One of Europe's biggest countries, Germany is a popular tourist destination with visitors coming to enjoy German culture, outdoor activities offered by the forests and countryside in summer, or skiing in the winter although German ski resorts aren't mentioned in the same breath as those in France or Austria.
World War 2 tourism is high on the agenda for those wishing to chase the momentous events of history and see the places associated with them. Plenty of buildings from the Nazi period remain, including some of the most infamous such as the Olympiastadion built for the 1936 Summer Olympics and in Nuremberg, sites of the Nazi party rallies and the prelude to the storm ahead.
History of Germany
The early Germanic tribes existed long before the Romans became their neighbour. Along the Rhine, the tribes (the 'Franks') came into conflict with Rome but other than the short lived Roman province of Germania, from 260 AD they managed to coexist within Rome's borders and even participated in the Roman military. Hunnic invasions and Roman inability to manage the Franks within their borders led to the expansion of Frankish territory as a weakening Rome allowed more Roman provinces to be controlled by different Frankish kingdoms.
Formerly Romanised Gaul became known as the land of the Franks in the Early Middle Ages. Led by the Merovingian Dynasty, it gave way to the Carolingian Dynasty under Charlemagne from 768, uniting much of western and central Europe, the first unification since the end of the Western Roman Empire. It would divide again with West Francia forming the basis of modern France. The Eastern Frankish territories were known as the Kingdom of Germany. Middle Francia was a short lived entity.
The Holy Roman Empire was a political state which emerged from East Francia in the year 800 with Charlemagne as the First Emperor. Long lived, it was abolished in 1806 by Napoleon but with the end of Napoleon in 1815 a 39 state German Confederation was founded and unified in 1871 under Otto von Bismarck. This represented the founding of the German Empire (referred to as the Second Reich, the Holy Roman Empire being the First although it was actually a multinational state with an elected Emperor).
The assassination of the heir presumptive of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914 triggered Germany's involvement in World War 1, millions of deaths, and the end of the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires. A punitive peace planted the seed for World War 2 in 1939. Nazi Germany declared itself a 1000 year Third Reich but lasted less than two decades.
The result of World War 2, aside from millions of more deaths, was a Germany split into East and West and a Cold War in which countries tended to align with the liberal democracies of the West or the authoritarian dictatorships of the Soviet Union and China. West Germany was formed as a democratic state while the East was a Soviet controlled puppet state.
The Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and Dissolution of the Soviet Union allowed Germany to reunify. Today it is a leading member of the European Union allowing it to achieve through politics what two world wars and millions of deaths couldn't achieve.