Germany

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Germany

Ötlingen - Panoramaansicht klein banner.jpg

Contents

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Capital Berlin
Currency Euro (€)
Population 80.4 million (31 Dec 2011)
Country code +49
Time zone UTC +1

The largest country in Central Europe and most populous EU state is Germany (German: Deutschland), officially the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It's bordered to the north by Denmark, to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland, and to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Germany is a federation of 16 states (each called a "Land" in German, german plural: Länder), roughly corresponding to regions with their own distinct and unique cultures. Germany is one of the most influential nations in European culture, and one of the world's main economic powers. Known around the world for its precision engineering and high-tech products, it is equally admired by visitors for its old-world charm and "Gemütlichkeit" (cosiness) or hospitality. Discard any perceptions of Germany as simply homogeneous and a country of surprising regional diversity awaits.

Gutenfels Castle above the Rhine

Understand[edit]

History[edit]

Roman Empire[edit]

Reconstruction of ancient Roman fort just south of the Limes Germanicus at Saalburg

In the first century A.D., after a series of military campaigns, the Romans were able to conquer what is now most of western and southern Germany from the Germanic and Celtic tribes living there. The limits of the Roman empire were marked by the "Limes". The section separating the empire from the Germanic tribes (Limes Germanicus) was 568 km in length stretching from the mouth of the Rhine to the Danube near Regensburg. Sections of the raised bank can still be seen and walked along; a notable example is by the reconstructed Roman fort of Saalburg near Bad Homburg. However in Roman times the Limes were anything but a rigid border and trade and occasional Roman military expeditions influenced most of what is now Germany up to at least the fourth century AD. Several cities that are still important in Germany today were founded by the Romans, including Mainz, Wiesbaden, Cologne and Bonn. Baden-Baden's springs were also much appreciated by the Romans, who built baths there whose remains can be visited. The most impressive Roman remains in Germany, and in some cases still used buildings, can be found in Trier, the oldest German city. These include: the Porta Nigra, the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps; the Basilica of Constantine; Roman baths; and the Trier Amphitheatre.

The Holy Roman Empire and the Middle Ages[edit]

Aachen Cathedral - Carolingian Octagon
Weavers guild house, Augsburg

Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was dubbed the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by the Pope in 800 A.D. He is often associated with France, but his realm was vast; his capital was in Aix la Chapelle, now known as Aachen, and he was also the founder of Worms. Remains of Charlemagne's winter imperial palace (the Kaiserpfalz) can also be seen in the town of Ingelheim. The roots of modern German history and culture date back to the post-Carolingian Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

Starting in the early Middle Ages, Germany started to split into hundreds of small states, with strong regional differences that endure to this day, e.g. in Bavaria. During this period the power of local princes and bishops increased, their legacy being the many spectacular castles and palaces like the Castle Wartburg in Eisenach, Thuringia. From the 1200s, trade with the Baltic area gave rise to the Hanseatic League and rich city states such as Lübeck and Hamburg. Other cities also came to prominence from inland trade routes, such as Leipzig, Nuremberg and Cologne.

As German society gradually changed from having a feudal structure, in which the nobles and church were the two poles of power and wealth and labour was performed by masses of serfs, to a mercantilist system, guilds of craftsman were established and became a major factor in German economics and society. Some mediaeval guild halls are still standing and can be visited today. This period also saw the rise of banking families influencing the growth of cities such as Augsburg.

In the middle ages and early modern times the Holy Roman Empire (most of which is today Germany and parts of surrounding countries) consisted of some 2000 semi-independent territories that were all in more or less technincal subordination to the emperor. While some petty dukedoms were not much more than a couple of hamlets, important cities gained the status of Reichstadt (or Reichstädte in plural) that made them basically city-states subject only to the emperor himself. While most of those have lost their political and economic importance by now their former wealth can still be seen in places like Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Nördlingen.

Early modern Germany[edit]

Wartburg, Eisenach, founded in 1068. Martin Luther stayed at the castle for safety, 1521-1522.

A period of religious reform and scientific discovery was marked by the 1517 publication of Martin Luther's 95 Theses in Wittenberg, which started the Protestant Reformation. The Holy Empire became split between the Catholics and Protestants, while regional powers emerged out of the more unified territories of Catholic Bavaria and Protestant Saxony and Brandenburg (later known as Prussia).

The rulers of the more affluent duchies and kingdoms of the German Empire supported the development of arts and sciences, which led to prolific creations in that field, like the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, who was employed by the Elector of Saxony. Or the works of Goethe and Schiller who both had government positions in Weimar during their most productive years as writers. Notable scientists included Daniel Fahrenheit, Alexander von Humboldt, Carl Wilhelm "hard luck" Scheele and, in mathematics, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz made major advancements in both Leipzig and Hannover.

During the baroque period in arts and architecture, many of the German rulers created stately royal residences and rebuilt their capital cities to reflect their might and taste. Splendid creations of that period include Dresden and Potsdam.

Imperial Germany and the Weimar Republic[edit]

Deutsches Eck (German corner) in Koblenz, where the Moselle joins the Rhine; with equestrian statue of Emperor William I

The Napoleonic ended the last semblance of a German state when Roman-German Emperor Franz II decided to step down in 1806. It wasn't until 1871, when a large number of previously independent German kingdoms united under Prussian leadership that a new, more centralized (second) German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) would be formed. As barriers to trade gradually fell, Germany found itself a hub of the later period of Industrial Revolution and established itself as a major industrial power. During this period, major companies were founded, including some that survive to this day, and technological innovation took place in various fields, highlighted by the creation of the automobile by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler in Baden-Württemberg.

The empire ended in 1918 when Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate the throne at the time of Germany's defeat in World War I (1914–18). There followed the short-lived and ill-fated Weimar Republic, which tried to completely establish a liberal, democratic regime.

However, the young republic was plagued with massive economic problems stemming from the war (such as the 1923 hyperinflation), in particular due to the massive amounts of reparations that Germany had to pay to the Allies as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, as well as disgrace for a humiliating defeat in the First World War. As a result, when the Great Depression hit, Germany's economy was crippled and the governments deflationary policy only worsened the situation and this allowed strong anti-democratic forces to take advantage of the inherent organizational problems of the Weimar Constitution. The Nazis were able to seize control by winning a large minority of the votes of disillusioned German citizens seeking a change of course and then using their position as the largest party in the Reichstag to paralyze governmental business and eventually muscle their way into absolute power, aided by then 84 year old president Hindenburg (a World War I general) who was convinced by his conservative advisors that Hitler was not going to do much damage in a cabinet full of old-style conservatives and reactionaries.

Hitler and Nazi Germany[edit]

The year 1933 witnessed the rise to power of the nationalistic and racist National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party and its Führer, Adolf Hitler. Under the Nazi dictatorship, democratic institutions were dismantled and the police state was enhanced. Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, handicapped people, homosexuals, socialists, communists, unionists and other groups not fitting into the Nazis' vision of a Greater Germany faced persecution, and were ultimately enslaved or murdered in death camps. Europe's Jews and Gypsies were marked for total extermination. The site of the first Nazi concentration camp in Dachau as well as several others is now a memorial.

Wewelsburg (near Dortmund), was reconstructed under Nazi rule, used by SS leaders and expanded with an SS cult site; it is now a youth hostel with historical museum and a memorial for concentration camp prisoners

Hitler's militaristic ambitions to create a new (third) German Empire in Central and Eastern Europe led to the Second World War, which Nazi Germany ultimately lost and which left a solemn mark on the continent and Germany in particular. Due to the two previous "German empires" the Nazi-era is often referred to in German as "drittes Reich" (third empire) among other designations.

In the later phase of the war, Allied bomber raids brought destruction to nearly every larger German city (as the German airforce had done to Amsterdam, Warsaw, London and Coventry in the early stages of the war). The occupied country lost most of its eastern territories and was faced with a major refugee crisis, with millions of Germans flooding westward into what remained of Germany, as well as from other countries where significant German minorities were escaping the military and political influence of the victorious Soviet Union.

Post-World War II[edit]

Bonn's Haus der Geschichte (House of History) about the history of the Federal Republic, with a Mercedes car used by Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war chancellor

After the devastating defeat in World War II (1939–45), Germany was divided into four sectors, controlled by British, French, Soviet and US forces. The UK and the US decided to merge their sectors, followed by the French. With the beginning of the Cold War, Germany divided into an eastern part under Soviet control and a western part which was controlled directly by the Western Allies. The western part was transformed into the Federal Republic of Germany, a democratic country with Bonn as the de facto capital, which was often referred to as West Germany.

The Soviet-controlled zone became the communist/authoritarian Soviet-style German Democratic Republic (GDR), commonly called East Germany. This encompasses the present-day Länder of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Berlin, which was geographically left in East Germany, had a special status as it was divided among the Soviets and the West, with the eastern part serving as the capital of the GDR and the western sectors of Berlin (West Berlin) was de facto an exclave of the Federal Republic.

The fates of East and West Germany differed markedly, especially when it comes to economic development. Thanks to the Western aid, the economy and industrial base was quickly rebuilt, resulting in the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle). The East became a socialist, centrally-planned economy with almost all of its economy nationalized, and increasingly lagged behind the West as this system proved much less efficient or conducive to growth. However compared to most other Soviet-dominated countries, even the Soviet Union itself, the East-Germans were (on average) better of economically. The limitations of personal freedoms, ever-present censorship and secret police (STASI) spying on almost every citizen led many of the East's citizens to attempt to flee to the West. In 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected around West Berlin as part of a heavily guarded frontier system of border fortifications to deter inhabitants from East Berlin from defecting to the more prosperous West. Today some of the remnants of this era have been converted into museum as well, such as the Franconian /Thuringian town of Mödlareuth, which was divided during the Cold war, thus earning the nickname of "little Berlin" among US-soldiers in the area, or the former Stasi prisons in Bautzen or Berlin Hohenschönhausen. While many pieces of the Berlin wall itself were destroyed outright or sold to enthusiats all around the world, some have been preserved in their original location to serve as monuments or art installations (eastside gallery in central Berlin is the best known example of this)

Reunification[edit]

Dresden's Frauenkirche, destroyed in World War II, became a symbol of German unity and German–British reconciliation because of the common efforts to rebuild it in 1994–2005

Germany was reunited peacefully in 1990, a year after the fall and collapse of the GDR's communist regime and the opening of the iron curtain that separated German families by the barrel of a gun for decades. The re-established eastern states joined the Federal Republic on 3 October 1990, a day since celebrated as a national holiday (Tag der Deutschen Einheit, day of "German national unity", or "Reunification Day"). The united Berlin became the capital of the unified Germany again, and with all federal government branches gradually moving there in the 1990s, the city saw a continued construction and economic boom, putting the city among the European hotspots.

The reunification meant that the affluent West helped the impoverished East rebuild its economy, while also accepting the willing migrants freely. This has not been without social and political tensions, but ultimately the reunification is regarded as a success, with many cities of the East regaining their former glory (e.g. Dresden) and industrial might (e.g. Leipzig). The legacy of the GDR is still palpable in a slightly higher unemployment and lower standard of living in some areas of the East, and with numerous mementos to socialism like the huge statue of Karl Marx in the city of Chemnitz, which was called Karl-Marx-Stadt during the period of communist rule. The DDR museum in Berlin offers a way to experience the peculiar, and sometimes absurd, life in the erstwhile East Germany.

Economy[edit]

Frankfurt is the largest financial centre in continental Europe

Germany is regarded as an economic powerhouse not only within Europe, but also globally. Much of Germany's economic reputation stems from the export orientation of many of their companies, both those who grew to be large multinationals, but also mid-sized enterprises. Germany is known as an exporter of various kinds of machinery and technology, be it consumer goods like automobiles, and all kinds of machinery for all branches of industry, mining and agriculture. Creative industries, hightech start-ups and the service sector also play an increasing role for Germany's economical output.

A pretty unique feature of Germany's economy is the relative decentralization - you will find large companies headquartered in many different German cities and Länder, not only in or around the capital as in many other European centres. The result of that is not only the widespread relative wealth and high living standards, as well as elegant and tidy appearance of both large cities and small towns, but also the additional tourist opportunities. You can visit the factories and company museums of BMW in Munich or Mercedes and Porsche in Stuttgart. More and more factories are also built to be more than manufacturing plants, but also experience centres, like the BMW and Porsche plants in Leipzig.

The global importance of the German economy and its geographically distributed nature has its reflection in the transportation network of the country. Frankfurt am Main is an important air traffic hub for Europe and the main one for Germany's flag carrier Lufthansa. That said, many other airports have numerous intercontinental connections, as well as busy intra-European and domestic traffic, including those in Berlin, Munich, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Hamburg. There is also a dense network of railway lines within Germany and to neighbouring countries, many of which have been upgraded to high-speed standards (served by Germany's state operator Deutsche Bahn's Inter-City-Express trains). The Autobahn (motorway) network is world-famous for its quality and comprehensiveness, as well as the lack of speed limits on certain stretches. The Autobahnen are also used by many coach companies, which offer a low-cost alternative to airlines and railways.

Politics[edit]

Reichstag in Berlin, the legislature

Germany's a federal republic, consisting of 16 federal states (Bundesländer). The federal parliament (Bundestag) is elected every four years in a fairly complicated system, involving both direct and proportional representation. The parliament elects the Federal Chancellor in its first session, who serves as the head of the government. The Bundesländer are represented at the federal level through the Federal Council (Bundesrat). Many federal laws have to be approved by this council and this can lead to situations where council and parliament block each other if they are dominated by different parties. The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has the right to pass judgement on the constitutionality of laws.

The formal head of state is the President (Bundespräsident), who is not involved in day-to-day politics and has mainly ceremonial and representative duties.

The two largest parties are the centre-right CDU (Christlich Demokratische Union, Christian Democratic Union) and the centre-left SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, Social Democratic Party of Germany). Due to the proportional voting system, smaller parties are also represented in parliament that cover a full spectrum of political views from free market economy, environmentalism to far left socialism. Far right parties are not represented, having failed to get enough support to hold any seats in parliament.

People[edit]

German Unity Day celebration, 2010 in Bremen

Being a federal republic, Germany is very much a decentralised country, which does justice to the cultural differences between the regions. Some travellers will perhaps only think of beer, Lederhosen and Oktoberfest when Germany comes to mind, but Germany's famous alpine and beer culture is mostly in Bavaria and Munich. Here the beer is traditionally served in 1 L mugs (but not in Kneipen (pubs) and restaurants). The annual Oktoberfest is Europe's most visited festival and the world's largest fair. Germany's south-western regions, however, are well known for their wine growing areas (e.g. Rheinhessen and Palatinate) and Bad Dürkheim on the "German wine route" organises the biggest wine festival worldwide with over 600,000 visitors annually.

Immigration has also played a large part in Germany over the past 50 years, with approximately 20% of the total population being either foreign or of a 'migrant background' (Germans who have an ancestor that immigrated to Germany after 1949). Each city has large communities of Turks, Poles, Italians and people from other Southern and Eastern European countries and the Middle East as well.

Most cities have a vibrant LGBT scene, especially Berlin and Cologne. The Berlin tourism agency and other tourism organisations have started campaigns to attract gay and lesbian travellers to their cities. Society is very supportive of people who are openly gay or bisexual, including politicians (notably the former Mayors of Berlin and Hamburg) and celebrities who achieve success.

Electricity[edit]

Electricity is supplied at 230 V and 50 Hz and power failures are rare. Almost all outlets use the Schuko plug, and most appliances have a thinner but compatible Europlug. Adapters for other plugs are widely available in electronics stores.

Regions[edit]

Germany is a federal republic consisting of 16 states (called "Bundesländer" - shortened to "Länder" in German). Three of these Bundesländer are actually city-states: Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg. The states can be roughly grouped by geography as listed below, although there are other groupings. For a long time, the division between north and south was the most notable but, because of the legacy of the Cold War, nowadays the division between east and west is more noticeable.

Regions of Germany
Northern Germany (Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein)
Windswept hills and the popular vacation destinations of the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts
Western Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland)
Wine country and modern cities sharply cut by the breathtaking Middle Rhine and Moselle valleys
Central Germany (Hesse, Thuringia)
The green heart of Germany, with some of the most important historical and financial cities and the ancient Thuringian Forest
Eastern Germany (Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt)
Highlighted by the eccentric and historic capital of Berlin, and rebuilt historic Dresden, "Florence on the Elbe"
Southern Germany (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria)
Black Forest, Alps, and Oktoberfest. The Germany of Lederhosen, Dirndl, picture postcard views and High-Tech firms.

Cities[edit]

Hofbräuhaus in Munich
Nuremberg old town, view from west

Germany has numerous cities of interest to visitors; here are just nine of the most famous travel destinations.

  • Berlin – The reunified and reinvigorated capital of Germany; known for its division during the Cold War, the Berlin Wall. Today a metropolis of diversity with some of the world's best clubs, shops, galleries and restaurants. The suburb of Potsdam with its royal palaces and gardens shouldn't be missed when in Berlin.
  • Bremen – One of the most important cities in northern Germany, its old market, the Schnoor, the Böttcherstrasse, the Viertel and the maritime flair of Bremen and its harbour Bremerhaven (together forming the Bundesland of Bremen, the smallest in both size and population) make up a great urban experience.
  • Cologne (Köln) – This city was founded by the Romans 2000 years ago and is known for its huge cathedral (second largest in the world), Romanesque churches, archaeological sites and the lively old town quarter. The Cologne Carnival is a major draw around February.
  • Dresden – Once called 'Florence on the Elbe', world-famous for its Frauenkirche and its rebuilt historic Altstadt that was destroyed during the war. Dresden's museums like Zwinger and Residenzschloss are unmatched in the world.
  • Düsseldorf – Germany's capital of shopping that also offers a wide scale of fascinating new architecture. The "Altstadt" quarter and the Rhine embankments have a vibrant nightlife.
  • Frankfurt – Alpha metropolis of Germany with a magnificent skyline, financial and transportation hub of the European continent with the seat of the European Central Bank (ECB) and an important trade fair. Small reconstructed centre with timbered houses, important museums and galleries around the Museumsufer like the Schirn Art Hall, the Städel and the Senckenberg Natural Museum.
  • Hamburg – Germany's second-largest city, with a metropolitan character second only to Berlin, famous for its harbour as well as its liberal culture. Don't miss the bustling nightlife around St. Pauli with the Reeperbahn and its night clubs and entertainment venues.
  • Munich (München) – Bavaria's beautiful capital city, calling itself 'world city with a heart', the site of the famous Oktoberfest, Hofbräuhaus, several beer gardens and the gateway to the Alps.
  • Nuremberg (Nürnberg) – Retaining a medieval touch as a former Reichsstadt, its old town has been partly reconstructed after being severely bombed in World War II, including the Gothic Kaiserburg and the major churches, and you can also visit the Nazi party rally grounds, the Documentation Centre and Courtroom 600 (the venue of the Nuremberg war crime trials).

Other destinations[edit]

Baltic seaside resort Binz on Rugia (Rügen), Germany's largest island
  • Baltic Sea Coast (Ostseeküste) – miles of sandy beaches and seaside resorts with picturesque islands such as Rugia (Rügen, Germany's largest island), Hiddensee and Usedom
  • Bavarian Alps (Bayerische Alpen) – the world famous Neuschwanstein Palace and Germany's best skiing and snowboarding resorts. Endless hiking and mountain biking
  • Black Forest (Schwarzwald) – a region with wide mountain peaks, panoramic views; it is a heaven for tourists and hikers
  • East Frisian Islands (Ostfriesische Inseln) – twelve islands in the Wadden Sea; Borkum is the largest island by both area and population
  • Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz) – one of the oldest travel destinations in Germany, named by Romantic artists, who said its landscape had the aesthetic beauty of Switzerland's
  • Harz – a low mountain range in the Central Uplands of Germany, famous for its historic silver mines and for the scenic towns of Quedlinburg, Goslar and Wernigerode
  • Lake Constance (Bodensee) – an extremely beautiful corner of Central Europe; it boasts water sports and beautiful towns and villages to be seen by the visitor
  • Middle Rhine Valley (Mittelrheintal) – part of the Rhine River is a UNESCO Heritage Site between Bingen/Rüdesheim and Koblenz; the valley is famous for its wines
  • North Frisian Islands (Nordfriesische Inseln) - calm islands with resorts at the North Sea coast, especially Sylt is known for its posh prominent guests and the pristine landscape

Get in[edit]

Entry requirements[edit]

The Dutch–German border, near Winterswijk. The crossings to the western neighbours of Germany hardly look different from any other path.

Germany is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs check but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).

Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you are travelling within the Schengen area or not, many airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.

Nationals of EU or EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) countries only need a valid national identity card or passport for entry - in no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length.

Nationals of non-EU/EFTA countries will generally need a passport for entry to a Schengen country and most will need a visa.

Notes

(1) Nationals of these countries need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel.

(2) Serbian nationals with passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (residents of Kosovo with Serbian passports) do need a visa.

(3) Taiwan nationals need their ID number to be stipulated in their passport to enjoy visa-free travel.

Only the nationals of the following non-EU/EFTA countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area: Albania(1), Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina(1), Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia(1), Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova(1), Monaco, Montenegro(1), New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia(1, 2), Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan(3) (Republic of China), United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports.

These non-EU/EFTA visa-free visitors may not stay more than 90 days in a 180 day period in the Schengen Area as a whole and, in general, may not work during their stay (although some Schengen countries do allow certain nationalities to work – see below). The counting begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving one Schengen country for another.

If you are a non-EU/EFTA national (even if you are visa-exempt, unless you are Andorran, Monégasque or San Marinese), make sure that your passport is stamped both when you enter and leave the Schengen Area. Without an entry stamp, you may be treated as an overstayer when you try to leave the Schengen Area; without an exit stamp, you may be denied entry the next time you seek to enter the Schengen Area as you may be deemed to have overstayed on your previous visit. If you cannot obtain a passport stamp, make sure that you retain documents such as boarding passes, transport tickets and ATM slips which may help to convince border inspection staff that you have stayed in the Schengen Area legally.

Note that

  • British subjects with the right of abode in the United Kingdom, and British Overseas Territories citizens connected to Gibraltar, are considered "United Kingdom nationals for European Union purposes" and therefore eligible for unlimited access to the Schengen Area.
  • British Overseas Territories citizens without the right of abode in the United Kingdom, and British subjects without the right of abode in the United Kingdom, as well as British Overseas citizens and British protected persons in general, do need visas.

However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the Schengen Area.

Recognised refugees and stateless persons in possession of a valid travel document issued by the government of any one of the above countries/territories (e.g. Canada) are exempt from obtaining a visa for Germany (but no other Schengen country, except Hungary, The Netherlands and Belgium, and for refugees, Slovakia) for a maximum stay of 90 days in a 180-day period.

Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the US are eligible to obtain a residence permit, or Aufenthaltstitel (authorising a stay of more than 90 days and permission to work), upon arrival in Germany, but before the end of the initial 90 day period of visa-free entry. Before obtaining such status, they are not allowed to work, with the exception of some specific occupations (such as artists). Nationals of Honduras, Monaco and San Marino can also obtain such a permit, but this is issued only if they may not work on the residence permit. Other nationals will need to obtain a visa before if they intend to stay in Germany for longer than the 90-day period, even if they are visa-free for that period for a stay in the Schengen area, or if they intend to work.

Authorized members of the British and US military need to possess only a copy of their duty orders (NATO Travel Order) and their ID card to be authorized entry into Germany. The passport requirement, though, applies to spouses and dependants of military personnel, and they must obtain a stamp in their passports to show that they are sponsored by a person in Germany under the Status of Forces Agreement.

There are no land border controls, making travel between Germany and other Schengen states easier with the accession of Switzerland to the Schengen area in 2008. However, plain-clothes officers of the German border police are known to ask travellers for their ID especially on the border between Bavaria and Austria.

There are a number of ways to get into Germany. From neighbouring European countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel.

By plane[edit]

Frankfurt Airport is Germany's busiest and one of the world's key aviation hubs

Major airlines and airports[edit]

The most important airports are Frankfurt (IATA: FRA), Munich (IATA: MUC) and Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS). Berlin–Tegel (IATA: TXL), Cologne (IATA: CGN), Hamburg (IATA: HAM) and Stuttgart (IATA: STR) also have many international flights. Frankfurt is Germany's main hub – one of Europe's four major hubs – and the destination of most intercontinental flights. Munich is a growing secondary hub. Travellers can easily fly in from most places of the world and then connect with Germany's biggest and most respected airline Lufthansa which is a member of the Star Alliance. Germany's second largest airline is Air Berlin, a member of oneworld and also an associate of Etihad Airways, which also serves lots of destinations throughout Germany, Europe and North America from several airports.

The airports of Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Köln/Bonn are connected to the InterCityExpress high-speed rail lines. The others all feature either a commuter rail station or some sort of connection to the nearest rail station as well as public transport to the central station of the respective cities. Lufthansa's passengers travelling from Frankfurt Airport have the option to check in their luggage in Cologne or Stuttgart train stations and connect to the airport by ICE. If doing so, be sure to book the train journey like a Lufthansa connecting flight (i.e. in advance together with the flight), otherwise you are regarded responsible for a missed connection.

Budget travel and minor airlines[edit]

Don't expect much of the secondary, "budget" airports like Memmingen

Flying can be the cheapest way to get to Germany and from there to other European countries, especially if the flights are booked well in advance. Before booking a budget flight, compare carefully as their destinations are often a bit off the track and after adding all the fees, taxes, additional bus tickets to get to their airports, you might end up at even higher prices than you would pay for a discounted Lufthansa or Air Berlin ticket.

The major airports for budget travel are Berlin-Schönefeld (IATA: SXF), Frankfurt-Hahn (IATA: HHN) (130 km to Frankfurt) and Weeze (IATA: NRN) (85 km to Düsseldorf) as well as smaller airports with fewer choice of destinations like Lübeck (IATA: LBC) (70 km to Hamburg) or Memmingen (IATA: FMM) (110 km to Munich).

There are budget flights to almost every city in Europe from Germany. The major budget airlines in Germany are easyJet, Ryanair, germanwings (for flights within Germany, too) and Wizz Air (for flights to Eastern Europe) which all offer several connections to many countries throughout Europe. The main hubs for easyJet are Berlin-Schönefeld and Dortmund, for Ryanair Frankfurt-Hahn and Weeze and for germanwings Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart – all of them besides more airports served, but with smaller choice of destinations.

For (budget) flights to European holiday destinations, for example round the Mediterranean, Germany's major carriers besides Air Berlin are Condor (Thomas Cook) (also for main tourist destinations throughout the world) and TUIfly.

Germania and InterSky also have a number of international destinations.

By train[edit]

Main article: Rail travel in Germany

Regular train services connect Germany with all neighbouring countries. Almost all neighbouring countries (especially Switzerland, Poland, Netherlands, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria) and even some non-neighbouring countries (e.g. Italy and Hungary) are quite well connected with "EuroCity" trains. They are a little bit slower and slightly less comfortable than the European high-speed trains but reach nevertheless up to 200 km/h. They are a worthwhile way to travel – not only for budget travellers (although budget airlines might be cheaper) or landscape viewers (especially the Rhine valley lines). When booked in advance Deutsche Bahn offer very competitive prices to many European destinations under their "Europa-Spezial" brand, with tickets starting at 39€ one way; however, you cannot change the train or date of travel and refunds are limited.

Several European high-speed trains cross into and out of Germany:

Frankfurt central railway station with ICE 3M Nederlandse Spoorwegen
  • The ICE brings you at 300 km/h top speed from Frankfurt (3.25 hr), Cologne (2.5 hr) or Düsseldorf (2.25 hr) to Amsterdam. The train journey from Frankfurt to Paris (320 km/h) using the ICE will take about four hours; going from Hamburg to Paris can take eight and a half hours. There is also an ICE line from Frankfurt to Brussels via Cologne.
  • The Thalys brings you from Cologne (Köln) to Paris in approximately four hours and to Brussels in about two hours.
  • The TGV brings you from Marseille, Lyon and Strasbourg to Frankfurt, and from Paris, and Strasbourg to Munich.
  • Between Stuttgart and Milan you can travel with one stop in Zurich, the fastest trans alpine train connection.

Standard rail fares are quite high, but there are a number of special fares and discounts available – see the "Get Around" section for more information. In particular, the Bahncard reduction applies for the whole journey as long as it starts or ends in Germany.

By boat[edit]

Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein: ferries link Kiel to many Scandinavian locations
View to the rear of a Finnlines ferry from Helsinki to Travemünde

International ferry services exist, notably to Scandinavia. Some of the most popular connections are listed below:

By bus[edit]

Germany has dozens of international bus companies including Touring. Some of the new lines offering mostly domestic services also offer connections to neighboring countries as well as London.

Get around[edit]

German transportation runs with German efficiency, and getting around the country is a snap — although you'll need to pay top price for top speed (especially if you don't buy your tickets in advance). The most popular options by far are to rent a car, or take the train. If the train is too expensive for you, travelling by arranged ride-sharing or with any one of the many new bus services is often a viable alternative in Germany.

By plane[edit]

Domestic flights are mainly used for business, with the train being a simpler and often (but not always) cheaper alternative for other travel. The boom of budget airlines and increased competition has made some flight prices competitive with trains to some major cities. However, make sure that you get to the right destination: low-cost airlines are known for misnaming small airports in the middle of nowhere as if they are near to cities 100 km away. (e.g.: "Frankfurt-Hahn" is actually in Hahn, over two hours away by bus from Frankfurt city!)

The following carriers offer domestic flights within Germany:

  • Lufthansa Flag carrier and member of the Star Alliance that flies all major routes on a nearly hourly schedule with hubs in Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf. Within dedicated terminal areas, coffee, tea and a lavish assortment of newspapers are available freely even for economy class passengers.
  • Air Berlin is the second biggest German airline and also flies to most airports in Germany with hubs in Berlin-Tegel, Düsseldorf and Nuremberg. Checked baggage and standard services are also included in the fares. It is a member of the oneworld Alliance.
  • germanwings Lufthansa's no-frills subsidiary is based in Cologne and also serves some routes within Germany
  • InterSky Small, but well-kept airline with few routes in Germany and Europe, based in Friedrichshafen (near Lake Constance).

By train[edit]

See also: Rail travel in Germany

Germany offers a fast and (if booked in advance) affordable railway system that reaches many parts of the country. Unless you travel by car, rail is likely to be your major mode of transportation. Crossing Germany from Munich in the south to Hamburg in the north will usually take around 6 h, while driving by car will take around 8 h.

Almost all long-distance and many regional trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn ("German Rail"). DB's website in English and DB's website customised for the US (available in many other localisations) are excellent resources for working out transport options not only in Germany but also pretty much anywhere in Europe.

Long distance[edit]

an InterCity-Express 1 EMU in Cologne

All major cities are linked by DB's ICE (InterCity-Express) and regular InterCity trains. ICE is a system of high speed trains that are capable of speeding with 330 km/h. They can be expensive, with a 1 h trip ( Frankfurt to Cologne, around 180 km) costing around €67 one-way (normal price without any discount).

Reservations are not mandatory but are recommended, especially when you travel on weekends or holidays. This means, that with Interrail or Eurail pass you can use domestic ICE trains without supplement (except for international ICE trains)

Next are the regular InterCity (IC) and EuroCity (EC) trains. The latter connect the larger European cities and are virtually identical to the regular ICs. These trains are also fairly comfortable, even if they lack the high-tech feeling of the ICE.

On the major lines, an ICE or IC train will run each hour or so during the day, and even certain minor cities of touristic importance like Tübingen or Heringsdorf are connected on a daily or weekly basis. Before you shell out the money for the ICE ticket, you may want to check if it actually makes a significant time difference. ICE trains travel faster than other IC trains only on specially equipped high-speed routes. There are also long distance trains operated by other companies than Deutsche Bahn, usually running over secondary routes. These are usually comfortable enough (although not as comfortable as ICE) and sometimes considerably cheaper, but most of them stop at almost every station en route.

Regional travel[edit]

Regional and local trains in Germany come in several flavours:

  • IRE (InterRegioExpress). The same as RE, but goes between two regions (Bundesland).
  • RE (Regional-Express). Semi-express trains, skips some stations. On many routes, this is the highest available train category.
  • RB (Regional-Bahn). Stops everywhere except that it may skip some S-Bahn stops.
S-Bahn-Logo.svg S-Bahn station Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof tief
  • S-Bahn. Commuter network for a city or metropolitan area but can travel fairly long distances. S-Bahn trains do not offer a toilet, with the exception of those in Bremen, Dresden, Hanover, Leipzig and some S-Bahn Rhein-Neckar trains.

Within a region (Bundesland), it is often possible to get a budget ticket (Länderticket) valid for one day. It can be used for RE, RB, most S-Bahn and some bus connections within the Bundesland. It is available as a single or group ticket. Prices for Ländertickets vary from region to region, but start generally at about 23€-27€ for one person and usually between 3€ and 5€ for any additional member of your group up to a party of five. More information is provided at the Website of Deutshce Bahn as well as in the get around section of most Bundesländer

By bus[edit]

See also: Long distance bus travel in Germany

There are dozens of daily services from most major cities, which are often significantly cheaper than trains. Most buses offer amenities like Wi-Fi and power outlets and some can even transport bicycles. The best resource for checking connections is this German website.

Apart from these, there is a very dense network of regional and local bus lines. In rural areas, though, many lines run only once per day. Regional and local express bus line designators usually contain the letter(s) CE (local), E (regional around Hamburg; in other areas, E is used for special runs), S (regional), SB (regional and local) or X (local within Berlin), city bus line designators may contain the letter(s) BB ("Bürgerbus", not integrated within tariff unions), C or O. Always check the departure boards carefully: sometimes, especially at night or in rural areas, you have to order your bus by phone.

By car[edit]

See also: Driving in Germany
This former gas station (Tankstelle) in Berlin is now a monument.

Germany has a world-famous network of excellent roads and Autobahn (motorway) with no toll or fees for cars. Although public transport in Germany is excellent, those who choose to drive will find the road network fast and efficient as well. Like most of Europe, Germany drives on the right-hand side.

Check in advance on whether your non-German driving licence is valid in Germany. Otherwise, you may risk a heavy fine or up to one year in jail.

Turning right on red is not permitted except when a small green right arrow is affixed to the traffic light, next to the red light.

Speed limits are taken seriously, with a large number of speed cameras. Speed limits are:

  • 5 km/h on "Spielstraßen" (marked by a blue/white sign showing playing kids, pedestrians have priority)
  • 30 km/h in most residential areas within cities (marked with a sign "30-Zone Wohngebiet", 20-Zone and 10-Zone also exist)
  • 50 km/h inside towns and cities (including "Kraftfahrstraßen" (marked by a sign showing a white car on a blue background))
  • 100 km/h outside towns and cities
  • There is no constant general speed limit on the "Autobahn" or on "Kraftfahrstraßen" for cars and motorcycles that are not towing a trailer. It's not entirely unrestricted as there are sections that have periodic or permanent speed limits and the recommended maximum speed on the Autobahn is 130 km/h, and you should try and keep to that if you are new to high speed driving. However, some "speed tourists" come to Germany just to rent an exotic sports car and blast down the Autobahn network which is the third largest motorway network in the world.

Ride-sharing (Carpooling) is popular in Germany and the fare for a ride is often cheaper than rail. Popular websites for arranging shared rides are mitfahrgelegenheit.de, and Blablacar. International journeys can also be arranged this way.

Taxis are expensive and accept often only cash. The conditions are usually not written on the car, so ask the driver. The rates are defined by local authorities.

By recreational vehicle and campervans[edit]

German campgrounds (like most others in Western Europe) usually offer a full range of amenities. You always have your own electricity hookup, and water and sewer hookups for each are common. Every campground has restrooms and showers as well as kitchens, washing-machines and a spin dryer.

The yellow pages of camping, or, if you like, the German camping bible, is the ADAC Campingführer, a campground guide by Germany's largest automobile club ADAC. It lists almost all campgrounds along with prices, type of location, size, opening hours, amenities, you-name-it. Since the guide uses lots of symbols which are explained in a number of languages, it is suitable for travellers from abroad, too.

By hitchhiking[edit]

It is possible to hitchhike in Germany and most Germans speak basic English, so you will be understood if you speak slowly. Drivers rarely expect you to give them any money for the ride. The first letters of the German number plate (before the hyphen) indicate the city in which the car is registered. If you know the code for your destination, it will increase your chances of stopping the right vehicle.

It is illegal to stop on the Autobahn itself, but hitchhiking from service areas or petrol stations is a good way of getting long rides (100–200 km). The hard part is getting onto the Autobahn, so it pays off to sleep near the gas stations if you are going far. At the gas stations, you can get a free booklet called Tanken und Rasten with a map of the Autobahn and its gas stations. When getting a lift, agree with the driver where to get off, and make sure there is a gas station. Try to avoid the Autohofs.

It is also quite common to arrange a ride in a private vehicle in advance through on offline agency or the Internet. Offline agencies like Citynetz or ADM have offices in major cities, mostly near the city centre or the main railway station. These offline agencies charge a commission to the cost for fuel you need to pay for the driver.

In the recent, years online services to arrange rides in private vehicles became very popular, as both parties do not have to pay the commission to traditional agencies. You need to contribute only towards fuel costs. (example: Frankfurt to Berlin €25). You can contact the driver directly by e-mail, phone or sms. As the drivers need to be registered, it is safer than hitchhiking.

Hitchhikers is a comparable service, multilingual and free. Mitfahrgelegenheit and Mitfahrzentrale are other well known players with plenty of rides in their databases. Mitfahrzentrale even operates all over Europe. Raumobil is a new player in the market but a more private-run affair. Mitflugzentrale arranges rides in private planes.

Another form of hitchhiking available in Germany is on the trains. People purchase a Wochenende-ticket (weekend ticket) which allows them to take up to four other people with them on the regional transports for the entire weekend. To hitch a ride with these travellers, first figure out which regional transportation you will need to take in order to reach your destination. You may figure that out online at the national railway network website, making sure to check "regional transportation only" or train stations in major cities have computer terminals in which you can do the same. Then, just hop on the train that is going your way.

Usually, within each carriage you'll find someone willing to let you tag along. "Haben Sie ein Wochenendeticket?" Do you have a weekend ticket? "Darf ich bei Ihnen mitfahren?" May I travel with you?. Just make sure it is the right train and the weekend.

By bicycle[edit]

mandatory cycleway
shared way for pedestrians and bicyclists

Germany is, in general, bicycle friendly, with many bike lanes within the cities. There is also a substantial network of well signed, long distance bike routes. If there is a cycleway parallel to the road posted with white-on-blue "Cycle" signs (see right), cyclist must use this. In some towns bike lanes are marked by dark red paving stones in the main walking area. Be careful though, as cyclists and pedestrians tend to drift across these boundaries.

Cyclists are expected to follow the same road rules as motor vehicles. Being drunk on a bicycle is regarded the same as when driving a motor vehicle - so you risk losing your driving licence, however the limit is higher with only a blood alcohol level of more than 1.3 parts per thousand including a mandatory fine.

Most rail stations, shopping areas, hotels and business premises have bike stands (some covered) with a place to attach your own bike locking chain.

On regional trains there is usually one carriage that allows you to bring your bike on board. Intercities also allow taking a bike, ICEs however don't.

If you want to take your bike on a long distance bus you have to order that several days ahead and may not be succesful, as the storage room for bikes is very limited (only two or three per bus).

Several German cities now offer bike-share programmes, most run by either nextbike (www.nextbike.de) or Deutsche Bahn subsidiary call a bike. They are a great way to go short distances within a city but not the best option for longer tours, because the maximum rental time is usually 24 hours. Classic bike rentals still exist in many city as well as in smaller villages clost to the coast that see many tourists. They often require a deposit or ID card for rental.

Talk[edit]

See also: German phrasebook
Bad Hersfeld: statues of Konrad Duden, famous dictionary founder, and Konrad Zuse, computer pioneer, both citizens of the city

The official language of Germany is German (Deutsch). The standard form of German is called "Hochdeutsch" (High German). It's understood by all and spoken by almost all Germans. However, every region has its historical dialect, which might pose a challenge even to those who speak German well and even to native speakers as well. This is usually noticeable only in the south and rural areas of the north and east. Thus, when travelling in Bavaria, Saxony and Baden, you are setting foot in places where dialect remains a strong part of the local identity. The general rule is that south of the Main River divides north Germany from the south in both language dialects and local culture.

'Sie' or 'Du'?

Politeness in German is important, and you should generally refer to other unacquainted people with the formal and polite form of 'You' which is "Sie". The informal version of 'You' is "du" and can be used if both of you are already very familiar, or if the person is a child. These days younger people, roughly below the age of 30, can use "'du'" between complete strangers, unless in some professional contexts. Note that verb endings will also change depending upon which you use.

All Germans learn English at school, so you should be able to get by with English in most places. Many Germans claim to speak it fairly well, although the general population is certainly not as advanced as the Netherlands or the Nordic countries. Many people also speak French. In parts of Eastern Germany, a small Slavic community of 50,000 also speaks Sorbian. Many people who grew up in the formerly communist East Germany are able to speak Russian. Among younger, higher educated people it is more and more common to find other foreign languages such as Spanish and Italian. Due to the economic crisis in most of Southern Europe university towns have a higher number of recent immigrants from these countries than they had five or ten years ago.

Germany has experienced a great deal of immigration in the past 50 years, and all towns and cities have large communities of Turks, Italians and Poles (among many others) who speak the mother tongue of their ancestors. Germany today is the second most popular immigration destination in the world, after the USA.

Germans tend to be direct, and will often answer in English with short responses. Since it's polite to reply "Bitte" if someone thanks you, Germans may literally translate this with "please" instead of "here you are" or "you're welcome".

Since language ability is a measure of social standing then it is very difficult to persuade many Germans to speak German to you if they know you are a native English speaker. Saying that you are (even if pretending to be) a non-native English speaker can get around this situation. That said, Germans who are actually truly fluent and confident in English usually have no issue to speak German with you.

You'll meet German words on traffic signs; this one signs a detour

While Germany uses the 24 hour format for times, people nearly always use 12 hour times in conversations. There is no real suffix like "am" or "pm", although you can add "vormittags" (before noon) and "nachmittags" (after noon) when it's not clear from the context. A significant difference is the convention for 'half past', when at 07:30 English speakers would say "half (past) seven", whereas Germans say "halb acht" ("half {to} eight").

See[edit]

Cultural and historical attractions[edit]

Rothenburg in North Western Bavaria, a medieval town with an almost completely original historic centre

When thinking of Germany, beer, lederhosen and Alpine hats quickly come to mind, but these stereotypes mostly relate to Bavarian culture and do not represent Germany as a whole. Germany is a vast and diverse country with 16 culturally unique states that only form a political union since 1871.

If you're still looking for the cliches, the Romantic Road is a famous scenic route along romantic castles and picturesque villages. With its fairy tale appearance, the Neuschwanstein Castle could be considered the most iconic of German castles. The walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a beautiful mediaeval centre that seems untouched by the passage of time. Some similar typical German towns can be found elsewhere in the country, like Augsburg, Bamberg, Celle, Heidelberg, Lübeck, and Quedlinburg. Your picture postcard visit to Germany will be complete with a visit to the beer halls of Munich and a peek of the Alps at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. You can also go to the lovely yet seldom visited medieval city of Schwäbisch Hall. For those who are fans of the Grimm's Fairy Tales, which include many famous ones such as Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White and The Pied Piper, the German tourism board has a recommended Fairy Tale Route which takes you to places where the Brothers Grimm lived, as well as towns that were featured in the Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Germany is a modern industrial nation, and the Wirtschaftswunder is best represented by the industrial heritage of the Ruhr. Hamburg is another economic powerhouse with the second busiest port of the continent. Frankfurt is the financial centre of Germany, and of Europe as a whole, as it is the base of the European Central Bank. Its skyline comes close to those found at the other side of the Atlantic. The fashion city of Düsseldorf, media industry of Cologne, and car companies in Stuttgart each represent a flourishing sector of the German economic miracle.

A completely different experience can be found in Berlin, a city unlikely to be found anywhere else on the planet. While architecturally an odd mismatch of sterilised apartment blocks, post-modernist glass and steel structures, and some historic left-overs, it has a laid-back atmosphere and a culture of internationalism. Its turbulent history gave rise to an enormous wealth of historical attractions, among them the Berlin Wall, Brandenburger Tor, Bundestag, Checkpoint Charlie, Fernsehturm, Holocaust Memorial and Rotes Rathaus. But do not miss out the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood if you want to feel like a true Berliner.

Natural attractions[edit]

The Northwest: Wattwanderung (mudflat hiking) between Cuxhaven and Neuwerk

Due to its size and location in Central Europe, Germany boasts a large variety of different landscapes. In the north, Germany has an extensive coastline along the North Sea and the Baltic Seas in a vast area known as the North German Plain. The landscape is very flat and the climate is rough with strong winds and mild, chilly temperatures. Due to the south-easterly winds that press water into the German Bight, tidal variations are exceptionally high, creating the Wadden Sea. Vast areas of the seabed are uncovered twice a day, allowing one to walk from one of the numerous islands to another. (This should only be done with a guide.) The East Frisian Islands just off the coast are very picturesque, although mostly visited by the Germans themselves. Favourite white sand resorts along the Baltic Sea include Rugia and Usedom.

The South: Meteorological station at the Zugspitze top, Germany's highest mountain. It is not that challenging to visit it: there are three lifts, two from Germany's side and one from Austria's, if you don't want to go by feet.

The central half of Germany is a patchwork of the Central Uplands, hilly rural areas where fields and forests intermix with larger cities. Many of these hill ranges are tourist destinations, like the Bavarian Forest, the Black Forest, the Harz, the Ore Mountains, North Hesse and Saxon Switzerland. The Rhine Valley has a very mild, amenable climate and fertile grounds, making it the country's most important area for wine and fruit growing.

In the extreme south, bordering Austria, Germany contains a portion of the Alps, Central Europe's highest elevation, rising as high as 4,000 m (12,000 ft) above sea level, with the highest summit in Germany being the Zugspitze at 2962 m (9717 ft). While only a small part of the Alps lie in Germany, they are famous for their beauty and the unique Bavarian culture. Along the country's southwestern border with Switzerland and Austria lies Lake Constance, Germany's largest fresh-water lake.

Itineraries[edit]

  • Bertha Benz Memorial Route – follows the world's first long-distance journey by car
  • Romantic Road – the most famous scenic route in Germany that starts in Würzburg and ends in Füssen
  • Rheinsteig and Rheinburgenweg – Walk the high level path through some of Germany's most beautiful landscapes with spectacular views of castles above the River Rhine between Wiesbaden and Bonn or Bingen and Bonn-Mehlem.
  • Elbe Radweg a cycle-route along the Elbe river that passes by Dresden and Magdeburg before it reaches Hamburg. Due to it being close to a river there are few steep ascents, making this route ideal for novice bikers.

Do[edit]

Königssee ("King's Lake") near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Germany offers a wide variety of activities of both a cultural and sporting nature. Many Germans are members of a sports club.

Sports[edit]

Germany is crazy about football (soccer) and the German Football Association (DFB) is the biggest FA association in the world with 6.35 million members (8% of the German population) in more than 25,000 clubs. Many German football clubs are among the most valuable football brands in Europe, like Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munich. Every village has a club and the games often are the main social event on weekends. Keep in mind that due to the nature of (a small minority of) soccer fans, there is often a heightened police-presence during games and violence is rare but not unheard of. Other popular team sports include (olympic) handball (especially popular in the north), ice-hockey ("Eishockey"), volleyball and basketball. Motor sports are a popular visitor attraction, with many famous courses like Hockenheim and Nürburgring ("Green Hell").

During the winter, many people go skiing in the Alps or in mountain ranges like the Harz, Eifel, Bavarian Forest or Black Forest.

One of the more popular individual sports is Tennis, although it has declined somewhat since the days of Steffie Graf and Boris Becker, there are still Tennis-courts in many places and most of them can be rented by the hour.

Almost every middle-sized German city has a spa (often called Therme) with swimming pools, water slides, hot tubs, saunas, steam baths, sun roofs etc.

Cultural events[edit]

Several theatres in bigger cities play outstanding classical and contemporary plays. Germany prides itself on the wide variety of cultural events and every city works out a cultural agenda.

Classical Music[edit]

Germany boasts several world class opera houses (especially Berlin, Bayreuth, and Munich) and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is known as one of the top three orchestras in the world. Germany is considered to have one of the strongest classical music traditions in Europe, with many famous composers such as Bach, Handel (called Händel before he settled in London in 1712), Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Wagner originating from Germany.

While France and Italy may have a longer history with opera, Germany too has developed its own unique operatic tradition. German, along with Italian and French, is considered to be a main operatic language, with many famous German-language operas having been composed by famous composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Strauss.

Musicals[edit]

Musical Dome in Cologne

Musicals are popular in Germany. Although there are some touring productions from time to time, most shows stay in a specific city for a few years. The main 'musical cities' are Hamburg, Berlin, Oberhausen, Stuttgart, Bochum and Cologne. German performances include The Lion King, Wicked, Starlight Express and Rocky.

Shakespeare[edit]

Rather interestingly, William Shakespeare is adored in Germany like almost nowhere else — the Anglosphere included. This can be attributed in large part to Goethe, who fell in love with the Bard's works. If your German is up to it, seeing a performance can be very interesting. According to some Germans, Shakespeare is actually improved in translation, as the language used is more contemporary. Judge for yourself.

Theatre[edit]

In General German theatres are plentiful and - compared to most other western countries - dirt cheap, as the government considers them to be "necessary" so they subsidize them in order for everybody to be able to go there, regardless of income. There are often special discounts for students or elderly people. Most plays are performed in German, but there are occsaional events with plays in other languages as well.

Festivals[edit]

There are some well known and large annual festivals in Germany like the Wacken Open Air (heavy metal music festival), Wave-Gotik-Treffen (festival for "dark" music and arts in Leipzig) and Fusion Festival (electronic music festival in the Mecklenburg Lakeland).

Buy[edit]

Currency[edit]

Germany uses the euro (€, EUR). It is one of 24 European countries that uses this common European currency: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (which are all eurozone countries of the European Union or EU) together with the six non-EU members Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican that also solely use euros but have no say in eurozone affairs. These 24 countries together have a population of more than 330 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. All eurozone countries have coins issued with a distinctive national design on one side, and a standard common design on the other side. All bills or banknotes have exactly the same design and all are legal tender in all 24 Eurozone countries.

If you have marks remaining from previous trips, they can still be exchanged at certain banks: enquire first before you attempt to convert your marks. Some public phones operated by "Deutsche Telekom" still (2013) accept Deutsche Mark- and Pfennig-coins from 10 Pfennig and above at an exchange rate of 2:1.

Do not expect anybody to accept foreign currencies or to be willing to exchange currency. An exception are shops and restaurants at airports and also – more rarely – fast-food restaurants at major train stations. These will generally accept at least US dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate. If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank, where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the euro. Again, international airports and train stations are an exception to this rule. Swiss Franc can sometimes be accepted near the Swiss border.

While German domestic debit cards – called EC-Karte or girocard – (and, to a lesser extent, PIN-based Maestro cards) enjoy almost universal acceptance, this is not true for credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express) or foreign debit cards (VISA Debit/Electron etc.), which are not as widely accepted as in other European countries or the United States but will be accepted in several major retail stores and some fastfood restaurants.

Don't be fooled by seeing card terminals in shops or other people paying with cards – these machines may not necessarily be programmed to accept foreign cards, so it is best to enquire or look out for acceptance decals before shopping or fuelling your car.

Hotels, larger retailers, chain gas stations and nationwide companies accept credit cards; supermarkets, discount stores or small independent shops tend not to (with exceptions). Some places impose a minimum purchase amount (typically €10) for card payments. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card or foreign debit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that.

Sometimes gas stations or small shops do not accept €500 or €200 banknotes, for fear of counterfeits.

Tipping[edit]

In Germany tips (Trinkgeld, literally "drink money") are commonplace in restaurants, bars (not in fast-food restaurants), taxis and hair salons. Whilst not mandatory, it is always appreciated as a thanks for excellent service. It is the norm to give 5-10% as a tip or rounding up the bill. Note that unlike in some other countries, service staff are always paid by the hour (albeit not always that well). A tip is therefore mainly a matter of politeness and shows your appreciation. If you didn't appreciate the service (e.g. slow, snippy or indifferent service) you may not tip at all and it will be accepted by the staff.

Tipping in Germany is usually done by mentioning the total while paying. So if e.g. a waiter tells you the bill amounts to "€13.50", just state "15" and s/he will include a tip of €1.50.

Tipping in other situations (unless otherwise indicated):

  • Taxi driver: 5–10% (at least €1)
  • Housekeeping: €1–2 per day
  • Carrying luggage: €1 per piece
  • Public toilet attendants: €0.10–0.50
  • Delivery services: 5–10% (at least €1)

Shopping[edit]

In common with most other Western European languages, the meanings of points and commas are exactly inverse to the English custom; in German a comma is used to indicate a decimal. For example, €2,99 is two euros and 99 eurocents. The "€" symbol is not always used and may be placed both in front or after the price; however, it is vastly more common to put the € after the amount (eg. 5€). A dot is used to "group" numbers (one dot for three digits), so "1.000.000" would be one million. So "123.456.789,01" in German is the same number as "123,456,789.01" in English speaking countries.

Taxes: Retail prices are reasonable and lower than in northern European countries and all goods and services include VAT or "Mehrwertsteuer". Fuel, sparkling wine, spirits and tobacco are subject to even higher taxes. The first of those excise taxes – the "Branntweinsteuer" (spirit tax) – was first imposed in 1507, and a sparkling wine tax was introduced by Emperor Wilhelm II. Some German brands of high end goods such as kitchen utensils, stationery, and hiking gear are considerably cheaper than abroad. VAT is always included by law in an item's price tag (only exception is for goods that are commercially exported but then duties might apply). There is a reduced VAT of 7% for hotels (but not for edibles consumed within), edibles (certain items considered luxury goods, e.g. lobster, are exempted from this reduction), print products, public transport (short-distance only) and admission price for opera or theatre.
Supermarkets: Many Germans rather look for prices than for quality when shopping for food. As a result, the competition between food discounters (which might be the cause of this very specific behaviour) is exceptionally fierce (in fact, WalMart had to retract from the German market because it failed at competing on price) and this results in very low food prices compared to other European countries (although not compared to North America or the UK – as a general rule, a discount German supermarket will have similar quality compared to a North American discounter, but at mid-range prices). The chains "Aldi", "Lidl", "Penny" and "Netto" are a special type of supermarket (don't call it "Supermarkt" – Germans call it "Discounter"; a Supermarkt/super market has slightly higher prices, but also a much wider range of products even of decent quality): Their range of products is limited to the necessities of daily life (like vegetables, pasta, milk, eggs, convenience foods, toiletries etc.), sold in rather simple packaging for tightly calculated prices. While quality is generally surprisingly high, do not expect delicatessen or local specialities when you go to shop there. Many Germans buy their daily needs there and go to the more "standard" supermarket (like the chains Rewe, Edeka, Real, Tengelmann/Kaisers, Globus or Famila) to get more special treats. The personnel in these shops is trained to be especially helpful and friendly and there are big cheese/ meat and fish counters where fresh products are sold. Don't blame discounter personnel for being somewhat brusque; although they are paid slightly better than usual, they have to cope with a rather grim working atmosphere and a significantly higher workload than colleagues in "standard" supermarkets and therefore are certainly not amused about being disturbed in getting their work done. Beside those major chains, Turkish supermarkets which can be found in townships with predominantly Turkish population can be a worthwhile alternative since they combine the characteristics of discounters (low price levels but limited assortment) with those of "standard" supermarkets ((Turkish) specialities and usually friendly staff).
If you are looking for organic products, your best bet is to visit a "Bioladen" or "Biosupermarkt". (Bio- generally means organic.) There are also many farmers selling their products directly ("Hofladen"), most of them organized in the "Bioland" cooperative. They offer reasonable food at reasonable prices.
Similarly it applies to clothes; although competition on this market is not that fierce and quality varies, cheap clothing of sufficient quality might be bought at C&A, but don't expect designer clothes though. During the end-of-season sales you should also compare prices of conventional stores since they may be even cheaper than the discounters. H&M sells cheap, stylish clothing, but with notoriously awful quality.
Germany is also a good place to shop for consumer electronics such as mobile phones, tablets and digital cameras. Every larger city has at least one "Saturn" or "MediaMarkt" store with a wide selection of these devices, as well as music, movies and video games on CD/DVD. Prices are generally lower than elsewhere in Europe. Note, however, that English-language movies and TV shows are universally dubbed into German, and computer software and keyboards are German-only.
You can find supermarkets and certain other stores (only major chains) at kaufda.de.
Be prepared to bag your own groceries and goods as well as provide your own shopping bags for doing so. While most stores provide plastic as well as canvas shopping bags at the checkout, you are charged for them. It's a good reminder to also keep a euro coin handy for the buggies/shopping carts. They all require a euro coin to use the cart but you get it back once your shopping is done. At most super markets you can spot a canister with lots of cardboard boxes in it, usually after the cash point. You are allowed to take cardboard boxes from there! It's a service the markets offer and also a easy waste disposal for them. Just tell them you are getting yourself a box when the cashier starts to scan your goods, come back and start packing.
Factory outlets: Germany has only about 6 Factory Outlet Centers, but approximately up to 1000 Factory Outlets called "Fabrikverkauf".
Local products: You can find local food products (not necessarily organic) in most places at the farmer's market ("Wochenmarkt" or simply "Markt"), usually once or twice a week. While you your chances on finding English-speaking sellers there may be somewhat reduced, it's nevertheless quite fun to shop there and mostly you will get fresh and good quality food for reasonable prices. Most winemakers sell their products either directly or in "Winzergenossenschaften" (winemaker cooperatives). These wines are almost always superior to the ones produced by German wine brands. Quality signs are "VdP" ("Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter", symbolized by an eagle) and "Ecovin" (German organic winemaker cooperative). Wines made of the most typical German wine varieties are usually marked with "Classic".
Souvenirs:
German honey is a good souvenir, but only "Echter Deutscher Honig" is a guarantee for reasonable quality.
Along the German coasts, smoked eel is quite a common delicacy and a typical souvenir.
Cheese: You can discover an astonishing German cheese variety in cheese stores or in Bioläden.
Recycling: Germany has an elaborate and confusing beverage container deposit ("Pfand") system. Reusable bottles, glass and plastic, usually cost between 8 and 25 cents Pfand per bottle depending on size and material. Additional Pfand is due for special carrying baskets matching the bottle measures. The Pfand can be cashed in at any store which sells bottles, often by means of a high-tech bottle reader than spins the bottle, reads the Pfand, and issues a ticket redeemable with the cashier. Plastic bottles and cans usually cost 25 cents Pfand, if not they are marked as pfandfrei. Exempt from Pfand are liquors and plastic boxes usually containing juice. There are also a few other instances where Pfand is due, for example for standardized gas containers. Pfand on glasses, bottles and dishware is also common at discotheques, self-service bars or public events, but usually not at a students' cafeteria.
Cigarettes are easily available in most kiosks, supermarkets and newsagents. Cigarette machines are often dotted around towns and cities (be aware you will need an EU driving licence or a debit card with an electronic chip to "unlock" the machine). As of 2013, a pack of 19 costs around €5 and a pack of 24 costs around €6. The legal age to smoke in Germany is 18. Many Germans buy paper and tobacco separately as this is cheaper. Small cigars ("Zigarillos") are less heavily taxed and come at roughly half the price of cigarettes.

Opening hours[edit]

Due to a federal reform, opening hours are set by the states, therefore opening hours vary from state to state. Some states like Berlin, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have no more strict opening hours from Monday to Saturday (however, you will rarely find 24 hour shops other than at petrol stations). Sundays and national holidays (including some obscure ones) are normally closed for shops everywhere in Germany, including pharmacies. However single pharmacies remain open for emergencies (every pharmacy will have a sign telling you which pharmacy is currently open for emergencies). Information can be obtained on-line. Shops are allowed to open on Sundays on special occasions called "Verkaufsoffener Sonntag"; information on-line here or here. Every German city uses these days except Munich.

As a rule of thumb:

  • Smaller supermarkets: 08:00-20:00 give or take an hour
  • Big supermarkets 08:00-22:00
  • Rewe supermarkets in cities 07:00-22:00 or midnight (except for Bavaria, where all stores are required by law to close at 20:00)
  • Shopping centres and large department stores: 10:00-20:00
  • Department stores in small cities: 10:00-19:00
  • Small and medium shops: 09:00 or 10:00-18:30 (in big cities sometimes to 20:00)
  • Spätis (late night shops): 20:00-23:59 or even longer, some open 24 hours, especially in big cities
  • Petrol stations: in cities and along the "Autobahn" usually 24 hours daily
  • Restaurants: 11:30–23:00 or midnight, sometimes longer, many closed during the afternoon

Small shops are often closed 13:00–15:00. If necessary, in many big cities you will find a few (sometimes more expensive) supermarkets with longer opening hours (often near the main station). Bakeries usually offer service on Sunday mornings (business hours vary) as well. Also, most petrol stations have a small shopping area.

In some parts of Germany (like Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf and the Ruhr area) there are cornershops called "Späti" oder "Spätkauf" ("latey"), "Kiosk", "Trinkhalle" (drinking hall) or "Büdchen" (little hut) that offer newspapers, drinks and at least basic food supplies. These shops are, depending on the area, open till late night or even 24/7.

Basic supplies can usually be bought around the clock at gas stations. Gas station owners work around opening hour restrictions by running 7-Eleven style mini marts on their gas station property. Be aware that prices are usually quite high. Another exception to this law are supermarkets located in touristy areas. Towns designated as a Kurort (health resort) are allowed to have their stores open all week during tourist season. Just ask a local for those well-kept secret stores.

Train stations are allowed to and frequently have their stores/shops open on Sundays, though usually for limited hours. In some larger cities such as Leipzig and Frankfurt, this can include an entire shopping mall that happens to be attached to the train station.

In Bavaria, most shops (with the exceptions noted above) close at 20:00 and can't open before 6:00, due to a state law making longer opening hours illegal. Keep that in mind when arriving in Bavaria late at night.

Eat[edit]

How to get service[edit]

Unlike in neighbouring countries such as France and the Netherlands, in Germany, at sit-down establishments, you must typically find an available table and sit down before a waiter will greet you (though if you see a member of the staff, do greet them yourself while you are walking in). If you wait to be seated, you are likely to wait a long time and get no service. When you get a table, it's yours until you leave. There is no need to hurry. It is also not unheard of in restaurants in the countryside to take a seat at a table where other people are already seated, especially if there are no other seats available. While it is uncommon to make conversation, in this case saying a brief hello (sometimes replaced by knocking on the table) goes a long way.

German food[edit]

German food usually sticks to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. Modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France to become lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity which is interesting to discover.

Since most bigger employers have a canteen for their employees, you will find relatively few sandwich shops and takeaways, and eating-out culture in Germany is dominated by the Gasthaus/Gasthof and restaurants. Putting places to eat into 6 categories gives you a hint about the budget/taste. Starting from the lower end, these are:

Imbiss[edit]

Imbiß
Currywurst

'Schnellimbiss' means 'quick snack', and is what you will see on the sign of German stalls and small shops that sell primarily sausage (Wurst) and fries (Pommes Frites). Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is fried and usually a boiled pork sausage. A very German variant is Currywurst: sausage chopped up and covered in spiced ketchup, dusted with curry powder. Beer and often even spirits are available in most Schnellimbisse.

'Döner Kebab' is a Turkish dish of veal, chicken or sometimes lamb stuffed into bread, similar to Greek Gyros and Arab Schawarma. Even though considered Turkish, it's actually a speciality which originated in Germany. According to legend, it was invented by Turkish immigrants in West Berlin during the 1970s. In fact, the 'Döner' is Germany's most loved fast food. The sales numbers of 'Döner' exceed those of McDonald's and Burger King products by far.

Nevertheless, fast food giants like McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut can be found in most towns. Nordsee is a German seafood chain, which offers 'Rollmops' (pickled herrings) and many other fish and seafood snacks. However, many independent seafood snack-bars (most common along the German coasts) offer slightly better and slightly cheaper seafood.

Bakeries and butchers[edit]

Germans have no tradition of sandwich shops but you will find that bakeries / butchers sell quite good take away food and are serious competition for the fast food chains. Even the smallest bakeries will sell many sorts of bread or rolls, most of them darker (for example, using wholemeal or rye flour) than the white bread popular around the world and definitely worth a try. Even if they don't already have it prepared, almost all butchers will prepare a sandwich for you if you ask. Some butchers even prepare meals for you. This butcher 'imbiss' is mainly popular in southern Germany, and the quality and freshness of food is usually high.

Biergarten[edit]

Here you will get the obvious drink. In traditional beer gardens in Bavaria, it is possible to bring your own food if you buy drinks. Most places will offer simple meals. Some Biergärten are also known as Bierkeller (especially in Franconia).

Brauhaus[edit]

Brauhaus in Köthen (Saxony-Anhalt)

Smaller breweries sell their products straight to the customer and sometimes you will find food there as well. "Haxe" or "Schweinshaxe" (pig's leg) will usually be among the offerings. It is a distinctively German specialty and probably the best dish in almost every establishment of that sort.

Gasthof/Gasthaus[edit]

Probably 50% of all eating places fall into this group. They are mainly family-run businesses that have been owned for generations, comparable to pubs in the UK. You can go there simply for a drink, or to try German food (often with a local flavour). Food quality differs significantly from place to place but the staff will usually give you an indication of the standard; regulations require restaurant owners to indicate certain possibly harmful ingredients (e.g. glutamates/MSG) in footnotes – a menu containing lots of such footnotes usually indicates low quality; if a cheap "Gasthaus" / restaurant is overcrowded with Germans or Asians, this indicates at least sufficient quality (unless the crowd is thanks to an organized coach excursion).

Restaurants[edit]

Germany has a wide range of flavors (e.g. German, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, Indian, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Vietnamese) and almost all styles of the world are represented.

Turkish cuisine in Germany ranges from simple "Döner" shops to mostly family-run restaurants offering a wide variation of usually very cheap (in relation to German price levels) Turkish home cooking.

You will rarely find restaurants catering for special needs within Germany (e.g. kosher restaurants are common only in cities with a notable Jewish population like Berlin), although most restaurants will prepare special meals or variants for you if they are neither relying on convenience foods only nor too fancy. Most restaurants have at least some vegetarian meals. Muslims may want to stick to Turkish or Arabic restaurants. At some Turkish or Arab food stalls vegetarians might find falafel and baba ganoush to suit their tastes. For not-so-strict Jews the halal (sometimes spelled helal for the Turkish word for it) Turkish food stalls are also the best option for meat dishes.

In most restaurants in Germany you can choose your own table. You can make reservations (recommended for larger groups and haute cuisine on Saturday nights) and these are marked by reservation cards ("Reserviert"). In expensive restaurants in larger cities you will be expected to make reservations and will be seated by the staff (who will not allow you to choose your table).

Restaurants in commercial areas often offer weekday lunch specials. These are cheap (starting at €5, sometimes including a beverage) options and a good way to sample local food. Specials tend to rotate on a daily or weekly basis, especially when fresh ingredients like fish are involved.

Some restaurants offer all-you-can-eat-buffets where you pay around 10 euros and can eat as much as you want. Drinks are not included in this price.

"XXL-Restaurants" are rising in popularity. These offer mostly standard meat dishes like Schnitzel or Bratwurst in big to inhumane sizes. There is often a dish that is virtually impossible to eat alone (usually bordering 2 kg!) but if you manage to eat everything (and keep it inside), the meal will be free and you'll get a reward. Unlike in other restaurants it is common and encouraged to take leftover food home.

Table manners[edit]

At very formal events and in high-end restaurants, a few German customs may differ from what some visitors may be used to:

  • It's considered bad manners to eat with your elbows resting on the table. Keep only your wrists on the table. Most Germans will keep up these manners in everyday life since this is one of the most basic rules parents will teach their children. If you go to a restaurant with your German friends, you may want to pay attention too.
  • When moving the fork to your mouth, the tines should point upwards (not downwards as in Britain)
  • When eating soup or other food from your spoon, hold it with the tip towards your mouth (not parallel to your lips as in, again, Britain). Spoons used to stir beverages, e.g. coffee, should not be put in the mouth at all.
  • If you have to temporarily leave the table, it's fine to put your napkin (which should have rested, folded once along the centre, on your lap until then) on the table, to the left of your plate, in an elegant little pile—unless it looks really dirty, in which case you might want to leave it on your chair.
  • If you want the dishes to be cleared away put you knife and fork parallel to each other with the tips at roughly the half past eleven mark of your plate. Otherwise the waitstaff will assume you are still eating.

Typical dishes[edit]

Hearty Bavarian food on a fancy plate. Left to right: Schnitzel, pork belly (Schweinebauch) with red cabbage (Rotkohl), Weißwurst with mashed potatoes (Kartoffelpüree), Bratwurst on sauerkraut

Rinderroulade mit Rotkraut und Knödeln: this dish is quite unique to Germany. Very thin sliced beef rolled around a piece of bacon and pickled cucumber until it looks like a mini barrel (5 cm diameter) flavoured with tiny pieces of onion, German mustard, ground black pepper and salt. The meat is quick-fried and is then left to cook slowly for an hour, meanwhile red cabbage and potato dumplings are prepared and then the meat is removed from the frying pan and gravy is prepared in the frying pan. Knödel, Rotkraut and Rouladen are served together with the gravy in one dish.

Pfefferrahm, Jäger, and Zigeuner Schnitzel with Pommes

Schnitzel mit Pommes Frites: there are probably as many different variations of Schnitzel as there are restaurants in Germany, most of them have in common a thin slice of pork that is usually breaded, and fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries (usually called Pommes Frites or often just Pommes). Variations of this are usually served with different types of gravy: such as Zigeunerschnitzel, Zwiebelschnitzel, Holzfäller Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel (as the name suggests, an Austrian dish – the genuine article must be veal instead of pork, which is why most restaurants offer a Schnitzel Wiener Art, or Viennese-style schnitzel which is allowed to be pork). In the south you can often get Spätzle (pasta that Swabia is famous for) instead of fries with it. Spätzle are egg noodles typical of south Germany – most restaurants make them fresh. Due to the easiness of its preparation ordering it might be perceived as an insult to any business with a decent reputation (with the exception of Wiener Schnitzel perhaps), admittedly it is almost unavoidable to spot it on the menu of any sleazy German drinking hole (and there are many...), if nothing else therefore it might even be the most common dish in German restaurants (yes, at least German government officials do call their taverns as well as the common fast food stalls restaurants!).

Rehrücken mit Spätzle: Germany has maintained huge forests such as the famous Black Forest, Bayrischer Wald and Odenwald. In and around these areas you can enjoy the best game in Germany. Rehrücken means venison tenderloin and it is often served with freshly made noodles such as Spätzle and a very nice gravy based on a dry red wine.

Bratwurst and Sauerkraut from the 500 year old fast-food stand in Regensburg

Wurst “sausage”: there is no country in the world with a greater variety of sausages than Germany and it would take a while to mention them all. “Bratwurst“ is fried, other varieties such as the Bavarian “Weißwurst“ are boiled. Here is the shortlist version: “Rote” beef sausage, “Frankfurter Wurst” boiled pork sausage made in the Frankfurt style, “Pfälzer Bratwurst” sausage made in Palatine style, “Nürnberger Bratwurst” Nuremberg sausage – the smallest of all of them, but a serious contender for the best tasting German sausage, “grobe Bratwurst”, Landjäger, Thüringer Bratwurst, Currywurst, Weißwurst ... this could go on till tomorrow. If you spot a sausage on a menu this is often a good (and sometimes the only) choice. Often served with mashed potato, fries or potato salad. The most popular type of sausage probably is the Currywurst (Bratwurst cut into slices and served with ketchup and curry) and can be bought almost everywhere.

Koenigsberger Klopse: Literally "meatballs from Koenigsberg", this is a typical dish in and around Berlin. The meatballs are made out of minced pork and anchovies and are cooked and served in a white sauce with capers and rice or potatoes.

Matjesbrötchen: Soussed herring or "roll mops" in a bread roll, typical street snack.

Local specialities[edit]

Pfälzer Saumagen with Sauerkraut, allegedly the favorite dish of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Maultaschen from Baden

Starting from the north of Germany going south you will find a tremendous variety of food and each region sticks to it origins. The coastal regions are fond of seafood and famous dishes include “Finkenwerder Scholle”.

In the region of Cologne you will find Sauerbraten, which is a roast marinated in vinegar. Traditionally made from the tough meat of the horses who worked their lives pulling river barges up the Rhine, these days the dish is usually made from pork or boar.

Labskaus (although strictly speaking not a German invention) is a dish from the north and the opinions about this dish are divided, some love it, others hate it. It is a mash of potato, beetroot juice and cured meat decorated with rollmops and/or young herring and/or a fried egg and/or sour cucumber and/or beetroot slices on top. The north is also famous for its lamb dishes, the best type of lamb probably being "Rudenlamm" (lamb from Ruden, a small island in the Baltic Sea; only a few restaurants in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania serve this), the second best type being "Salzwiesenlamm" (salt meadow lamb). The Lueneburger Heide (Lueneburg Heath) is famous not only for its heath but also for its Heidschnucken, a special breed of sheep. Be aware that a lot of restaurants import their lamb from New Zealand though because it is cheaper. Crabs and mussels are also quite common along the German coasts, especially in North Frisia.

A specialty of Hamburg is "Aalsuppe" which – despite the name (in this case "Aal" means "everything", not "eel") – originally contained almost everything – except eel (today many restaurants include eel within this soup, because the name confused tourists). At the coast there's a variety of fish dishes. Beware: if a restaurant offers "Edelfischplatte" or any dish of similar name, the fish may not be fresh and even (this is quite ironic) of poor quality. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that, for eating fish, you visit specialised (or quality) restaurants only. A fast-food style restaurant chain serving standardized quality fish and other seafood at low prices all over Germany is "Nordsee", though you will rarely find authentic specialties there.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, cherry cake from the Black Forest region

Pfälzer Saumagen: Long a well-known dish in Palatinate, but difficult to find outside of this area. Literally this is pig stomach filled with a mash of potato and meat, cooked for 2–3 hours and then cut into thick slices. It is often served with sauerkraut. It gained some notoriety as Helmut Kohl was fond of serving it to official state guests such as Gorbachev and Reagan when he was Chancellor.

Swabia is famous for Spätzle (a kind of noodle, often served with cheese as Kässpätzle) and "Maultaschen" (noodles stuffed with spinach and mince meat, but lots of variations, even veggie ones, exist).

In Bavaria this may be Schweinshaxe mit Knödeln (pork's leg with knödel, a form of potato dumplings), "Leberkäs/Fleischkäse mit Kartoffelsalat" (a type of meat pie and potato salad), "Nürnberger Bratwurst" (probably the smallest sausage in Germany), Weißwurst (white sausages) and "Obatzda" (a spicy mix of several milk products).

The south is also famous for its nice tarts such as the "Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte" (tart with lots of cream and spirits made from cherries).

A delicacy in Saxony is Eierschecke, a cake made of eggs and cream similar to cheese cake.

A specialty of the East is "Soljanka" (originating from Ukraine, but probably the most common dish in the GDR), a sour soup containing vegetables and usually some kind of meat or sausages.

Seasonal specialities[edit]

Asparagus with hollandaise sauce and potatoes

White “Spargel” (asparagus) floods the restaurants from April to June all over Germany, especially in and around Baden-Baden and the small town of Schwetzingen ("The Asparagus Capital"), near Heidelberg, in an area north and north-east of Hannover ("Lower Saxony's Asparagus Route"), as well as in the area southwest of Berlin, especially in the town of Beelitz and along the Lower Rhine ("Walbecker Spargel"). Many vegetables can be found all year round and are often imported from far away, whereas asparagus can be found for only 2 months and is best enjoyed fresh after harvest, it stays nice for a couple of hours or until the next day. The asparagus is treated very carefully and it is harvested before it is ever exposed to daylight, so that it remains white. When exposed to daylight it changes its colour to green and might taste bitter. Therefore, white asparagus is considered to be better by most Germans.

The standard asparagus meal is the asparagus stalks, hollandaise sauce, boiled potatoes, and some form of meat. The most common meat is ham, preferably smoked; however, you will also find it teamed with schnitzel (fried breaded pork), turkey, beef, or whatever is available in the kitchen.

White asparagus soup is one of the hundreds of different recipes that can be found with white asparagus. Often it is made with cream and contains some of the thinner asparagus pieces.

Another example of a seasonal specialty is "Grünkohl" (kale). You can find that mainly in Lower Saxony, particularly the southern and south-western parts such as the "Emsland" or around the "Wiehengebirge" and the "Teutoburger Wald", but also everywhere else there and in the eastern parts of North-Rhine-Westphalia. It is usually served with a boiled rough sort of sausage (called "Pinkel") and roasted potatoes. If you are travelling in Lower-Saxony in fall, you should get it in every "Gasthaus".

Lebkuchen are some of Germany's many nice Christmas biscuits and gingerbread. The best known are produced in and around Nuremberg.

Stollen is a kind of cake eaten during the Advent season and yuletide. Original Stollen is produced only in Dresden, Saxony, however you can buy Stollen everywhere in Germany (although Dresdner Stollen is reputed to be the best and comparatively cheap).

Around St. Martin's day and Christmas, roasted geese ("Martinsgans" / "Weihnachtsgans") are quite common in German restaurants, accompanied by "Rotkraut" (red cabbage, in southern Germany it is often called Blaukraut) and "Knödeln" (potato dumplings), preferably served as set menu, with the liver, accompanied by some kind of salad, as starter, goose soup, and a dessert.

Miscellaneous[edit]

Selection of bread in a German bakery

Germans are very fond of their bread, which they make in many variations. This is the food that Germans tend to miss most when away from home. Most people like their bread relatively dark and dense and scorn the soft loaves sold in other countries. Bakeries will rarely provide less than twenty different sorts of bread and it's worth trying a few of them. In fact, many Germans buy their lunch or small snacks in bakeries instead of takeaways or the like. Prices for a loaf of bread will range from €0.50 to €4, depending on the size (real specialties might cost more).

Because German bread tends to be excellent, sandwiches (belegtes Brot) are also usually to a high standard, including in train stations and airports.

Vegetarian[edit]

Outside of big cities like Berlin, there aren't many places which are particularly aimed at vegetarian or vegan customers. Most restaurants have one or two vegetarian dishes. If the menu doesn't contain vegetarian dishes, don't hesitate to ask.

Vegetarian restaurant guides can be found at this German language website or the VEBU restaurant list where the restaurants are not necessarily vegetarian in general. Be careful when ordering to ask whether the dish is suitable for vegetarians, as chicken stock and bacon cubes are a commonly "undeclared" ingredient on German menus.

However, there are usually organic food shops ("Bioladen", "Naturkostladen" or "Reformhaus") in every city, providing veg(etari)an bread, spreads, cheese, ice cream, vegan milk substitutes, tofu and seitan. The diversity and quality of the products is great and you will find shop assistants that can answer special nutritional questions in great depth.

Veganism and vegetarianism is on the rise in Germany so that many supermarkets (such as Edeka and Rewe) have a small selection of vegan products as well in their "Feinkost"-section such as seitan-sausages, tofu or soy milk at a reasonable price.

Allergy & Coeliac sufferers[edit]

When shopping for foods, the package labelling in Germany is generally reliable. All food products must be properly labelled including additives and preservatives. Be on the look out for Weizen (wheat), Mehl (flour) or Malz (malt) and Stärke (starch). Be extra cautious for foods with Geschmacksverstärker (flavour enhancers) that may have gluten as an ingredient.

  • Reformhaus. 3,000 strong network of health food stores in Germany and Austria that has dedicated gluten-free sections stocked with pasta, breads and treats. Reformhaus stores are usually found in the lower level of shopping centres (eg: PotsdamerArkaden, etc.)
  • DM Stores. The CWS/Shopper's Drug Mart equivalent in Germany has dedicated wheat and gluten free sections
  • Alnatura. – natural foods store with a large dedicated gluten-free section

Smoking[edit]

Individual Bundesländer started banning smoking in public places and other areas in early 2007, however the laws vary from state to state. Smoking is generally banned in all restaurants and cafes. Some places may provide separate smoking areas but it is best to enquire when booking. Smokers should be prepared to step outside if they want to light up. Smoking is banned on all forms of public transport including on railway platforms (except in designated smoking areas, which are clearly marked with the word Raucherbereich [smoking area]). The laws are strictly enforced.

In restaurants it is widely accepted for customers to leave their table without paying the bill to go for a smoke and return later. If you are alone, tell the staff that you are going outside to smoke, and if you have a bag or coat, leave it there.

Drink[edit]

The legal drinking ages are:

  • 14 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, as long as they are in the company of their parents or a legal guardian.
  • 16 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine without their parents or a legal guardian. Any drink that contains distilled alcohol (even if the overall alcohol content is lower than for a typical beer) is not allowed
  • 18 - having become adults, people are allowed unrestricted access to alcohol.

Beer[edit]

Beer

For centuries, beer-making in Bavaria has been governed by the Reinheitsgebot (purity law) that was made national policy with the unification of Germany in 1871, which states that German beer may be made only from hops, malt, yeast and water. The Reinheitsgebot has been watered down with imports due to European integration, but German breweries still have to stick to it since for them, national law applies.

The domestic beer market is not dominated by one or only a few big breweries. Even though there are some big players, the regional diversity is enormous, and there are over 1,200 breweries with most of them serving only local markets. Usually bars and restaurants serve the local varieties that differ from town to town. When sitting in a German Kneipe, a local beer is always an option, and often the only option.

Specialities include Weizenbier (or Weißbier in Bavaria), a refreshing top-fermented beer which is popular in the south, Alt, a kind of dark ale that is especially popular in and around Düsseldorf, and Kölsch, a special beer brewed in Cologne. "Pils", the German name for pilsner, is a light-gold beer that is extremely popular in Germany. There are also seasonal beers, which are made only at particular times of the year (such as Bockbier in winter and Maibock in May, both containing a greater quantity of alcohol, sometimes double that of a normal Vollbier).

Beer is usually served in 200 or 300mL glasses (in the northern part) or 500mL in the South. In Biergartens in Bavaria, 500mL is a small beer ("Halbe") and a litre is normal ("Maß" pronounced "Mahss"). Except in "Irish pubs", pints or pitchers are uncommon.

For Germans, a lot of foam is both a sign of freshness and quality; thus, beer is always served with a lot of head. (All glasses have volume marks for the critical souls.)

Additionally, Germans are not afraid to mix beer with other drinks (though the older generation may disagree). Beer is commonly mixed with carbonated lemonade (usually at 1:1 ratio) and called a "Radler" (or cyclist so named because it is commonly associated with a refreshing drink a cyclist might enjoy in spring or summer during a cycling excursion) (or "Alsterwasser"/"Alster" (after the river in Hamburg) in the north); "Cocktails" of Pilsener/Altbier and soft drinks like Fanta, a "Krefelder"/"Colaweizen" cola and dark wheat beer is another combination that can be found. Pils mixed with Cola is very popular especially among younger Germans and goes by different names – depending on your area – such as "Diesel", "Schmutziges" (dirty) or "Schweinebier" (pigs beer), to name a few. Another famous local delicacy is "Berliner Weiße", a cloudy, sour wheat beer of around 3% abv. that is mixed with syrups (traditionally raspberry) and is very refreshing in summer. These beer-based mixed drinks are widespread and popular and can be bought as pre-mixed bottles (typically in six packs) wherever regular beer is sold.

Pubs are open in Germany until 02:00 or later. Food is generally available until midnight. Germans typically go out after 20:00 (popular places are already full by 18:00).

Cider[edit]

Cider à la Frankfurt — Pitcher and rhomb glass

Undisputed capital of "Apfelwein" (or Äbblwoi as it is locally called) cider in Germany is Frankfurt. Locals love their cider and it is very popular around there. There are even special bars ("Apfelweinkneipe") that will serve only Apfelwein and some gastronomic specialities. Cider is often served in a special jug called "Bembel". The taste is slightly different from ciders in other countries and tends to be quite refreshing. In autumn when apples are turned into cider you might find "Frischer Most" or "Süßer" signposted at some places. That is the first product in the chain of "Apfelwein" production; one glass of it is nice, but after two or three glasses you will have a problem unless you enjoy spending lots of time on the toilet. In the Saarland and surrounding regions "Apfelwein" is called "Viez". It varies here from "Suesser Viez" (sweet), to "Viez Fein-Herb" (medium sweet) to "Alter Saerkower" (sour). The Viez capital of that region is Merzig. During winter it is also quite common to drink hot cider (along with some cloves and sugar). It is considered an efficient measure against an oncoming cold.

Coffee[edit]

Germans drink lots of coffee. Currently, the port of Hamburg is the world's busiest place for coffee trading. Coffee is always freshly made from ground coffee or beans – no instant. However, persons coming from countries with a great coffee tradition (like Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Greece or Austria) might find the coffee that is served in normal restaurants a bit boring. A German specialty, originating from North Frisia but nowadays also common in East Frisia, is "Pharisäer", a mixture of coffee and a spirit, usually rum, with a thick cream top. A variation of this is "Tote Tante" (dead aunt, with coffee replaced by hot chocolate).

Over the past few years, American coffee house chain Starbucks or clones have expanded into Germany, but mostly you will encounter "Cafés" which usually offer a large selection of cakes to go along with the coffee.

Glühwein[edit]

Visiting Germany in December? Then go and see one of the famous Christmas markets (the most famous taking place in Nuremberg, Dresden, Leipzig, Münster, Bremen, Augsburg and Aachen) and this is the place where you find Glühwein (mulled wine), a spiced wine served very hot to comfort you in the cold of winter.

Spirits[edit]

A generic word for spirits made from fruit or/and herbs is Obstler, and each area has its specialities.

“Kirschwasser” literally means cherry water; it certainly tastes of cherry but on the other hand it is not regular drinking water. There is a long lasting tradition in making spirits in Baden, and “Kirschwasser” is probably the flagship product and it might encourage you to taste other specialities such as Himbeergeist (from raspberry), Schlehenfeuer (flavored with sloe berries), Williamchrist (pear) and Apfelkorn (apple).

“Enzian” Bavarians like their beer as well their Enzian, a spirit high in alcohol that is best as a digestive after a hefty meal.

"Korn", made of grain, is probably the most common spirit in Germany. Its main production centre (Berentzen) lies in Haselünne, where tours and tastings can be arranged in the distilleries. The town is located near the river Ems in northwest Germany; for rail service to Haselünne (very sparse) see Eisenbahnfreunde Hasetal.

In North Frisia, "Köm" (caraway spirit), either pure or mixed with tea ("Teepunsch", tea punch), is very popular.

"Eiergrog" is a hot mixture of egg liquor and rum.

Tea[edit]

Tea is also very popular, and a large choice is readily available. The region of East Frisia in particular has a long tea tradition, and is probably the only place in Germany where tea is more popular than coffee. The East Frisian tea ceremony consists of black tea served in a flat porcelain cup with special rock sugar (Kluntje) that is put in the cup before pouring the tea. Cream is added afterwards, but is not stirred into the tea.

Hot chocolate[edit]

Especially in winter, Germans love their hot chocolate (heiße Schokolade), which is widely available. Hot chocolate in Germany tends to be more or less Zartbitter — that is, bittersweet — and in the more gourmet establishments, it can be quite dark and bitter and only a little sweet. It is commonly served with Schlag (fresh whipped cream, also called Schlagsahne). Milk chocolate is called Kinderschokolade ("children's chocolate") in Germany and not taken seriously at all, so don't expect to be able to order hot milk chocolate if you are an adult.

Wine[edit]

Aerial view of vineyards at Markgräflerland

Some Germans are just as passionate about their wines as others are about their beer. The similarities don't stop here, both products are often produced by small companies and the best wines are consumed locally and only the remaining ones are exported. The production of wine has a 2,000 year old history in Germany as may be learned from the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Trier but, of course, this was a Roman settlement at that time. Sunshine is the limiting factor for the production of wines in Germany and, therefore, wine production is limited to the south. White wine plays a main role in the wine production, but some areas produce red wines (Ahr, Baden Württemberg). White wines are produced from Riesling, Kerner and Müller-Thurgau grapes (there are a lot more, but to name them all would be too much), and produce generally fresh and fruity wines. German wines can be rich in acid and are quite refreshing. It is generally accepted that Riesling grapes produce the best German wines, but they demand a lot of sunshine and they grow best in very exposed areas such as the Mosel, Rheingau, Bergstraße, Kaiserstuhl and Pfalz.

The best way to learn about wines is go to the place where they are grown and taste them on the spot. This is called "Weinprobe" and is generally free of charge - though in touristed areas you have to pay a small fee.

Good wines usually go together with good food so you might like to visit when you are hungry as well as thirsty. The so-called Straußenwirtschaft, Besenwirtschaft or Heckenwirtschaft are little "pubs" or gardens where a wine-producer sells his own wine, normally with little meals such as sandwiches or cheese and ham. Normally, they are open only in summer and autumn, and not longer than 4 months a year (due to legal regulations). As they are sometimes located in the vineyards or in some back streets, they are not always easy to find, so you best ask a local for the next (or best) Straußenwirtschaft he knows.

During the fall you can buy "Federweisser" in south-western Germany. This is a partially fermented white wine and contains some alcohol (depending on age), but tastes very sweet. It is also available from red grapes, being called "Roter Sauser".

Wine producing areas are:

Ahr is the paradise of German red wines. Half of the production is dedicated to red wines and it is densely populated with “Gaststätten” and “Strausswirten”. A saying goes: Whoever visited the Ahr and remembers that he was there, hasn’t actually been there.

Baden with c. 15,500 hectares of wine yards and a production of 1 million hectolitres, Baden is Germany’s third biggest wine growing area. It's the most southerly German wine growing area and is Germany’s only member of the European Wine Category B together with the famous French areas Alsace, Champagne and Loire. Baden is more than 400 km long and is split into nine regional groups: Tauberfranken, Badische Bergstraße, Kraichgau, Ortenau, Breisgau, Kaiserstuhl, Tuniberg, Markgräflerland and Bodensee. The Kaiserstuhl and the Markgräflerland are the most famous areas for wine from Baden. One of the largest wine cooperatives is the Badischer Winzerkeller in Breisach.

Bocksbeutels from Franken, one modern, the other late 19th century.

Franken: Franconia is in the northern part of Bavaria and you can find there very nice wines. Some wines produced in Franconia are sold in a special bottle called "Bocksbeutel".

Hessische Bergstraße: located on the slopes of the Rhine valley it is a quiet small wine producing area and wines are usually consumed within the area in and around Heppenheim.

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: the steepest vineyards in Germany can be seen when driving in the Mosel valley from Koblenz to Trier.

Pfalz: biggest wine producing area in Germany. Has some excellent wines to taste and a lot of nice villages embedded in vineyards. Tasting wine in Deidesheim is a good idea and several prime producer of German wine are all located on the main road. Want to see the biggest wine barrel in the world then go to Bad Dürkheim.

Rheingau: is the smallest wine producing area, but it produces the highest rated Riesling wines in Germany. Visit Wiesbaden and make a trip on the Rhine to Eltville and Rüdesheim.

Rheinhessen too is especially famous for its Riesling. Visit Mainz and make a trip on the Rhine to Worms, Oppenheim, Ingelheim or Bingen.

Saale-Unstrut: located in the state of Saxonia-Anhalt on the banks of the rivers Saale and Unstrut is the most northern wine producing area in Europe.

Sachsen: One of the smallest wine regions in Germany, nestled along the Elbe River near Dresden and Meissen.

Württemberg: As was mentioned before, here the rule that the best wine is consumed by locals, strictly applies; wine consumption per head is twice as high as in the rest of Germany, regardless of whether it's red or the white wine. The speciality of the region is the red wine called Trollinger and it can be quite nice by German standards.

Sleep[edit]

Germany provides almost all options for accommodation, including hotels, B&B's, hostels, and camping. You might also consider staying with members of a hospitality exchange network.

Hotels[edit]

Adlon, famous luxury hotel in Berlin

Most international hotel chains have franchises in the major German cities, and a large variety of local hotels exist. All hotels in Germany are ranked by stars (1 to 5 stars). The rankings are made independently and are therefore reliable. The rate always includes VAT and is usually per room. Prices vary significantly by city (Munich and Frankfurt are most expensive). You can find many "value-oriented" chain hotels like Motel One or Ibis, both in the suburbs and city centres of most cities, which are often quite new or renovated and surprisingly nice for the price. For people who travel by car, much like France, Germany has a dense network of ibis Budget hotels located at the outskirts of cities near Autobahns, offering a truly bare-bones hotel experience at prices that can compete with hostels.

On the other end of the scale, Germany has many luxury hotels. The market penetration by hotel chains are high. Local brands include the ultra-luxury Kempinski (which by now is quite a global brand), while Dorint and Lindner operate upscale business hotels. Most global hotel chains have solid presence, with Accor (Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure) leading the way.

It is not a cliche that you can count on German hotels delivering quality and a predictable experience. You may not get pampered if the brochure doesn't say so, but it is very rare that your experience will truly be bad. Moreover, Germany domestic tourism is quite family-oriented, so you should have no trouble finding family-friendly hotels with extra beds in rooms, often in the form of a bunk bed, and amenities for your younger ones.

Bed & Breakfast[edit]

B&Bs ("Pensionen" or "Fremdenzimmer") (usually) provide less comfort than hotels for cheaper prices. The advantage is that you are likely to meet Germans and get a touch of the German way of living. A sign saying "Zimmer frei" indicates a B&B with a room available.

Hostels[edit]

Youth hostel Schloss Ortenburg (Baden-Württemberg)

Hostels provide simple, budget accommodation primarily in shared rooms. They are good places to get to know other travellers. In Germany, as in many countries, two flavors exist: international youth hostels and independent hostels.

International Youth Hostels ("Jugendherbergen") are owned and run by the association "Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk" (DJH), which is part of the Hostelling International (HI) network. There are more than 600 hostels spread all over Germany in big and small cities as well as in the country side. Not only individual travellers are guests but also school classes and other youth groups. To sleep there, you have to be or become a member in a youth hostel organisation belonging the HI network [1]. Detailed information about this and each of their hostels can be found on the DJH's [2]. Generally, this entails simply filling out a card and paying a few extra Euro per night. In general, the advantage of these places is that they tend to serve a buffet style breakfast for no additional charge, though this is not an absolute rule. However, the quality is often below that of private hostels, and many do not provide a good opportunity for socializing.

Privately run independent hostels are starting to be an attractive alternative for a similar price. More than 60 already exist in Germany, and more and more open every year. They are located in bigger cities, especially in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, and Hamburg. Only a few are in the countryside. Sometimes run by former travellers, hostels refrain from having strict rules. Especially small ones are frequently places where you can feel at home. Many are known for their vibrant, party atmosphere and can be an excellent way to meet other travelers. There is no need to be a member in some organisation to sleep there. About half of the hostels have organized themselves in a "Backpacker Network Germany" [3], which provides a list of their members hostels. A website which lists almost every independent hostel in Germany is Gomio. Of course, international room booking agencies such as Hostelsclub, Hostelworld & Hostelbookers are also good resources, and give travelers the ability to leave reviews.

Camping[edit]

Camping site in Hattingen (North Rhine-Westphalia

There are countless campsites in Germany. They vary significantly in the infrastructure and standard. The ADAC, the German automobile club, offers an excellent guide for most German camping groups. If you are member of your national motorclub assistance and guides are free or at substantial reduced prices.

Some travellers just put up their tents somewhere in the countryside. In Germany this is illegal, unless you have the landowner's permission. Practically however nobody cares as long as you are discreet, stay for one night only and take your trash with you. Be aware of hunting ranges and military practise grounds or you could be in significant danger of being shot.

Learn[edit]

The Baroque palace in Münster (now used by the University)

German universities are competitive with the best in the world. The most prestigious university in Germany is arguably Heidelberg University (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg), which is also Germany's oldest university.

Since the vast majority of the universities are state-owned, studying in Germany is usually very cheap (€50–700/semester), but keep in mind that the cost of living in most of Germany is quite high (for example Tübingen: around €350–400 rent per month for a one-room apartment + living expenses) with rent being the major factor. Because of this, most students either share a flat or live in a dormitory. Dormitories also often consider the financial situation of the applicants and decide accordingly.

Whereas admission to German universities is straightforward for EU nationals, prospective students from non-EU countries may face bureaucratic hurdles such as being asked to provide proof that they can cover their own expenses. There are very few scholarships available, work-study jobs rarely exist, and student loans are rare. In addition, Germany universities rarely provide the discounted and high quality amenities that other universities do. Some German universities do not have a coherent campus and opening hours can be short, so check carefully.

German universities are now changing their traditional course system to Master/Bachelor programs. In general the courses are becoming more structured and school-like with a higher workload. Nevertheless, more self-initiative is expected at German universities than in many other places. Help with problems is not "automatic" and newcomers may feel a little left alone in the beginning. The same applies to "Fachhochschulen" (describing themselves as "Universities of Applied Sciences"), the only difference being their cooperation with large corporations.

Work[edit]

The official unemployment rate in Germany is around 5.4% as of April 2013 and there are jobs for those with the right qualifications or connections. Non-EU foreigners wishing to work in Germany should make sure they secure the proper permits. Getting these permits can mean extended dealings with the distinctly Germanic bureaucracy, especially for non-EU citizens, and so may not be a practical way to help your travelling budget.

Non-EU students are permitted to work on their residence permits, but there is a limitation of 90 full (more than four hours worked) days per year or 180 half days (under 4 hours worked) without special authorisation. Working through one's university, though, does not require a special permit.

Citizens of some non-EU countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and the US) can apply for resident status with a work permit during their 90 day visa-free stay in Germany; however, they may not work without a visa/authorisation. Other nationals require a work visa before entering the country, which they need to exchange into a residence permit after entry. For more information, see the 'Entry requirements' subsection of the 'Get in' section above. Illicit work is rather common in the German hospitality and tourism industry (about 4.1% of the German GDP) and virtually the only way to avoid the German bureaucracy. Being caught, however, can mean time in jail, and you are liable to your employer to almost the same extent as if you worked legally.

If you want to stay in Germany for an extended period of time, but do not speak German, your best bets are large multinational companies in the banking, tourism or high-tech industries. Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich and of course Hamburg and Berlin are likely the best places to start looking. A good knowledge of German is usually expected, but not always a prerequisite. English speakers who are certified teachers in their home countries might be able to secure work at American or British international schools. English teaching without these qualifications is not lucrative in Germany.

During the asparagus season (April to June) farmers are usually looking for temporary workers, but this means really hard work and miserable pay. The main advantage of these jobs is that knowledge of German shall not be required.

Applying for a job in Germany is different from many other countries. As in nearly every country there are some peculiarities that every applicant should know.

Stay safe[edit]

Germany is a very safe country. Crime rates are low and the rule of law is strictly enforced.

Violent crimes (murders, robberies, rapes, assaults) are very rare compared to most countries. For instance, 2010 murder rates were 0.86 cases per 100,000 inhabitants — significantly lower than in the UK (1.17), Australia (1.20), France (1.31), Canada (1.81) and the US (5.0) – and they continue to decline. Pickpockets may sometimes be an issue in large cities or at events with large crowds. Begging is not uncommon in some larger cities, but to no greater extent than in most other major cities and you will rarely encounter aggressive beggars.

If you're staying in Berlin and Hamburg (Schanzenviertel) around 1 May (Tag der Arbeit) expect demonstrations that frequently degenerate into clashes between the police and a minority of the demonstrators.

Take the usual precautions and you will most likely not encounter any crime at all while staying in Germany.

Emergencies[edit]

The nationwide emergency number for the police, fire and rescue services is 112 (same as in all EU countries). This number can be dialed toll-free from any phone, including phone booths and mobile phones (SIM-card required). If you are reporting an emergency, the usual guidelines apply: stay calm and state your exact location, the type of emergency and the number of persons involved. Do not hang up until the operator has received all required information and ends the call.

There are orange emergency telephones interspersed along the main motorways. You can find the closest SOS-phone by following arrows on the reflection posts at the side of the road.

Ambulances (Rettungswagen) can be summoned via the national toll-free emergency number 112 and will help you regardless of insurance issues. All hospitals (Krankenhäuser) except for the smallest private ones have 24-hour emergency rooms able to cope with all kinds of medical problems.

Racism[edit]

The overwhelming majority of foreign visitors will never deal with issues of open racial discrimination or racism in Germany. Large cities in Germany are very cosmopolitan and multiethnic with large communities of people from all continents and religions. Germans are also very aware and ashamed of the historical burden of the Nazi era and are usually open-minded and tolerant in contacts with foreigners. Non-white visitors may get an occasional wary look, but not to a greater extent than in other countries with a predominantly white population.

This general situation may be different in some predominantly rural parts of Germany (including the outskirts of some cities with higher unemployment levels). The feeling of being left alone with widespread underemployment and unemployment and the desperation caused thereby can lead some people to xenophobia ("they are stealing our jobs"). As a result, incidences of racist behaviour can occur with a few incidents of violence. Most of these happen at night when groups of drunken "Neo-Nazis" or some migrant groups might look for trouble (and solitary victims) downtown or near public transport. This might also affect foreign visitors, homeless persons, West Germans and people with alternative looks such as Punks, Goths, etc.

Public displays of overt anti-semitism are strictly forbidden by laws that are very much enforced. The Hitler salute and the swastika are banned, as is the public denial of the Holocaust. Violations of these laws against racism are not taken lightly by the authorities, even when made in jest. You should also avoid displaying a swastika even for religious reasons.

Police[edit]

Officer from the Hamburg state police

German Police (German: Polizei) officers are always helpful, professional and trustworthy, but tend to be rather strict in enforcing the law, which means that one should not expect that exceptions are made for tourists. When dealing with police you should remain calm, courteous and avoid getting into confrontations. Most police officers should understand at least basic English or have colleagues who do.

Police uniforms and cars are green or blue. Green used to be the standard, but most states and the federal police have transitioned to blue uniforms and cars to comply with the EU standard.

Police officers are employed by the states except in airports, train stations, border crossings etc. which are controlled by the federal police (Bundespolizei). In mid-sized towns and big cities, local police (called Stadtpolizei, kommunale Polizeibehörde or Ordnungsamt) have some limited law enforcement rights and are in general responsible for traffic issues.

If you get arrested, you have the right to have an attorney. Foreign nationals also have the right to contact their respective embassy for assistance. You are never obliged to make a statement that would incriminate yourself and you have the right to remain silent. Wait until your lawyer arrives and talk to your lawyer first. If you do not have a lawyer then you can call your embassy or else the local justice official will appoint a lawyer for you.

If you are a victim of a crime (for example robbery, assault or theft in public) and wave an oncoming patrol car or officer, it is not uncommon that the officers will (sometimes very harshly: "Einsteigen") command you to enter the back seat of the police cruiser. This is an action to start an instant manhunt to identify and arrest the suspect. In this case remember that you are not under arrest but to help the officers to enforce the law and maybe get back your property.

German police do have ranks but are not that keen about them; many Germans won't know the proper terms. Do not try to determine seniority by counting the stars on the officers shoulders in order to choose the officer you will address, since such behaviour can be considered disrespectful. Talk to any officer and they will answer your questions or redirect you to the officer in charge.

Prostitution[edit]

Prostitution is legal but regulated in Germany.

All larger cities have a red light district with licensed bars, go-gos and escort services. Tabloids are full of ads and the internet is the main contact base. Brothels are not necessarily easily spotted from the streets (outside of redlight districts) to avoid legal action by neighbours. Places best known for their redlight activities are Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt and Cologne.

Due to Germany's proximity to Eastern Europe, several cases of human trafficking and illegal immigration have taken place. Police regularly raid brothels to keep this business within its legal boundaries, and check the identity documents of workers and patrons alike.

Drugs[edit]

Alcohol may be purchased by persons 16 years and older. However, distilled beverages and mixed drinks with those (including the popular 'Alcopops') are available only at 18. It is not technically illegal for younger people to drink, but it is illegal to allow them to drink on premises. If the police notices underage drinking, they may pick the person up, confiscate the drinks and send the person home in the presence of an officer.

Smoking is allowed starting at age 18. Vending machines for cigarettes require a valid "proof of age", which in practice means that you need a German bank card or a (European) driving license to use them.

The situation on marijuana can be confusing. The Constitutional Court ruled that possession for "personal use", though still illegal, should not be prosecuted. Germany is a federal state; therefore' the interpretation of this ruling is up to the state authorities. In fact charges are sometimes pressed even for tiny amounts, which will cause you a lot of trouble regardless of the outcome. As a general rule the northern states tend to be more liberal while in the south (especially Bavaria), even negligible amounts are considered illegal. The customs officials are also aware of the fact that you can legally buy marijuana in the Netherlands and therefore set up regular border controls (also inside trains), as importation of marijuana is strictly prohibited.

Even if you get off the charges, the authorities may cause different problems, like revoking your drivers license and if you have more than a few grams, you will be prosecuted in any case. Also, the drugs will be confiscated in all cases.

All other recreational drugs (like ecstasy) are illegal and possession will lead to prosecution and at least a police record.

Weapons[edit]

Some types of knives are illegal in Germany: this concerns mostly some types of spring knives, "butterfly" knives, knuckle knives and the like — possessing such knives is an offense. Knives that are intended as weapons are restricted to persons over 18.

It is illegal to carry any type of "dangerous knife" on your person in public unless you have a valid reason to do so. For example, if you are out fishing you are still entitled to carry a fishing knife. "Dangerous" knives are generally those with a blade length exceeding 12 cm and locking "one-handed" folding knives.

Carrying any knife beyond a pocket knife (typically Swiss army knives) without any professional reasons (carpenter, etc.) is seen as very rude and unacceptable in Germany. Germans consider any non-professional used knives as signs of aggression and do not accept this behaviour. Flashing a knife (even folded) may cause bystanders to call the police, who will be very serious in handling the upcoming situation.

Firearms are strictly controlled. It is practically impossible to legally carry a gun in public unless you are a law enforcement officer. "Fake" firearms may not be carried in public if they resemble real guns. CO2 and air guns are relatively easy to acquire. If the police find any kind of weapon or firearm on you, you will appear highly suspicious.

Fireworks[edit]

Avoid bringing any fireworks into Germany, especially from outside the EU. Even bringing those can be an offence. Fireworks are traditionally used on New Year's Eve. Most "proper" fireworks (marked as "Klasse II") will be available at only the end of the year; they may be used by persons only over 18 on December 31 and January 1. Really small items (marked as "Klasse I") may be used around the year by anyone.

Fishing[edit]

Fishing laws differ a lot from state to state. Obtaining a fishing license for Germans and foreigners has become a highly bureaucratic process due to animal protection laws.

Gay and lesbian travelers[edit]

Germany is in general very tolerant of homosexuality. Nevertheless, in some deprived areas 'gay-bashing' is popular with Neonazis, muslims or other groups, so use common sense and be geared to the behaviour of the locals around you. In small towns and in the countryside, open displays of homosexuality should be limited.

The attitude towards gays and lesbians is rather tolerant, with openly gay politicians and celebrities being considered increasingly normal. While some, especially the elderly, Germans inwardly still don't approve of homosexuality or bisexuality, they usually suppress open utterances of homophobia. Therefore, in most cases, display of homosexuality (holding hands or kissing) will at most provoke stares or sometimes comments by children or elderly people.

Stay healthy[edit]

Sanitary and medical facilities in Germany are excellent. The phone book lists telephone numbers for various medical services, many hotlines and services exist that are open during "off hours". See the section Medical Emergencies above if you are in an emergency

Health care[edit]

If you have an non-urgent medical problem, you may choose from any local doctor. The German health system allows specialists to run their own surgery so you will usually be able to find every discipline from Dentistry to Neurology on duty within reasonable reach. In remote regions finding a doctor might require a ride to the next town but the German infrastructure allows fast connections. GPs/family doctors will usually describe themselves as "Allgemeinmediziner" – meaning "general medician".

Pharmacy sign in Germany: A for Apotheke

Pharmacies are called "Apotheke" and are marked by a big, red "A" symbol. At least one pharmacy in the area will be open at all times (usually a different one every day), and all pharmacies will post the name and address of the pharmacy-on-duty in the window. Some medication that is sometimes freely available in other countries (e.g. antibiotics and the "morning-after pill") needs a prescription in Germany, so you may want to check before your journey. The staff of an Apotheke is well-trained, and it is mandatory to have at least one person with an university degree in pharmaceutics available in every Apotheke during opening hours. A German pharmacist is able to offer advice on medications.

In Germany pharmaceuticals tend to be expensive, so it might be wise to ask the pharmacist for "Generika" (generic drugs): A "Generikum" is virtually the same produce, often even produced by the same pharmaceutical trust, just lacking the well-known brand name and being considerably cheaper.

Health insurance[edit]

EU citizens that are members of any public health insurance can get a European Health Insurance Card [4]. The card is issued by your insurance provider and lets you use the public health care system in any EU country, including Germany.

If you're from outside the EU, or if you have a private health insurance, check if your insurance is valid in Germany. If not, get a travel health insurance for the trip – German health care is expensive.

Foreign insurance, even if it covers travel abroad, may not be accepted by local hospitals.

In any somewhat urgent case you will be treated first and asked for insurance or presented a bill later.

Drinking water[edit]

Standard sign in Germany for Kein Trinkwasser; many Germans know it from rest rooms in trains

Tap water (Leitungswasser) is of excellent quality, and can be consumed with no concern at all. Exceptions are labeled ("Kein Trinkwasser", no drinking water) and can for example be found on fountains and in trains. In restaurants and cafes you will often have to specifically request 'Leitungswasser' since it is not generally assumed.

Many Germans tend to avoid drinking tap water and prefer bottled water (still or sparkling), in the belief that something that tap water isn't pure. The term Leitungswasser actually means 'plumbing water' which also doesn't actually sound too enticing.

Many Germans prefer sparkling (carbonated) water. Sparkling water is sold in any store that sells beverages and prices range from inexpensive 19 Cent bottles of "no-name" brands to several Euros for fancy "premium" brands.

Swimming[edit]

Many lakes and rivers, as well as both the North Sea and Baltic Sea are generally safe for swimming. Nevertheless, while there may be no life-threatening pollutants in most bodies of water, you would do very well to inform yourself about local regulations. If you intend to swim in a large river, at best do so only on official bathing locations. Keep away from structures (power plants might cause streams you don't see from the surface) in the river or reaching from the shore into the river, also keep out of the path of ships. Both structures and ships, even if they look harmless or far away, may create major sucks underwater. Take particular care of children.

If you intend to swim in the North Sea you should inform yourselves about the tide schedules and weather conditions – getting caught in a tide can be fatal, getting lost in the mist, too. Hiking in the Wattenmeer without a local guide is extremely dangerous, so keep out if you do not really know your way around. There are virtually no tides in the Baltic Sea.

Diseases[edit]

Brauneck mountain, Bavaria: loose dogs and cats will be shot, because of risk of rabies.

You should be aware of rabies (Tollwut) which has been a problem in some areas in the past, even though the authorities take it very seriously. If you go hiking or camping then be careful around wild animals such as foxes and bats.

The biggest risks hikers and campers face are two diseases transmitted by ticks. In some parts of Germany there is a (low) risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis; vaccination is advised if you plan out-door activities in high-risk areas. The risk of Lyme disease is higher and vaccination is not available. Therefore you should try to prevent tick-bites by wearing long trousers and appropriate shoes. Chemical repellents can also be effective. You should also check for ticks afterwards since the risk of transmission is lower if the tick is removed early. The safest way to remove a tick is by using a credit card sized device called a "Zeckenkarte" (tick card), which you can get at most pharmacies. Other methods (fingers, using glue, etc.) might lead to the tick injecting even more infectious material into the wound. If in any doubt consult a doctor.

Natural danger[edit]

Today, wild animals, although they abound, are mostly very shy, so you might not get to see many. When a few wolves in Saxony and Pomerania and a bear in Bavaria have been sighted, their immigration from Eastern Europe caused quite a stir. In the course of events, "Bruno" (the bear) was shot, and while the wolves are under heavy protection, local hunters have been suspected of killing them illegally. The most dangerous animal in Germany's forests is by far the wild boar; in particular, sows leading young are nothing to joke about. Wild boar are used to humans, since they often plunder trash cans in villages and suburbs, and their teeth can rip big wounds. If you see one, run. Also the poisonous crossed viper can pose a threat (in the Alpine region and natural reserves), though they are rare - don't provoke them.

Respect[edit]

Culture[edit]

The Germans have earned themselves a reputation for being stiff and strict with rules but also hard working and efficient. If you are caught breaking the rules, this will be readily pointed out to you by someone. The main exception in Germany seems to be speed limits.

More importantly, the German sense of "politeness" differs significantly from the Anglo-American concept of courteous remarks, small talk and political correctness. Germans highly value honesty, straight talking, being able to cope with criticism and generally not wasting other people's time. Many times, unfortunately, this applies to your interactions with them, and not their interactions with you. Once tempers are lost, they are very hard to rein in again. Consequently, business meetings tend to lack the introductory chit-chat. Titles (such as Dr., Prof. etc.) tend to be more used in the south than in the north. Some colleagues that have worked together for many years still call each by their surname. When a German introduces himself to you, he/she will often simply state their surname, prompting you to call them "Mr/Mrs...". Using first names immediately is most likely seen as derogatory, depending on the situation. Of course, there are differences between the young and older people. You should consider the use of the surname and the formal Sie as a sign of friendly respect. If you have a drink together, you may be offered the non-formal Du and to call your colleague by his first name, you can also offer it. However it might be seen as a faux-pas to do so if you are clearly younger or "lower-ranking".

The German word Freund actually means close friend and someone you may have known for a few years may still not refer to you as a Freund but rather Bekannter (an acquaintance).

There is also a strong desire to achieve mutual agreement and compromise. As for the infamous efficiency: Germans are the world's leading recreationists (at an average of 30 days of paid leave per year, not counting public holidays), while maintaining one of the highest productivity rates on earth. A late-running train is considered a sign of the degradation of society.

Despite popular belief, the Germans do have a sense of humour although it is often expressed differently than it is in English speaking countries. If you are around people, you get to know well that sarcasm and irony are very common kinds of humour. Puns are popular too, just like in anglophone countries.

Punctuality[edit]

General rule of thumb: be on time!

In official contexts (when conducting business) punctuality is seen not as a courtesy but as a precondition for future relations. Most Germans arrive 5–10 minutes early and take this for granted from everyone. Arriving more than 2 minutes late to a meeting is seen as rude and will be tolerated only with unknowing strangers, unless you can give good reason in your defense (i.e. being stuck in unforeseeable heavy traffic). It is seen as a courtesy to call the other participants if you seem to be running late. Regular delays are seen as disrespect for the other participants.

For personal relations, importance attached to punctuality may differ from individual to individual. It is still always safer to be punctual than late, but the subject may be a negotiable matter: if unsure just ask 'is punctuality important to you?'. Punctuality also depends on the milieu, in a collegiate environment, for example, it is taken much less seriously. For private invitations to a home, it may even be considered more polite to be 5–15 minutes late as to not embarrass the host in case not everything has been prepared.

Behaving in public[edit]

Germany, especially urban Germany, is rather tolerant and your common sense should be sufficient to keep you out of trouble.

Drinking in public is not forbidden and is even a common sight in the far west (Cologne and the Rhine-Ruhr Area). In some larger cities (such as Cologne) there are local laws that in theory make drinking alcohol in public a misdemeanour punishable with a fine of tens of euros; these laws are rarely enforced against tourists, except in cases when drinking leads to rowdy behaviour (such laws have also been successfully challenged in court in several places). Behaving aggressively or disturbing the peace will earn you a conversation with German police officers and possibly a fine or an order to leave. Behave respectfully in places of worship and places that carry the dignity of the state (like the numerous war and holocaust memorials, parliaments and other historical sites).

Insulting other people is prohibited by German law and, if prosecuted, can result in jail time and a heavy fine. It is unknown how often charges are brought, but exercise common sense in all cases.

On German beaches, it's generally alright for women to bathe topless. Full nudity is tolerated on most beaches, although not a frequent sight outside of the numerous nudist areas (labeled "FKK" -- "Freikörperkultur", literally free body culture). These are especially common at the east German Baltic coastline, due to the high popularity of nudism in the former GDR. It's also possible to spot nudists in Berlin's public parks and in Munich's "English Garden". In most saunas nudity is compulsory and mixed sessions are common practice. One day of the week is usually only for women.

Know the locals[edit]

The general rule of thumb is that wealth rises towards the south: Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are the two richest states, competing with Switzerland and Austria for quality of life. A more liberal atmosphere is dominant as the traveler goes northward: Hamburg and Berlin have had homosexual mayors, bars and clubs are open all night and the density of young artists in Berlin Friedrichshain easily surpasses that of London, Paris or Manhattan. Northern Germany is in the same cultural sphere as the Netherlands and Scandinavia with even the food and architecture more pragmatic, simple and unrefined than in the traditionally Catholic south. Contrary to the general trend, Hamburg is the richest city in Germany (and one of the ten richest regions in Europe) even outpacing trendy Munich.

The Nazi era[edit]

In the late 19th Century, Germany was arguably the most enlightened society in the world. As a mental exercise, try to think of five famous physicists, philosophers, composers or poets without mentioning a German name. This dignity and prestige faced a severe setback during the period of National Socialist rule under Hitler. Since then, the Third Reich has been a permanent scar on the German national identity, and is considered a blot on Germany's national honor and will remain so for a very long time. Every German pupil has to deal with it at about 5 different times during his or her schooling and is required to visit a concentration camp at least once (most such sites have been transformed into memorials). Not a single day passes without educational programmes on television and radio dealing with this period of time. Growing up in Germany, whether in the GDR or West Germany, meant and still means growing up with this bitter heritage, and every German has developed her or his own way of dealing with the public guilt. For the traveler, this can mean confusion. You might come across people (especially young ones) eager to talk to you about Germany's troubled history, feeling the urge to convince you Germany has come a long way since then. Choose adequate places to talk about the issue and be polite about it. If you are visiting friends in Berlin, you might find it hard to keep them from constantly dragging you into one of the abundant memorials.

Humour, even made innocently, is absolutely the wrong way of approaching the matter and is insulting. Even worse, what might sound funny abroad may earn you jail time (up to 3 years) and a hefty fine in Germany. All Nazi-era slogans, symbols, and gestures are forbidden (except for educational purposes, and even these are strongly regulated), and displaying them in public is illegal. Foreigners are not exempted from these laws. Do not even think about jokingly giving a stiff arm Nazi (roman) salute! For example: a German court recently had to decide if it is legal to wear a crossed out swastika (to show one's opposing the ideas of national-socialism), since it still contains a forbidden symbol! (That judgement has since been overturned, but it still shows how sensitive the issue is.)

Probably the best way to deal with the issue is to stay relaxed about it. If the people around you like to talk about German history then use the opportunity for a sincere, maybe even very personal conversation. If you want to steer clear of awkward moments, don't bring up the matter.

German Democratic Republic era[edit]

Compared to the Nazi era, Germans have a more open attitude to the postwar division of Germany into East and West. Communist symbols, GDR songs and other East-German related regalia are circulated freely (though uncommon in the western parts) and many are somewhat nostalgic about the country, hence the artistic and commercial movement "Ostalgie" (nostalgia for the East). Be careful when discussing the East German secret police (Stasi) since many people in the East were negatively affected by the control of all aspects of life by this organisation, that maintained an extensive network of informants throughout the country during the communist era.

Connect[edit]

Telephone[edit]

In a public pay phone, there is also sometimes a hotspot.

The international calling code for Germany is 49, and the prefix for international calls is 00; the area code prefix is 0. Some number blocks are reserved for special use: Number starting with 010xx let you choose a different phone provider (see below), 0800 and 00800 are toll-free numbers, 0180 are service numbers (which may or may not be more expensive than a local call). Avoid 0900 prefix numbers. These are for commercial services and usually incredibly expensive.

German phone numbers are of the form +49 351 125-3456 where "49" is the country code for Germany, the next digits are the area code and the remaining digits are the "local" part of the subscriber number that can be called from within that particular area code using abbreviated dialing. Since there are no standard lengths for either geographic area codes or subscribers' numbers, the last part may be as short as two digits! Currently, the 5000 odd German area codes vary in length from 2 thru 5 digits. You need to dial "0" in front of the geographic area code from outside that particular area code (but when still within Germany).

Mobile numbers in Germany must always be dialed with all digits (10-12 digits, including a "0" prefixing the "1nn" within Germany), no matter where they are being called from. The 1nn is a mobile prefix, not an "area code", as such and the second and third digits (the nn part) denotes the original mobile network assigned before number portability is taken into account, for example +49 151-123-456.

Mobile phone coverage on the four networks (T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus and o2) is excellent across the whole country. UMTS (3G data and HSDPA) and EDGE is also available. UMTS is still somewhat limited to urban areas. All mobile providers use GSM technology on the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency ranges. This is different to the GSM 1900 standard used in the United States, but modern "multi-band" handsets will usually work in all GSM networks. Non-GSM phones cannot be used in Germany. If you have a GSM mobile telephone from the USA, make sure to call your provider in the USA prior to your trip and have them "unlock" your telephone handset so that you can use it with a German SIM card.

The vast majority of Germans own mobile phones (called "Handys" in German, pronounced "hendy"); the disadvantage of this is that the once-common phone booths have started to disappear except at "strategic" locations such as train stations. They usually consist of a silver column with a pink top and the phone attached on the front. At some places there are still older versions consisting of a yellow cabin with a door and the telephone inside.

If you stay for a longer period of time, consider buying a prepaid phone card from one of the mobile phone companies; you won't have trouble finding a T-Mobile (in a "T-Punkt"), Vodafone, E-Plus or O2 store in any major shopping area.

Mobile telephony is still comparatively expensive in Germany, depending on your contract you may be charged about €0.10–0.39 per minute (and more for international calls).

In most supermarket chains (for example ALDI), there are prepaid SIM cards from their own virtual providers available. These are normally quite cheap to buy (€10–20 with 5–15 minutes' airtime) and for national calls (€0.09–0.19/minute), but expensive for international calls (around €1–2/min), but incoming calls are always free and SMS cost around €0.09–0.19. They are available at: Aldi, Lidl, Penny, Netto, Tchibo, Rewe, toom. A registration via Internet or (expensive) phone call is necessary after buying to activate the SIM card.

While international calls using the German SIM card can be expensive, there are some prepaid offers with good rates. Since the liberalisation of Germany's phone market, there are a multitude of phone providers on the market. If you're calling from a private fixed line, you can usually choose from the different providers (and thus from different pricing schemes) by using special prefix numbers (starting with 010xx) with prices of €0.01 or €0.02, sometimes below €0.01 even for international calls. There's a calculator on the net [5] where you can compare the prices for different destinations. Hotels usually have contracts with a particular phone provider and won't let you use a different one.

Alternatively, you can also buy prepaid phone cards you can use by calling a toll-free number; this is especially a good deal if you intend to make international calls. Card quality and prices vary wildly, however, so a good recommendation cannot be made.

Recently, "phone shops" have sprung up in the major cities, where you can make international calls at cheap rates. These call shops are mostly located in city areas with a high number of immigrants and are your best option to call internationally. Apart from offering calls abroad themselves they sell international calling cards for use from any phone in Germany. You can usually spot these shops by the many flags decorating their windows.

Internet[edit]

Internet access through wifi is common in Germany. Internet cafes are starting to become less common due to widespread offers of free wifi by shops, restaurants or cafes. Sometimes it requires minimum consumption but usually it's free within the premises. Phone shops will often offer internet access, too.

In general hotels offer internet access. Confirm with your hotel for access and rates, though lately most cheaper hotels offer wifi for free (e.g. Motel One) if you use packages like breakfast.

In several cities, projects exist to provide free "community" hotspots for wireless networking.

See Public Spots (page in German) [6] for details.

Passenger lounges at some airports and central railway stations also provide internet access to their customers.

Public libraries often offer Internet access, however usually not free of charge. The libraries are open to the public for free, taking a book home might require you to get a customer card at a low fee, though. Note the National Library in Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main and Berlin is not free.

Mobile Data Several pre-paid SIMs allow Internet access for a monthly flat fee, for example those available at Tchibo coffee stores (o2 network, €10/month limited to 500 MB, €20/month for 5 GB) or Aldi (E-Plus network). A regular O2 sim card, which can be used for calls and text messages, is €15 and another €15 buys 1GB of data valid for 1 month. Vodafone offers a prepaid sim card for €25 which includes €22.5 of credit, out of which you can get 300 MB of data for 2 days for €15 and be left with €7.5 of credit.

Most universities in Germany participate in eduroam. If you are a student or member of a university, this service may allow you to get guest access to their wireless networks. Check with your own university for details in advance of your trip.

Postal service[edit]

Postamt at the Münsterplatz in Bonn

Deutsche Post [7] (the German postal service) runs several international companies including DHL [8] and others. A standard postcard costs €0.45 to send within Germany and €0.75 everywhere else. A standard letter not weighing more than 20 grams costs €0.60 to send within Germany and (again) €0.75 everywhere else.

Stamps are available at post offices and sometimes at newsagents or shops selling postcards. Also stamp vending machines can be found at a lot of places around the cities. You can purchase every stamp you need from this machines. They are unique as they accept every coin from 1 cent to 2 euro but change is only given in stamps. Because these "change-stamps" may display strange values, you'd better make sure to have enough small coins.

Letter boxes in Münnerstadt. At left is the yellow one of the former national postal service; the other one is a local service (still rather an unusual sight in Germany)

Letters within Germany are mostly delivered within 1 day, allow a bit longer for Europe. Mail to North America may take up to a week.

The service has been reduced in the privatization process. Due to a surge in the theft rate [especially by outsourced letter carriers and contractors] any international shipments, especially incoming, should be insured if they are valuable.

Air mail (Luftpost) can be as cheap as the alternative, Landweg. If you want to send packages, there are three options (cheapest to most expensive)-Maxibrief an oversized letter up to 2 kg and L+W+H=900mm. Päckchen is a small(up to 2 kg for international), uninsured packet. Otherwise it will have to be sent under the price system of a DHL Paket.

If only books are sent, reduced rates apply (Büchersendung), but expect the mail to be opened and looked at, as really only books are allowed in them. Rates for Büchersendungen vary between €1.00 and €1.65, depending on size and weight.

It's possible to drop letters and parcels at FedEx and UPS stations. Expect to queue.

This country travel guide to Germany is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present.If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!
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