During the Bronze Age Germanic peoples lived in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany. In 9 AD, the Germanic tribes halted the expansion of the Roman Empire. The Mongoloid Huns arrived in the third century and caused the migration of Germanic tribes. This is known as Volkerwanderung, or People Migration in English.
At the end of the fifth century, the Franks had political control over land west of the Rhine River. By the eighth century the Franks had conquered all the Germanic tribes, except the Saxons, and converted them to Christianity.
Holy Roman Empire
In 800 AD Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse in German) was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. He conquered the Saxons and converted them to Christianity. When he died the Empire was split and became the East and West Franks.
The West Franks eventually became France and the East Franks became a Germanic kingdom. The East Franks were ruled by Ludwig the German. This kingdom is sometimes known as the first Reich or Empire.
Emperors of significance are Otto the Great and Friedrich I of Hohenstaufen (also known as Barbarossa). Otto the Great defeated the Hungarians at Lechfeld and conquered northern Italy. He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his death in 973. Barbarossa started wars against the Saxons, Italians, and the Pope.
In the thirteenth century the monarchy of the Holy Roman Empire came to an end. (Later, in 1356, rules were set up for electing an emperor.) The Colonization of the Elbe River started during this time. Also, Christianity was being spread in the Baltic region by the Teutonic Knights.
The Protestant Reformation was started by Martin Luther when he posted his ninety-five theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. These theses were about the abuses of the Catholic Church. In a few years many German princes became Protestant and about four fifths of the German population was a Protestant. This changed slightly after the Catholic Counter Reformation.
Thirty Years War
This war took place from 1618 until 1648 and was fueled by religious hatred. During this war one third of the German population was lost. At the end of the war Germany was split into many smaller kingdoms.
After the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, a German confederation was formed at the Congress of Vienna. It included thirty-five states and 4 cities. Later, in 1834, the German Customs Union was created and more smaller states joined.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, politician Otto von Bismarck was elected Prime Minister of Prussia. He got Schleswig-Holstein for Prussia after a war with Denmark. In 1866 Bismarck engaged in a war with Austria to secure Schleswig-Holstein. Prussia was the victor, and its new land was safe.
In 1870 Prussia had a quick victory over France and this led to the unification of Germany and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine from the French. In 1871 the German Empire was formed. This is considered to be the second Reich.
World War One
The First World War started in 1914. In this war, Germany invaded northern France, but by 1918 Germany had lost the war. The terms of surrender were very harsh; Germany lost a chunk of its land and had to pay huge fees to the Allies.
World War Two
Germany invaded its neighboring countries and Hitler committed one of, if not the worst, crime against humanity, the Holocaust. But after a while the Allies pushed back the German army and on April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide. On May 8, 1945, Karl Doenitz, Hitlers appointed chancellor, surrendered to the Allies.
The surrender agreements were extremely harsh on Germany. About one third of Germanys land was lost. Also, Germany was occupied; for four years by France, Great Britain, and the United States, and about four decades by the Soviet Union.
North German Lowlands
This region has many dikes along the coast to prevent flooding. The middle of this area is an infertile plain or very poor soil. However, to the north of that plain there is good fertile soil. Some cities in this region are, Kiel, Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen.
The Central Uplands is mostly the remains of an ancient mountain range, divided into large rivers, high plains and hills. In the north-western part of this area there are large slate mountains. These mountains are divided into the Eifel Range of extinct volcanoes, a stony plateau, agricultural areas, and forests. The eastern part of this region has the sources of several rivers, a mountain range, and huge iron and coal deposits. Very good fertile soil lies in the southern area of this region.
This is an extremely fertile region. There are hills stretching from Frankfurt to Heidelberg covered in orchards. In the southwest is the famous Black Forest and in the east is the Bavarian and Bohemian Forests of the German state of Bavaria.
This area has the Bavarian Alps and the tallest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze. In the northern part of this region is good farmland. Also in this area are several bogs.
There are about 82 million people living in Germany. One out of three people, who live in the former West Germany, lives in a city or a large town. The German birthrate is one of the lowest birthrates in Europe.
Rhinelanders are thought to be easy going and Swabians are thought to be thrifty. Southern Germans are generally conservative and jolly, whereas the northern Germans are normally liberal and more sophisticated. Berliners and Germans are known to be very talkative.
Most Germans think of themselves first as Saxons, Berliners, Swabians, etc. and Germans second. They also rarely question the laws and rules. Families are usually proud of there houses and are neat. The bad side of many Germans is they are not fond of foreigners and parents prefer their children marry fair skinned people.
Life Style and Family Life
Part of the German dream is to have a house and a garden. Approximately 40% of Germanys population owns there own house. In urban areas normally both spouses work to earn enough money for a preferable lifestyle.
Since 90% of the population in Germany is Christian, almost all the children are christened. For Catholics another important event in a childs life is there first Communion at age 7. Protestant children join the church at the age of 14. A childs first day at school is also and important time.
Education is mandatory for all children ages 6 to 16. The school year is from August until June or July. School generally last 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday. The majority of the class time is spent on academics and the children return home for lunch after school.
About ninety percent of Germans are Christians; many of them are either Roman Catholic or Lutheran. There is an optional church tax that most people pay. Also, religious instruction is allowed and sometimes it is required. Most people like the good work the churches do.
German is similar to English and the pronunciation of letters is the man difference. For example, Ws are pronounced as Vs and Vs are pronounced as Fs. Also, two dots above the vowels A, O, and U is an umlaut.
Food and Drinks
Germany is famous for its many varieties of wurst also known as sausage. Sauerkraut is also a traditional food. The hot dog originated in Frankfurt, Germany, hence the name frankfurter. The most famous German beverage is Beer, which is unfortunately an alcoholic drink.
Holidays and Festivals
One of the most famous German festivals is the Oktober Fest, a festival held in Munich. Karnival is a celebration that lasts from November 11, at 11 a.m. until Lent. However, the fun really begins in January and February. Some other holidays are Unity Day on October 3, and Labor Day on May 1.
Warm summers and cold winters with lots of snow are found in the Alpine region of Germany. The climate in North-western Germany has cool summers and mild winters with a lot of rainfall. Weather in the Northeast is almost the opposite of the Northwest with frigid winters and hot summers along with a low rainfall amount. Warm summers and cold winters with lots of snow are found in the Alpine region of Germany.