Country of central Europe, stretching roughly from the Rhine River on the W to the Oder River on the E, with the Baltic Sea and Denmark to the N, France to the W, the Netherland s, Belgium, and Luxembourg to the NW, Switzerland to the S, Austria and the Czech Republic to the SE, and Poland to the E. It was divided politically between 1949 and 1990 into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Germany has been a unified modern state only since the 19th century. Its history is largely that of the many independent cities and states that existed prior to German unification in 1871. Nevertheless the contribution of the Germans to Western civilization, especially in music, literature, science, philosophy, and the visual arts, has been considerable.
By the first century b.c. Germany was inhabited by the Teutons of Scand inavia in the N, by the Celts in the S, and by the Slavs and Balts in the E. Their forest life, customs, and institutions were described by Tacitus in his Germania and by Caesar in the Gallic Wars. By the first century a.d. these groups had formed into several distinct peoples: the Burgundians, Goths, and Gepids in the N and E; the Sennones and Hermand uri in the center; and the Marcomanni and Quadi in the S. Only the southwestern part of modern Germany was included in the Roman Empire, in the provinces of Germania. During the late empire period the northern peoples were pushed S by the Frisians, Saxons, Franks, and Alemanni in the W and by the Lombards and Burgundians in the E. By the fourth century a.d. the Thuringians had occupied central Germany.
In the fifth and sixth centuries a.d. these peoples began moving W, pushed out by other barbarians to the E, in the great Movement of Peoples known as the Barbarian Invasions. The Germans overran much of the western Roman Empire, while western Germany itself was occupied by the Franks from the lower Rhine. By c. 560 the Franks had occupied all of Germany except for the regions of the Frisians and the Saxons. Under Charlemagne (742–814) the Carolingian or Frankish Empire pushed E to the Elbe River and subdued the Saxons brutally, converting the region to Christianity by force. On the death of Charles’s son, Louis the Pious, in 840 his land s were divided between his sons. By the Treaty of Verdun in 843 the Frankish Empire was split into the kingdom of the West Franks, or France; the middle kingdom of Lotharingia; and the kingdom of the East Franks. This division was confirmed by the Treaty of Mersen in 870. Although what emerged in the E as Germany remained united under a king, the local dukes of the original tribes still held the real power. From these peoples emerged the Stem (Stamm-tribe) duchies of Saxony, Lorraine, Franconia, Swabia, and Bavaria. On these, and on the later acquisitions of Burgundy and Bohemia, the power of the German kings rested.
The last Carolingian king died in 911, and the dukes in Germany eventually elected the duke of Saxony their king. This Saxon or Ottonian dynasty extended two basic principles: the elective nature of German kingship and its reliance on the Stem duchies for power. The Saxons ruled from 919 to 1002. They checked the advance of the barbarian Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, extended their power over the Slavs to the E with a series of forts or burgs, and built the power of the monarchy. With the crowning of Otto I in 962 the medieval or German Empire was born. Otto extended German power to Italy and thus laid the groundwork for the Holy Roman Empire. The Saxon kings and emperors were replaced by the Salian dukes of Swabia. The dynasty ruled from 1024 to 1125 and brought the medieval empire to its height. Henry III (1039–56) was the first German emperor to succeed without having to suppress a major ducal revolt. His dynasty was one of church reformers, patrons of the arts, and strong rulers who based the imperial government on the ecclesiastical princes—the bishops and abbots who held huge fiefs—and on a new class of lower nobility or commoners, the ministeriales, who owed everything to the kings. The Salians also built up their territorial holdings, adding Poland , Bohemia, and Hungary to their fiefs and securing rule over Burgundy and Italy. In 1034 the first use of the term Roman Empire appears in German documents. The Salians’ desire for reform, however, brought them into conflict with the papacy, itself bent on reform and freedom. The cataclysmic struggle between the emperors and popes, known as the Investiture Conflict, dated from 1075 and brought anarchy to Germany as the pope deposed the emperor and encouraged rebellion. The struggle, personified in Emperor Henry IV (1056–1106) and Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) ended in compromise, with the Concordat of Worms in 1122. By its end, however, Italy and Burgundy had become largely independent, and civil war raged.
In 1125 Conrad II Hohenstaufen, duke of Swabia, was elected emperor. The Hohenstaufen dynasty, which lasted until 1254, brought an even more exalted idea of kingship and government to Germany. Under Frederick I Barbarossa (1152–1190) Roman law became stand ard, and at the Diet of Besancon in 1157 Frederick first called his realm the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick’s Waibling family, however, was soon opposed in civil war by the Welfs of Bavaria and Saxony. Frederick was also opposed by the cities and the churchmen in both Germany and in Italy, where the papacy allied with the Welfs or Guelfs against the imperial Waiblings or Ghibellines. Frederick’s campaigns in Italy were opposed by the Lombard League, which defeated him at Legnano in 1176. By the Peace of Constance in 1183 the papacy and the Italian towns became independent, but in 1186 the emperor’s son married the last heir of the Normans in southern Italy, and the Hohenstaufens were soon established there to the detriment of their German interests. Frederick II (1215–50) considered Italy the better part of his kingdom and ignored Germany. Thus the Golden Bull of Eger in 1213 confirming the rights of the German princes, nobles, and cities was reconfirmed in 1231 by the Constitution in Favor of the Princes, insuring German disunity. With the excommunication and condemnation of Frederick II as the Antichrist and his death in 1250, a revolt against the Hohenstaufen broke out all over their empire. They lost southern Italy and Sicily to the French Angevins at the Battle of Benevento and the death of Manfred, in 1266, the last Hohenstaufen. Germany settled into the anarchy of the Great Interregnum until 1273, during which the imperial crown went up for sale to the princes of Europe, the towns gained strength, and power shifted to the E, to Austria, Bohemia, and Brand enburg. What was to become Prussia in the E was conquered by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. Various houses vied for power in Germany, granting away major imperial rights for support. Rudolf of Hapsburg was elected emperor in 1273 with the aid of the imperial towns; Henry VII of Luxembourg (1309–13) aband oned any idea of centralization and ruled as a great feudal lord. Charles IV of Luxembourg and Bohemia (1347–78) strengthened the power of the great princes in Germany in the Golden Bull of 1356. He confirmed for the future the role of the Seven Electors in the choice of the emperors, and thus in German politics. Thus the bishop-princes of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne, the count Palatine of the Rhine, the duke of Saxony, the margrave of Brand enburg, and the king of Bohemia were recognized as the independent rulers of Germany.
With the election of Albert III (1438–39) the Hapsburgs took the imperial crown for three centuries and confirmed the policy of the New Monarchy, allowing the growth of smaller, but more centralized monarchies in Brand enburg, Saxony, Bavaria, and Wurttemberg and emphasizing a shift of power to the E, to Austria. Power was also held by the free imperial cities and by groupings such as the Hanseatic League and the Swabian League, which came together for trade and protection. Trade and wealth intensified in the 15th century as the old centers of Lubeck and Cologne were joined by the towns of Augsburg, Nuremberg, Freiburg and Vienna, which grew rich on trade and banking with the E and S.
Hapsburg power saw its greatest extent under Charles V (1519–56). He made the German kingdom a thriving part of his empire, which stretched from North Africa to the Baltic, Vienna to Antwerp, and Spain to Peru. He led the Germans against the Turks in the E and patronized a great age of German learning, begun under Maximilian I, which saw the talents of Erasmus, Agricola, Wessel, Celtis, von Hutten, Durer, Brant, Pirckheimer and many others. The early 16th century also saw the rise of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, begun by Martin Luther in 1517.
The reform movement quickly spread through northern Germany and in Switzerland under the leadership of Bucer, Zwingli, and Calvin. Charles V soon faced an alliance of Protestant princes, the League of Schmalkalden. Between 1546 and 1555 religious war brought further anarchy to Germany. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 finally recognized the end of the imperial ideal, with the formulation that each prince would determine the religion of his state. The Reformation progressed and caused a polarization of religious attitudes in Germany that resulted in the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–48. This brutal struggle destroyed the country’s economy, saw the intervention of Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and France, and wiped out fully one-third of Germany’s population. The siege of Magdeburg and its brutal sack in 1631 was typical.
From this devastation emerged the state of Brand enburg- Prussia, which during the reign of Frederick the Great (1740–96) successfully challenged Hapsburg Austria and established itself as a European power. The cause of German unity was well served by the Napoleonic Wars, which saw the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and the setting up of the Confederation of the Rhine. In the years following the Congress of Vienna of 1815, German nationalism, under the German Confederation of Germany and Austria, was to become a powerful force, finding expression in the revolutions of 1848. However, due to the influence of conservative Austria, these were abortive everywhere. The Austrians, nevertheless, were defeated in 1866 by Prussia, now heading the North German Confederation; and after France’s humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, the major German states, including Hanover, Wurttemberg, and Bavaria, with the S German states, were finally united in the German Empire under Kaiser William I and his “iron” chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck was forced to resign in 1890 by William II.
Toward the end of the 19th century industrialization transformed Germany into Europe’s leading manufacturing nation, while abroad an aggressive colonial policy in Africa and the Pacific and trade competition led to a gradual worsening of relations with France and Great Britain that involved Germany in a web of alliances. In World War I, between 1914 and 1918, Germany, although never invaded, was forced to fight on two fronts. She surrendered to the Allied powers of France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States following the collapse of her economy and under the threat of revolution at home. Peace with Russia had come in 1917, following the Russian Revolution. In the postwar years the democratic Weimar Republic was established following an attempted leftist revolution in 1919, but German politics were bedeviled by an insurmountable war debt, expropriation of its industries, and fighting between extremist groups that flourished as the economy continued to flounder—especially after the great inflation period of 1923. Nevertheless, by 1926 Germany had joined the League of Nations. The Great Depression of 1929 hit Germany hard. In 1933 the right wing National Socialist, or Nazi, Party under Adolf Hitler (1889– 1945) came to power via legal elections and quickly transformed Germany into a totalitarian state, with economic nationalism, repressive anti-Semitic policies, a contempt for the Western democracies, and an expansionist and aggressive foreign policy.
Following Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, World War II broke out. Germany was initially successful, with its alliance with Italy, absorption of Austria and Czechoslovakia, and conquest of France, the Low Countries, and the Slavic East. Her fortunes changed, however, following the misguided invasion of the USSR. The tide turned with the battle of Stalingrad in 1943 and the Allied invasion of Italy. Massive bombing destroyed her cities and damaged her industry, and she surrendered in 1945 as Allied forces moved on Berlin from E and W. After the war Germany was divided into four zones of Allied occupation, the French, British, and United States in the W, and the Soviet in the E. In 1949 the Soviet sector broke away to form the German Democratic Republic, while in the W the Federal Republic of Germany was formed from the three remaining occupation zones.
In 1990, East Germany and West Germany were reunified. In 1999, the capital of Germany was officially moved from Bonn back to Berlin. Germany supported the United States in its invasion of Afghanistan, but opposed American military action in Iraq in 2003, straining relations between the two countries. The German economy has been stagnant in the early 2000s with high unemployment, an ageing expensive workforce, high social welfare costs, and competition from Asian and Eastern European manufacturers. In 2005 Angela Merkel was elected as the first female chancellor of Germany.
There are plenty of places that people can traverl to in Germany. The country is in a key position within Europe and it has borders with several different countries. It has a varied as well as a rich history. German culture has had a large influence on much of Europe and it has places famous for a variety of differing reasons.
Perhaps some of the most infamous places in Germany can be found in the capital Berlin. There is the Brandenburg Gate, what remains of the Berlin Wall, the old Reichstag, and the Fuhrer bunker. Visitors can visit the Olympic stadium, one of the few buildings from the Third Reich that survived Allied bombings and the Soviet Army. People can also see Checkpoint Charlie one of the most famous places in the Cold War.
Then people could visit Munich, noted for the annual beer festival, the Oktoberfest, the 1972 Olympic stadium, and Bayern Munich. Bavaria is known for it's beer, cakes, and sausages. A place that people who like food and good beer should consider going to.
Visitors to Germany are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to go to. In the South and West of the country there are cities like Aachen, and College, whilst further North there are Hamburg and Hanover. Further East cities like Leipzig and Madeburg can be visited.