Germany is a country where history and culture come alive and whose complex past has made it the extraordinary country it is today. Many of the country’s historical and architectural treasures were lost in World War II, but much remains and much has been restored. The city of Berlin was also divided in half. West Germany made a rapid recovery after the War to become Europe’s most formidable economic power. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe has no more poignant symbol than the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
In addition, German natural scenery, particularly in the Black Forest, the Mosel Valley, the Harz Mountains, and the Bavarian Alps, is a potent lure. The Federal Republic of Germany covers an area of 357,000 square kilometers and is home to 81 million people. Stretching from the North and Baltic seas to the snow-capped Bavarian Alps, the country boasts at least five major geographical regions, each totally different in character.
As Western Europe’s richest and most populous nation, Germany remains a key member of the continent’s economic, political, and defense organizations. European power struggles immersed the country in two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century and left the country occupied by the victorious Allied powers of the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union in 1945. With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949: the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR).
The democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organizations, the EC and NATO, while the communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The decline of the USSR and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990. Since then Germany has expended considerable funds to bring eastern productivity and wages up to western standards. In the last 10 years, since East and West Germany were finally reunited in October 1990, the country has been growing and changing at an astonishing pace. The nation’s capital has recently been relocated from Bonn to Berlin. Berlin’s refurbished Reichstag, which in the spring of 1999 became the seat of German Parliament, in many ways represents the changing mood of the German nation. Its new glass dome glitters as a symbol of modernity. Berliners celebrated the Reichstag’s rededication, not with patriotic glory and pomp, but with an oompah band, meatballs, and beer.
German culture is worldfamous with names like Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner and the celebrated poet, dramatist and philosopher Goethe. Cosmopolitan German cities like Berlin, Cologne and Munich offer fine museums, galleries, operas and concerts combined with lively and colourful cafés, beautiful parks and gardens and exciting nightlife. Beer is the national beverage with each region and brewery producing beer with a distinctive taste and body. Go north and experience the breathtakingly beautiful coastal areas and miles of fine sandy beaches. Go south for the romance and mystery of Bavaria. The enchanting castles dotted among the snow-capped mountains will make you feel that you’ve stepped into a living fairytale. Cruise down one of the country’s large rivers – an excellent and delightful way to experience all that this wonderful country has to offer.
A special experience can be found in visiting the former centers of East Germany before German unification in October 1990, such as Potsdam, Leipzig, Dresden, Meissen, and Weimar , cities that change almost every day.
Germany – Cologne
Köln (Cologne) ancient daughter of the Rhine. Founded by the Romans, Cologne is now a metropolis (1.4 million inhabitants) known especially as a trade fair centre. Moreover, Köln is an important centre of art and culture. This reputation hinges on its excellent museums, numerous historic buildings and superb art galleries. Founded by the Romans and largely destroyed in the Second World War, Cologne offers a seducing mix of old, rebuilt and new architecture. The impressive cathedral is one of the archetypal monuments of Germany. Book and newspaper publishers have their head offices here, as do radio and television stations. The highest number of visitors, however, come to Köln for the five days preceding Ash Wednesday, to join in the fun and watch the grand carnival processions.
Despite its metropolitan atmosphere, visitors to Cologne will also find romantic corners with taverns, pubs and inns, in which they can enjoy the famous “Kölsch” beer.
Only since 1888 has the Rhine actually flowed directly through Cologne. Until that date it flowed past the city. Cologne lay on the left bank: across the river was – even in Roman times – the “Land of the Barbarians” After World War II the old bridges were also rebuilt, and new ones were added; the Rodenkirchen motorway bridge, the South bridge, the Severin bridge and the Deutz bridge, the Hohenzollern bridge, the Zoo bridge, the Mühlheim bridge and the northern motorway bridge.
In 1888 Cologne’s boundaries were redrawn to include “Deutz”, since time immemorial “the town opposite Cologne”. Cologne could now expand on both the right and the left banks of the Rhine. The inner city, if measured according to its medieval boundaries, today occupies just one percent of the total area of the city. It is the part which visitors will want to see as it contains most of the historical sights: here are the city’s meeting places and attractions are all crowded together.
As “Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensum”, Cologne enjoyed Roman municipal rights as early as 50 AD. For 400 years it formed the north eastern cornerstone of the Roman Empire. It is therefore not surprising that Cologne can still show rich remains of Roman buildings, for example parts of the former 1 kilometer square town walls with their corner tower and north tower, parts of the underground canalisation system for the town drains and of the 80 kilometer long aquaduct which brought spring water to the town from the Eifel mountain range.
After Cologne had become an episcopal city as early as the 4th century, Charlemagne established the Archbishopric around 800. The archbishops, originally advisers of the German emperors, became electoral princes and thus also secular rulers in the 10th century. Around 1220 they had the 6 kilometer long town walls built, so that the city, with space for approximately 40.000 people, became the then largest fortification in the world. The founding of the university (1388) gave even greater significance to the city, but after the discovery of America, it lost to the seaports its major position as a trading centre.
It was this period of the city’s zenith that brought forth not only the churches, but also the Romanesque Overstolzenhaus (13h century, Gothic wall paintings), the “Gotisches Rathaus” (Gothic Town Hall) (14th century) with its magnificent Renaissance hall and the Jewish ritual immersion bath (12th century) on the forecourt as well as the splendid Gothic structure of the “Gürzenich” (15th century), in which the town council used to receive emperors and kings. In the area of the old city centre the attentive visitor can still find – despite the ravages of the Second World War – more burghers’ houses dating back to the 14th to 18th centuries and even older remains of the town forticifations with mighty towers and three preserved tower fortresses.
From 1794 the city was occupied by troops of the French revolution. Napoleon dissolved the archbishopric and confiscated the church possessions almost in their entirety – as was done everywhere in Germany. After Cologne had fallen to the Prussians in 1815 and had been once again been made an archbishopric, there was a new economic boom. It was especially ounder the rule of Lord Mayor Konrad Adenauer (from 1917) that the city gained greater and greater importance, before the Second World War caused horrific damage : 95 % of the old city centre was destroyed, the number of inhabitants fell from 800.000 to a mere 40.000. However, the reconstruction of the city was done in a imimitable way in the Fifties and Sixties, restoring even the Romanesque churches. Present-day Cologne is one of the most important traffic centres of Europe.
source by hotels-europe