OFFICIAL NAME: Federal Republic of Germany
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Federal republic
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: German
AREA: 349,223 square kilometers
MAJOR RIVERS: Rhine, Elbe, Main, Danube
Germany's central and southern regions have forested hills and mountains cut through by the Danube, Main and Rhine river valleys. In the north, the landscape flattens out to a wide plain that stretches to the North Sea. Between these extremes, Germany is a country of incredible variety.
Germany shares borders with nine coutries - France, Luxembourg, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Poland.
Germany's largest wooded area, and its most famous, is in the southwest near the Swiss border. This is the Black Forest, a mountainous region full of pines and fir trees. This forest contains the source of the Danube, one of Europe's longest rivers.
Today almost one in every ten Germans comes from a foreign country - more than at any time in Germany's history. The largest minority are Turkish, who started to come to Germany in the 1950s to work. About two-thirds of Germans are Christians.
Germany has been called the "Land of Poets and Thinkers." Germans are famous in all forms of art, but particularly classical music. Germany's famous composers include Bach, Brahms, Schumann, Wagner and Beethoven.
The German government works hard to protect the country's wildlife. There are 97 nature reserves in Germany, the biggest of which is the Black Forest. Despite these efforts, however, many species are at risk of extinction, including beavers, minks and, off the coast, certain species of whales.
Germany's major unspoiled habitats are in two main regions. The flat northern coast is home to sea life and wading birds, while the forested hills and mountains in the south are the best place to find wildcats, boar, ibex and other large mammals.
After losing World War II, Germany was in ruins. In 1949 (four years after the war had ended) the country divided into the Federal Republic of Germany, in the west, and the Communist German Democratic Republic, in the east. Over time, West Germany recovered to become Europe's richest country, but East Germany fell far behind. After the two sides reunified in 1989, Germany spent billions of pounds to modernise the East.
Humans settled in northern Europe about 10,000 years ago, after the end of the last Ice Age. The first people to speak a language similar to modern German probably lived in the area about 5,000 years ago. It was still thousands of years, though, before Germany was created.
Early Germany was a patchwork of small states ruled by dukes and kings. But in 1871, the country was united by a politician named Otto von Bismarck.
In the late 19th century Germany began competing with other European countries to set up colonies in Africa and Asia. These tensions led to World War I in 1914, the worst conflict the world had ever seen. Germany and its allies lost the war to Britain, France and the United States.
Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party came to power in 1933 promising to make Germany great again. In 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II. During the war, Hitler created camps where millions of Jewish people and other groups of people were killed. The war ended in 1945 with the Germans' defeat.
After World War II, Germany was divided into West and East, and the country became the centre of a standoff between the Soviet Union* and Western powers. This confrontation, which lasted 44 years, was called the Cold War. In 1989, East Germany opened its borders and the Cold War came to an end.