Compared to how it used to be, travelling to a foreign country has become much easier for us today. Inside Europe, a simple identity card will get you across the borders. But passports and visas are still a mandatory requirement in many countries of the world. A host of customs regulations determines which goods and how many of each you can bring in or out of a country. Vaccinations are not just a good idea when travelling to certain countries, they are actually required in some. And since terrorism has become a menace to air traffic, some items are not even allowed onto the plane any more.
So, when travelling to countries or regions that you don't know too well, it is a good idea to study travel warnings, security advice and entry regulations carefully in order to avoid unpleasant surprises at the border.
Embassies and Consulates
Embassies and consulates are representations of your country's administration in another country. They can issue or extend passports and visas. They can provide information on the regulations for entry, residence and work in another country. They will also help in case of a financial or other personal emergency situation. They can also provide legal advice if need be. And they are even responsible for issues concerning the military service of draftees that live in the host country.
Go to www.embassy-worldwide.com to find all existing consulates and embassies. You can either select the one you need from a list or use a search form where you can enter which country's representation you are looking for and in which country you wish to find it.
The basic principle is the same at EscapeArtist.com (www.escapeartist.com), the only difference to EmbassyWorld.com is the layout. Both websites call themselves „Directory & Search Engine of The World`s Embassies & Consulates“.
More and more European countries have the Euro. Today, somebody travelling from France to Germany, for example, no longer needs to change money. But if you have to exchange money from one of the other innumerable currencies in the world, you will need a currency calculator. It will tell you the current exchange rate and give you an indication as to what your money is worth abroad.
The XE calculator lets you convert the most important global currencies and 180 of the most widely known other currencies into an other: www.xe.com
The FX converter's advantage is that you can choose between the German, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish language. It covers 164 currencies: www.oanda.com/converter/classic
Getting there safely
Travelling requires planning. Whether you are travelling by plane, rail or in a car - you will have to make some decisions on getting from A to B. Do you want to travel the fast or the relaxing way? The fuel-guzzling or environment-friendly way? Do you want to plan well ahead - or last minute? Travel at no matter what cost - or save as much as possible? Do you want to be sure about your time of arrival in advance or plan for congested roads?
Luckily, the Internet affords you the stress-free opportunity to book your flight or railway journey from home or to find out, which route is least likely to be congested at what time.
- At the Deutsche Bahn's information desk, you can make inquiries, book and print your tickets. An additional advantage: This information desk does not only speak German, but English, French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch, too: www.bahn.com
- The Michelin website contains interactive road and city maps as well as a route planner that plans your trip according to your planned departure or desired arrival. The way it displays your route may take some getting used to, though: www.viamichelin.co.uk
There is no such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing. Which is a particularly annoying fact if you have packed your suitcases for a trip to the sun and end up in non-stop rain. So it's more than just a good idea to get some information on the weather for the next days. Online weather forecasts will help you pack your suitcase with the right clothing - be it beachwear, raingear or your clubbing outfit.
Weatheronline provides you with a detailed listing of all the current meteorological data for many places. You will find the current temperature, clouding and snow depth, but you can also get some live impressions through connected webcams: www.weatheronline.co.uk
The easiest way of getting information on the weather is Intellicast: just enter a place name and the page will display information on barometric pressure, visibility, winds and temperatures (in Fahrenheit) as well as a 10-day prognosis: www.intellicast.com/
The Internet, international air traffic and modern telecommunication systems have brought the continents closer together. But when it is lunchtime here, it is the middle of the night in Alaska or Australia. Time zones will exist as long as the Earth rotates and orbits the sun. So if you are flying across the continents (and facing jetlag) or want to make an inter-continental phone call, it is important to know the time of day there.
Worldtimezone displays a simple world map on which the time zones are marked. Time differences are easily calculated with its help: www.worldtimezone.com
The TimeZoneConverter is much more comfortable to use. You simply enter the time of day in one place and it calculates the corresponding time in the other: www.timezoneconverter.com
In a movie, in which a party is carted across Europe in 7 days, somebody says: "If it's Thursday, it must be Brussels." But the classic tourist triathlon "get out of the bus - take a snapshot - get back into the bus" is no way to explore a country. Especially not Germany, with its rich cultural scene, its coastlines, low mountain ranges and the Alps, the divide between East and West that is still palpable, its thriving cities and calm nature reserves. A few facts about culture, language, history and politics will help to gain a better understanding of the country and its people.
The longest linear distance across the country from North to South is 876 kilometres; from East to West it is 640 kilometres. Germany's highest mountain is the Zugspitze, which is 2,962 metres high. (City maps and country maps on www.deutschland.de(1), on www.deutschland.de(2) or on maps.google.de)
Germany's population is 80,8 million. The proportion of foreign nationals is about 9 percent.
German is the official language. "Hochdeutsch" - standard German - is spoken along with a number of regional dialects, such as the Bavarian, Swabian, Palatinate, Hessian, Saxon and North German dialects. Sorbian, Danish and Romany are spoken by minorities.
The most important public service television and radio broadcasting stations are ARD and ZDF, Deutsche Welle and a number of cooperating regional broadcasters, plus a large number of commercial radio and television stations such as RTL, SAT1, and Pro7. There are more than 300 daily newspapers - Bild, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt or the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, to name just a few. There are also a number of national news magazines, like Spiegel and Focus.
The Euro was introduced in 2002 and replaced the Deutsche Mark.
100 Euros (EUR) = 127,56 US Dollars (USD); 100 US Dollars = 78,36 Euros
100 Euros (EUR) = 79,26 British Pounds (GBP); 100 British Pounds = 126,08 Euros
(Source: www.oanda.com/converter/classic, October 2014)
About one third each of the population is either Roman Catholic or Protestant. About three percent of the population are of Muslim faith. There are about 108,000 Jewish people in Germany. (More detailed information on religion in Germany in English on Wikipedia under en.wikipedia.org.)
Germany's constitution is called The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz). The preamble of the Grundgesetz reads: "Conscious of their responsibility before God and man, inspired by the determination to promote world peace as an equal partner in a united Europe, the German people, in the exercise of their constituent power, have adopted this Basic Law." The first Article of the Grundgesetz is: "Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority."
(Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz, GG) in English on http://www.iuscomp.org )
History since 1945
The four occupying powers - USA, USSR, UK and France - partitioned Germany into four zones of military occupation at the Potsdam Conference in August 1945. In April 1949, the three Western powers decided to unite the Western parts of Germany into one "trizone". East Germany remained under the "protection" of the Soviet Union and proclaimed its own state sovereignty.
On the 24th of May 1949, the German Grundgesetz came into effect: the Federal Republic of Germany was born. Bonn became the nation's capital. The first Bundestag elections took place in August 1949. The enactment of the Constitution of the German Democratic Republic on the 7th of October 1949constituted the East German state. Following several "Berlin crises", and in order to stop the mass exodus, the GDR's government closed the border to West Berlin on the 13th of August 1961 and began erecting the Berlin Wall. The East-West divide led to tense relationships between East and West Germany in the following decades.
After many years of conservative government by the CDU/CSU parties in West Germany, a coalition government of social and liberal parties took over and tried to improve relations with the Eastern European countries. The SED, East Germany's socialist party, formed the government of the German Democratic Republic. Towards the end of the 1980s, the SED lost a great deal of its prestige and power.
In the night of the 9th November 1989, the borders of the GDR were opened in an act of surprise and the dramatic "Fall of the Wall" accelerated the downfall of the SED regime and the end of the GDR as a separate German state. People could now move freely between East and West Germany.
On the 1st of July 1990, the first freely elected new GDR government and the German Bundesregierung agreed on an economic, currency and social union of the states and signed the Reunification Treaty. The five East German Laender and East Berlin became a part of the Federal Republic of Germany and subjects of the German Grundgesetz on the 3rd of October 1990. Since then, the 3rd of October - the "German Day of Unity" - is the German national holiday.
(Find out more on de.wikipedia.org (1) and de.wikipedia.org (2))
Germany is a federal republic, consisting of 16 federal states - the Bundeslaender, or Laender. Berlin is the German capital and has about 3.4 million inhabitants. The Federal Republic of Germany is a founding member of the European Union, and with 80,8 million inhabitants (Oct. 2014), Germany is the EU's most densely populated country. Germany is also member of the United Nations, the OECD, NATO, and OSCE as well as the Group of Eight (G8).
The German Bundestag has 631 members, each elected for a period of four years. Each of the 16 Laender is represented in the German Bundesrat through members of its state government. The Federal President (Bundespräsident) is the head of state. Joachim Gauck has been in office as Federal President since March 2012. The government is headed by the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler). Dr. Angela Merkel has been in office since November 2005.
(More information on Germany's political system is available on www.tatsachen-ueber-deutschland.de. Much more information on education, health, culture, media, sports, state, tourism, environment, economy and science in Germany is available on www.deutschland.de )
More about lifestyle, education and career in Germany is available on www.young-germany.de.