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Flag of GermanyThe Federal Republic of Germany is bordered by the North Sea, Denmark, the Baltic Sea, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Germany consists of the states of Baden-Wurttemberg, [Free State of] Bavaria, Berlin [city state], Brandenburg, [Free Hanseatic City of] Bremen, [Free Hanseatic City of] Hamburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saarland, [Free State of] Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, and [Free State of] Thuringa.

Berlin, the capital, is Germany’s most populated city. Hamburg is the second largest city followed by Munich.

Germany is divided into the north lowlands, the central uplands, the Rhineland (Black Forest) and the Bavarian Alps. Rivers include the Rhine, the Weser, the Elbe and the Danube.

Germany has a temperate climate with cold, wet winters and warm summers.

Forests cover around thirty percent of the country. Protected areas include biosphere reserves, national parks and nature parks. Over thirty sites are listed by Ramsar as Wetlands of International Importance.

The Dresden Elbe Valley and the Upper Middle Rhine Valley are World Heritage sites.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, established in 1986, is responsible within the Federal Government for (lead-managing) national environmental policy.

Aachen Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, built in the eighth century, is an example of early German architecture.

Gothic buildings, such as churches, public buildings, houses and city gates, were constructed in the twelfth century. French Gothic architecture was an important influence, especially in the highly decorated cathedrals.

The first classical building in Berlin was the Brandenburg Gate built in 1791 by Carl Gotthard Langhans. The Gate was a triumphal arch celebrating Berlin, the Prussian capital city. The Quadriga statue on the top is the work of Johann Gottfried Shadow.

During the Second World War (1939-45) much architecture was destroyed by Allied bombings. Dresden, famous for its Baroque buildings was a war-time casualty. The Berlin Dome, an Italian Renaissance style church, was also damaged and has undergone restoration.

Following the post-War division of Berlin The Wall (Die Mauer) was constructed in 1961; it remained a barrier between East (German Democratic Republic) and West (Federal Republic of Germany) Berlin until 1989.

Perhaps the most modern example of architecture in Berlin is the Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in September 2001. The building, covered with metal (reflecting light) resembles a zigzag; the floor plan similar to a Star of David worn by Jews during the Nazi regime. Features in the building include sloping floors and a windowless “Holocaust Tower”. The lines of the windows resemble wounds, theatrical splits in the building’s skin from which daylight spills – symbols of the atrocities the museum seeks to document.

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