The Gate of Fortune, Potsdam


Germania was the name given to the Germanic speaking peoples of North-Central Europe by the Romans, but it wasn’t until 900 AD that Germany as we know it became part of the Holy Roman Empire. This empire had nothing to do with the Romans, and wasn’t even particularly Holy, but just a collection of Central European regions that came under the rule of an emperor.

This first Empire, or Reich, lasted until 1806 when Europe became embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1871 the Treaty of Versailles brought together a number of German states which formed the basis of the Second Reich and modern Germany.

The largest and most powerful of these states was Prussia, which provided the new German Empire with its emperors, or Kaisers, from Wilhelm I in 1871 until Wilhelm II was removed at the end of World War I in 1918.

After the Peace Treaty of Versailles in 1919 Germany became the Weimar Republic, but the conditions of the treaty led to harsh conditions for the German people and in 1933 the Nazis gained power and formed the Third Reich.

For the next twelve years the Nazis, under Adolf Hitler, tried to unify all Germans into one state. There were German people in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, and the attack on Poland led to the outbreak of World War II.

In May 1945 Nazi Germany was defeated and the Allies took control of the country, which ended up being divided. The Western allies of the USA, UK, and France controlled the Western half and the Soviet Union controlled the eastern half. At the same time, Berlin, the capital, which was in the Soviet controlled part of Germany, was also split up into different sectors. The split between East and West became the start of the ‘Cold War’.

The end of World War II brought a desire to bring European nations together and West Germany was one of the founder members of the European Union which was formed in 1957, but it wasn’t until the Iron Curtain came down in 1989 that East Germany came in from the cold and re-unification allowed the whole country to be part of the union.

Since then, Germany has become the most influential country in the European Union and one of the richest countries in the world, which hasn’t gone unnoticed. Germany now attracts more immigrants than any other country except the United States.

The population now exceeds 82 million and consists of sixteen states which stretch from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Bavarian Alps in the south.

I’ve been lucky enough to have seen a fair bit of Germany, but still an awful lot that I haven’t, and it would be good if you could join me on reading about my wanderings around this fascinating country. Apologies in advance to any native Germans who spot any errors that I have inadvertently made. I’m only human after all.

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