Germany is certainly been in the news in recent years. From the bundling politics of Angela Merkel to the famed beer festival in Munich, known as the Oktoberfest? Germany has repeatedly been in the spotlight. It is the country most requested by our top list fans has been the bundesrepublik. So now, by popular demand. We bring you the top 10 things you didn’t know about Germany.
10: Economy of Germany
Germany is the largest economy in Europe. It has the fourth-largest nominal GDP in the world. It might seem exaggerated to say, but everything that has to do with the European Union the euro is highly dependent on Germany. In fact, without Germany’s economic participation and continued support, the eurozone would be a thing of the past. Germany’s support has allowed for the continued participation of substantially weaker economies. As Spain, Italy, and Greece and have kept their economies afloat in the midst of horrible debt and economic mismanagement.
So theoretically, if Germany cut the purse strings? It could send all of southern Europe into a downward spiral. But that’s probably not going to happen. And here is why? Germany is a country haunted by its past. The possibility of being portrayed in a negative light is something the Germans just can’t afford. Do you see if Germany left the EU and cut off southern Europe? You can only imagine the names it would be called, and that’s putting it mildly. Because of this, Germany will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for a long time to come.
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Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all beer, and glory about Germany has a pretty checkered past. If you’ve never been to Germany before, you probably never heard of the Stolperstein, or literally a stumbling stone. Conceived in the early 1990s, by the German artist Gunter Demnig, the stolperstein is a tile. It is usually made of bronze commemorating the victims of the national socialist regime in Germany. Their names and place of residence are etched into the tile, as is the approximate date of death and sometimes the time of deportations to the concentration camps of the Nazis.
By now, stolperstein has spread across Europe to countries outside of Germany. Marking the popularity of the idea behind them. According to the Cambridge Historian Joseph Pearson, it is not the information on the tiles that gives passerby’s pause, but the lack thereof. “It is not what is written on them which intrigues”, because the inscription is insufficient to conjure a parson. It is the emptiness, void, lack of information, the maw of the forgotten. Which gives the monuments their power and “lifts them from the banality of a statistic”.
8: Holocaust Denial
As a part of Germany’s unfortunate past, there are some things you literally just cannot say about Germany. That is if you don’t want to go to jail, called Volksverhetzung in German. Or incitement to hatred, saying certain things about certain groups of people. Or denying the Holocaust and the legacy of national socialism can actually land you in jail. Some of the statutes read as follows: “Whosoever publicly or in a meeting approves of, denies or downplays an act committed under the rule of national socialism in a manner capable of disturbing the public peace shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine”. Such legal measures have been debated back and forth on their merits by freedom of speech scholars for several decades now. But the German government seems intent on upholding the measures for the foreseeable future.
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From dark pumpernickel to light rye to everything in between in over 300 types of bread. Germany has more bread variety than any other country in the world. Bread forms a major part of just about every German meal and with over 300 types. It’s not hard to see why? In fact, one German word for dinner, Abendbort, literally means evening bread and indicates the importance of one’s daily bread in Germany.
Another popular sort of bread rarely seen outside of Germany is the Brotchen, which literally means little bread. Which in fact, is less a type of bread. There are a particular size and shape of the bread. Broetchen is typically small and can be held in one hand, as opposed to full loaves of bread, and are possibly the most popular type of food in Germany. While most people think of beer when they think about Germany, they’re really missing out on all that bread.
6: Beer of Germany
Unlike the United States where piss water, otherwise known as Coors Light and Budweiser, counts as a beer, Germany is rightly regarded as the fatherland of beer. Going as far back as Roman times, when Germanic tribes were cited by Roman historians for their beer brewing skills. The tradition has continued throughout the Middle Ages to the present, giving us a tremendous variety of truly unique beer.
As a testament to German dedication, to a pure and tasteful beer, in the Middle Ages, there was legislation introduced called the Reinheitsgebot, or purity decree. Proclaiming that only the purest of ingredients, namely water, barley, and hops, could go into beer. Today, there are dozens and dozens of beers in Germany. Many of them are regional, such as the Cologne-based Koelsch, which is actually illegal to brew outside of the Cologne region. But rest assured, every type of German beer bears the stamp of unparalleled German quality.
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5: Martin Luther
Germany was the birthplace of one of the greatest and most long-standing religious and political conflicts in the world. Martin Luther, theologian and religious radical, infamously posted his 95 theses on the power and efficacy of indulgences on the door of a church in Wittenberg, as a critique of the Catholic Church’s corruption, and shortly thereafter Europe exploded in conflict. This action on the part of Martin Luther is widely regarded as the beginning of the splintering and fracturing of Christianity in Europe as Protestantism was born.
This led to centuries of political and religious conflict accompanied by mass bloodshed and loss of human life in such conflicts as the 30 years’ war. Which is widely regarded as one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. And the infamous St. Bartholomew’s day massacre in France where Catholics engaged in the mass murder of thousands of French Protestant Calvinists, known as Huguenots. Without the German theologian, Martin Luther modern Europe as we know it today, and indeed Christianity would be very very different.
4: Young Nation
You may not know it, but Germany is a comparatively young country. Prior to the 19th century and throughout the Middle Ages, much of what was modern Germany had simply been known as the Holy Roman Empire. But in the 19th century under the visionary authority of the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, the modern concept of the nation-state about Germany was born.
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3: 16 States of Germany
Germany is often referred to as the Bundesrepublik. This is because modern Germany is composed of 16 federal states, which all differ from each other often in subtle ways. They are Buden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria. Hesse, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate Thuringia, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Brandenburg, Berlin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and finally, Schleswig-Holstein. The modern German consolation of 16 federated states is relatively new in German history. But each one retains a fiercely independent character dating back to before the time of German unification. For example, the state of Bavaria refers to itself as Freistaat Bayern, which means the Free State of Bavaria. The Bundeslander, as they are called in German, all have different customs, histories, foods, and even cultures. Often going back many centuries, giving them each a unique flavor despite falling under the banner of greater Germany.
2: High Germany
Just as modern Germany evolved from many separate states that were fused together under the iron fist of Otto von Bismarck, so too is modern standard German, called Hochdeutsc in German, an album of many different elements fused into one. The dialects about Germany or even older than the regions they seem to come from, harking back to the earliest Germanic tribes, mentioned by the Romans. From that period, onwards the Germanic tribesmen settled into many different places and their languages evolved on their own. Fast forward to the present and you have a country with literally hundreds of different dialects. Some of which were so different from each other so as to be considered different languages.
For example, the high German word for squirrel is Eichhornchenschhwanz, but in Bavarian it’s Orchkatezlschworf. Even if you don’t know German, you can certainly hear the difference. A Bavarian speaking his native dialect to a person from Hamburg will not be understood at all. So, to communicate across the many states and indeed countries, such as Switzerland and Austria, German speak high German, a standardized German with a fixed grammar and set of rules, albeit each with their own regional accents.
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1: East and West Germany
For some 4 decades, Germany was a divided land. There was West Germany and East Germany, also known as the DDR, or Deutsche Demokratische Republik. A legacy of the Cold War that ensued after World War II, it all ended when East Germany was united as one country with the west after the fall of the Berlin Wall on November, 9th, 1989. There were great hopes of time with many people long separated from each other reconnected. But many of these hopes have been dashed in the ensuing decades. Close to 3 decades after the fall of the wall, eastern Germany still lags behind its western counterpart economically by as much as one-third.
Greater unemployment and fewer life opportunities have also given rise to a comparatively disproportionate number of so-called anti-establishment groups, such as Neo-Nazis, Fascist, and the far-right, compared to western Germany. It’s sad to admit, but it just might be the case that eastern Germany may never catch up with western Germany, something that, given Germany’s troubled history might bring with it potentially dire political and social consequences not just about Germany but for the world at large.
That’s a wrap on our 10 things you didn’t know about Germany. What do you think about Germany? For more top lists just like this, you should check out other lists, and thanks for learning.