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Germany has something for any traveller. For people looking for great culture, castles and churches some of the best in the world can be found here. If looking for fine art and museums one can spends months wondering the great German galleries. When the great outdoors calls for you Germany has some of the best preserved wilderness in all of western Europe, offering great hiking and clean sky's. Fashion and industry can be found in its great cities along with hot and sexy cars. But for that certain traveller looking to drink great beer and hit up some of the best party festivals in the world Germany has something for you too. So get a beer stein, eat some sausage, slap on a pair of lederhosen and get ready for an adventure because Germany is calling for you.
The region of Europe we now know as Germany, in ancient times was the homeground of many tribes, we now call: Germanic tribes. The tribes lives roughly in the area east of the Rhine river and north of the Danube. Although parts of the country was controlled by the Romans, they never really got a grip on Germania. in the 3rd century the number of Germanic tribes grew, and the Alamanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisians, Sicambri, and Thuringii all settled in this area. In the early middle ages Charles the Great (or Charlemagne) incorporated many of the kingdoms into his empire, and with that also into the Holy Roman Empire.
The Roman Catholic religion was challanged in 1517 by the monk Martin Luther, eventually leading to the protestant reformation, and founding on the Lutheran curch. It also initiated the 30 years war, leaving Germany split up into several principalities. The most powerful of those was Prussia which lived in rivalry with the Habsburg dynasty, which provided most of the Holy Roman Emperors. At the begining of the century both Germany and Austria was overrun by Napoleons army, which led to the end of the Holy Roman Empire. After the defeat of Napoleon the German Confederation was founded in 1814, which included the German kingdoms, and the Austrian Empire. German nationalism especially in Prussia, led to war with Austria in 1866, and by the treaty of Versailles in 1871 to the founding of the German Empire, which has its capital in Berlin, and was run by King Otto von Bismarck. The imperialism of Germany within and outside of Europe caused great concerns by many of the other major powers in Europe, which led to an isolation of Germany, which only has a close ally in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. This tension between the great powers was the cause of the start of world war I, which was triggered by the assasination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. After a 4 year long war Germany was defeated by the allies, and humiliated in a new treaty of Versailles.
After the was a revolution broke out, which meant the end of the Empire. Germany became a republic known as the Weimar republic. The humiliation of Versailles is often referred to as one of the causes of the rise of nazism in the thirties. this combined with a big crisis, and the rise of Adolf Hitler as a charismatic leader of the Nazi party, caused that in 1933 Germany became a fascist state: the Third Reich. All this caused another World War, even more devastating as the first one. Not only was it a military was, but it was also aimed a civilians, more specific the jews, gypies, Poles and homosexuals. After a war that lasted from 1939 until 1945 about 17 million people were murdered, including 6 million jews. It also left the country seperated, as the Soviet Union occupied the eastern part of the country it founded the D.D.R.. Also the capital was seperated between east and west, which became even more visable in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was built.
When in the summer of 1989 Hungary opened up the iron curtain, it set off an chain reaction in the D.D.R. leading to mass demonstations, and finally later that year to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In November 1990 the two Germanies were reunited. In 1999 Germany was one of the twelve members of the EU to adopt the Euro (€), which was introduced in 2002. In 2006 the FIFA World Cup brought Germany and its hardy mixture of stout beers, a festive atmosphere and celebrated heritage into international limelight.
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Germany shares international borders with Denmark to the north; Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France to the west; Switzerland and Austria to the south; and the Czech Republic and Poland to the east. The north is also bounded by the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. The country is about 357,000 square kilometres big of which only around 8,000 square kilometres is water. It's one of the largest countries in Europe. Germany's geography is diverse, ranging from from the Rhine River Valley to the Black Forest to the Alps. From the Wadden Islands on the North Sea coast and islands on the Baltic sea coast, to the Elbe river to Lake Konstanz in the south, there is great beauty to be found. Remember Germany is not just a country of cities but has lots of wide open spaces, mountain ranges, forests and farmland. The highest point is the Zugspitze at 2,962 metres above sea level. The forested uplands of central Germany and the lowlands of northern Germany are traversed by such major rivers as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. Glaciers are found in the Alpine region, but are experiencing deglaciation.
Germany is a federal republic of 16 states, called Bundesländer in German.
Quite a while ago the various regions in Germany were separate countries all with their own government and their own army, ruled by a king, a duchy or a prince and often at war with each other. Although not immediately recognisable for a short-term traveller there are distinctive differences between the regions. Speech, traditional dress, way of thinking (conservative v. liberal) and maybe most importantly food. The north-south divide between Hamburg or Berlin and Munich is the easiest to observe. It is strongly recommend for a traveller to spend time in all parts of Germany to get a feeling for the country.
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The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is one of Berlin's former official gates. At one time there were many gates to Berlin but today the Brandenburg Gate is the only remaining one. Its construction was completed in 1791. During the Soviet occupation a section of the Berlin Wall actually went through the plaza, which has been torn down. The gate has been a very important symbol throughout modern German history and today it is mostly a wonderful plaza to walk through and enjoy.
The Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is a beautiful catholic church with stunning gothic architecture located in Cologne. Construction of the church began in 1248 and was not completed until 1880. The two large towers dominate the church, supporting the worlds largest façade of any church in the whole world. It's one of the rare buildings not severely damaged in WWII. It is said because pilots used the Dom as an orientation point. In 1996 this cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today it is one of the best tourist sights in all of Germany.
Lake Konstanz, (in German: Bodensee) is the largest lake in all of Germany, it borders aswell to Austria and Switzerland. This is a great place for boating and cycling. There are several ferries crossing the lake from one place to another, and there is a cycling route going around the lake, than can be done over several days. On the German part of the lake, there is a small island called Mainau, which is a place of interest for lovers of flowers and gardens.
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The Castle Neuschwanstein is the biggest legacy of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The built of the castle started in 1868, and was completed in 1892 several years after the King died. The castle is that of a fairytale prince, and has become the inspiration for Walt Disney's Castle of the Sleeping Beauty, and it has been copied in some of the Disney parks. The castle itself was inspired on Opera's by Richard Wagner, especially the Opera Tannhauser, in which the Swan knight Lohengrin is the central figure. Seven weeks after the King died in 1886 the castle was opened for the public. It has become one of the European topattractions which is visited by around 1.3 million people every year. The Castle is situated in the Alps of southern Germany, near the town of Füssen. Visits can be done pretty easy from Munich aswell. There are several tour operators offering daytrips, but you can also go by train and bus. Near to the castle also lies the castle of Hohenschwangau in Schwangau.
Rügen Island is the largest island in Germany. Located in the Baltic Sea, Rügen is one of the most popular holiday and recreation areas in the country. However, do not expect a warm beach because the average summer temperature is usually only around 16 °C - a far cry from to those in the tropics. The chalky rocks are a must-see. All things considered, hiking and enjoying the scenery is probably a much better activity than a swim in the sea.
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The Ulm Minster (Ulmer Münster), located in Ulm, is the largest Lutheran church in the world with a steeple that is over 161.53 metres (530 feet). To make it up this steeple a traveller must climb up over 768 steps. Once at the top there is stunning view of all of Ulm that makes the climb very worthwhile. Construction was started in the 14th century but the slow process of constructing this huge gothic church was not completed until the 19th century. There is great art to be enjoyed inside the Church and a wonderful feeling of knowing that Mozart once played on its famous massive organ can be felt.
The Wadden Islands are a string of Islands that lie off the coast of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. The Dutch and German part of the sea were named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2009. Large areas of the Wadden Sea are protected wildlife rerserves. During low tide the very shallow sea reveals its sandplates, which allow you to walk to the islands during low tide. This is called wadlling. But it is also home to a couple of animals that are specially adapted this sea, especially birds that use the area as a migration stopover or wintering site. The area has high populations of waders (shorebirds), ducks, geese, gulls and terns. Another animal that is common here is the common seal.
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The Oktoberfest is held annualy in Munich, actually starting already in September! Although more cities have Oktoberfeste, this one is the best known and in fact is the largest fair in the world, with 6 million visitors a year. Finding a place to stay during these days can be very hard, and if you want to stay in Munich itself booking ahead (far ahead) is requiered. The festival takes place at the Theresienwiese since 1810, when it was held as a celibration for the marriage between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen Over the years there have been 24 cancellations of the fest for many reasons in this period, including wars and diseases. Since 1950 the Oktoberfest as we know it today emerged. Most of the breweries set up an own tent at the festival. Over the last few year the one from the Hofbrauhaus has been the biggest, with a capacity of almost 10,000 for this tent alone. Besides drinking beer, there is (in good German tradition) enough to eat, and enough to do. A fairground is erected at the grounds to entertain the young and the old. The beer is poured in 1 litre mugs. The mugs carry the logo of the brewery who's beer you are drinking. If you like your mug so much that you want to take it home, be warned that stealing a mug can cost you a fine of €50. It's better to buy one, and keep the receipt for the occasion that the police wants to see the receipt.
A similar venture to the Octoberfest is the Cannstatter Volksfest. It takes place in Stuttgart at roughly the same time as the Oktoberfest and offers similar attractions, yet it is much less overrun than the Octoberfest.
Held every 10 years, Oberammmergauer Passionsspiele is a major event centred around Catholic tradition in Bavaria. Amateur actors from Oberammergau enact scenes from the bible on Hollywood-sized stages. The next time this takes place is in 2010, from May 15th to October 3rd.
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Every year in Hamburg (the weekend of the 6th of May), they through a big weekend-long party for the Harbour Birthday (HafenGeburtstag). It is filled with drinking, carnival games, fireworks, live performers, the ships arriving and departing, and a ton of people and food. It is great fun for people of all ages during the day, and at night turns into quite the party.
The white asparagus is revered in Germany and many look forward to asparagus season, known as Spargelzeit. Eaten with butter or hollandaise sauce with a slice of ham or a crepe, there are many asparagus festivals in Germany, but the biggest by far is the one in Bruchsal (near Stuttgart), in southern Germany. The festival is held in the middle of May and attracts asparagus connoisseurs and buyers from all over Europe. Come and taste fantastic produce and then visit the beautiful Baroque palace of Bruchsal.
This annual festival takes place in May and June, and showcases some of the best classical musicians, orchestras, ensembles, choirs, and opera singers. With a history of over 30 years, this is one of the leading music festivals in Germany and attracts music lovers from all over the world. Tickets for concerts should be bought well in advance.
A popular and fun event in Frankfurt is the Museum Bank Festival, which takes place for a two-day period in August along the banks of the Main River. The event gives visitors a chance to visit all the museums in town for one price. Both sides of the river are packed with shops, bars, and food stalls, as well as treats for children. Many of the famous eateries in Frankfurt set up booths, making this a great time to sample a wide variety of dishes, as well as get some culture.
Some call it Fasching, some call it Karneval depending where you’re from. Generally starting on November 11 at 11:11 a.m., some regions celebrate it on January 7. It is a crazy festival, with lots of good and bad jokes, costumes, confetti, bead necklaces, parades, and celebrations. Don a crazy getup and expect to hear different Fasching calls depending on where you are like Helau! (Düsseldorf) and Alaaf! (Cologne and Bonn).
If you’re spending Christmas in Germany, almost every city or town will have a Christmas market, generally starting in early November and running until the holidays. The most famous are those in Rothenburg, Nüremburg, and Cologne where there is great food, rides, and ornaments for sale. Not to be missed is the glühwein (hot wine) or jagertee (rum and black tea), which will warm you up on cold winter nights. Most Christmas markets are open until 10:00 p.m.
Germany has a relatively mild climate with comparable conditions than those found in the Netherlands or Belgium, but with somewhat warmer summers and colder winters. The division between a maritime and a continental climate in Europe runs right through Germany and in general the west and north tends to get wet air from the Atlantic and the east dry cold or hot air from Russia.
Temperatures during the summer months of May to September are around 20 °C to 25 °C during the day for most of the country. Extremes can reach 30 °C and above, but this only occurs on the hottest days of summer between late June and August (record is even 41 °C near Karlsruhe. The northern coastal areas, especially the North Sea coast, are a bit cooler. The hottest area of Germany is the Rhine Valley west of the Black Forest. During winter, average days are slightly above or below 0 °C, dropping to -5 °C or -10 °C at night. Extremes can go down to -10 °C during the day and to -15 °C during the night, this occassionally happens for approximately 5-20 days roughly every second winter though. Note that The Alps in the south can get much colder and have months of frost and snow on end.
Rainfall is spread out throughout the year, but tends to be a bit higher during the warmer summer months. The northern coastal areas gets rain more frequently, but the overall precipitation is higher in the south. The driest area of Germany is the area east of the Harz mountains ranging as far as Berlin.
In winter, snow is possible in the whole of Germany, but more likely at higher altitudes and is also a bit more towards the east and the south. The Alps and the Bavarian Forest are a favourite ski area during the winter months of December to March. Because of the influence of the sea, winters in the northwest are relatively mild and more likely to be rainy than elsewhere. Berlin usually gets a mild dusting of dry powder snow that instantly melts away.
Germany has one of the best air connections in Europe, with the ability to fly to the country from dozens of airports throughout the world. Although the country has several international airports, the most important one (and in fact one of the busiest in Europe) is Frankfurt Airport (IATA: FRA, ICAO: EDDF), located 12 kilometres southwest of Frankfurt city centre. It receives flights from almost all national and countless international destinations, including intercontinental flights to Asia, Africa, North America and the Middle East. It's the biggest airport in the world regarding the number of international destinations served. Among others, Frankfurt is the primary hub of German national carrier Lufthansa. Return tickets on its budgetfly programme can rival the prices of budget airlines.
Low-cost carrier German Wings is based at Cologne/Bonn International Airport (IATA: CGN, ICAO: EDDK), 15 kilometres southeast of Cologne city centre and 16 kilometres northeast of Bonn. It focuses on European destinations and also flies from Hamburg Airport, Dortmund, Berlin Schönefeld, Hannover-Langenhagen Airport and Stuttgart Airport.
Another budget airline is Air Berlin, which has flights within Europe as well as to places further away including China and west coast USA. Its hub is at Berlin Tegel Airport, but it also flies from Düsseldorf International Airport, Nuremberg Airport, EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg and 16 other airports in Germany. Air Berlin operates as charter carrier on a lot of medium- and long-distance routes, so if you intend to fly into one of the smaller airports, it helps if you are flying in summer and to a popular holiday destination. Similar is true for the charter carrier Tuifly. Easyjet also has connections to Berlin.
Ryanair's main airport in Germany is Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (IATA: HHN). Typically for Ryanair this airport is nowhere near Frankfurt, but instead over an hour away by car or bus. Hahn is conveniently located for people stationed in the US Armed Forces bases around Kaiserslautern though. If you are flying with nothing but hand luggage Ryanair can be cheaper than any other company but one needs to take the cost of transport to and from the airport into account. Sometimes the flights leave you stranded at the airport in the middle of the night with no onward transport except private taxi. Other airports Ryanair flies to are Berlin Schonefeld Airport, Airport Weeze (near Düsseldorf), Friedrichshafen, Lübeck, Karlsruhe-Baden, Bremen and Zweibrücken (near Saarbrücken).
Finally there is Condor, which uses both FRA and Munich Airport (IATA: MUC, ICAO: EDDM), located 28 kilometres northeast of Munich. It flies to destinations in Europe and beyond. Condor is the charter venture of Lufthansa, they use the same aircraft and crew. It is essentially Lufthansa under another name with lower prices, but with less destinations, although it flies to certain different places like seasonal flights to Alaska directly!
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Germany is well-connected by rail with its neighbours. Some of the connections are:
From Czech Republic
From the Netherlands
Due to the central location of Germany within Europe, it can be entered from a whole string of countries, and by different routes. There are dozens of crossings with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Australia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark. Be sure to have your documentation in order, although mostly you can just pass without any controls.
Eurolines connects to several German cities. The have stops in Berlin, Bielefeld, Braunschweig, Bremen, Dortmund, Cologne, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Essen, Flensburg, Frankfurt, Halle, Hamburg, Hannover, Kiel, Leipzig, Lübeck, Magdeburg, Mannheim, Munich, Nuremberg, Oldenburg, Stuttgart and Ulm. Reservations can only be made in a couple of places: Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich, Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and Stuttgart. For the other places you need to make your reservations on the internet.
Other ferries to Germany operate on the Baltic sea, connecting various ports of Germany with Scandinavia. Destinations are Gedser and Rodby in Denmark, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Trelleborg in Sweden, Oslo in Norway and Hanko (Helsinki) in Finland.
There are also daily services between the Netherlands (Eemshaven in the north of the province of Groningen) and the German Wadden Island of Borkum with Borkumlijn (in dutch).
Lufthansa, Air Berlin and German Wings has a number of domestic flights, among several other carriers. The main airports are in Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Cologne/Bonn, Frankfurt and Munich.
Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the national railway company of Germany. Some of the train services operated by DB include:
Booking Tickets on the DB Website
While many travelers are reluctant to buy European train tickets online, it is becoming increasingly easy to do so. In many countries, the national rail websites allow overseas visitors to book their tickets directly, often with clear instructions in English. Among the easiest to use is Deutsche Bahn's website, which recently upgraded its online "ticketshop" to work in English.
As of 2017, Deutsche Bahn accepts major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, JCB, Diner's Club, and American Express), PayPal, Girocard, and direct debit (from a German bank account) for online purchases. There is no additional charge for overseas bookers (though DB may charge a €0.50 fee for purchasing tickets costing more than €50 with credit card or PayPal), except for any foreign transaction fees charged by your credit card (or PayPal, if your account is denominated in a currency other than Euros). Anyone can go to bahn.de and open an online account (Fully available in English). If you do that, all of your bookings are available in your account, and pdfs of your tickets can be printed out directly, downloaded as a pdf file to your computer from the account. You can also book without setting up an account, then you can print out your ticket right when you book. You'll also receive an email confirmation with the pdf file attached. When you print out the ticket, be sure the sheet does not get folded on the code square at the top (or sometimes bottom) right-hand corner of the ticket, as the conductor will scan this box with his/her ticket scanner to upload your ticket's information. Ticket holders may use an EU identity card or valid passport as identification when presenting their tickets.
The online ticket is designed to be printed out on European "A4" paper. US 8 1/2 x 11 paper works just fine, but do be sure to use "print preview" to make sure the entire ticket, including the code box, will print out completely and properly. Depending on your browser and printer type, you may have to tweak the format settings slightly, and/or download the pdf to your computer and print the ticket outside your browser, to ensure this happens.
Ticket Display with the DB Navigator Mobile App
You can display tickets purchased online, as well as actually purchase tickets, on your smart phone (or even your iPod Touch) through the DB Navigator App. You can download the app for free from iTunes or Google Play anytime. And if your smart phone doesn't work in Europe, never fear: once you download your "Handy-Tickets" to your phone via the app, you can display your tickets offline, i.e., even when your device is not connected to Wi-Fi or broadband.
Special Fares on Local Trains
Before you buy a traditional ticket, consider your options on the local trains. There are special all-day fares if you stay off the fast trains (marked ICE, EC, IC, IR, and D) and take the slower trains (marked IRE, RE, RB, and S). On some routes, the trip is not that much slower (though you might need to change trains a few times) and you can save a lot of money; examples that come to mind are Munich-Salzburg (valid on these tickets as long as you don't go beyond Salzburg) and the German portion of the Munich-Prague trip (to the border station of Furth im Wald). Here are the options you have to choose from:
You can purchase these tickets on the German Rail online "Ticket Shop" (both from their website and the DB Mobile App) or at a station ticket machine. You may also purchase these tickets at a ticket booth or travel agency for €2 extra.
The basic "Sparpreis" for travel within Germany is €29 per person, or €48 per couple. Fares of €39 are available on selected international trains and in first class. Be aware there are only a limited number of fares on each train; like airline tickets, when the cheap seats are gone, fares go up. Typically, the saver fare will go up in increments of €10 (e.g., to €39, then €49, and so on until only the regular fare is available). Be aware restrictions are significant, most notably that you are bound to a single itinerary. Up to a day before travel, you can change your itinerary for a €17.50 fee. However, changes are not possible on the day of travel, so if you miss your train, you're out of luck. The only exception to the above is if the chosen train is delayed more than an hour, or if delays cause you to miss your connection. In that case, an agent at the train station (or the train conductor if the station is unmanned) can validate your ticket and allow you to take other trains.
In addition to the above, many international routes and night trains can offer steep discounts. For example, selected trains offer fares as low as €19. The "Saver Fare Finder" on the DB Website (see link above) will help you find the best ticket.
The Autobahn is Germany's excellent highway system, originally built in the 1930s. All vehicles must be able to drive over 60 km/h and the recommended speed is around 130 km/h. Remember this speed is only a recommendation and while many parts of the autobahn network have speed limits imposed there is no actual speed limit for the whole system. All autobahn roads are named with the capital letter A followed by a number. Even numbers indicate a west-east running autobahn, and odd numbers indicate a north-south running autobahn. The higher the number the shorter the route, the lower the number the more important.
Mitfahrgelegenheit is a cheap and easy option to check out if you speak a little German. People offer lifts in their car from one place to another. You will just have to pay for the petrol and also have the chance to meet some Germans.
There are many companies offering rental cars at airports and cities and the bigger railway stations. A national driver's licence will do and if bringing your own car be sure to have insurance (green card).
There are very few options for long-distance public bus travel in Germany. Buses mostly cover local routes between villages. The big exeption is international travel plus a few limited long-distance routes. Examples of these routes are buses from Hamburg and Munich to Berlin, a bus route from Hamburg to Frankfurt and the Romantic Road Coach.
Some of the local bus operators are:
Germany has an extensive network of channels and rivers. Kayaking and canoeing is very popular as well as yachting. However there are no public transport options by boat available. Bring or rent your own boat.
There are regular boat services on most rivers, lakes and coastal waters. These include the Danube, Main, Moselle, Neckar, Rhine and the Weser rivers and also on Ammer See, Chiemsee, Königssee and Lake Constance. There are also local ferries to and from Kiel (Kiel Fjord) and from Cuxhaven to Helgoland and to the East and North Friesian Islands. These include Speedways and FRS Helgoline and Cassen Eils between Cuxhaven and Helgoland, Reederei Rahder and Cassen Eils between Busum and Helgoland, FRS Helgoline between both Hamburg and Wedel and Helgoland, and Helgoland Linie between Wilhelmshaven and Helgoland. There are also ferries with AG Ems between Emden and Borkum and Weisse Flotte between Stralsund and Rügen. The KD German Rhine Line has trips on the Rhine and Mosel.
See also: Schengen Visa
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The following countries can travel to Germany visa-free:
All citizens from all other countries need a Schengen visa to enter.
All citizens from the above countries need a Schengen visa if the duration of their stay inside the Schengen area is longer than 90 days in a 180-day-period or if the purpose of their visit is any other than tourism. To get this visa they have to apply in advance at the embassy before they enter Germany.
For more detailed and up-to-date information, refer to the official German visa and immigration policy.
See also: Money Matters
Germany has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
EU citizens can work in Germany without needing a residency permit or a work permit. It is recommended though to check with the local EURES officer regarding insurance and social security issues as well as on how to write a German CV.
Non-EU citizens: Germany has Working Holiday visa agreements with Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Options for US-citizens involve BUNAC, working at a US Armed Forces base or going through the normal immigration process. Citizens of certain countries, namely Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand and the USA are privileged when it comes to immigrating to Germany, they do not have to apply for a residency permit in advance at the embassy.
The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) (DAAD) is your one-stop guide to studying at a German university or taking German language classes in Germany.
The German Public Abroad Broadcasting channel Deutsche Welle TV offers free online language lessons for levels of ability and for all purposes.
German is part of the Indo-European language family. It is closely related to English, Danish, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian. With over 120 million native speakers and even more non-native speakers it is the third most important language in the EU after English and French.
The large majority of Germany's inhabitants speak German as their first language. However there are significant minorities that speak their native tongues. In terms of numbers the most important would be the Turkish migrants - there are some areas in large German cities where you don't hear a word of German at all. Other native minorities would be the Danish minority in the north and the Sorbs in the area south of Berlin.
German children learn English and other foreign languages like Latin, French, Old Greek, Italian, Spanish and Russian at school. In order to attend university a students needs to have had at least five years of lessons in one foreign language and at least three years in another. Most Germans (especially the younger) speak at least some English and are able to understand simple questions and reply with simple answers. Quite a large number are decently fluent enough to hold a converstation.
It is usually no problem for a traveller who speaks no German to get around in Germany with only English.
If signs and other public announcements are bilingual the second language used apart from German is usually English.
To get you started, you can learn some of the basic language in the German Phrasebook.
German food usually sticks to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. Modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France to become lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity which is interesting to discover.
Germany is very well known for their wurst (sausages). They eat them in buns or alone, and it is a common treat at carnivals, side-walk shops, or any other place you might run into for a fast snack. They also have a wide assortment of delicious cheeses and breads. If you enjoy bread this is definitely the place to be.
Rinderroulade mit Rotkraut und Knödeln is quite unique to Germany. Very thin sliced beef rolled around a piece of bacon and pickled cucumber until it looks like a mini barrel (5 cm diameter) flavoured with tiny pieces of onion, German mustard, ground black pepper and salt. The meat is quick-fried and is then left to cook slowly for an hour, meanwhile red cabbage and potato dumplings are prepared and then the meat is removed from the frying pan and gravy is prepared in the frying pan. Knödel, Rotkraut and Rouladen are served together with the gravy in one dish.
There are probably as many different variations of Schnitzel as there are restaurants in Germany, most of them have in common a thin slice of pork that is usually breaded, and fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries (usually called Pommes Frites or often just Pommes). Variations of this are usually served with different types of gravy: such as Zigeunerschnitzel, Zwiebelschnitzel, Holzfäller Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel (as the name suggests, an Austrian dish – the genuine article must be veal instead of pork, which is why most restaurants offer a Schnitzel Wiener Art, or Viennese-style schnitzel which is allowed to be pork). In the south you can often get Spätzle (pasta that Swabia is famous for) instead of fries with it. Spätzle are egg noodles typical of south Germany – most restaurants make them fresh.
The cheapest places to sleep for single travellers are hostel beds in dorms. HI/YHA hostels are the most wide-spread and are often the the only hostel in smaller cities or villages. (Note that in Bavaria travellers above 26 are not allowed in the official HI/YHA hostels unless they are accompanied by somebody under 18.) In rural areas camping sites can be a good option. For families or small groups a holiday appartment can be a great an inexpensive deal. The best way to find cheap and good quality accomodation in smaller towns is usually to contact the tourist information of the city, since most of the tourist informations have an internal booking service for all the holiday appartments, pensions and hotels in town. Instead of calling countless small places only to be told that they are full contact the tourist information as they know exactly which appartment or pension has vacancies for the dates you want. Expect to pay between €20-40 per day and person if renting an appartment and €10-20 per day and person when staying on a camping site.
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Germany's national drink is beer. Germans take great pride in their beer and there are far too many micro-breweries in Germany to count them. Germany is one of the best countries to try the so called wheat beers, which are especially tasteful during hot weather. Try Erdinger or Paulaner from Bavaria, they are one of the best.
But tee-totalers need not despair: The second most important national drink is Schorle. It is essentially sparkling mineral water mixed with fruit juice 50:50. Very tasty and much healthier than any soft drink. The most common variant is apple schorle. Schorle is so popular that a certain American soft drink producer has started to bottle their own schorle under the brand "Lift", yet due to the low fruit juice content and the fact that it contains table water instead of mineral water the company is not allowed to sell it as such.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Germany. It is recommended to have a vaccination against tick borne encephalitis when you go hiking and/or camping for 4 weeks or more in the period of March to November.
Germany has a great health care system. All major cities have excellent hospitals with great service. It should be pretty easy to find staff in the hospital that speak English. A quirk of the German health care system is that almost all Germans have medical insurance, either private or statuory. Having medical insurance with sufficient coverage for major hospital treatment is mandatory for every foreigner entering Germany. If you do not have insurance and find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to pay for treatment you'll be in for quite a shock - the great health care system comes with a huge price tag attached. EU citizens are normally covered under the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but it is strongly recommended to have private insurance that will cover the costs for transport back home in an emergency.
See also: Travel Safety
The emergency number in Germany is 112. This number can be dialled from any telephone in Germany to contact the Police, Medical and Fire Brigade. The police only/directly is 110.
Germany is a very safe country for travellers and there are hardly any problems you could face. Just take regular precautions when walking in bigger cities, especially at night, or at markets and public transport stations.
Internet cafes (rates €1.50 to €5 per hour) are starting to become less common due to widespread offers of free wifi by shops, restaurants or cafes. Sometimes it requires minimum consumption but usually it's free within the premises. Phone shops will often offer internet access, too. In general hotels offer internet access. In several cities, projects exist to provide free "community" hotspots for wireless networking. Passenger lounges at some airports and central railway stations also provide internet access to their customers.
Several pre-paid SIMs allow Internet access for a monthly flat fee, for example those available at Tchibo coffee stores (o2 network, €10/month limited to 500 MB, €20/month for 5 GB) or Aldi (E-Plus network). A regular O2 sim card, which can be used for calls and text messages, is €15 and another €15 buys 1GB of data valid for 1 month. Vodafone offers a prepaid sim card for €25 which includes €22.5 of credit, out of which you can get 300 MB of data for 2 days for €15 and be left with €7.5 of credit.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international call prefix in Germany is 00. To dial out of Germany, dial 00, followed by country code, area code, and the telephone number (for example 00 44 1234 567890). If you're using a mobile phone, simply add the plus sign "+" before the country code to call out of Germany (for example +44 1234 567890). The general emergency number is 112 and the additional number for less emergent issues for police is 110.
Mobile phone coverage on the four networks (T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus and o2) is excellent across the whole country. UMTS (3G data and HSDPA) and EDGE is also available. UMTS is still somewhat limited to urban areas. All mobile providers use GSM technology on the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency ranges. If you stay for a longer period of time, consider buying a prepaid phone card from one of the mobile phone companies; you won't have trouble finding a T-Mobile (in a "T-Punkt"), Vodafone, E-Plus or O2 store in any major shopping area. In most supermarket chains (for example ALDI), there are prepaid SIM cards from their own virtual providers available. These are normally quite cheap to buy, but expensive for international calls (around €1–2/min), but incoming calls are always free and SMS cost around €0.09–0.19. They are available at: Aldi, Lidl, Penny, Netto, Tchibo, Rewe, toom. A registration via Internet or (expensive) phone call is necessary after buying to activate the SIM card.
The cheapest way to call abroad from Germany is to use the internet cafés run by immigrants. They sell special calling cards that give the best rate to certain countries as well as offer cheap international calls from phone booths. It is also the cheapest way to call landlines in Germany.
Germany's postal system is very efficient, their logistics branch DHL is one of the best companies in this field world-wide, with domestic post or within a radius of 400 kilometres, send within a day. The website of Deutsche Post has an online calculator for postage fees as well as a post office finder. Stamps are available at post offices and sometimes at newsagents or shops selling postcards. Also stamp vending machines can be found at a lot of places around the cities. You can purchase every stamp you need from this machines. They are unique as they accept every coin from 1 cent to 2 euro but change is only given in stamps. It costs about €40 to send a small package to Australia and €1.70 to send an old-fashioned letter to any place in the world outside of Europe. Within Germany, sending postcards costs €0.45 and standard letters €0.55, within Europe it is €0.65 for a postcard, standard letters to places in Europe cost €0.75. Outside Europe, the prices for sending a postcard or standard letter are €1 and €1.70 respectively. Although you will find the old post offices (mainly in the city centre), most of the smaller neighbourhood post offices are part of a small tobacco shop or grocery store. For larger package, you might consider competitive private companies like UPS, DHL or TNT.
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Ask travelfrosch a question about Germany
I lived in Germany and still visit there frequently. I am most familiar with southwestern and southeastern Germany. I have extensive experience traveling by rail and purchasing tickets online.
Ask Kathrin_E a question about Germany
Native German. Art historian with a focus on architecture and cultural history, which requires a lot of travelling and seeing places. Having lived in four different federal states and having travelled all 16, I'll happily try to help with questions about my country.
Ask king_golo a question about Germany
Native German with some 30 years of experience living in this country. I can't help with Berlin, but feel free to ask a question about the rest of the country.
Ask t_maia a question about Germany
If you are going to Germany, I can give suggestions on what to do - and work out a detailed plan for your travels off the beaten track if you want it. All you need to do is tell me your schedule, your budget and what kind of things you are interested in.
I will also help you figure out that tricky German website, if you need it.
Ask ykas25 a question about Germany
I have been living in Germany for over 10 years and have extensively travelled in the North, East, South and West Germany. Now am based in Düsseldorf, western part of Germany. Anyone visitng Germany esp. to Düsseldorf can contact me shall be happy to to be your guide.....
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