Germany

Germany is the fourth largest country in area in
Europe, with a total area of 356,970 square
kilometers (137,827 square miles). The country has
a varied terrain that ranges from low-lying coastal
flats along the North and Baltic seas, to a central
area of rolling hills and river valleys, to heavily
forested mountains and snow-covered Alps in the
south. Germany has a long, complex history and rich
culture, but it did not become a unified nation until
1871. Before that time, Germany had been a
confederacy (1815-1867).

The country has a total of 82,071,765 people (1997
estimate). Germany is overwhelmingly urban, and
most people lead a prosperous, comfortable lifestyle,
with adequate leisure time and comprehensive
social welfare benefits. Berlin is the capital and
largest city, although Bonn, which was the provisional
capital of West Germany, is still home to some
government offices. The principal language is
German, and about 70 percent of the people are
either Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Germany has a very large and modern industrial
economy and is a leading producer of such products
as iron and steel, machinery and machine tools, and
automobiles. Germany is an economic powerhouse
in the European Union (EU), and its currency, the
deutsche mark (DM), is among the strongest in the
world.

Germany ranks as the fourth largest country in
Europe, after European Russia (the part of Russia
west of the Ural Mountains), France, and Spain.
Germany is bounded on the north by the North Sea,
Denmark, Baltic Sea, on the east by Poland and the
Czech Republic, on the south by Austria and
Switzerland, and on the west by France,
Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Stretching from the Baltic and North seas to the Alps,
Germany measures about 800 kilometers (about 500
miles) from north to south; the country extends about
600 km (about 400 miles) from west to east. In
addition to coastline and mountains, the varied
terrain includes forests, hills, plains, and river valleys.
Several navigable rivers traverse the uplands, and
canals connect the river systems of the Elbe, Rhine,
and Danube rivers and link the North Sea with the
Baltic.

Germany has a mostly moderate climate,
characterized by cool winters and warm summers.
River valleys, such the Rhine, tend to be humid and
somewhat warmer in both winter and summer,
whereas mountain areas can be much colder.
Precipitation on the average is much heavier in the
south, especially along the Alpine slopes, which force
incoming weather fronts to rise and let off moisture in
the form of rain and snow.

Germany does not have large pockets of poverty or
great economic disparity. Crime levels are
substantially lower than those in the United States,
and the possession of guns is controlled. However,
there are substantial numbers of homeless people
and problems of violence, alcoholism, and drug
abuse. Nonviolent crimes, such as theft and burglary
in urban areas, have increased since the 1970s.
They occur often enough to make law and order a
recurrent political campaign issue.

Category: History