Germany has been a democratic parliamentary federal republic since 1949. Following reunification in 1990 it now consists of 16 federal states. The Federal President is the head of state and the government is led by the Federal Chancellor.
Germany covers an area of 357,022 square kilometres. It is 876 kilometres from its northernmost tip to the southernmost point as the crow flies, and 640 kilometres from east to west.
The capital Berlin is also Germany's largest city, with a population of 3.4 million. Other cities with more than one million residents are Hamburg (1.8 million) and Munich (1.3 million). Cologne is just below the one-million mark. Frankfurt am Main (pop. 662,000) is a centre of international finance.
Germany is a country rich in natural beauty. Between the North Sea and Baltic coasts in the north and the peaks of the Alps in the south lie extremely diverse landscapes, with everything from wide expanses of river and lakeland scenery, hilly uplands and densely wooded regions to agricultural plains and industrial conurbations. The Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany at 2,963 metres. Germany's longest river is the Rhine, which flows through the country for a total of 865 kilometres. Germany has 14 national parks, 101 nature reserves and 15 biosphere reserves.
Germany has the largest population of any European country, around 82 million – a density of 230 people per square kilometre.
Today, life in Germany is subject to a great diversity of cultural influences. It can generally be described as modern and cosmopolitan. The people of Germany love nothing more than getting together and celebrating, in traditional style during carnival season, at wine festivals, at the Oktoberfest and other beer festivals, or during music festivals from classical to rock – all helped along by great food and fine wines from the 13 vineyard regions.
Germany is home to great writers and famous composers. Names like Goethe and Günther Grass or Bach and Beethoven are part of a long, distinguished cultural tradition. Its legacy is the exceptional choice of culture on offer in Germany today, from ancient to ultra-modern. There are around 300 theatres, 130 professional orchestras and 630 art museums with internationally acclaimed collections. German artists also produce a large amount of creative work in the fields of film and literature.
Academic excellence and research are also firmly established in Germany. Around 370 universities and other higher education establishments are held in high regard, not least by international students.