Officially Federal Republic of Germany, republic (1995 est. pop.
81,338,000), 137,699 sq mi (356,733 sq km). Located in the center
of Europe, it borders the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and
France on the west; Switzerland and Austria on the south; the Czech
Republic and Poland on the east; Denmark on the north; and the Baltic
Sea on the northeast. The official capital and largest city is Berlin,
but many administrative functions are still carried on in Bonn,
the former capital of West Germany.
Germany as a whole can be divided into three major geographic regions:
the low-lying N German plain, the central German uplands, and, in
the south, the ranges of the Central Alps and other uplands. The
climate is temperate although there is considerable variation. Almost
two thirds of the country's extensive forests are coniferous; among
the broadleafs, beech predominates.
N Germany, drained by the Ems, Weser, Elbe, and Oder rivers, is
heavily farmed, despite poor soil; crops include wheat, rye, barley,
oats, potatoes, and sugar beets. Dairy cattle are widely raised,
especially in Schleswig-Holstein; pork, beef, and chicken are other
livestock products. The region also includes the major industrial
and transportation centers of Kiel, Rostock Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover,
and Magdeburg, as well as Berlin.
The central uplands include the Rhenish Slate and Harz mts., and
the Thuringian Forest. The Rhine River runs through W Germany and,
between Bingen and Bonn, flows through a steep gorge, famous for
its scenery, vineyards, and castles. Along the northern rim of the
Rhenish Slate Mts. lies Germany's chief mining and industrial region,
which includes the Ruhr and Saar basins and takes in the cities
of Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Krefeld, Essen, Wuppertal, Bochum,
Gelsenkirchen, and Dortmund. In the east, industrial centers are
located along and near the Elbe River and its tributaries. The major
cities include Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz, Halle, and Erfurt. The
southern section of the Rhineland, which contains the Eifel and
Hunsrück mts., is largely agricultural and has famous vineyards,
especially in the Moselle valley.
The southern part of Germany is drained by the Danube, Iller, Lech,
Isar, Inn, Neckar, and Main rivers. Rising to the Zugspitze (9,721
ft/2,963 m) in the Bavarian Alps, the highest point in Germany,
it consists of plateaus and forested mountains, e.g., the Black
Forest, the highlands of Swabia, and the Bohemian Forest. Lake Constance,
in the Alps, is a popular tourist area. Notable agricultural products
of the region are fruit, wheat, barley, and dairy goods. Important
industrial centers include Munich, Frankfurt, Augsburg, Nuremberg,
Stuttgart, and Karlsruhe.
About 38% of the population is Protestant, mostly in the north,
and 34% is Roman Catholic, primarily in the south and west. There
is a small Jewish minority. About half the population in the area
that was formerly East Germany has no religious affiliation. Catholic
and Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues receive government
support through a church surtax levied on members of these denominations.
Virtually all citizens of the country speak German. Since the early
1970s, millions of guest workers from other countries (mostly former
Yugoslavia, plus Turkey and Italy) have come to Germany for employment.
These residents include about 2 million Muslims, mainly Turks and