Germany is a beautiful country filled with picturesque and varied scenery, enchanting medieval villages and vibrant modern cities.
From the romantic castles to the city nightlife, from the traditional Christmas markets to the world-famous beer festivals, this historic country always has something for every taste.
Like much of Europe, Germany has a varied and changeable climate. Rain is common, with summer and autumn generally being the wetter seasons and snowfall in winter. Temperatures are generally quite moderate.
Germany celebrates a number of public holidays, which can vary across the different states or "Länder". Local school holidays also vary by state.
One of the most famous German festivals is the Oktoberfest in Munich, which runs for sixteen days during late September, ending in early October.
The main airports are Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin-Tegel, Cologne-Bonn and Hamburg. However, Berlin-Tegel is due to close in 2012, once the new Berlin-Brandeburg Airport opens.
Germany benefits from a dense and effective railway network which reaches most parts of the country. The InterCity Express or ICE trains offer high-speed connections between major cities in Germany and neighbouring countries.
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Seatbelts must be used where fitted, and children under 12 years old or 1.5 metres tall are not allowed to travel without an appropriate restraint.
Use of the Autobahn is restricted to vehicles capable of at least 60 km/h (37 mph). While there is no blanket maximum speed limit, there is a recommended speed of 130 km/h (81 mph), and some stretches may have a specific speed restriction. Traffic offences, including running out of fuel on the Autobahn, are subject to on-the-spot fines.
There are a few long-distance bus routes, generally oriented to or from Berlin. In addition, there is a dense network of local and regional buses.
German is the official language, with a number of protected minority languages and dialects.
English is quite commonly spoken, however you may find the following German phrases useful:
Hello: Guten Tag
Goodbye: Auf Wiedersehen
Do you speak English? : Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Thank you: Danke
The currency in Germany is the Euro, which divides into 100 cents.
The domestic electricity voltage is 230V, 50HZ, generally with "Schuko" type plug sockets which will accept the standard Europlug. Adaptors are widely available.
In an emergency, dial 110 for the police or 112 for the fire and ambulance services.
If you visit during December, be sure to experience the unique ambience of the traditional Christmas market which can be found in many towns and cities.
Most shops, except bakeries, are closed on Sundays, and most museums are closed on Mondays. Banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.