Germany has perhaps the most complex of all national histories. This is a country which has been in the centre of Europe’s history for thousands of years. The Germans themselves are a diverse group of regional peoples having a common language and ancestry but spread over a large area of Europe and even Russia. Every single part of Germany has an extraordinary story which few foreigners know. When you come to Germany, bring a few reference books, your travel insurance and an open mind, because you’ll learn things you never suspected about this fascinating place.
German history basics
In Roman times, Germany was a wild place outside the Roman Empire, full of savage tribes against which the Romans fought for centuries. Germany was never conquered, and became the western limit of the Empire. In later history, Germany became a bewildering maze of tiny principalities and kingdoms under the Holy Roman Empire. The rise of Prussia and the Protestant reformation began a process of disintegration for the Holy Roman Empire, which created an equally messy collection of kingdoms, principalities and states. During this period, many wars were fought in Europe, mainly in Germany. European nations fought across Germany and German states fought with and against each other.
The Seven Years War fought by France, Austria, Russia, Saxony and Bavaria against Frederick the Great of Prussia ended in a Prussian victory and returned the peace to a relatively stable but fractured and economically weak grouping of regional German states. This situation continued through the Napoleonic wars until the mid 19th century when the German states, Saxony and Bavaria unified under the Prussian Kaiser.
The First World War was the sequel. Germany’s defeat sowed the seeds for the rise of Hitler, the Second World War, and the separation of Germany into East and West Germany during the Cold War. West Germany prospered and became one of the original members of the European Common Market. The fall of the Soviet Union led to the reunification of Germany. Today, Germany is one of the world’s most advanced nations and an economic powerhouse of the European Union.
German culture is as diverse as its history. Music, art, science and literature is famous for its unique perspectives and achievements. It’s a truly fascinating journey of exploration for the true culture buffs. The first thing you’ll notice in Germany is that the regional cultures are all contributors to the pan-German culture as a whole. Each area has its own cultural history, blended in with the wider German national culture. It’s a unique study of cultural diversities, and the “provincial” element in Germany is as obvious as the French. These are the modern versions of the old states, with Berlin as the German equivalent of Paris. Germany is a combination of its past, its present and its future, and when you come to Germany, you’ll see a range of interactions of culture, society and history like nowhere else on Earth.
Germany remains unique. The only way to really understand the nation and its relationship with both history and itself is to see for yourself.