfurt is a highly regarded cultural centre as well as being the economic powerhouse of Germany. Hordes of business people flock there to attend business conferences and trade fairs for which the city is host. The city goes to great lengths to advise visitors of its cultural heritage.
Düsseldorf is a very wealthy city which is evident by its many cultural places of interest and galleries. It also has superb restaurants to cater, not only to the local citizenry, but also, to the 100,000 foreigners living there. Most visitors converge on the Altstadt (Old Town), where there are popular bars, nightclubs and restaurants. The Altstadt, through a recent initiative, opens up onto the reclaimed river front.
Bucket & Spade
Germany has 41 blue flag beaches and 111 blue flag marinas dotted along its coastlines. (Blue Flag is an International body that grades beaches (and marinas) to a high standard with facilities nearby – for further details: www.blueflag.org).
- It is the 2nd largest country in the world in terms of exports.
- Germany has the Euro (EUR, €) as its currency.
- What you see is what you pay. Tipping is an expression of gratitude as a service fee has already been included in the bill.
- As a general rule, smoking is banned in restaurants and bars. Some establishments might have a separate room for smokers.
- The legal drinking age is 16 for beer and 18 for spirits.
- Coffee is very popular in Germany and, believe it or not, so is tea.
- Do not, under any circumstances, make any public displays or references to Nazism! You could very easily end up in jail for several years and/or receive a substantial fine (€20,000 +).
- The nationwide emergency number is 112.
- Prostitution is a legal business in Germany.
- Smoking is allowed to over 18’s.
- By the end of 2010, 80% of Germans were ‘online’.