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Useful Notes: The Sixteen Lands of Deutschland

The Berlin Republic has sixteen states. The actual German plural is (Bundes)Länder, but that's not very Wiki friendly.

Many of the current German states are very different from the states that existed in Imperial Germany and the Weimar Republic, when Prussia made up most of Germany. After World War II, the Allies first broke up Prussia into smaller units, then merged small states to larger continuous units within their four zones of occupation. (If you go back to before 19th century German unification, you'll need a bigger scorecard: there were hundreds of tiny principalities and grand duchies, almost all of which were for practical purposes completely independent autocracies.note )

Then the Allies split up, and West Germany and East Germany were formed. The differences between then and now are that Baden-Württemberg was formed out of three smaller states in South West Germany, the Saarland rejoined Germany, and the East German states were broken into districts and only restored with German reunification in 1990.

Still, regional and local identities based on historic territories, some of them going back to the Holy Roman Empire, abound.

The political terminology of Germany may be a bit confusing for strangers (especially Americans), so here is some help on how to talk correctly about it.
  • Germany as a whole: The most used words are Bund (Federation) and Staat (State).
    • The word Nation is only used in historical context for the Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Holy Roman Empire of German Nation).
    • The word Republik is rarely used because of ambiguities towards the Weimar Republic and the GDR. Land is also rarely used because of ambiguities towards federal states.
    • From the Enlightment until World War II, the word Reich (Empire, a cognate to "realm", so to speak) is used; this is also true for the Weimar Republic in spite of its republican nature. For most of legal history, Reich and Bund were interchangable.
  • The (Bundes-)Länder: Land is the most common and neutral word, often in the form of Bundesland to fully eliminate ambiguities in spite of not being a legal term. Using Staat is complicated.
    • The states of Bayern (Bavaria), Sachsen (Saxony) and Thüringen (Thuringia) bear the title Freistaat (free state), meaning nothing else but having a pre-war legacy when almost any state of the Weimar Republic was either called Freistaat or Volksstaat (literally "people's state", not yet bearing communist connotations) in contrast to the cookie-cutter states than came to prominence after the war under Allied occupation that are universally named Land [insert random state name here].
    • Other than that, the title has absolutely no meaning, but its technically possible to call them state. Doing this is usually implies a seperatist attitude so it is usually done by conservative politicians. Calling any other country than those three "state" is generally wrong and also very confusing. It may also be seen as Eagleland Osmosis, which implies a lack of political knowledge (if you are German) or geographic knowledge (if you are a stranger). So bewareth, don't call them states.

This entry also covers the other major cities of Germany that aren't Berlin or Bonn.

In German language order -

Baden-Württemberg

South West Germany. Three post-1945 Länder to begin with, until they merged in 1952. Notable for precision mechanics, some famous universities, and banning Muslim female teachers from wearing headscarves. Used to be ruled consistently by the CDU (which often won absolute majorities) but as in spring 2011 it became the first German Land to have a Ministerpräsident from the Green Party.

This Land is noted for innovative businessmen, scientists, and engineers, and also for very thick accents. One of their "attract business" slogans some time ago was ''Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch:" "We can do anything. Except speak Standard German." note 

(Alemannic) Badeners and (Swabian) Württembergers tend to regard themselves as totally different people. There is also the small territory of Hohenzollern which used to belong to Prussia and contains Hohenzollern castle, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern.

One of the best known geographic features of Baden-Württemberg is the Black Forest (der Schwarzwald), home of Kirschwasser (known as kirsch in English), Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (a type of rich cake, made with Kirschwasser) and cuckoo clocks. The latter were falsely credited to Switzerland by Orson Welles in the film The Third Man.

Stuttgart

State capital and former capital of the Kingdom of Württemberg. Where the four-wheeled automobile was invented, it is the home of Porsche und Mercedes. More recently gained attention for its train station to be rebuilt. note 

Freiburg

Meaning "free castle", the full name is Freiburg im Breisgau. Though frankly, "Burg" translates into castle and is a cognate for English -burgh. It can sometimes also be derived from "Berg", meaning mountain or hill.

Notable for its university, the local belief that it's the warmest place in Germany and being a centre of Catholicism. And cyclists. And Catholic Cyclists.

Heidelberg

Home of the oldest German university, or more correctly the oldest university in the Federal Republic (the oldest universities of the Holy Roman Empire were those of Prague and Vienna). Heidelberg used to be the capital of the Palatinate until the French burned it down in one of Louis XIV's wars. Heidelberg is the town most associated with the 19th-century image of roisterous German student life, thanks in large part to Wilhelm Meyer-Foerster's play Alt-Heidelberg (which was adapted into the operetta The Student Prince). Popular with American tourists.

Karlsruhe

Translates to "Karl's resting place". Former capital of Baden (grand duchy, then republic), now seat of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court), the supreme court of the Federal Republic. A planned city with a combined radial-plus-grid pattern reminiscent of Washington, DC; both cities were purpose-built capitals designed in the 18th century under Enlightenment planning principles (the groundwork for Karlsruhe was laid in 1717, with the work completed and capital moved in 1771; DC was laid out in the 1790s and the government moved to the incomplete city in 1800). Karlsruhe is also noted for the "Karlsruhe model" of transportation, a form of light rail in which trams run underground in the city center, at street level other places, and on intercity rail tracks for nearly a hundred kilometers in every direction outside of the city, has become increasingly popular elsewhere (for instance, it's the model for the Tyne & Wear Metro).

Mannheim

In its day a modern fortress-city, it became the new capital of the Palatinate after the sacking of Heidelberg. Was an important centre for music and theatre in the 18th century; Schiller's first plays were first performed at the city theatre and Mozart met his wife here. In the course of territorial redistributions during the wars of the French Revolution the city was allotted to Baden. Also nicknamed "the city where the streets have no names" because its inner city has a chessboard-like grid and its blocks are labeled by a letter and a number.

Ulm

During the Holy Roman Empire the largest free city by area. Its minster is the gothic church with the highest steeple in the world. Albert Einstein was born here.

Bayern

You probably know this as Bavaria. Home to Lederhosen, the real Oktoberfest and a certain Joseph Ratzinger.

Historically a state on its own, it's been joked that it's not part of Germanynote . Many non-governmental organisations have a separate branch in Bavaria and the place has its own Christian Democratic Party, the CSU, although they always co-operate with the CDU. The CSU has run Bavaria almost without interruption (there was an SPD-led government 1954-57) since 1946—usually with electoral majorities.

It is officially called Freistaat Bayern - the Free State of Bavaria.

A not inconsiderable part of the state only became Bavarian during the Wars of The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars (the rulers of Bavaria were made kings by Napoleon). The inhabitants of these regions are sometimes jokingly called "Beutebayern" (booty Bavarians) and retain distinct regional identities. After World War II, many German expellees from Czechoslovakia settled in Bavaria, and thus in political rhethorics it is customary to speak of the "four tribes" of Bavaria - Bavarians, Franconians, Swabians and Sudeten Germans.

BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke, or in English, Bavarian Motor Works) of course comes from here.

Also home of one of Germany's most well known tourist attractions, Neuschwanstein Castle, build by King Ludwig II.

München

In English, the French name Munich is preferred. State capital and home to the world-famous Bayern München football club (20-times German Champions and four-times European Cup winners), München has the lowest crime rate of any major German city, although ironically it seems that every other German television crime series is set there, including Derrick, the one seen most in non-German countries.

Of the great three cities in Germany (alongside Berlin and Hamburg), Munich is not only the smallest with less than 1.5 million inhabitants, but also the youngest, having started out as a Benedictine monastery near a (probably much older) Germanic settlement as late as 1158 (of which the church building still stands, in the shape of Old Peter). It later went to become a major trading power with a monopoly on the salt trade traversing the River Isar (which, according to a legend, was so heavily rivaled that Munich's Duke, Henry the Lion, ended up burning the only other Isar bridge, belonging to the Bishop of Freising and thus starting an empire-wide scandal in the 12th century).

Historically, it was where the first Nazi attempt to take power took place, the Beer Hall Putsch, where Adolf Hitler fired a bullet into a ceiling (subsequently earning Munich the rather sarcastic title of 'the secret capital' or 'capital of the movement').

Also famous as the place where Neville Chamberlain accomplished "Peace for our time." In 1938.

Just outside was the Dachau concentration camp.

In 1972, München hosted the Summer Olympics, an event most known for what happened to 11 Israeli athletes there.

It has the Bavaria Film Studios, where the original Enemy Mine was filmed.

Augsburg

Largest city in Bavarian Swabia, a former Free City founded by the Romans and named after the Emperor Augustus (Augusta Vindelicorum). It was home to the wealthy Fugger family (financiers to emperor Charles V), important to the history of Protestantism for the "Augsburg confession" and other things, many of which happened at the Imperial Diets that were held here. Bertolt Brecht came from here and spoke with a noticeable Augsburg accent all his life.

Bayreuth

Formerly the capital of a principality ruled by a branch of the Hohenzollerns, later home to Richard Wagner and the festival he founded. In 2011, its (actually very young) university gained attention for a plagiarism affair about the at that time defense minister of Germany (who was, as it happens, heir to an old Franconian Blue Blood family and married to the great-great granddaughter of Otto Von Bismarck...very bad form...).

Coburg

Formerly the capital of the (Thuringian) duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and home to the ruling house of Belgium and the United Kingdom, this town by referendum opted to join Bavaria, not the new Land of Thüringen in 1920. As Thuringia became part of the Soviet zone, but Bavaria part of the American zone of occupation in 1945, this choice turned out quite significant.

Ingolstadt

An old university town. Adam Weishaupt, lecturer in philosophy and church law, founded the Illuminatenorden here in 1776, but in 1785 the "order of Illuminati" was dissolved by order of the Bavarian government and ceased operating. Also home to Audi, a sub-chapter of Volkswagen that provided a certain Will Smith movie with a Cool Car prototype.

Nürnberg

Anglicized as Nuremberg. The former Free City is home to artist Albrecht Dürer, shoemaker and poet Hans Sachs, and Julius Streicher. Historically one of the major centers of the German economy, being on a major trade route and in a major mining region, Nürnberg was famously rich; it was the home of several large banking organizations (including the Fuggers and Welsers, who had moved from Augsburg), and in the 16th century, they said that the average Nürnberg burgher ate better than the King of Scotland.note  It has long been a center for innovation; the world's first watches appeared here around 1510, and the first German railway was built in 1835 from Nuremberg to neighboring Fürth (Henry Kissinger's native town). The Nazis held their party rallies here, using one of them to enact the infamous Nuremberg Race Laws. After 1945 seat of the International War Crimes Tribunals. Regional centre of Franconia. On a lighter note, it's also world famous for its Christmas market.

Nuremberg shares its university with nearby Erlangen (which hosts the bi-annual International Comic Salon).

Berlin

See that entry. The eastern half was capital of East Germany, while the Western half, due to the ambiguous legal status of the place, couldn't vote in West German federal elections (although its citizens, like Chancellor Willy Brandt, could stand elsewhere) and had 20 non-voting representatives in the Bundestag instead). Starting in 1956, it did issue license plates in the standard (then-)West German format (B; sometimes Germans use these as a shorthand for city names in other places, like Internet forums, incidentally).

A highly ambigious legal status. Technically under Allied occupation until 1990, the German Basic Law didn't apply there. West Berlin was pretty much the 11th state of West Germany, with West German treating all West Berliners (and East Germans too, which is why so many tried to cross The Berlin Wall) as German citizens. However, the city was exempt from conscription, which attracted a counter-culture there and West German airlines weren't allowed to fly there as the three air corridors linking West Germany and West Berlin were for British, French and US planes only. The East Germans wouldn't let them use their airspace either, claiming the Lufthansa name for themselves - see East Germany.

Since reunification, Berlin is a single German state.

What do we call this city?

The two halves of the city were called a variety of different things in German during the Cold War - you can deduce a source's political leanings from the terms they use.

West Berlin:
  • Berlin (West)- the official West German name.
  • Westberlin- the official GDR name for most of the Cold War, suggesting it wasn't part of the real Berlin.

East Berlin:
  • Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR ("Berlin, Capital of the GDR")- the official East German name, sometimes just shortened to Berlin.
  • Berlin (Ost)- the West German name.
  • Ost-Berlin, Ostberlin and Ostsektor- West German media ("Ost" is German for East), suggesting it wasn't part of the real Berlin.

Brandenburg

Entirely surrounding Berlin, it was recreated in 1990, having been broken up by East Germany. Berlin is completely surrounded by Brandenburg territory.

Historically the Margraviate of Brandenburg, it was a major part of the Holy Roman Empire and became the core of Prussia; until World War II, the province of Brandenburg also extended to the eastern bank of the Oder (Polish: Odra) river. The southeastern corner of the state, the Niederlausitz (Lower Lusatia) with the Spreewald (Spree forest), is home to the Sorbs, a Slavic minority with a language of their own.

Potsdam

The capital of Brandenburg, the place is best known in the English-speaking world for the Potsdam Conference and is home to the oldest large-scale film studios in the world, Babelsberg Studios, where Metropolis and V for Vendetta were filmed.

Potsdam (the name is derived from a Slavic one meaning "beneath the oaks") is situated between woods and lakes and was a favoured residence of the kings of Prussia who built many palaces, mansions and pavilions in and near the city. Most famous is Sanssouci, the little summer residence Frederick The Great had built according to his specifications with its adjoining park. Frederick William IV had landscape gardener Peter Josef Lenné transform the town and its environs into what effectively is one great park. The Potsdam conference was held in Cecilienhof, the last palace built by the Hohenzollerns (in the style of a Tudor country home for the last crown prince).

Brandenburg an der Havel

The medievel cathedral city of Brandenburg on the Havel river gave its name to the margravate.

Cottbus

Chósebuz in Sorbic. Brandenburg's second-largest city and center of Lower Lusatia.

Frankfurt (Oder)

Also known as Frankfurt an der Oder (Frankfurt on the Oder) and not to be confused with the bigger and more important Frankfurt am Main in Hesse. This city unsuccessfully applied to become Brandenburg's capital, is situated on the west bank of the Oder river, its former east bank suburb is now the Polish city of Slubice. Brandenburg is home to an old university, which in 1810 was moved to Breslau (now Wroclaw) but which was founded anew in 1991. The dramatist Heinrich von Kleist was born here. And the boxer Henry Maske as well.

Oranienburg

Just north of Berlin, it is home to a rather charming palace. Also home to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Bremen

One of the city-states of Germany, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen is actually two separate areas - Bremen and Bremerhaven. Unlike Berlin, which only became a state of its own after the post-WW2 dismemberment of Prussia, Bremen and Hamburg were autonmous and self-ruled ''Reichsstädte" even during the Holy Roman Empire and thus have a republican tradition going back to the middle ages. From 1945 to 1949, Bremen was an American enclave in the British zone of occupation as the American forces used Bremerhaven as their main port.

With "The Bremen Town Musicians", this city even has its own Fairy Tale. Well, sort of, considering that the protagonists, who went on a journey to Bremen, actually never arrive there. (Don't worry, nothing bad happened to them, they just changed their plans.) At Bremen's town hall, there is a neat statue of those four intrepid animals.

Hamburg

Another city state, it is officially called the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. Hamburg is the largest German city after Berlin. Its citizens are called Hamburgers, the word for the food item actually coming via the city's name.

Best known for its parks, being a major port and the Reeperbahn. The latter, a famous red-light district and the largest in Europe, was where The Beatles started off. It is also the seat of the International Maritime Court.

As the biggest and most important seaport (and, according to the slogan, "Gateway to the World"), Hamburg has been considered Germany's most cosmopolitan city for centuries. It also has a long tradition of welcoming people persecuted for their religion, at least when Hamburgers believed they could help increase trade and industry. Thus the 16th century saw the immigration of Dutch protestants and the 17th that of Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula and Huguenots from France, and the 18th exiles from Revolutionary France. Since Elizabethan times there has also been an English community after some Merchant Adventurers set up the English Court (closed by the French during the Napoleonic Wars), who caused a pronounced Anglophile tradition among Hamburgers in general. In the 19th century Hamburg was thus called "the most English town on the continent". Its proximity to Hannover, which was ruled by the same king as Britain for over 120 years, reinforced the cultural connection in the 18th and 19th centuries. After World War II, Hamburg was part of the British Zone of Occupation, and it still celebrates a "British Day" on 5-6 September, with a full Albert Hall-style Proms complete with renditions of "Land of Hope and Glory" and "God Save the Queen". The popular image of Hamburg is that it is a city typified entirely by trade and big business, but actually it has a long and rich cultural life. For instance it has the oldest civic opera (that is, opera not connected to a monarch's court) in Germany, which boasted Händel, Telemann, and Mahler in its staff.

  • Hamburg was a major setting in Tomorrow Never Dies and Backbeat.
  • Although this was changed in pretty much every adaptation, Jules Verne's Voyage to the Centre of the Earth begins in Hamburg, the novel's protagonist Professor Otto Lidenbrock taught at the Johanneum, the city's most prestigious school (founded during the Reformation).
  • Not only that, but this is the town where i.e. The Beatles frequented the night club stages before getting famous.

Hessen

Hesse in English, located in west-central Germany. Source of an alternative name for Burlap, mercenaries from the area fought on the British side during the American Revolutionary War. Home to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and thus often associated with fairytales to some degree.

Wiesbaden

State capital. Home to the US 1st Armored Division, it's on the opposite side of the Rhine to Mainz, another state capital. Famous for its spas - it does have "baden" (baths) in its name after all.

Frankfurt am Main

Full German title, used when wishing to avoid confusion with the Brandenburg town of Frankfurt (Oder). Financial centre of Germany and The European Union, being home to a stock exchange and the European Central Bank. 660,000 inhabitants. note 

From the 16th century to the end of the Holy Roman Empire the place where German emperors were crowned. During the abortive revolution of 1848/49 the Deutsche Nationalversammlung (German National Convention) convened here in the secularized Paulskirche (St. Paul's church). Also the only German city with a true skyline, as the other major cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne) are much larger area-wise and thus have no need for real skyscrapers. The Frankfurt am Main Airport is by far the biggest airport in Germany, and one of the largest in the world.

Darmstadt

Formerly the capital of the grand duchy of Hesse and one of the centers of Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) in Germany. Seat of a technical university with a physics institute specializing in heavy elements (element 110 is called Darmstadtium). Butt of many toilet-humour puns ('Darm' is German for 'intestines')

Kassel

Biggest city in Northern Hesse and home to the The Brothers Grimm.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was formerly in East Germany and provided it with a coastline on the Baltic. This meant that it was and still is a holiday destination. Western Pomerania was part of Sweden from the Thirty Years' War to the Napoleonic Wars and includes Germany's biggest island, Rügen. Current Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was raised in northern Brandenburg near the border with M-V, has represented the district Stralsund-Nordvorpommern-Rügen in the Bundestag since the reunification in 1990.

Like most of Germany east of the Elbe, this region used to be populated by various Slavic nations until the Germans moved in during the middle ages, intermingling with the locals and making it culturally their own. Of these regions Mecklenburg is perhaps the one that took the greatest pride in its Slavic roots. Its ducal house was that of the princes of the Obotrites; George III's consort Charlotte and Prussian Queen Louise both came from this house, specifically its Mecklenburg-Strelitz branch).

Schwerin

State capital. Landmark is the castle, home of the Dukes of Mecklenburg and now seat of the state parliament.

Rostock

Larger than Schwerin, with one of the world's oldest universities and was a member of the famous Hanseatic League. The most notable resident was aircraft designer Ernst Heinkel.

Peenemünde

Where the Nazis tested their missiles and where the world's first CCTV system was used for that purpose.

Niedersachsen

Lower Saxony in English, this, unlike the other Saxonies, was West Germany. When "the Saxons" are mentioned in regard to Dark Age Europe (as in the Anglo-Saxons), this is the land they are from. The later Kingdom and current state of Saxony (whose inhabitants are also called Saxons) is located in an entirely different part of Germany. VW is based in the Lower Saxon city of Wolfsburg.

The duchy, then electorate, then kingdom, then Prussian province of Hannover was integrated into this Land (that's where George I came from) Also home to the Scorpions.

Contains Ostfriesen, the Butt Monkey of many German Jokes
"Why do all East Frisians have flat heads? Because the toilet seats always fall on them while they drink out of the toilet bowl."

Fun fact for nerds: J. R. R. Tolkien's ancestors moved from Niedersachsen to England in the 18th century. Their ancestral name "Tollkühn'" means "foolhardy" in the local dialect. There are still a fair number of Tolkiens (and variants) running around the area.

Hannover

Spelled with one "n" in English, the state capital. Home of the philosopher Leibniz (honoured in the name of a popular biscuit produced by the local Bahlsen factory), the Dadaist artist and writer Kurt Schwitters, and the serial killer Haarmann. Noted for being the one place in Germany "without an accent," the local dialect being indistinguishable from Standard German. Also reputed to be boring. This leads to an old joke: "To learn true Standard German, you must go to Hannover. The problem is...you'd be in Hannover."

Bodenwerder

A small place on the Weser river, home to Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen.

Braunschweig

Known in English by the Low German form of its name, Brunswick. Formerly the capital of the duchy of Brunswick, it gave its name to the Guelph dynasty that ruled in Britain as the House of Hanover (officially the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg, hence the name of the Canadian province of New Brunswick as well as other "New Brunswick"s in North America, e.g. the town in New Jersey where the main campus of Rutgers is). Brunswick was the first city in Germany where football was played according to the Association Rules ("Soccer").

Göttingen

Seat of a very famous university founded in 1737 by George II of Hanover and Great Britain. Many famous scholars and scientists lived, learned and taught here, including the mathematician and writer of aphorisms Lichtenberg, the "prince of mathematicians" Gauß (who invented an early electric telegraph), Philipp Reis (who built the first telephone in 1860) and many others. In 1837 seven professors of the university protested against king Ernst August abolishing the Hanoverian constitution and were subsequently relieved of their post; these Göttingen Seven included The Brothers Grimm.

Hameln

Known in English as Hamelin, almost exclusively for a certain musician who passed through there.

Wilhelmshaven

The main port of the German navy on the North Sea was founded in the 19th century as a Prussian enclave in the duchy of Oldenburg. Sailors gave it the uncomplimentary nickname "Schlicktaun" (mud town). After World War II it became the major German tanker port.

Nordrhein-Westfalen

North Rhine-Westphalia in English, it is the most populous and, arguably note , richest state in the whole of Germany. Although the Rhine-Ruhr Area is a massive conurbation (over 10 million residents), 52% of the state is actually agricultural.

The Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years' War and invented the modern concept of the sovereign state was signed here after a five-year Peace Conference; specifically, it consisted of two treaties, those of Münster (in NRW) and Osnabrück (transferred to Niedersachsen).

Düsseldorf

State capital, it is not a small village by any means, but a city of half a million people. Home to the world's largest digital clock.

One of the city's most famous people was Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII. Another is Claudia Schiffer.

Close by is the Neandertal (old spelling: Neanderthal) where some very well-known prehistoric human fossils were found.

  • Monster is set in Düsseldorf, as is Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (first series). One of the reasons for the former could be that the city is one of the largest Japanese settlements in Europe, with 8000 Japanese in the town itself and another 4000 in the immediate vicinity.

Aachen

Aken in Dutch, Aix-la-Chapelle in French, Akwizgran in Polish, Oche in the local dialect, there seems to be a different name for this place in every language but English. An old Imperial free city, favourite residence of Charlemagne and the place where most German kings were crowned until the 16th century. Its hot springs have been used for baths since Roman times and in the 18th century this was one of the most fashionable spas in Europe. Germany's westernmost major city, directly on the Dutch and Belgian borders, and the first German city to be taken by the US Army in 1944. Nowadays tries to "break free" of the weight of all that history (the city was quite important for all of Europe in the Middle Ages, not just for Germany) by wholeheartedly embracing the future, i.e. toting the banners of RWTH Aachen University, which, if you actually live in the city, feels as if it owns half of the place already. It's essentially supposed to be (and is advertised as) a German counterpart to MIT or the Russian MIPT - while considered the best of all German universities in the various engineering fields and one of the best in the hard sciences, it's not quite there yet.

Bielefeld

Does not exist.

Köln

Cologne in English (the word for perfume comes from here and the place still produces Eau de Cologne), it's much more populous than Düsseldorf, just shy of a million people.

It's most famous landmark, the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), was for ten years, 1880-1890, the world's tallest building. It claims it has the remains of The Three Wise Men. It survived World War II because the Allies used it to navigate by.

Alarm für Cobra 11 is set in and around Köln.

It has a local dialect, Kölsch. Since Kölsch is also the name of a local beer, some wits comment it's the only language you can drink.

Köln is the host of the Games Com, the successor of the Leipziger Games Convention.

Cologne is well-known for its Karneval, its intense rivalry with Düsseldorf, and for its gay community. The latter is perhaps disproportionately well-known due to the hugely successful comics creator Ralf König, who lives in Cologne.

Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic (1949-1963), was born in Köln and was its Mayor during the Weimar Republic.

Münster

Centre of the rural Münsterland, deeply Catholic (although it briefly had an Anabaptist semi-communist regime in the 16th century) and said to be the most bicycle-friendly city in Germany. It has one of the largest universities with over 40,000 students. All in all Münster has over 50,000 students and 30,000 pupils, meaning that more than 25% of the population are either attending school or university.

Rhine-Ruhr area

The cities of the Ruhrgebiet (Ruhr-area), by the natives also called Ruhrpott, or just Pott: Bochum, Bottrop, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Hamm, Herne, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Oberhausen, as well as a few smaller towns within the Kreise (districts) of Ennepe-Ruhr, Recklinghausen, Unna and Wesel. (Phew! Forgot anyone?)

During the 19th and the 20th century, black coal was mined in the area framed by the Rhine's tributaries Ruhr and Lippe, luring other industies such as metallurgy into said area. The Pott developed into the "industrial backbone" of Germany. It is currently seeking to redefine itself after the decline of its "traditional" mining-industries, for example by luring in newer industry-branches. And by encouraging tourism: Old gasometers or pit heads are treated as the Ruhr-area's answer to the Eiffel Tower or the Brandenburg Gate. Also, home of two famous (of course rivaling) football teams: Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04. (Schalke is a quarter of Gelsenkirchen.)

  • The webcomic Union of Heroes is set in the Ruhr-area, specifically Dortmund.

Wuppertal

The Rhineland is normally thought of as a Catholic region, but there are exceptions, the most notable being this industrial city (result of the fusion of Elberfeld and Barmen), a hotbed of the Protestant work ethic. Friedrich Engels was born here. Famous for the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn, a unique suspended monorail railway, launched in 1901 and still in operation.

With Niedersachsen, North Rhine-Westphalia is the home of the British bases such as Paderborn, Herford, Herne, Bad Fallingbostel)

Rheinland-Pfalz

Rhineland-Palatinate in English, formerly the northern part of the French zone of occupation, it consists of territories that before World War II belonged to the Prussia (Rhineland), Bavaria (Palatinate) and Hesse (Rheinhessen). Bordering France, Luxemburg and Belgium. Much agriculture and viticulture, offering a wide variety of and many good vines.

Mainz

Formerly commonly translated Mayence, as in French. Capital of RP and home to one of the biggest German TV stations, ZDF. Also home of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. Until 1803 the chief of the ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire and seat of the Prince-Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, the "Primate of Germany."

Kaiserslautern

Home to many US soldiers serving at Ramstein and especially famous for its football club. (West) Germany couldn't have won its first world cup in 1954 without its fair share of guys from Lautern.

Ludwigshafen

One of the few major German cities founded in the 19th century, it was built on the opposite bank of the Rhine from Mannheim. Former Chancelor Helmut Kohl is from here, and the chemical company BASF is situated in Ludwigshafen.

Nürburg

Known more for its famous racecourse, the Nürburgring (especially its northern section); the town itself is a nearby village and castle, surrounded by the 'ring.

Ramstein and Spangdahlem

Hosts of large US Air Bases.

Trier

Formerly commonly translated Treves, as in French, though pronounced "Treevz", not "Trayv". THE oldest city of Germany, founded in or before 16 BC. Formerly a provincial capital of the Roman Empire. Until 1803 one of the ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire and seat of the Prince-Archbishop and Elector of Trier. Birthplace of Karl Marx.

Worms

Another old cathedral city on the Rhine. In the Nibelungenlied, this is where the Burgundian kings lived. The Diet of Wormsnote  where everyone knows Martin Luther said "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me, Amen." was held here in 1521.

Saarland

After the war, Saarland was actually placed under French control, but was handed back in 1957 (it had been under de facto French adminstration from 1920 to 1935). Smallest of the non-city states, French is the most common foreign language here. Tried to qualify for the 1954 World Cup, and came second in their group... to the West Germans.

Saarbrücken

The capital and largest city.

Sachsen

Saxony. The Free State of Saxony was part of the former GDR, and both the Left and the Neo-Nazi NPD does well therenote . Until 1918 it was one of the four kingdoms of the German Empire. The easternmost part, the Oberlausitz (Upper Lusatia), is home to the Sorbs, a Slavic minority speaking a language of their own, and includes the only part of the former Prussian province of Silesia that did not become Polish after World War II.

Dresden

State capital of Saxony. Very much destroyed in the Dresden bombing raid of 1945, one of the most controversial raids of the war due to the very high number of civilian deaths. note 

The bombing is commemorated every year and has sadly became an attraction for Neo-Nazis in Germany. Having been part of East Germany, it took some decades longer than elsewhere to rebuild several famous sites that got bombed during the war. This is especially for sites like the Semperoper and even more so for its Church Of Our Lady (Frauenkirche).

Bautzen

Budysin in Sorbic. The center of Upper Lusatia gained a sad notoriety after World War II as the site of a Soviet internment camp. It is also home to an old prison colloquially known as Gelbes Elend (yellow misery) where many political prisoners were kept under the Nazis, the Soviet occupation, and the GDR. Also known for its mustard.

Chemnitz

Third largest city in Saxony. Called Karl-Marx-Stadt during East Germany from 1953 to 1990, despite having no proof that Karl Marx has ever visited the city. Home to a famous skating club that produced some of Germany's most famous ice skaters, like Katarina Witt and the skating pair of Robin Szolkowy and Aliona Savchenko.

Görlitz

Germany's easternmost city... or half of a city, as it lies directly on the Neisse (Polish: Nysa) river. The part on the east bank belongs to Poland and is called Zgorzelec.

Leipzig

Largest city in Saxony. Traditional host to the "Games Convention", now the "Games Convention Online". Places great importance on its historic city center. Has a long history as a judicial center, serving as the site for the German High Court under from 1879 to 1945 (encompassing the Imperial Era, the Weimar Era, and the Nazi regime), and currently serving as the seat of the Federal Administrative Court. Also a major trading center since the middle ages, home of one of Germany's oldest university, and as a musical center. The Thomanerchor, the boys' choir of St. Thomas' church, is the oldest in Germany and was led by Johann Sebastian Bach for a long time, while the Gewandhausorchester has been conducted by the likes of Felix Mendelssohn and Kurt Masur. Richard Wagner was born here. It's been here where the protests against the Honecker regime really kickstarted.

Meißen

Known for its medieval cathedral and its porcelain manufacture (the first in the western world, although its products are usually referred to as "Dresden china" in English).

Zwickau

Saxony's automobile assembly center. Built Auto Union cars in the city during the interwar years. Auto Union would eventually evolve into Audi, long after the company left for Ingolstadt. During East German rule, it became the manufacturing center for the infamous Trabant. Today, Audi has a superficial relationship with the city, as parent company Volkswagen currently has a factory there.

Sachsen-Anhalt

Saxony-Anhalt. Formed with the union between the Prussian Province of Saxony and the Duchy of Anhalt. Not to be confused with Lower Saxony, though the are was formerly known as Obersachsen (Upper Saxony) or Saxony (on which parts of it was gained after the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, though some of it was eventually regained during the modification of borders in 1990).

Made up much of the Western border of the GDR. Continues to receive bad press for high unemployment and Neonazi concentration; decried as the typical post-reunification un-success story. Also the location of Bitterfeld, once touted as "The Most Polluted Area in East Germany."

Magdeburg

State capital, gave name to the Magdeburg Rights. History buffs may remember Magdeburg from the siege by Tilly during the Thirty Years' War. Has a very large gothic cathedral. The city was mostly bombed to rubble during the tail end of World War II, requiring much rebuilding. Curious mixture of architectural styles, ranging from medieval churches to some surviving Weimar Republic-era housing to Soviet-style Plattenbau neighbourhoods.

Capital of the United States of Europe in the 1632 series, rebuilt following Tilly's sack of the city.

Halle

Or "Halle an der Saale" (Halle on the Saale). Was briefly considered for state capital after the reunification, but was passed over in favor of Magdeburg. Operates the largest regional airport in cooperation with Leipzig.

German British composer Georg Friedrich Händel/George Frederic Handel (the guy who wrote the Messiah) was born in Halle, as was the longest-serving foreign minister of modern Germany, Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

Halle has a famous university which absorbed the older university of nearby Wittenberg. Martin Luther taught in Wittenberg, Doctor Faustus, contrary to what Christopher Marlowe said, did not.

Dessau

Officially known as "Dessau-Roßlau" after a merger with a neighboring town back in 2007. The capital of the Duchy of Anhalt, it is currently Saxony-Anhalt's third largest city. Once hosted to the famous Bauhaus school, the building that housed it still exists as a foundation of design.

Wittenberg

Officially "Lutherstadt Wittenberg," it is a center of Lutheranism. Became famous for being the place where the Protestant Reformation started, as Martin Luther pegged the famous "95 Theses" on the town church, which criticized the Church for its mismanagement and corruption. Ironically, as a legacy of Communist rule, many of its inhabitants now consider themselves atheists.

Schleswig-Holstein

Formerly Englished as Sleswick-Holstein. Home of the famous Schleswig-Holstein question, a dispute over the relations of two duchies with Denmark and the German Confederation. Well and truly entering the farcical territory, this dispute was finally resolved by force of arms in favour of the Germans. Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, better known as Lord Palmerston and British "Prime Minister" on two occasions (the title had not entered official use yet - this was the subject of a QI question)

"Only three people understood the Schleswig-Holstein Question. The first was Albert, the Prince Consort, and he is dead; the second is a German professor, and he is in an asylum; and the third was myself - and I have forgotten it."

Schleswig-Holstein is the northern most German state and part of the Jutland or Cimbrian peninsula with the rest of it taken up by Danish Jutland. Danish flags are not uncommon as the land was both German and Danish, the question has much to do with how the King of Denmarknote  was also the Duke of Schleswig and Holstein and had a seat in the old Holy Roman Empire as the latter. In the late middle ages the city Lübeck (then a free city) was the second largest city in Germany and later the capital of the Hanseatic League that controlled most trade on the Baltic Sea. Even today, Schleswig-Holstein has many cultural similarities with neighboring Denmark and Sweden, arguably even much more than with other German states like Bavaria or Saxony. This however is partly due to the considerable cultural influence of Germany and Northern Germany in particular on Scandinavia. Transport is a major function of the area. A canal goes between the Baltic and North Sea saving hundreds of miles going around Jutland.

The name of the canal depends on who you ask. Baltic Canal, Kieler Canal and Nord-Ostsee-Kanal are common names.

Apart from standard High German, Schleswig-Holstein has three more official languages, Low German, Frisian (spoken on the North Sea coast), and Danish. The Danish-speaking minority on the northern border has a special status, most notably in that the "Südschleswiger Wählerbund" (SSW), the South Schleswig Electors' Association, is exempt in state elections from the German law that admits only parties that receive at least 5 percent of the total vote or receive the majority of votes in a constituency to state and federal parliaments. The SSW thus usually has one representative in the Landtag in Kiel. A similar status applies to the German-speaking minority in Northern Schleswig, which became part of Denmark due to a referendum after World War I.

One other oddity of Schleswig-Holstein history is the region of Dithmarschen, which in the middle ages was a republic of self-governing farmers. In 1500 they managed to defend their independence against the army of the Danish king and the Holstein nobility in the battle of Hemmingstedt, capturing the original Dannebrog. However, the Danish tried again later and succeeded in conquering Dithmarschen and bringing home their "holy flag" in 1559.

Kiel

The state capital. A port city, which played a part in the end of World War One. The German Navy at Kiel was ordered on what was essentially a suicide mission, but refused to leave. It has the largest shipyard in Germany, which produces many of Germany's modern ships and submarines. Germany does some rather good diesel U-boats, in fact (they sell them around the world—and occasionally donate them to the Israelis with Infrared Missiles, whom some claim have equipped them with nuclear warheads).

Also famous for the Kieler Woche (Kiel's Week) festival every year. A large presentation and parade of all kinds of ships, from modern military ones to old or reconstructed ones, often from around the world.

Holds an annual festival, which incorporates a winnable wedding- engaged couples can enter to have their wedding as part of it.

Lübeck

Formerly the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck, its old town was largely destroyed in one of the Royal Air Forces's first major air raids in World War II. Home of writing brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and currently where Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass is based.

Flensburg

The northernmost German city on the mainland (Westerland on Sylt is further north still) is known in Germany mainly for being the country's main entry port for rum, largest concentration of Danes in Germany, Beate Uhse (who opened Germany's first sex shop), the Flensburger brewery, and the central registry for traffic violations in Germany. If you have too many "points (Punkte) in Flensburg", you'll lose your driver's license.

Interesting note: Flensburg is part of a region/sub-peninsula of S-W called Angeln, which is where the "Angles" of the Anglo-Saxons came from, and is therefore the place England and English are named after.

Neumünster

The fourth and smallest major city of Schleswig-Holstein, being famous for absolutely... nothing. It has no famous sights, no famous citizens, no important industry, never was even remotely involved in any historical events, and never shows up in fiction either.

Thüringen

Thuringia, which belonged to the GDR, was formed in 1920 from the union of eight minor monarchies (one grand duchy, three duchies, and four principalities), though one eventually chose not to enter the new state (see Coburg above for more details). Thuringia was occupied by US forces in 1945, but was soon traded in for West Berlin.

Known as the "Green Heart of Germany," the landscape is dominated by mountains and forests which provide a sanctuary for the German wildlife, not to mention a handful of hiking trails and places catering for tourists looking for active leisure. Economy is once described as a combination of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt (a combination of manufacturing and agriculture). Has recently produced a lot of world-class athletes excelling in winter sports.

In legend, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa is asleep in the Kyffhäuser mountains near the village of Tilleda in this state.

Erfurt

The state capital is home to the third oldest university in Germany; Martin Luther studied and received his master's degree here.

Jena

Home of another famous university, where around 1800 Schiller, Hegel, Fichte, the Schlegels and other luminaries of the day were to be found. Also famous for a decisive battle of the Napoleonic Wars in 1806 fought around the town and nearby Auerstadt; they say that Hegel finished his Magnum Opus, The Phenomenology of Spirit, at the height of the battle. The Carl Zeiss firm is famous for its optical instruments and an early model of having employees participate in the business profits.

Weimar

The former capital of the grand duchy of Saxe-Weimar is famous for the Weimarer Klassik, that is the era in the late 18th and early 19th century, when Goethe, Schiller, Wieland and Herder all lived at the residence of "muses' court" of duke Charles August and his mother Anna Amalia (after whom the famous library is known). Goethe for a time served as the duke's minister and the director of the Weimar theater. Later Friedrich Nietzsche lived here and in 1918/19 the Deutsche Nationalversammlung (German National Convention) framed the constitution of the new republic in this city. The former concentration camp of Buchenwald is nearby.

Eisenach

East Germany's most westernmost city near the border with Hesse. If Zwickau is Saxony's automobile manufacturing center, then this is its Thuringian version. Formerly the location of a BMW assembly factory, it became famous for making the Wartburg automobile brand. After reunification, the factory was closed down while Opel built a brand new factory nearby to promote employment in the city.

Also where Johann Pachelbel (him of the Canon) was an organist and a setting in the 1632 series. Johann Sebastian Bach was born and grew up in the town of Eisenach in this state. Eisenach is also the town nearest to the famous Wartburg Castle, home of St. Elizabeth and Bl. Louis of Thuringia, where Martin Luther wrote much of his German translation of The Bible, the site of the famous Wartburg Festival for German unity in 1817, and where Richard Wagner set his opera Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg.
Berlin U And S BahnUsefulNotes/GermanyA Small Town in Germany

alternative title(s): The Sixteen Lands Of Deutschland
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