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Germany (German: Deutschland) is a country in Central Europe and a founding member of the European Union. It is bordered to the north by Denmark, to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland, and to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.
While relatively small by world standards, Germany's attractions tend to be bigger than in the surrounding European neighbour countries, which is no surprise as Germany is the biggest country in Central Europe, runs Europe’s biggest economy, and has the largest population on the continent (excluding Russia).
The country's financial capital (Frankfurt) features an unusual skyline for Europe with its many high-rise buildings, including the continent's tallest office tower.
Berlin, though not as dominant in Germany as London in England or Paris in France, has been touted as one of the world's coolest big cities since the early 90s.
The world's most famous beer culture is centered around Southern Germany's leading city (Munich), where beer is traditionally served in 1 liter mugs (not in Kneipen (pubs) and Restaurants); Munich is also the site of the annual Oktoberfest, Europe's most visited festival and the world's largest fair.
German cars such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen (VW) are famous internationally for their quality. This quality is matched by Germany's excellent network of roadways including the famous Autobahn network, which has many sections without speed limits and lots of speed hungry drivers on it. Germany also features an extensive network of high speed trains - the InterCityExpress (ICE).
Germany was the host of the FIFA World Cup 2006
Germany is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement. European visa policy will be covered in the article about the EU. In brief, a visa to any other signatory state of the Schengen Agreement is valid in Germany too. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of some selected nations with whom the European Union or Germany have special treaties. Inquire at your travel agent, call the local consulate or embassy of Germany or see the Entry Requirements of Germany's Federal Foreign Office.
As of May 2004 only the citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for entry into Germany. Note that citizens of these countries (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work in Germany: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela
Also, there are no border controls between Germany and other Schengen Agreement nations, making travel less complicated.
There are a number of ways to get into Germany. From neighboring European countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel.
The most important airports are Frankfurt (IATA: FRA), Munich (IATA: MUC) and Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS). Berlin (IATA: TXL) and Hamburg (IATA: HAM have some relevance to international travellers as well. Frankfurt is Germany's main hub and one of Europe's four major hubs, and the destination of most intercontinental flights. Munich is a secondary hub. Travellers can easily fly in from most places of the world and then connect with Germany's biggest and most respected airline Lufthansa .
Some German airports are connected to the InterCityExpress and other rail lines. The others all feature some sort of connection to the nearest rail station as well as public transport to the central station of the respective cities. Passengers travelling from Frankfurt Airport have the option to check in their luggage in Cologne or Stuttgart train stations and connect to the airport by ICE.
Germany is one of Europe's budget airline capitals. There are budget flights to almost every city in Europe from Germany. Thus, a person seeking a budget flight, should first check with the nearest airport. Examples of budget airline hubs are Berlin Schönefeld and Dortmund for easyJet. GermanWings and Hapag-Lloyd-Express (HLX), AirBerlin, DBA and WizzAir offer budget flights from many assorted airports across Germany and Europe Ryanair flights from London to Berlin Schoenefeld, Altenburg (Leipzig), Luebeck, Weeze (in the near of Duesseldorf) and from some other European destinations to Frankfurt/Hahn. Flying can be the cheapest way to get to Germany, especially if the flights are book well in advance. A sample airfare on AirBerlin from Münster/Osnabrück to Vienna, Austria is €29 one-way including an onboard meal and all taxes, but not in summer and only on some dates in a year.
Regular train services connect Germany with all neighbouring countries. Almost all neighbouring countries (especially Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria) and even some non-neighbouring countries (e. g. Italy) are quite well connected with "EuroCity" trains. They are a little bit slower than the European high speed trains but reach nevertheless up to 200 km/h. They are a worthwhile way to travel - not only for budget travellers (although budget airlines might be cheaper) or landscape viewers (especially the Rhine valley lines).
There are also several European high speed trains to cross into or get out of Germany:
The Thalys brings you from Cologne (Köln) to Paris in approximately four hours and to Brussels in about two hours. The ICE brings you at 330 km/h top speed from Frankfurt (3h 15), Cologne (2h 30) or Düsseldorf (2h 15) to Amsterdam. The train journey from Frankfurt to Paris using the ICE will take about six hours; going from Hamburg to Paris can take eight and a half hours. There is also an ICE line from Frankfurt to Brussels via Cologne. Between Stuttgart and Milan (via Zurich)the Cisalpino offers several connections and is at the moment the only direct trans alpine train connection. Standard rail fares are quite high and Deutsche Bahn introduced in 2005 discount return tickets. You must buy them three or seven days in advance (e. g. online and print your ticket at home). Further reductions are available for groups of two (!) or more persons. These tickets are only valid on specific trains and times. From time to time there are further discount offers for single rides. The Bahncard (see Train Fares) is a discount card for the standard fare. If your travel start or ends in Germany you still be able to a reduction on the whole journey!
Information provided by Wikipedia
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