Germany has the largest population of any country in western Europe and also the largest economy. Despite its long history, the nation of Germany is one of the newest in Europe, much younger than the United States of America.
Until being unified as Prussia in 1871, the area we now call Germany was a quiltwork of many small kingdoms, duchies and principalities. That is one reason that even today, Germans tend to take their identity more from their local region, dialect and traditions and less from any sense of national patriotism.
- Official Name: Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BRD (Federal Republic of Germany, FRG)
- Government: Federal republic; parliamentary democracy with two legislative bodies: the Bundestag (lower house of representatives) and the Bundesrat (upper house); members of the Bundestag serve a term of four years. About half are elected by direct mandate (representing a specific district), while the others are “listed candidates” who are elected in a “second vote” system in which voters also select a second choice. Members of the Bundesrat are selected by the 16 state (Bundesland) parliaments.
- Chancellor (Bundeskanzlerin): Angela Merkel (since 2005)
Bundeskanzler / Bundeskanzlerin
The German office of chancellor is similar to that of a prime minister in the UK and in other parliamentary systems of government. The chancellor is chosen by the members of the Bundestag following a national election.
- President (Bundespräsident): Joachim Gauck (sworn in on March 18, 2012), Christian Wulff (June 2010-Feb. 17, 2012*), Horst Köhler (2004-2010)
*Wulff resigned on Feb. 17, 2012 after a series of financial and ethical scandals. His successor (Gauck) took office a month later.
The office of German president is a largely ceremonial position with no political power. The president normally serves a term of five years (max. 2 terms). He or she is elected by a special body made up of members of the Bundestag, state parliament (Landtag) delegates and public figures.
- Size: 137,847 sq mi (357,021 sq km), slightly smaller than the US state of Montana (145,552 sq mi)
- Population: 80.3 million (2012 est.)
- Capital City: Berlin (since Oct. 3, 1990), Bonn (West Germany, 1949-1990)
- National Holiday: October 3, Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit), since 1990 – More: Other German holidays
- Largest Cities: Berlin 3.3 million, Hamburg 1.7 million, Munich (München) 1.2 million, Cologne (Köln) 1.0 million, Frankfurt am Main 648,000, Stuttgart 600,000, Essen 588,800, Dortmund 587,600, Düsseldorf 568,900, Bremen 527,900, Hanover (Hannover) 516,300, Duisburg 513,400
UTC+1, Central European Time (CET), Mitteleuropäische Zeit (MEZ)
Daylight Saving Time (Sommerzeit): Germany and all of the EU nations observe Daylight Saving Time from the last Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November.
- Ethnicity: German 81%, Other Europeans 7%, Turkish 4%, Asian 2%, Black African 1%, Others 5%
- Religions: Protestant 34%, Roman Catholic 34%, Muslim 4%, Jewish 0.1%, unaffiliated or other 28%
- Monetary Unit: Euro (€, EUR, since 2002), Deutsche Mark (DM, German mark, 1949-2001)
- GDP: $3.4 trillion, 4th in the world (2012 est.)
- Climate: Temperate; cool, cloudy, wet winters (snow mostly in mountainous areas); mild summers with occasional heat waves; occasional warm mountain winds (Föhn) in Alpine regions
- Highest Point: Zugspitze 9,721 ft (2,962 m) in the Bavarian Alps
More on The German Way
City Guides: Germany
Our city guides for Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and other German cities
- Seacoast: Baltic Sea, North Sea; total coastline 1,484 mi (2,389 km)
- Neighboring Countries (9): Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland
- Famous Germans: Konrad Adenauer, Ludwig van Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Steffi Graf, Wernher von Braun, Angela Merkel, Dirk Nowitzki, Friedrich Nietzsche and many more…
Next | History of Germany