Many of the current German states are very different from their namesakes as they existed in the Imperial and/or Weimar eras, 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 contiguous units within the four zones of occupation. (If you go back before the 19th century, you'll need a bigger scorecard: there were hundreds of tiny principalities and duchies, almost all of which were for practical purposes completely independent autocracies.note )
Then the Allies split up, and the two Germanies were formed. The differences between then and now are that in the West what is now known as Baden-Württemberg was originally three separate states until their merger in 1952, and Saarland was a French protectorate until 1956, while in the East, the states were broken into districts and were only restored - with slightly different borders - upon reunification. A very few mostly tiny territorial adjustments have since taken place, but despite earnest efforts by different sides, no wholesale redrawing of borders has occurred and neither have proposals to merge or split up states been successful after the creation of Baden-Württembergnote .
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 word Bund (Federation) is mostly used in contexts that focus on the relationship between the federal government and the governments of the Länder and referring to federal agencies. When there still was military conscription, the armed forces (Bundeswehr) was colloquially referred to as der Bund.
- Staat (State) is often used as a synonym for "government". The term is somewhat ambiguous, as it can also refer to Länder. Note that the official German word for nationality is Staatsangehörigkeit (roughly: "state affiliation") and in its citizenship aspect it is Staatsbürgerschaft ("state citizenship"). In the Federal Republic of Germany, both can only be German, not e. g. Bavarian or Hessian.note
- The word Nation is mostly used in historical context for the Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Holy Roman Empire of German Nation). Occasionally it crops up in colloquial use, for instance football striker Gerd Müller was known as the Bomber der Nation.
- The word Republik can be used, but sometimes you have to make clear that you are not referring to the Weimar Republic or the GDR. The word Bundesrepublik (federal republic) tends to be unambiguous. "alte Bundesrepublik" ("Old Federal Republic") is used both for The Bonn Republic (1949-1990) and for the territory it encompassed, even if talking about the present. Context usually clarifies what's meant.
- Land on its own is usually avoided because of ambiguities towards federal states.
- From the Enlightenment 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 interchangeable.
- The (Bundes-)Länder: Land is the most common and neutral word, often in the form of Bundesland to fully eliminate ambiguities. 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].
- Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen are collectively known as the three Stadtstaaten (city-states). Hamburg and Bremen, befitting republics that predate the Weimar Republic, jealously guard the official titles they gave themselves after The Napoleonic Wars: Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg) and Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (Freie Hansestadt Bremen). Berlin, which only became a political entity of its own due to the Allied occupation of 1945 and the dissolution of the former Free State of Prussia in 1947, is merely called a Land.
- Other than that, the title has absolutely no meaning, but it is technically possible to call them states. In German, some officials and agencies of a Land can have the prefix Staats- in their official title (e. g. the Staatsministerium of Baden-Württemberg is the office of the Minsterpräsident), while some of those of a Freistaat may contain the prefix Land- (e. g. the legislature of Saxony is called the Landtag). In English it is not uncommon to call the Länder states, as their relationship to the central government is similar enough to that in other federal republics like the United States.
In German language order
Area: 35,752km (13,804mi)
Population (2012): 10,569,111
Landkreise: Alb-Donau, Biberach, Bodensee, Böblingen, Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald, Calw, Emmendingen, Enzkreis, Esslingen, Freudenstadt, Göppingen, Heidenheim, Heilbronn, Hohenlohe, Karlsruhe, Konstanz (Constance), Lörrach, Ludwigsburg, Main-Tauber, Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis, Ortenaukreis, Ostalbkreis, Rastatt, Ravensburg, Rems-Murr-Kreis, Reutlingen, Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, Rottweil, Schwäbisch Hall, Schwarzwald-Baar-Kreis, Sigmaringen, Tübingen, Tuttlingen, Waldshut and Zollernalbkreis
Stadtkreise: Baden-Baden, Karlsruhe, Freiburg im Breisgau, Heidelberg, Heilbronn, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Pforzheim, Stuttgart and Ulm
Minister-President: Winfried Kretschmann
Notable for precision mechanics, some famous universities, and banning Muslim female teachers from wearing headscarves. The last is perhaps less surprising given the region's history; Baden and Württemberg—and especially Baden—imbibed the liberalism of The French Revolution very thoroughly after being steamrollered by French armies. This included the fierce anticlericalism that gripped France between 1792 and the rise of Napoleon. After the end of The Napoleonic Wars, Baden and Würtemberg, both indelibly affected by the French occupation, became constitutional monarchies and were hotbeds of radicalism and republicanism during the Revolutions of 1848.
B-W used to be ruled consistently by the CDU (which often won absolute majorities), but in Spring 2011 it became the first state to have a Ministerpräsident from the Green Party. However, as Winfried Kretschmann (the guy who has ruled B-W since then) is a Catholic car enthusiast leaning toward the right wing of his party (and he has been in coalition with the CDU for his second and third term) the culture shock is not as big as it might appear. Baden-Württemberg has also historically been an electoral strongholg of the FDP which may or may not be related to the above-mentioned liberal tradition.
Baden-Württemberg is noted for innovative businessmen, scientists, and engineers, and also for very thick accents. One of their business slogans some time ago was "Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch." ("We can do anything. Except [speak] Standard German.")note
One of the state's best-known geographic features is the Black Forest (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, the city of Stuttgart occupies a small valley surrounded by hills on three sides. Where the four-wheeled automobile was invented, it is the home of Porsche and Mercedes. More recently the city gained attention for its train station to be rebuilt. note
- Freiburg im Breisgau: Literally, "free castle". Notable for its university, having the warmest regular temperature in Germany, and being a bastion of Catholicism and in more recent times the Green Party, having been under Austrian rule until 1805. It already featured in John le Carré's The Little Drummer Girl. Germany's largest theme park, Europa-Park, is situaded about 30 kilometers from the city.
- Heidelberg: Home of the oldest university in the country, Heidelberg was the capital of the Palatinate until the French burnt it down in one of Louis XIV's wars. The town is also strongly associated with the 19th-century image of boisterous 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 and servicemen, at least in part because the town hosted the US Army, Europe HQ until 2013.
- Karlsruhe: Translates to "Karl's resting place". Former capital of Baden (grand duchy, then republic), now seat of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court), the national high judiciary. Karlsruhe is a planned city with a hybrid radial/grid pattern reminiscent of Washington, D.C. (both being designed in the 18th century under the principles of the Enlightenment). 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 in other places, and on intercity 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 heyday 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 — Friedrich Schiller's first plays were first performed at the city theatre, and Wolfgang Amadeus 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.
- Tübingen: Another university town, with about one in three of its population being a student. Also notable for its population having the youngest average age of any German city (a spry 39)
- Hechingen: Former capital of the small territory of Hohenzollern which used to belong to Prussia. Contains the Hohenzollern castle, which was the ancestral seat of the same-named royal family.
- Ulm: During the Holy Roman Empire Ulm was the largest free city by area, and its minster (the largest church) features the tallest Gothic steeple in the world. Albert Einstein was born here. Neu-Ulm is just across the state-line in Bavaria but much smaller. During the German Confederation (1815-1866) Ulm was home to the "Federal Fortress" (Bundesfestung) which was supposed to protect against a French invasion that never came. Having never seen a shot fired in anger, it is relatively well-preserved.
Area: 70,549km (27,239mi)
Population (2012): 12,519,571
Landkreise: Aichach-Friedberg, Altötting, Amberg-Sulzbach, Ansbach, Aschaffenburg, Augsburg, Bad Kissingen, Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen, Bamberg, Bayreuth, Berchtesgadener Land, Cham, Coburg, Dachau, Deggendorf, Dillingen, Dingolfing-Landau, Donau-Ries, Ebersberg, Eichstätt, Erding, Erlangen-Höchstadt, Forchheim, Freising, Freyung-Grafenau, Fürstenfeldbruck, Fürth, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Günzburg, Hassberge, Hof, Kelheim, Kitzingen, Kronach, Kulmbach, Landsberg, Landshut, Lichtenfels, Lindau, Main-Spessart, Miesbach, Miltenberg, Mühldorf, München, Neuburg-Schrobenhausen, Neumarkt, Neustadt (Aisch)-Bad Windsheim, Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Neu-Ulm, Nürnberger Land, Oberallgäu, Ostallgäu, Passau, Pfaffenhofen, Regen, Regensburg, Rhön-Grabfeld, Rosenheim, Roth, Rottal-Inn, Schwandorf, Schweinfurt, Starnberg, Straubing-Bogen, Tirschenreuth, Traunstein, Unterallgäu, Weilheim-Schongau, Weissenburg-Gunzenhausen, Wunsiedel and Würzburg
Stadtkreise: Amberg, Ansbach, Aschaffenburg, Augsburg, Bamberg, Bayreuth, Coburg, Erlangen, Fürth, Hof, Ingolstadt, Kaufbeuren, Kempten, Landshut, Memmingen, Munich (München), Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Passau, Regensburg, Rosenheim, Schwabach, Schweinfurt, Straubing, Weiden and Würzburg
Minister-President: Markus Söder
Historically a state on its own, it's been joked that it's not part of Germany,note in a similar way Texas is to the rest of America. Many NGOs have a separate branch in Bavaria, and the place has its own CDU, the CSU, which has run Bavaria almost without interruption (there was an SPD-led government 1954-57) since 1946 — usually with electoral majorities.
A not inconsiderable part of the state only became Bavarian during the The French Revolution and The Napoleonic Wars (Bavarian rulers 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 here, and thus in political rhetoric 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.
- München (Munich)
- Augsburg: The largest city in Bavarian Swabia, a former Free City founded by the Romans and named after the Emperor Augustus (Augusta Vindelicorum). Augsburg was home to the wealthy Fugger family (financiers to Emperor Charles V), important to the Protestant movement for the Augsburg Confession, which set in stone the tenets of the Lutheran Church, 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: Former 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 then defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (who, turns out, was heir to an old Franconian noble family and married to a great-great granddaughter of Otto von Bismarck...very bad form...).
- Coburg: Former capital of the (Thuringian) duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and home to the ruling house of Belgium and the United Kingdom (now renamed "Windsor", after said branch's favorite castle in Berkshire, in response to anti-German sentiments at the wake of World War I), this town by referendum opted to join Bavaria, not the new Thuringia in 1920 (which came into Soviet influence later in the century).
- Erlangen Described as Bavaria's smallest city, it houses a university founded in the 18th century and some industry. Unusually for that part of Germany the town centre is built according to a rectangular planned grid. It belonged to the Margraviate of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, ruled by a side-branch of the Hohenzollern family, and was completely rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century to house Huguenot refugees from Louis XIV's France. Erlangen hosts the most important German comics convention, the Comic Salon, every even-numbered year. Due in part to the aforementioned grid which is nowadays mostly one way streets (for cars), Erlangen is one of the most bike friendly cities of Germany, fighting with Münster for the number one spot. After a controversial 2016 ballot measure, Erlangen is set to build a light rail line (locally known as "Stadt Umland Bahn") to neighboring Nuremberg and Herzogenaurach (the city of Adidas and Puma). J.B.O. is from here, which they mention about twice in every song.
- Ingolstadt: An old university town (among whose famous fictional alumni was a certain Victor Frankenstein). Adam Weishaupt, lecturer in philosophy and church law, founded the Illuminatenorden here in 1776, but the group was dissolved in 1785 by order of the Bavarian government. Also home to Audi, a sub-chapter of Volkswagen that provided a certain Will Smith movie with a Cool Car prototype.
- Nürnberg (Nuremberg): The former Free City, the de facto capital of the Franconia region, is home to artist Albrecht Dürer, shoemaker and poet Hans Sachs, and Julius Streicher. Historically one of the major centers of German economy, being on a major trade route and mining region, Nürnberg was home to several banking institutions (including Fuggers and Welsers, who moved from Augsburg), and in the 16th century, was said to have citizens eating better than the King of Scotland.note It's home to two of the largest and most well-known pencil manufacturers, Faber-Castell and Staedtler. It has also long been a center for innovation — the world's first watches appeared here around 1510, and the first German railway was built in 1835 leading to neighboring Fürth (Henry Kissinger's native town). World War II buffs may also remember it as the site where the Nazis held their rallies, one of which enacted the infamous Race Laws, and where the victorious Allies later held their war crimes trials, chosen both because of its pristine (read: undestroyed) courthouse and to serve as a symbolic Karmic Death to Nazism. On a lighter note, it's also world famous for its Christmas market. The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Triumph of the Will, and Judgment at Nuremberg are set here. Nuremberg also shares its university with nearby Erlangen. Served by the Nuremberg U Bahn. One of only three cities in Germany to have both a "real" U-Bahn, a Straßenbahn and an S-Bahn. The other two are Berlin and Munich. Hamburg has an U-Bahn and a S-Bahn but no Straßenbahn.
- Würzburg: An old university town in Franconia, known for the Würzburg Residence (Würzburger Residenz), a Baroque palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site that was largely destroyed in WWII but faithfully rebuilt in the decades after the war. Also known to basketball fans as the hometown of Dallas Mavericks Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
Population (2012): 3,415,091
First Mayor: Michael Müller
The capital and largest city of the modern German nation.
Until 1990, The eastern half was capital of East Germany, while the other half, due to its ambiguous legal status, couldn't vote in West German elections (although its citizens, like Chancellor Willy Brandt, could stand elsewhere) and had 20 non-voting representatives in the Bundestag instead). Starting 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).
Area: 29,479km (11,382mi)
Population (2012): 2,449,511
Landkreise: Barnim, Dahme-Spreewald, Elbe-Elster, Havelland, Märkisch-Oderland, Oberhavel, Oberspreewald-Lausitz, Oder-Spree, Ostprignitz-Ruppin, Potsdam-Mittelmark, Prignitz, Spree-Neiße, Teltow-Fläming and Uckermark
Stadtkreise: Brandenburg an der Havel, Cottbus, Frankfurt (Oder) and Potsdam
Minister-President: Dietmar Woidke
Historically the Margraviate of Brandenburg, it was an important part - one of the seven original Electorats - of the Holy Roman Empire and became the nucleus of Prussia; until World War II, Brandenburg also extended beyond the Oder. The southeastern corner of the state, Niederlausitz ("Lower Lusatia"), is home to the Sorbs, a Slavic minority with a language of their own (Sorbian, not to be confused with Serbian; it's closely related to Polish, Czech, and Slovak).
Before it became the core of the kingdom of Prussia, Brandenburg was considered one of the poorer regions of Germany, nicknamed des Heiligen Reiches Streusandbüchse ("the blotting-sand box of the Holy Empire") because to visitors it seemed to consist of little but woods, swamps and sandy ground. Until the 20th century Berlin was Brandenburg's largest city, then it became a political entity of its own.
- Potsdam: The state capital, Potsdam was a town turned into a park city by the rulers of Brandenburg amidst woods and lakes, and was a favored residence of Prussian royalty, who built several palaces there, amongst which was the one where Truman, Churchill (and later Attlee) and Stalin held the Potsdam Conference, talking over the fate of post-WWII Germany and how to wind up the war against Japan. Potsdam is also home to the oldest large-scale film studios in the world, Babelsberg Studios, where Metropolis and V for Vendetta were filmed.
- Brandenburg an der Havel: Originally a Slavic fortified town, later the site of a medieval cathedral which gave its name to the margraviate. Birthplace of Loriot.
- Cottbus: Known as "Chósebuz" in Sorbian, Cottbus is Brandenburg's second-largest city and center of Lower Lusatia.
- Frankfurt an der Oder: Not to be confused with the bigger and more important one in Hesse, Frankfurt an der Oder unsuccessfully applied to become Brandenburg's capital, and is divided by the Oder river from its eastern suburb, 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.
Population (2012): 660,999
First Mayor: Andreas Bovenschulte
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.
Population (2013): 1,751,775
First Mayor: Peter Tschentscher
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 had their first gigs before they were global sensations. It (Hamburg, not the Reeperbahn) is also the seat of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, aka the International Maritime Court.
As the largest seaport in Germany (and, according to the slogan, "Gateway to the World"), Hamburg has been considered the nation's most cosmopolitan city for centuries. It also has a long tradition of welcoming religious refugees, at least when Hamburgers believed they could help increase trade and industry. Thus the 16th century saw the immigration of Dutch Protestants, in the 17th, that of Sephardic Jews from Iberia and Huguenots from France, and in the 18th, exiles from Revolutionary France.
The most interesting Hamburg characteristic in this vein is probably its Anglophilia. 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), giving Hamburg a strong Anglophile tradition. Its proximity to Hannover, which was ruled by the same king as Britain for over 120 years, reinforced the cultural connection in the 18th-19th centuries. After World War II, Hamburg was taken by the British, and it still celebrates a "British Day" on 5-6 September, complete with their own take on the Proms. No wonder the old German joke about Hamburg is that "when it rains in London, Hamburgers open their umbrellas."
For a city well-known for its business edge, Hamburg hasn't lost its cultural life — it has the oldest civic opera in Germany, which boasted Händel, Telemann, and Mahler in its staff.
Largest City: Frankfurt am Main
Area: 21,100km (8,100mi)
Population (2012): 6,016,481
Landkreise: Bergstraße, Darmstadt-Dieburg, Fulda, Gießen, Groß-Gerau, Hersfeld-Rotenburg, Hochtaunuskreis, Kassel, Lahn-Dill-Kreis, Limburg-Weilburg, Main-Kinzig-Kreis, Main-Taunus-Kreis, Marburg-Biedenkopf, Odenwaldkreis, Offenbach, Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis, Schwalm-Eder-Kreis, Vogelsbergkreis, Werra-Meißner-Kreis, Waldeck-Frankenberg and Wetteraukreis
Stadtkreise: Darmstadt, Frankfurt am Main, Kassel, Offenbach am Main and Wiesbaden
Minister-President: Volker Bouffier
- Wiesbaden: State capital, former capital of Nassau, and 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. This is also the first city to get nuked in The Day After.
- Frankfurt am Main: Largest city of the state and the center of German (and continental European) finance,note being home to both a stock exchange and the European Central Bank. The city was also the last coronation site of Holy Roman emperors from the 16th century onwards, and was host to the national convention amidst the abortive republican revolution of 1848-1849. Frankfurt is also the only German city with a true skyline, and its airport is the country's largest. Frankfurt was an independent city-state until the war of 1866 when it was conquered and annexed by Prussia. It lost out on becoming (temporary) capital of Germany against Bonn in 1949, in part because Frankfurt was too important and the politicians deciding the issue wanted to avoid a "final" decision on a capital other than Berlin and partly because Konrad Adenauer had a house near Bonn, which ultimately won.
- Darmstadt: Former 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").
- Fulda: One of the oldest cathedral cities in Germany; St. Boniface, the "Apostle of the Germans" is buried here. Very Catholic.
- Kassel: Largest city in Northern Hesse and home to the The Brothers Grimm. The documenta, one of the world's most important exhibition of contemporary art, has been held here every four, later five years since 1955.
- Limburg: A cathedral town on the Lahn river which got into the headlines due to the extravagant amount of money spent on the refurbishing of his residence by bishop Tebartz-van Elst, who was forced to resign from office in 2014.
- Nassau: In the former principality of that name, the original home of the House of Orange. Also the birthplace of the Prussian reformer Karl Freiherr vom und zum Stein.
- Marburg: Famous university town located in north central Hessen. It is built around the Landgrafenschloss, the former seat of the Landgraf of Hessen. The town is known for the Phillips-Universität Marburg, founded by Landgraf Phillip von Hessen as the world's first Protestant university, and was attended by the Brothers Grimm. Also noted for the Elisabethkirche, widely cited as Germany's first purely gothic church.
Largest City: Rostock
Area: 23,174km (8,948mi)
Population (2009): 1,652,000
Landkreise: Rostock,Ludwigslust-Parchim, Mecklenburgische Seenplatte, Nordwestmecklenburg, Vorpommern-Greifswald and Vorpommern-Rügen
Stadtkreise: Rostock and Schwerin
Minister-President: Manuela Schwesig
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern contains the remains of Germany's long Baltic coastline; despite this, it is still a premier holiday destination thanks to Rügen and the charming seaside towns which contain marvelous examples of Brick Gothic architecture. Much of Vorpommern was part of Sweden from the Thirty Years' War to the Napoleonic Wars, including Greifswald, Stralsund and Germany's biggest island, the aformentioned Rügen. From 2012 through 2017, both Germany's head of government and its head of state hailed from the state, with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel raised in northern Brandenburg near the border with M-V, and has represented the district Stralsund-Nordvorpommern-Rügen in the Bundestag since reunification; and Federal President Joachim Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor born and raised in Rostock who later became an anti-communist activist during the Hole in Flag revolutions, and later becoming head of the government agency responsible for investigating the crimes of The Stasi after German Reunification.
Like most of Germany east of the Elbe, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern used to be populated by various Slavic nations until the Germans moved in during the Middle Ages, intermingling with 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 Charlottenote and Prussian Queen Louise both came from this house, specifically its Mecklenburg-Strelitz branch. On the opposite end of the scale, the person who is currently last in line to the British throne, Frau Karin Vogel, resides here.
- Schwerin: State capital, best-known for its castle, which once housed the Schwerin branch of the Dukes of Mecklenburg, and now host of the state parliament.
- Rostock: Largest city in the state, home to one of the world's oldest universities, and a member of the Hanseatic League. The most notable resident was aircraft designer Ernst Heinkel, the most famous son of the town was Field Marshal Blücher.
- Greifswald: Hanseatic City, seat of an old university and birthplace of the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.
- Neubrandenburg: New Brandenburg in German. Basically what a city-sized Renaissance fair would look like, with its Medieval Brick Gothic architecure relatively preserved and complete with its own city walls.
- Neustrelitz: Capital of the old Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, on which the town is full of Baroque architecture.
- Peenemünde: The town where the Nazis tested their V-2 rockets, on which the technology used would become instrumental in developing the Saturn family rockets used by NASA; consequently, this is where the world's first CCTV system was used for the purpose of guarding the missiles.
- Stralsund: Old Hanseatic City, famous for resisting against Wallenstein in a siege during the Thirty Years War.
- Wismar: Yet another old Hanseatic port city which was a Swedish semi-enclave in Mecklenburg from the Thirty Years War until 1903, this one became famous as Nosferatu was filmed there; along with Lübeck, the city also served as the basis for the film's fictional setting of Wisborg. Ironically, while the Werner Herzog homage was explicitly set in Wismar, he filmed his version in the Netherlands as a stand-in due to the city being part of East Germany at that time.
Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony)
Area: 47,62km (18,388mi)
Population (2012): 7,774,253
Landkreise: Ammerland, Aurich, County of Bentheim (Grafschaft Bentheim), Celle, Cloppenburg, Cuxhaven, Diepholz, Emsland, Friesland, Gifhorn, Goslar, Göttingen, Hamelin-Pyrmont (Hameln-Pyrmont), Hanover Region (Hannover), Harburg, Heidekreis, Helmstedt, Hildesheim, Holzminden, Leer, Lüchow-Dannenberg Lüneburg ,,Nienburg, Northeim, Oldenburg, Osnabrück, Osterholz, Peine, Rotenburg (Wümme), Schaumburg, Stade, Uelzen, Vechta, Verden, Wesermarsch, Wittmund and Wolfenbüttel
Stadtkreise: Braunschweig, Delmenhorst, Emden, Göttingen, Hanover, Oldenburg, Osnabrück, Salzgitter, Wilhelmshaven and Wolfsburg
Minister-President: Stephan Weil
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.
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 (Hanover): Spelt with one "n" in English, Hannover is home to philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (honoured in the name of a popular biscuit produced by the local Bahlsen factory), Dadaist artist/writer Kurt Schwitters, and 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 (Brunswick): Braunschweig was the capital of the same-named Duchy. The Low German form of its name was used by the Guelph branch 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"). Although most German towns and regions have associated forms of sausage, Braunschweig lends its name to a particularly internationally famous form of liver sausage. Braunschweig is also home to the most successful American Football teamnote in Germany - half the national team plays for them.
- 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 Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (mathematician and writer of aphorisms), Carl Friedrich Gauss (mathematician and inventor of an early electric telegraph), Philipp Reis (builder of the first telephone), and many others. In 1837 seven professors protested against King Ernst August abolishing the Hanoverian constitution and were subsequently relieved of their post — among their ranks were brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm.
- Hameln (Hamelin): A small town known almost exclusively for a certain (fictional) 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 a major tanker port. The Most Mysterious Song on the Internet was heard (and taped) here by a teenager listening to a radio station (probably NDR2, broadcast out of Hamburg) sometime in the early '80s.
- Wolfsburg: One of the youngest cities of Germany, founded only in the 1930s to house the workers of the Volkswagen plant - the city's original name being literally just Stadt des KDF-Wagens bei Fallerslebennote . To this day the only thing most people associate the place with is VW - German carspotters consider any non-VW product with a WOB license plate worthy of a picture - and in a way it is still a company with a city in it and not the other way round. Fallersleben, a now annexed suburb is also the home of Hoffman von Fallersleben (no, not that kind of von) who wrote the German national anthem
Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia)
Largest City: Cologne
Area: 34,084km (13,160mi)
Population (2012): 17,554,329
Landkreise: Aachen, Borken, Coesfeld, Düren, Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis, Euskirchen, Gütersloh, Heinsberg, Herford, Hochsauerlandkreis, Höxter, Kleve (Cleves), Lippe, Märkischer Kreis, Mettmann, Minden-Lübbecke, Oberbergischer Kreis, Olpe, Paderborn, Recklinghausen, Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis, Rhein-Erft-Kreis, Rhein-Kreis Neuss, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, Siegen-Wittgenstein, Soest, Steinfurt, Unna, Viersen, Warendorf and Wesel
Stadtkreise: Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Bottrop, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Hamm, Herne, Köln (Cologne), Krefeld, Leverkusen, Mönchengladbach, Mülheim, Münster, Oberhausen, Remscheid, Solingen and Wuppertal
Minister-President: Armin Laschet
North-Rhine-Westphalia was created by fusing three territories belonging to the British zone of occupation: the northern part of the Prussian province of Rhineland (the silver river on green in the state arms), the Prussian province of Westphalia (the white Saxon horse on red), and the former principality of Lippe (red rose on white). In order to get Lippe to join, its capital Detmold was made the seat of administration of the north-eastern district (Bezirk) of the new state, known as Ostwestfalen-Lippe (East Westphalia-Lippe). The divide between Rhineland and Westphalia is still considered important, even though the Ruhr Area contains both Rhenish and Westphalian cities and even though both the Rhineland and Westphalia are divided into deeply Catholic and deeply Protestant areas. As the Cologne-bases comedian Jürgen Becker quipped, in the Rhineland the Protestants are more Catholic than those in Westphalia, while Westphalian Catholics are more Protestant than their Rhenish brethren. Which may account for the fact that Carnival in the Catholic parts of Westphalia is considered staid and a little boring compared to that in the Rhineland (especially Cologne and Düsseldorf).
Lippe considers itself as something apart from Westphalia these days, even though it is situated within the bounds of historic Westphalia, the western subdivision of early medieval Saxony. However, the principality of Lippe maintained its independence after The Napoleonic Wars (when most of Westphalia, apart from those territories that now belong to Lower Saxony, became part of Prussia) and is also one of the few regions of Germany where Calvinism predominates (while the rest of Westphalia was divided into Catholic and Lutheran areas). Westphalians retaliate by making jokes about the Lippers' tightfistedness, which are very similar to the jokes told about Scots by the English or Dutchmen by Belgians. 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 and Osnabrück (now part of Niedersachsen).
The Rhineland part of North-Rhine-Westphalia consists of the former territories of various minor duchies and counties, the larger part of Electorate and Archbishopric of Cologne, and the former Free Imperial Cities of Cologne and Aachen. A lot of people in the Rhineland and Westphalia like to stress that their mentality is different from the Prussian one and that they only became part of that state in 1815. This does not apply as much to those parts of the state that had been part of the monarchy since before the Margraviate of Brandenburg became the Kingdom of Prussia, e. g. the area around Wesel on the Lower Rhine and the counties of Mark (with Bochum) and Minden-Ravensberg (Most of what is today the Northern part of Ostwestfalen, Bielefeld, Herford, Minden-Lübbecke).
- Düsseldorf: The state capital and home to the world's largest digital clock. Two of its most famous natives are Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII, and fashion designer Claudia Schiffer. Close by is the Neandertal (Old Spelling: Neanderthal) where some very well-known prehistoric human fossils were found. Monster is also set in the city (most likely due to the fact that the city has one of the largest Japanese communities in Europe), as is Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (first series).
- Aachen: Also known as "Aken" in Dutch, "Aix-la-Chapelle" in French, "Akwizgran" in Polish, and "Oche" in the local dialect, there seems to be a different name for Aachen in every language but English (which uses the Standard German version—except in older works, which might use the French). An old Imperial city, Aachen was a famous spa town since Roman times, was the favourite residence of Charlemagne, and site of coronation of most Holy Roman emperors until the 16th century. The treaty ending the War of the Austrian Succession was signed here in 1748 (and is accordingly remembered in English by its French name). Sitting directly on the Dutch and Belgian borders, Aachen was the first city to be taken by the US Army in 1944. Nowadays tries to "break free" of the weight of all that history by wholeheartedly embracing the future, i.e. toting the banners of RWTH Aachen University as though the school already owns half the place. 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... or so the internet would like you to believe. In fact, the rumor of its non-existence is almost the only thing mentioned about it on its Wikivoyage page. The pharma watchdog group in The Constant Gardener is based on a real-life one based in Bielefeld.
- Bonn: An otherwise quiet city simply known as the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven until 1949, when it was made "temporary" capital of West Germany (a move partly influenced by being near Rhöndorf, the place where then-Chancellor Konrad Adenauer lived).
- Köln (Cologne): The largest city in the state, and whose English (originally French) name is the namesake of the perfume (the city still produces Eau de Cologne). Köln is famous for its carnival, intense rivalry with Düsseldorf, a large gay population and, above all, its cathedral, which largely survived Allied bombing at the end of World War II (most likely because the bombers used its tall twin spires for navigation), and home to what is claimed to be the bones of the Three Wise Men, enshrined in a gilded box behind the high altar. It is home to several institutions of higher education, including one of the largest universities in Europe, the Universität zu Köln (University of Cologne), which at times sports about 60,000 students alone. The city has its own dialect, Kölsch, which shares the same name as that of a local beer (thus jokes that Kölsch is the only language one can drink). Alarm für Cobra 11 is set in and around Köln, and is the host of the GamesCom, the successor of the Leipziger Games Convention. Köln is also home to Konrad Adenauer, first Chancellor of West Germany, who served as 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 (which the people in Erlangen, a 100 000 people town close to Nuremberg would close for themselves). 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.
- Ruhrgebiet (Ruhr Area): A conurbation of eleven cities — Bochum, Bottrop, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Hamm, Herne, Mülheim an der Ruhr, and Oberhausen — as well as a few smaller towns within the districts of Ennepe-Ruhr, Recklinghausen, Unna and Wesel (Phew! Forgot anyone?). Once the nexus of West Germany's coal mining industry, the Ruhr Area is currently seeking to redefine itself after mining went into decline through luring in newer industries and 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 (named after a district of Gelsenkirchen). The webcomic Union of Heroes is set in Dortmund. Essen and the Ruhr Area served as a cultural capital of Europe in 2010.
- Wuppertal: A hotbed of Protestant work ethic surrounded by Roman Catholic regions, Wuppertal is home to Friedrich Engels and the poet Else Lasker-Schüler, and is famous for the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn, a unique suspended monorail system still in operation since 1901.
Area: 19,853km (7,665mi)
Population (2012): 3,990,278
Landkreise: Ahrweiler, Altenkirchen (Westerwald), Alzey-Worms, Bad Dürkheim, Bad Kreuznach, Bernkastel-Wittlich, Birkenfeld, Cochem-Zell, Donnersbergkreis, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Germersheim, Kaiserslautern, Kusel, Mainz-Bingen, Mayen-Koblenz, Neuwied, Rhein-Hunsrück-Kreis, Rhein-Lahn-Kreis, Rhein-Pfalz-Kreis, Südliche Weinstraße, Südwestpfalz, Trier-Saarburg, Vulkaneifel and Westerwaldkreis
Stadtkreise: Frankenthal (Pfalz), Kaiserslautern, Koblenz, Landau in der Pfalz, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Mainz, Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Pirmasens, Speyer, Trier, Worms and Zweibrücken
Minister-President: Malu Dreyer
- Mainz: Formerly commonly translated as its French name "Mayence", Mainz is the state capital 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 title 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 Chancellor 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 known by its French name "Treves", though pronounced "Treevz". Trier is the oldest city in Germany, founded around 16 BCE, which once served as 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 city is famous for a 1521 imperial assembly where Martin Luther defended his reforms, the Diet of Worms (a diet being such an assembly).
Area: 2,570km (990mi)
Population (2012): 994,287
Landkreise: Merzig-Wadern, Neunkirchen, Saarbrücken, Saarlouis, Saarpfalz-Kreis and Sankt Wendel
Minister-President: Tobias Hans
- Saarbrücken: The capital and largest city.
Largest City: Leipzig
Area: 18,416km (7,110mi)
Population (2012): 4,050,204
Landkreise: Bautzen, Erzgebirgskreis, Görlitz, Leipzig, Meissen, Mittelsachsen, Nordsachsen, Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge, Vogtlandkreis and Zwickau
Stadtkreise: Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig
Minister-President: Michael Kretschmer
- Dresden: State capital and largest city. Infamous as the target of a controversial Allied air raid in 1945 with a high civilian death toll (albeit recent evidence not only dials down the death toll to at least 25,000, in contrast to 200,000 as propagandized by the Nazis — basically inflating the count by a power of 10 — but also shows that the raid was justified by the existence of actual military targets), which is still commemorated annually (and, sadly, attracts a lot of Neo-Nazis). 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 true for sites like the Semperoper and even more so for its Church Of Our Lady (Frauenkirche).
- Bautzen: Also known as "Budysin" in Sorbian, Bautzen, 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 Soviets, and the East Germans. Also known for its mustard.
- Chemnitz: The third-largest city in the state, renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt during the East German era despite having no proof that Marx has ever visited it. 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/Nysa river, with its eastern half claimed by Poland as Zgorzelec. (Despite appearances, the names are pronounced pretty similarly. Polish is a strange language.) Historically Görlitz was part of the province of Silesia, one of its westernmost districts. These are the only crumb of Silesian territory that Germany kept after the province was almost entirely annexed by Poland after WW2. Since then, said districts were integrated by Saxony for obvious practicality reasons.
- Leipzig: Largest city in Saxony. Traditional host to the "Games Convention", now the "Games Convention Online". Leipzig places great importance on its city center. Has a long history as a judicial center, serving as the site for the German High Court under from 1879 to 1945, and current seat of the Federal Administrative Court. Also a major trading center since the Middle Ages, Leipzig is home of one of Germany's oldest universities 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 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.
Area: 20,448km (7,895mi)
Landkreise: Altmarkkreis Salzwedel, Anhalt-Bitterfeld, Börde, Burgenlandkreis, Harz, Jerichower Land, Mansfeld, Südharz, Saalekreis, Salzlandkreis, Stendal, Wittenberg
Stadtkreise: Dessau-Roßlau, Halle (Saale) and Magdeburg
Population (2012): 2,259,393
Minister-President: Reiner Haseloff
Sachsen-Anhalt made up much of the Western border of East Germany. Continues to receive bad press for high unemployment and high concentration of Neo-Nazis; 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 and largest city, which gave its name to the eponymous Rights, which set city privileges. 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-era housing to Soviet-style Plattenbau neighbourhoods. Capital of the United States of Europe in the 1632 series, rebuilt following Tilly's sacking.
- Halle (an der Saale): Was briefly considered for state capital after 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 also 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 2007 merger with a neighboring town across the Elbe. 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", the town is where the Lutheran movement began when a disgruntled Augustinian monk named Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses" on the doors of the town church, criticizing the Church for its mismanagement and corruption. Ironically, as a legacy of Communist rule, many of its inhabitants now consider themselves atheist.
Area: 15,763km (6,086mi)
Population (2012): 2,806,531
Landkreise: Dithmarschen, Lauenburg, Nordfriesland, Ostholstein, Pinneberg, Plön, Rendsburg-Eckernförde, Schleswig-Flensburg, Segeberg, Steinburg and Stormarn
Stadtkreise: Kiel, Lübeck, Neumünster and Flensburg
Minister-President: Daniel Günther
- "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 northernmost state and part of the Jutland peninsula, with the rest taken 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 Holy Roman Empire as the latter. In the late Middle Ages 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 Denmark and Sweden, arguably even much more than other German states. This, however, is partly due to the considerable cultural influence of 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 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% of the national vote or receive 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: State capital and largest city, Kiel is a port city, and thus played a part in the end of World War I — the German Navy 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 has 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 Force's first major air raids in World War II. Lübeck was "Primus inter pares" (first among equals) in the Hanseatic League of medieval Baltic seaport cities and got filthily rich during that time - something which is still evidenced by its old town and a beautiful Hanse museum that was opened in The New '10s. Childhood home of writing brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and residence of Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass until his death. Already saddled with a reputation of a Dying Town by the time of the Mann brothers (Buddenbrooks is best understood with the slow decline of Lübeck from one the richest cities in the world to a backwater in mind), Lübeck took several hits in the years afterwards. First it was stripped of its Free and Hanseatic city state (within Germany) status by Those Wacky Nazis, then it was bombed by the Allies - even though Hitler hated the town - and after the war the border between East and West Germany was right at the outskirts of town, actually annexing some minor suburbs to the East. Still, Lübeck managed to scrape by more or less and actually restored much of its beautiful old town - until end of the Cold War, when not only did Lübeck lose an extra subsidy for being so close to the "iron curtain", it also had to compete with East German towns that were now getting subsidies instead. Add to that a total collapse of shipbuilding (one of the major industries up to that point) and you now have a beautiful town that lives on its glorious past and tourism but has not much besides that.
- 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. It was the site of the German government in the last few days of Nazi Germany as it was the location of the navy headquarters and Admiral Doenitz, who was appointed the president of Germany by now-dead Hitler, did not bother to relocate elsewhere (not that he could, as most of Germany was already being occupied by Allied forces).
- 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.
Area: 16,171km (6,244mi)
Population (2012): 2,170,460
Landkreise: Altenburger Land, Eichsfeld, Gotha, Greiz, Hildburghausen, Ilm-Kreis, Kyffhäuserkreis, Nordhausen, Saale-Holzland-Kreis, Saale-Orla-Kreis, Saalfeld-Rudolstadt, Schmalkalden-Meiningen, Sömmerda, Sonneberg,U nstrut-Hainich-Kreis, Wartburgkreis and Weimarer Land
Stadtkreise: Erfurt, Eisenach, Gera, Jena, Suhl and Weimar
Minister-President: Bodo Ramelow
Known as the "Green Heart of Germany," the Thuringian landscape is dominated by mountains and forests which provide a sanctuary for 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 fact, half of Germany's Winter Olympic gold medalists hail from here.
- Erfurt: The state capital and 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 masterpiece 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: Former capital of the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, famous for the Weimarer Klassik, an era in the late 18th and early 19th century when Goethe, Schiller, Wieland and Herder all lived at the "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 westernmost city, near the border with Hesse. If Zwickau is Saxony's automobile manufacturing center, then this is the Thuringian version. Formerly the location of the factory where all pre-World War II BMW cars were made,note 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. Eisenach is also where Johann Pachelbel (him of the Canon) once served as organist, and was a setting in the 1632 series. Johann Sebastian Bach was born and grew up here 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.