Log on to Europe Today

Travel bargains from 1st Online Travel
International flights, best prices
Hotels in Europe and world wide
Car rental, info and reservations
Holiday cottages, villas and resorts
European tourist information

Free Travel Update
Travel contest

Calling card

EUROPE TODAY International flights, best pricesHotels in Europe and world wideCar rental, info and reservations FIND Exact Match

German bannerWelcome to Germany Today



Good-neighbourly relations. The political evolution of this by far the smallest of Germany's states (apart from the city-states) mirrors the vicissitudes of German history in the 20th century.

This coal and steel region was detached from the German Empire in 1920 and placed under the administration of the League of Nations. In 1935 the population voted with a large majority in favour of its return to Germany. The same happened after the Second World War. The Saar was again severed from Germany, and again it was returned after a referendum, this time as a state of the Federal Republic of Germany. France's agreement to this referendum is a landmark in the process of Franco-German reconciliation. The reintegration of the Saarland on 1 January 1957 was effected in accordance with the Constitution - an unprecedented step which was to serve as a model for German unification in 1990.

City, state and river. This state takes its name from the River Saar, a tributary of the Mosel. The Saar Canal between Dillingen and Konz on the Mosel makes it a major waterway for large vessels. The Saar meanders charmingly through the forested Hunsruck range of the Central Uplands. Its lower reaches are a wine-growing area. The state capital, Saarbrucken (192,000), is a fair and congress centre. It is a symbiosis of the French and German way of life. The Saarlander have a partiality for culinary delights and wine. A native of the city, the director Max Oph<\|>ls (1902-1957), made film history with such charming comedies as 'Liebelei'. Saarland's higher education institutions, the university, the polytechnics, the art college and the music academy, are concentrated in the city and many students come from neighbouring France.

The name of the state's second largest city, Saarlouis, reminds us that here, about 300 years ago, the French King Louis XIV built a fortress to defend his conquests in western Germany. This city is today a location for industry (automobiles, steel, food and electronics).

One of Europe's core regions. Like science and scholarship, industry, too, has long since crossed national boundaries. The Saarland in Germany, Lorraine in France, and Luxembourg are developing ever closer ties, so that the abbreviation 'Saar-Lor-Lux' now stands for one of Europe's core regions. Traditional branches of industry of supraregional importance are glass and ceramics. The distinctive features of goods produced by large companies such as Villeroy & Boch are high quality as well as richness of form and colour. True, the Saarland has been somewhat affected by the coal and steel crisis, but a restructuring programme and innovations have already prepared the ground for the establishment of modern industries. Today most Saarlander are employed in the capital goods and services sector. The region also hopes to derive fresh impetus from the European internal market that came into effect in January 1993, especially in the mechanical engineering, metal-processing and chemical industries.

Back up

A powerhouse in the heart of Europe. The present state of North-Rhine/Westphalia was formed in 1946, when the British, who occupied the region after the war, merged the greater part of the former Prussian Rhine province and the province of Westphalia with the state of Lippe-Detmold. North-Rhine/Westphalia covers an area of 34,000 sq km and is thus as large as Belgium and Luxembourg together. Not only is it the most densely populated state in the Federal Republic (17 million), it is also Europe's largest conglomeration. About half of this region's population live in cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants. The Ruhr district is an a huge web of towns and cities with a total population of about 7.5 million, and it is Germany's, indeed Europe's, largest industrial region. With its 31 giant power stations the Ruhr is Germany's main source of energy.

Tradition and innovation. In a massive effort on the part of industry, the regional and the federal government over many years, North-Rhine/Westphalia has succeeded in restructuring its economy, which is traditionally based on coal and steel, to meet world market demand. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs have been created through the settlement of innovative industries, with the result that today it is the future-oriented branches alongside such internationally famous companies as Kluckner-Humboldt-Deutz, the world's largest engine manufacturer, that dominate the scene. Proof of the region's economic vitality is the fact that, apart from heavy industry, there are 450,000 small and medium-sized firms, many of them with state-of-the-art technology, for instance those making cloth in Krefeld or cutlery in Solingen. A traditional yet expanding branch of the service sector is that of insurance, while Dortmund is the location of Germany's largest breweries. The northern parts concentrate on farming and animal husbandry, while the Munsterland is famous for horse breeding and riding. The most visible sign of North-Rhine/Westphalia's dynamic economy is the dense network of autobahns, railways and waterways. It incorporates Europe's traffic arteries and links together the region's principal cities of Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Bochum, Wuppertal, Bielefeld, Leverkusen and Aachen. Duisburg has the largest inland port in the world.

Leisure, culture, and higher education. This coal mining region is undergoing a transformation. Former landscapes of smoking chimney stacks and conveyor belts are being turned into green areas and the open-cast mining areas on the Rhine recultivated. The Sauerland and the Bergisches Land are popular recreational areas, particularly for people in the Rhine and Ruhr district. North-Rhine/Westphalia has 44 spas. Cologne, now the region's largest city (over a million) and a major centre since Roman times, is famous for its romanesque churches and Gothic cathedral, but also for its museums (Wallraf Richartz Museum/Museum Ludwig, Roman-Germanic Museum, and many more). Dusseldorf (577,000), the state capital, is one of the country's main financial centres. It has made its name as a cultural city through its outstanding collections of paintings, its Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Dusseldorf/Duisburg), and its famous Schauspielhaus. Munster in Westphalia, with a most attractive city centre, has a major university. South of Cologne lies Bonn, until 1949 a medium-sized university town, but from that year until the country's unification capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. Although the seat of the Federal Government, too, is to be switched to Berlin, Bonn will continue to play an important role as an administrative and scientific centre.

Back up

More than sagas and vineyards. Rhineland-Palatinate was formed in 1946 from parts of Bavarian, Hessian and Prussian territory which previously had never belonged together. In the meantime they have become closely knit and Rhineland-Palatinate has acquired its own identity. Initially one of the poorer regions, it is today the state with the largest export quota and headquarters of Europe's biggest chemical corporation, BASF in Ludwigshafen, and the country's most extensive TV and radio network, Channel II, based in Mainz. Every year seven million visitors to Rhineland-Palatinate seek recreation or curative treatment in such spas as Bad Neuenahr, Bad Ems or Bad Bertrich. Many of the region's mineral-waters gush from springs in the volcanic rocks of the Central Uplands. The vineyards on the Rhine, the Ahr and the Mosel yield two thirds of the country's wine. Extensive forests are a major source of employment.

Yesterday and today. The Rhineland was settled by Celts, Romans, Burgundians and Franks. In Speyer, Worms and Mainz, all on the Rhine, are to be found the great imperial cathedrals of the Middle Ages. The elector of Mainz was arch chancellor of the 'Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation'. Worms has Germany's oldest synagogue (construction of which began in 1034 in the romanesque style). It was in Worms too, at the imperial diet of 1521, that the reformer Martin Luther refused to recant his theses. Three hundred years later, in Koblenz, the liberal paper 'Rheinischer Merkur' opposed Napoleonic rule and censorship of the press, and Hambach Castle was the scene of the first democratic- republican assembly in Germany (1832). The world-famous Print Museum in Mainz displays the treasures of Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468), the inventor of book-printing using movable characters. His epoch-making achievement was the breakthrough for Luther's Reformation. Trier is the birthplace of another kind of revolutionary, Karl Marx (1818- 1883), the philosopher and critic of the national economy.

The Rhine, the region's main artery. The 290 km section of the river Rhine passing through or bordering Rhineland-Palatinate is the region's main economic artery. On it lie the three main cities: Ludwigshafen (158,000), the chemical centre, Mainz (175,000), the state capital, and Koblenz (107,000), the service centre at the confluence of the Rhine and the Mosel. With a population of just under 100,000 are Kaiserslautern, where Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) built a palace, and Trier, the 2,000-year-old city on the Mosel. One of Germany's most beautiful landscapes is the stretch of the Rhine valley between Bingen and Bonn. With its many castles it is steeped in legend and its praises have been sung by countless poets, painters and musicians. The Rhine's tributaries, too, the Mosel, Nahe, Lahn and Ahr, have a charm of their own. At the foot of the Palatinate Forest runs the 'German Wine Route'. The unusnal light above this lovely hilly area was captured by the painter Max Slevogt (1868-1932). Many of his pictures are to be found in the Palace near Edenkoben. Some are also to be found, together with works by Hans Purrmann (1880-1966) who was 'ostracized' by the nazi regime, in the Federal Chancellery in Bonn.

Back up

You are here: Europe Today - Germany - Western Germany

© Copyright 1995-2000 Europe Today A.S. (Text: Uwe Wähner) - All rights reserved.