Have you taken a vacation to Europe? Are you looking for Europe vacation ideas? We have fun facts about Germany in this post. Since you are a traveler, you are probably looking for destinations or vacations. Germany is somewhere you should explore. It has so much to offer. Maybe it’s already on your bucket list? As a traveler, here are some fun facts to consider about Germany.
We've lived in and toured Germany and love its people, culture, history and landscapes. Here's some history of Germany and facts and tips for travel there.
Germany has a long history as a group of people. But as a country Germany’s history is shorter than that of the United States. At first, the name, Germany, referred to a region in central Europe. There were German states, notably Prussia. The unification of these states in the country of Germany officially occurred on January 18, 1871, in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in France.
Prussia is not on modern maps. This map shows territory Prussia gained between 1807 and 1871. Prussia was a duchy created in 1525. It became a kingdom in 1701. At its peak, Prussia included half of modern Poland and all but southern Germany.
In 1701, the ruler of Prussia was Elector Frederick III, but he was ruling for Rome. Leopold I, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, allowed Frederick the title, King in Prussia.
The Holy Roman Empire is not to be confused with the Roman Empire, which preceded it 400 years before. Beginning in 800 AD, when Pope Leo crowned King Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire continued from where the Roman Empire left off in 400 AD. The Holy Roman Empire was a group of territories in Europe ruled by a succession of kings until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.
The largest territory of the empire was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and many other territories.
Elector Frederick III was succeeded by his son, Frederick I. Later his grandson, Frederick II the Great, became king in 1740.
Frederick the Great commanded a large army that allowed him to successfully fight wars. In 1740, Prussia invaded Austria. A peace agreement signed with Austria added territory to Prussia. The Prussians defeated the Russians in 1758. Wars continued until 1772 when Prussia, Austria and Russia agreed to carve up part of Poland between them. In 1792, Prussia and Austria went to war with France. However, the French won victories and Prussia made peace in 1795. Meanwhile, the Prussians and Russians divided up the remaining part of Poland in 1793. Austria made peace with France in 1797, but the war began again in 1799. France was eventually defeated, and Napoleon’s rule ended.
Prussia grew in size and influence throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as regular warfare took place all over Europe. France initially conquered Prussia, but by the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia had gained sizable territory. Prussia established a trade union with other German states that excluded Austria, allowing Prussia to edge out its rival to become the dominant German-speaking state in the region.
Prussia was the predecessor to a unified German state. Otto Von Bismarck, Prussia’s prime minister, was instrumental in Germany’s creation. To expand Prussian influence, Bismarck seized territory through wars with both Denmark and Austria. He created an alliance with Prussia and the German states, called the North German Confederation. Bismarck negotiated a unified German Empire in 1871. Prussia remained the dominant power in the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918 after the World War I.
In 1871, Germany was a federal state. It comprised of landers or states, which had been independent countries. A governor ruled each.
After World War I, unemployment was a major problem. In 1921, there were 64 marks to the dollar. By 1923 this had changed to 4.2 trillion marks to the dollar. In 1929, the American stock market crashed. Before the Wall Street Crash, 1.25 million people were unemployed in Germany. By the end of 1930, the figure had reached nearly four million, 15.3 percent of the population.
The Rise of Hitler and World War II
By 1932, more than 30 percent of the German workforce was unemployed. Adolf Hitler promised that if he gained power, he would abolish unemployment. The German economy was just beginning to recover when he came into office. But the policies Hitler introduced helped reduce the number of unemployed in Germany.
When Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, he replaced the governors with Reich governors, all of who were loyal Nazis. This helped to bring the country even more under Hitler's control.
The Nazis eliminated unemployment in Germany by creating and funding an army and air force. Hitler also built major highways, called autobahns, across Germany and created great public buildings, such as Olympiastadion for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. All these projects reduced unemployment.
In 1939, the German army invaded Poland. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Poland soon fell. In 1940, the Germans occupied Denmark and invaded Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Britain fought on. In 1941, German troops fought the British in North Africa. The Germany army conquered Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete. But when Hitler invaded Russia and declared war against the United States, momentum changed.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy. By the spring of 1945, the Allies had liberated France and Belgium. On April 30, Hitler committed suicide; Germany surrendered soon after. Germany was then divided into four zones: American, British, French and Russian.
Before the war, Germany’s territory, because of Prussia, included parts of modern-day Poland and Russia. After the war, new German boundaries were drawn, and Poland and Russia reclaimed lost territory. Germany was divided into West and East Germany. The Russians controlled East Germany and stripped the area of its resources. Russia was less than forgiving of Germany for invading it.
East and West
The United States gave aid to West Germany and the rest of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan from 1948 to 1952. West Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. In 1955, West Germany joined NATO and was allowed to rearm. The new state had to cope with high unemployment. But in the 1950s and 1960s, West Germany experienced economic growth called Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle. The new nation repaired the devastation caused by World War II, and its economy boomed. By the mid-1970s, the miracle had ended, and Germany was mired in recession.
In East Germany things were different under a full communist regime. In 1953, a wave of strikes swept across East Germany. Russia responded by sending in tanks and killing civilians. Not surprisingly, many East Germans fled west. In 1961, alarmed at the number of skilled workers leaving East Germany, the government built the Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall became a stark symbol of both the Cold War and a divided Germany. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the Berlin Wall was torn down. On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany reunited as the Federal Republic of Germany.
Today, Germany is a wealthy country with a high standard of living. In 2005, Angela Merkel became the first woman Chancellor of Germany. The population of Germany today is 83 million.
Germany has 40 UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can visit more than 6,000 museums and other diverse historical regions that have been preserved. Its major cities of Berlin (the capital), Munich and Frankfurt are rich in heritage. Urban areas, such as the Rhine-Main region (Wiesbaden, Mainz and Darmstadt), the Rhine-Ruhr region (Cologne, Dusseldorf and Essen), and major cities, such as Hamburg and Dresden offer much to tourists.
According to World Population Review, Germany is the ninth most visited country in the world. The top 10 are:
We have visited all the top 10, except Spain. (It’s on our list!) We went to Germany in 2019. And I worked in Germany early in my career. I spoke only high-school German but easily navigated the country. And that was before cell phones and Google Maps!
Our Time Here
I was impressed with taxis in Dusseldorf, where I worked. All of them were Mercedes Benz. Growing up in Illinois, a Mercedes was a car for wealthy people, and in Dusseldorf a taxi driver owned one! This was my first experience working in Germany. I spent time in both Cologne and Dusseldorf.
On my second job in Germany, I worked in Munich, and Madeline lived with me. We were lucky our visit coincided with Oktoberfest, which is quite the party atmosphere. We drank beer and ate food in a huge beer hall. It was a uniquely German experience we loved.
We also rented a car and visited Neuschwanstein. This is the castle that Disney modeled for Cinderella in Disneyland.
In 2019, we wanted to go back to Germany and see some other cities, so we visited Dusseldorf, Cologne and many other cities along the Rhine.
Germany is much more than Oktoberfest. Of course, you can go to any local pub and enjoy great German beer. While Germany tends to be stereotyped as Bavaria, which is just one region in Germany out of 16, the country offers much in the way of culture, history, art and nature.
Since Germany is part of the European Union, it uses the Euro. Be sure to keep some cash with you in case a credit card is not an option. Credit cards are accepted in many places, but many small shops or vendors accept only cash.
Tipping in Germany is not a large part of your meal cost, since wages are higher for the service and hospitality industry. Round up to the next Euro or two to account for a tip.
You’ll need adapters for your electronics., Only take electronics that can handle voltage up to 240.
For our last visit in 2019, we decided we didn’t want to rent a car. We purchased a Eurail Pass in advance which allowed us great train travel all over Europe, including destinations within Germany. We used taxis to get to train stations.
My high school German came in handy, but for most people learning please and thank you is a good start. Bitte is please, and danke is thank you. A simple danke goes a long way. Danke shoen is thank you very much. Maybe you remember that Wayne Newton classic?
It also would be good to know basic taxi directions for left (links), right (rechts), stop (halt) and straight (geradeaus gehen). Yes (ja) and no (nein) are useful, too.
Most taxi drivers speak English, but it’s good to know your exact destination in German. You can write it down or speak it. Remember that a train station is a bahnhof. There may be several in any one city, so know which one you need. In Munich, for example, there are three major train stations: Munchen Hauptbahnhof (Munich Central Station), Munchen Ostbahnhof (Munich East Station) and Munchen Pasing (in the district of Pasing).
Cities in Germany
For a tourist, there are plenty of cities to visit. We’ve been to Munich, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bonn. We’ve changed planes in Frankfurt several times, but we’ve never left the airport!
Here are the top 25 cities in Germany in terms of population:
You’ll notice that Germany’s cities are not huge. Compared to the United States, New York and Los Angeles are larger than Berlin. And Chicago and Houston are bigger than Hamburg. Four more American cities are bigger than Munich. While only three German cities have more than one million people, nine American cities can claim that stat.
Germany’s cities are big, they’re not overwhelming. You’ll be able to explore Germany’s cities easier and with less hassle than other large cities that have expanded to small metropolises.
Have fun in Germany. And remember to say prost! when you clink your beer glasses.