Population: 82 million
Major language: German
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 82 years (women)
Monetary unit: 1 Euro = 100 eurocent
Main exports: Iron, steel, coal, cement, chemicals, machinery, vehicles, ships, machine tools, electronics, food and beverages, textiles
Average annual income: US $23500
Internet domain: .de
International dialling code: +49
Positioned almost directly in the centre of Europe, Germany is the most affluent country in the continent and also the most populous, after Russia. It covers an area of 349,520 sq km (134,910 sq miles). The north of the country is largely flat, covered by the North German Plain and dotted with numerous lakes in the northeast corner, the largest of which is Lake Muritz. In the centre and towards the west it is more hilly, and here lie the areas of Bohemia and the Black Forest. The far southwest is very mountainous and is home to the beautiful Bavarian Alps. The highest point, Zugspitze, rises to 9,720 ft. (2,963 m). Major rivers include the Danube, rising in the Black Forest, and the Elbe, Ems, Main, Rhine and Weser.
Modern Germany has only existed since 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and East and West were reunified. Originally ‘Germany’ was an area in Central Europe dominated by the Germanic ‘Frank’ tribe. It became part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the 9th century and existed as such in various forms until 1806. As a result of the Napoleonic war the Empire was replaced in 1806 by the Confederation of the Rhine. Eventually all the German states, with the exception of Austria, united into the German Empire in 1871.
Under Wilhelm II Germany took an imperialistic course, which created friction between neighbouring countries and eventually led to the outbreak of World War I. After the war the Weimar Republic was established and Germany flourished – an exciting period characterised by something of the arts and decadence, referred to today as the 'Golden 20s'. However global depression and oppressive debts meant that Germany suffered from extreme unemployment and economic hardship in the 1930s: the political situation was such that the extreme right wing Nazi party was elected into power.
The terrors of the subsequent period in history are well chronicled as Hitler led Germany, and the world, into the bloodiest conflict of all time. After WWII, Germany's borders were redrawn and it was divided into two separate countries occupied by Russian troups in the East and the Allies in the West. Only in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in the previous year, were the two sides reunited.
Today Germany is the third biggest economy in the world and a leading member of the European union. It is also the top exporter of goods in the world. However it has the lowest GDP growth in Europe and its economy is undermined by the heavy subsidising from the West of the substantially poorer East, which has happened since reunification. High unemployment in particular is a problem.
Tourists flock to Germany to visit the stylish cities, legendary fairytale castles, beautiful lakes and forests, and for the hundreds of cultural and historic wonders - as well as to sample its world-famous beers, in particular during the Munich Beer Festival held every October. In the summer of 2006, tens of thousands will arrive to watch the World Cup Football Finals.