Politics &t the economy
The Federal Republic of Germany is a parliamentary democracy with a social market
economy, religious freedom and freedom of the press. Germany is a founder member
of the European Union (EU) and a member state of the United Nations, the G8
and NATO. Its capital city and seat of government is Berlin. Germany consists
of 16 federal states with their own regional consti¬tutions. The size of the
country is 357,000 km2 and it has a population of 82 million people, including
more than seven million with nationalities other than German. This makes it
the most populous country in the EU, and with 230 people per square kilometre,
the most densely populated.
Industry and the service sector represent the most important sectors of the
German economy, but large swathes of the country are used for agriculture.
The official language is German, but English is widely spoken. If you are interested
in learning German, the Goethe Institutes in your home country will be only
too pleased to help you (www.goethe.de).
Just under two thirds of Germans are Christian, and around a third have no religion
or are membersofa non-Christian faith community such as Muslim or Jewish.
Location & climate
Germany is located in the temperate climate zone of central Europe which forms
the link between maritime western Europe and the continental east, and between
the warmer south and the cool north. The country is divided into three landscape
types, lowland plains, upland hills and mountains. Germany extends from the
Alps in the south to the plains along the North Sea and the Baltic, with wooded
hills in the centre. The highest point in Germany is the Zugspitze mountain
(2,962m). The country's natural vegetation is largely deciduous and coniferous
forest. Germany borders Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland,
France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Sudden large fluctuations in temperature are rare in Germany; the average 20°C.
Exceptions include the upper Rhine Plains with their very mild climate, Upper
Bavaria which is influenced by the fbhn (a warm Alpine wind that blows in from
the south) and the Harz mountains, which have their own microclimate with harsh
winds, cool summers and snowy winters.
In Germany, clocks are set to Central European Time (CET). They are put for¬ward
one hour from the end of March to the end of October (summertime).
Entry and customs
EU citizens only need a valid identity card to enter Germany. All other tra-vellers
require a valid passport or other identification document. Citizens of certain
countries require a visa to enter Germany. Children must be included in the
passport of their parents or carry their own children's passport.
Travelling to Germany and onward travel
Germany has 19 international airports. The main hubs are Frankfurt am Main and
Munich. Gerrhany is served by more than 100 international airlines. Germany's
Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com), together with its Star Alliance partners, offers
the most frequent and extensive services.
For people travelling from elsewhere in Europe there are excellent rail links
to Germany as well as good coach services. Good ferry services also connect
north Germany with Scandinavia and the UK.
Travelling in Germany by car
Germany has an extensive network of autobahns (motorways) and main trunk roads.
Autobahns are toll-free for cars and motorcycles. Over 700 ser¬vice areas, filling
stations and hotels are open day and night on the 11,000 kilometres of autobahn.
Drivers are required to carry a valid driver's licence, registration documentsfortheir
vehicle and proof of insurance.
The following types of fuel are available:
- lead-free (91 octane), super lead-free (95 octane), super plus (98 octane),
diesel, biodiesel and increasingly LPG.
- Many service stations have minimarkets which sell newspapers and food as
well as car accessories.
- Speed limit outside built-up areas: 100 km/h in built-öð areas: 50 km/h,
autobahn: 130 km/h (recommended) - there is often no speed limit car with
trailer/caravan: 80 km/h
- Emergency telephones are situated every 2-4km on autobahns and major trunk
roads. In the event of an accident or breakdown, the breakdown ser-vices will
assist you anywhere in Germany. One of the biggest is the German Automobile
Association (ADAC), www.linksundrechts.com
...By public transport
Many destinations within the towns and cities and surrounding regions can be
reached quickly and easily by underground or local suburban railway, tram or
bus. The larger cities have night buses that run until late into the night.
Germany has an extensive rail network that covers almost every part of the country.
The trains are reliable, safe and comfortable. Many InterCity (IC) and InterCity
Express (ICE) trains run every hour, connecting more than 50 German towns and
cities. The high-speed ICE trains reach speeds of up to 300km/h. Regional and
suburban train services connect the smaller towns. It is generally advisable
to reserve seats on all long-distance trains, particularly