Being a federal republic, Germany is very much a decentralised country, which embraces the cultural differences between the regions. Some travellers will perhaps only think of beer, Lederhosen and Oktoberfest when Germany comes to mind, but Germany's famous alpine and beer culture is mostly centered around Bavaria and Munich. Here the beer is traditionally served in 1 litre mugs (normally not in pubs and restaurants, though). The annual Oktoberfest is Europe's most visited festival and the world's largest fair. Germany's south-western regions, however, are well known for their wine growing areas (e.g. Rheinhessen and Palatinate) and Bad Dürkheim on the 'German Wine Route' (Deutsche Weinstraße) organises the biggest wine festival worldwide with over 600,000 visitors annually.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent German Reunification are the main events of recent German history. Today most Germans as well as their neighbours support the idea of a peaceful reunified Germany and while the eastern regions still suffer from higher unemployment and of brain drain, the reunification process is overall seen as a success. October 3rd is celebrated as "German Unification Day".
Cars are a symbol of national pride and social status. Certainly manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen (VW) are world famous for their quality, safety and style. This quality is matched by Germany's excellent network of roadways including the renowned Autobahn network, which has many sections without speed limits that attract speed hungry drivers. There are actually speed tourists who come to Germany just to rent an exotic sports car and fly down the autobahn. Amazingly for its size Germany is home to the sixth largest freeway/motorway network in the world. Germany also features an extensive network of high speed trains - the InterCityExpress (ICE).
Most cities have a vibrant gay and lesbian scene, especially Berlin and Cologne. The Berlin tourism agency and other tourism organisations have started campaigns to attract gay and lesbian travellers to their cities. In fact, some politicians (e.g. a former governing mayor of Berlin and the former German federal foreign minister) and stars in Germany are homo- or bisexuals.
Germans are generally friendly, although the stereotype that they can be stern and cold is sometimes true. Just be polite and proper and you'll be fine.
Germany was the host of the FIFA World Cup 2006.
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