Saturday, March 1, 2014

2014 Germany Trip - Willkomen in Deutschland!

Location: Germany

German: Deutschland (Germany, as it is called in their own language)

Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:

I guess I didn't realize how much I missed Germany after my last trip here nearly a year ago. With only 2 weekends to spend for myself in that last trip, there wasn't much space for me to explore, however my current assignment will last months, allowing me the rare chance to tour as much as the European country as possible. Maybe I should plan some excursion to nearby countries as well to maximise my experience in this piece of continent.

And I shall break the ice with some introduction of this faraway land that will be helpful to readers planning for a future trip to this nation.

The current black-red-gold flag scheme originated from the German Revolution of 1848 in Berlin, but it wasn't until the Weimar Republic was formed in 1919 after World War 1 that it was officially adopted (image taken from Wikipedia).

The Country and the Land

We call it 'Germany', but that is not how they address their country in their own language. To the Germans, this is Deutschland, not to be confused with the Dutch, which to the ignorant and the unfamiliar, sounds rather similar.

The nation is in a rather intriguing geographical position. Although the definition of West Europe varies between different statistical parties, Germany is generally the gateway between West Europe and the continent's central and eastern countries (which puts it in the Easternmost nation in the West European region). With a land area of 348,570km2, it is only slightly larger than Malaysia's total land area of 328,550km2, yet it is one of the larger countries in continental Europe, 5th largest in Western Europe to be exact.

To its west lies the Benelux trination (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) and France, the Alpine countries of Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria to its south, bordering the Central European countries to Czech Republic and Poland to the east, and finally sharing a border with Denmark to the north. By studying the map, one could hardly miss the fact that Germany lies at the junction between various distinctively different cultural regions.

There are various definitions to the borders of West Europe. This map is used by United Nations Statistics Division for statistical purposes. West Europe is highlighted in cyan, comprising of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands and Switzerland (image taken from Wikipedia).

Its fame for technological advances does not mean that it has lost touch with nature. The Alps to its south and the famed Black Forest of Bavaria offers nature tourists a chance to immerse oneself in an environment very much alien from that in Malaysia. 

One of Germany's beauty lies to its southern borders - the Bavarian Alps (image taken from Lonely Planet).

Berlin, once famous for the divisive wall separating the nation into two blocs, is the capital of Germany as well as its most populous city. Just as famous is Frankfurt lying to west, a center of commerce especially with its status as the site of European Central Bank (ECB). With the latter claiming the place of the 3rd busiest airport in Europe, you can expect that to be your most probably entry point into Germany from Malaysia.

The Language of Germany

German is naturally the one and only official language of Germany, but its status extends far beyond that. It is the only official language in Austria and Liechtenstein, and is one of the various official languages accepted in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium, making it an important and useful language to know when travelling in Europe.

The complete list of German characters contain the same alphabets as that in English, with an addition of 4 extra characters, ä, ë, ü and β (image taken from Wikipedia).

German alphabets are not as alien to English speakers since they contain the same 26 alphabets, with an addition of 4 extra characters. The younger Germans usually know a little English, but the majority of the German nationals know only the German language, with maybe other languages of close major neighbouring countries, such as French, as a second language. 

By no means should that stop one from travelling solo in the nation though, as chances of encountering one who understands English is high although they may not be able to respond in English. The Germans are generally kind and friendly, and they will try their best to help you, so just speak slowly in English if they are unfamiliar with the language, and one should do fine.

The Currency of Germany

Before the adoption of Euro in 2002, Deutsche Mark (locally known only as Mark) was the currency of Germany. Spendings in Germany are now only accepted in Euro, which has the smallest denomination of 1 Euro cent (henceforth mentioned in this post as just 'cent'). The banknote of Euro are common throughout Euro using countries, with the lowest denomination at €5, rising upward to €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.

The Euro coins consists of copper coins of 1¢, 2¢ and 5¢, Nordic Gold coins of 10¢, 20¢ and 50¢, and finally bimetallic coins of €1 and €2 (more about bimetallic coins in Am I An Engineer). Coin collectors and numismatists (which I am...) would be delighted to know that there are different obverse designs (or national side) for each nation's coins while the reverse side (or common side) shows a common image. Since the adoption of Euro, there has been a change of the common side's image in 2007 to reflect the enlargement of the EU.

There are a total of 5 different mints in Germany producing the coins, hence one will find a fine imprint of the mintmark near the year of imprint, respectively occupying the letters A (Berlin), D (Munich), F (Stuttgart), G (Karlsruhe) and J (Hamburg). This does not impair the usage of coins beyond these cities, merely showing the origins of the coins. For collectors with a low budget (which I am too...), commemorative €2 coins are a rare but possible collection circulating the market, which although not in mint condition, could still be in a very fine condition.

The 3 designs found in the 3 types of coins on the national side - a German oak twig (which was also depicted on the previous German pfenning), the famous Brandenburg Gate, and the German eagle, a sign of German sovereignty (images taken from Wikipedia).

Armed with a basic summary below, readers can now appreciate more of this European nation, and plan your trip accordingly!

Facts that are good to know when in Germany:

  • Country:     Deutschland (as they addressed their country in German)
  • Capital:      Berlin
  • Language:  German
  • Flag color:  black - red - gold
  • Currency:   Euro

An outline map showing the borders of Germany as well as its relative location with its neighbouring counties.


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