With 83.2 million inhabitants, Germany remains the economic driver of Europe and one of the most important tourist destinations on the old continent. Rich in charming villages, small medieval neighbourhoods and punctuated by cities with a strong identity, sometimes even city states, Germany has much more to offer than simple clichés.
The oldest evidence of the presence of Ancient humans on German territory is about 700,000 years old. The Schöninger spears, probably 300,000 years old, are the oldest completely preserved hunting weapons of humankind. The Neanderthals, named after a site in the Neander Valley (located east of Düsseldorf), were followed by Homo sapiens about 40,000 years ago.
Much later, the first permanent tribes to settle in the area corresponding to modern Germany were the Germanic tribes, thus the name Germany. In the south of what is now Germany also lived the Celts. The Romans conquered only the south and west of the country, but Roman culture had a strong identity-forming and unifying effect on all Germans. The former Germanic peoples´ empire eventually became the Frankish Empire.
Later, the western part of this empire approximately became what is now France, while the east became Germany. From this point on, French and German history were always closely linked, as was shown by the disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon, the founding of the German Empire, the two World Wars and, above all, by the peaceful European unification.
Divided into 16 federal states (Bundesländer) with real powers, Germany has a stable parliamentary system, a strong economy and boasts multi-faceted cultural opportunities. Each state presents its own tourism opportunities, but all of them allow for great sustainable and ecological holidays.
Germany is home to a wide variety of hiking and pilgrimage trails all around the country. In the west for example, the picturesque Rhine is an Eldorado for hikers.
By the way, most inhabitants of the country live in the west of Germany, where densely populated regions alternate with rural areas. Further north, more precisely in Hamburg, the first cycle paths were built 120 years ago. At the time it was a sensation – planners from Copenhagen even came to see. Of course, the flat landscapes of northern Germany are perfect for a cycling tour with the whole family, and Germans are generally very much in favour of the bicycle as a means of transport (see below).
The eastern cities of Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden are exceptional cultural strongholds, and in the south, holidaymakers can look forward to sporting activities in a breathtaking alpine landscape. In addition, Germany is the most densely forested country in Central Europe; around 11.4 million hectares are covered with forest, which corresponds to just under a third of the country's total area. On the downside, 21% of the trees in the German forest are suffering from decay due to pollution and climate change.
Population: 83,2 mio
Area: 357.581 km²
Human Development Index: 0,947 (in 2019)
Organic agricultural land: 9,5%
Language: German and regional dialects
Total length of long-distance cycle routes: 75.000 Km | Hiking trails: 200.000 Km
German Cycling network (D-routes): 12.000 Km
Terrestrial protected area: : 6,3 %
Natural lakes: 15
National Parks: 16
UNESCO Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites: 51
UNESCO intangible cultural assets & good safeguarding practices: 106
Protected designations of origin: 91
Eurovelo routes: 10, Eurovelo: 2,3,4,5,6,7,10,12,13,15.
Here are some examples of projects, initiatives and events that illustrate the German sustainable way of life and which are very close to our hearts.
The projects presented here have been chosen because we believe they are particularly relevant and because they reflect the commitment of German society to sustainability.
- We have already mentionned that Germany is a bicycle-loving nation, which is quite true, but there is also something political about it. This can be seen, among other things, during *Critical Mass* events. This social movement brings cyclists together every last Friday of the month in almost all medium-sized cities in Germany but also in other countries. Originated in 1992 in San Fransisco, Critical Mass events now exist all over the world. Participants demand more space for bicycles and want to draw attention to the fact that cycling must be better supported, being an environmentally friendly means of transport. Bicycles also represent the means of transport of the future for all densely populated urban areas in the world. Cycling through the city with many other people, having fun and drawing attention to an important issue: an exciting initiative that can be experienced in numerous German cities.
- Quite rightly, German engineering and research achievements are highly valued worldwide. They can also change the way we look at consumer products: German chemistry professor Michael Braungart advocates thinking in terms of so-called “cycles”, taking nature as a model. The core of his vision is that nature leaves no waste behind, but that everything that has once been used can be recycled in some way and create something new. He called this approach “Cradle to Cradle” leading to the creation of an association of the same name, in 2012. This non-profit organisation networks “business, science, education, politics and civil society” and aims at promoting a consistent circular economy that starts with product design. Whether it's “leather made from pineapple” or urban living concepts inspired by forests, “C2C” is changing our view of the world.
- One of the most common clichés about Germans is that they are quite boring people, living in gardens with perfectly trimmed hedges. But more and more Germans are drawn to loving communities, ecological forms of living and multigenerational projects. This has been the case for many years now and these new forms of living are actually booming. They bring together people who want to live in contact with nature and other fellow human beings. Be it multi-generational or eco-houses, eco-villages, so-called “Transition Towns” or co-housing settlements, all of them are communal projects for people who share a common dream. ( see website Bring-together for more information, in German)
Patrick, the author of the German version of this article, is Saxon. In the summer of 2020, in the midst of the disruptive Corona pandemic, he moved from Nuremberg to Leipzig and thus got to know a lot about his state and its diverse facets.
Saxony actually has a lot of tourist opportunities to offer, its inhabitants are very strongly commited to the environment. However, there are also many prejudices about this eastern federal state – many of them being completely wrong.
Bavaria is probably the most picturesque federal state. It is where most of the clichés about Germany come from, such as the famous passion for Beer.
The free state of Bavaria is the largest state in terms of area and the second most populous after North Rhine-Westphalia. The particularities of Bavaria are its fabulous landscapes and its centuries-long traditions, still linking man to nature.
Hamburg captures the imagination of the Germans. After all, the Hanseatic city is the northernmost major city in Germany. This metropolis boasts a specific, vibrant atmosphere, unique in the German-speaking world.
The major sights of Hamburg can be easily visited within half a day – but you certainly need more than a week to establish a personal connection with this exciting, cosmopolitan city.
Saarland is – apart from the German city states – the smallest German federal state in terms of area and only has a small population of just over 980,000. It is therefore no surprise that Saarland and its state capital Saarbrücken, do not shape Germany's culture to the same extent as other bigger or more famous federal states and cities.
But Saarland´s rich past is yet another proof of how close Germany and France were in the 19th and 20th centuries – and still are today.