Germany & France


Germany in Europe

Germany’s location in Central Europe has meant that throughout history many peoples—all with their own cultures, ideas, languages and traditions—have traversed Germany at one time or another. Thus Germany’s culture has received many influences over the centuries.

CaspianReport: Geopolitics of Germany
Schwäbisch Hall in winter -  Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Schwäbisch Hall in winter – Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Bavarian men wearing short lederhosen.
Bavarian men wearing short lederhosen.

Germany’s present geopolitical configuration is quite young, as it reunified the eastern and western portions into a single entity in 1990. Germany was formed in 1871 during the leadership of Otto von Bismarck in an attempt to create a Germanic power base. World War I was fought during the last years of the German Empire. Germany, as part of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria), was defeated by the Allies with much loss of life. The German Republic was created in 1918 when, having been defeated in World War I, Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles.

Foundation of the German Empire in Versailles, 1871. Bismarck is at the center in a white uniform.
Foundation of the German Empire in Versailles, 1871. Bismarck is at the center in a white uniform.

In 1933, with an environment of poverty, disenfranchisement of the people, and great instability in the government, Germany gave way to the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany. Within a month of taking office, Hitler suspended normal rights and freedoms and assumed absolute power. A centralized totalitarian state quickly resulted. In a move to expand Germany, Hitler started to expand its borders. Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 kicked off what would become World War II. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and declared war on the United States. After Germany’s defeat, the country was divided into East Germany, controlled by the Soviet Union, and West Germany, controlled by the Allied powers.

 World War II, German-occupied Europe in 1942
World War II, German-occupied Europe in 1942

The Iron Curtain divided the two Germanys, with the Berlin Wall dividing the city of Berlin. The Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall were major symbols of the Cold War. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, and the two Germanys were reunited in 1990.

German reunification in 1990 posed some challenges for the economy. Notably, the East German infrastructure was far behind that of the West. In an effort to update transportation systems, telecommunications, and other areas needed to support industry and commerce, enormous amounts of money had to be poured into the system. While there has been considerable success in the renewal of infrastructure, unemployment in former East Germany is still significantly higher, and the necessary retraining of the workforce is ongoing and expensive.

Watch this quick video which sums up some of Germany’s history:

Suibhne: The Animated History of Germany | Part 1

Germany has a social market economy with a highly skilled labor force, a large capital stock, a low level of corruption, and a high level of innovation. It is the world’s third-largest exporter of goods. Being home to the modern car, the automotive industry in Germany is regarded as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world. Well-known international brands include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, SAP, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens, Allianz, Adidas, and Porsche.

Germany is also a major tourist destination and is the 7th most visited country in the world. The Black Forest, Bavaria, the Alpine south, a variety of medieval castles, national parks, and a vibrant assortment of festivals such as Oktoberfest attract millions of tourists to Germany every year.

Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century palace in Bavaria, Germany.
Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century palace in Bavaria, Germany.

Language, religion, and education have been strong cultural forces in Germany. German is the official language of the country and the one spoken by most of its people. More than 60 percent of Germans self-identify as Christian, and another 30 percent self-identify as agnostic or atheistic. During the Cold War, East Germany was under a Communist government that promoted a nonreligious ideology, resulting in a high percentage of people with agnostic or atheistic beliefs in that part of Germany.

The Bollenhut is a formal headdress worn since 1750 by Protestant women as part of their folk costume. With its woolen pompoms, the picturesque-looking red Bollenhut has become a symbol of the Black Forest as a whole, despite its very local origins. The red pom-poms and white brim of the Bollenhut also is said to have inspired the top layer of the Black Forest Cake.

After the United States, Germany is the second most popular immigration destination in the world.

Things Germany is famous for include:

  • Oktoberfest – a folk festival that has been held since 1810
Oktoberfest in Munich
  • Classical music by composers such as Bach, Händel, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Wagner, and Strauss
  • The Protestant reformer: Martin Luther
Luther is a monk who started the Reformation, a movement in Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe.
  • Cuckoo clocks
Cuckoo clock
Cuckoo clock – Today, the cuckoo clock is one of the favorite souvenirs of travelers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. It has become a cultural icon of Germany.

Some German foods are:

Weißwurst, a bavarian sausage and a pretzel
Weißwurst, a bavarian sausage and a pretzel
Spätzle is a type of pasta made from eggs and flour.
Black Forest cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte)
Sauerbraten, potato dumplings, and red cabbage
Marzipan, a confection made from almond meal and sugar (or honey) – shaped like fruits and vegetables
touropia: 10 Best Places to Visit in Germany – Travel Video


France covers 211,209 square miles and is the second-largest European country; Ukraine is slightly larger in physical area. The physical landscapes of France vary widely from the northern low-lying coastal plains to the Alpine ranges of the east. Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alpine range at 15,782 feet, is located in France near the Italian border. In the far south, the Pyrenees run along the border with Spain. The south-central region of the country is home to the Massif Central, which is a plateau and highland region made up of a large stretch of extinct volcanoes.

RealLifeLore: Why France’s Geography is Almost Perfect

During the colonial era, France was a major naval power and held colonies around the world. The French Empire was the second largest at the time. The French language is still used for diplomacy in many countries. Though the French Empire no longer exists, France has progressed into a postindustrial country with one of the most developed economies in the world. It is a major player in European affairs, the EU, and the United Nations (UN).

Suibhne: The Animated History of France

Agriculture is an important sector of the French economy, as it has been for centuries, and is tied to industry through food processing. Food processing industries employ more people than any other part of the French manufacturing sector. If you think of cheese and wine when you think of France, you have identified two of its largest food processing endeavors, along with sugar beets, meats, and confectionaries. World-renowned wines are produced in abundance, sometimes in areas that bear their names, such as in Burgundy, around the city of Bordeaux, and in Champagne in the Loire Valley. French cuisine and fashion have long been held in highest esteem worldwide and are a source of national pride. Food and wine are important elements of the French way of life, and each region of France boasts a suite of famous dishes.

Macarons are a sweet meringue-based confection.
Macarons are a sweet meringue-based confection.
Ratatouille often includes tomato, garlic, onion, zucchini, bell pepper, etc.
Camembert cheese is a moist, soft, creamy cheese that is similar to Brie.
Beef bourguignon (beef Burgundy) is a beef stew braised in red wine

France is ranked as the first tourist destination in the world! Some things France is famous for are:

  • Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) – a medieval Catholic cathedral (a big thank you to Malachi for his comment and help in identifying the correct cathedral!)
  • Artists such as Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Monet, Seurat, Matisse, and Vincent van Gogh
Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge represents two of Monet’s greatest achievements: his gardens at Giverny and the paintings they inspired.
  • Famous composers such as Claude Debussy and Érik Satie 
  • Haute couture fashion (think Chanel and Dior)
  • Versailles – the royal residence of France from 1682-1789
Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles
Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles
  • The Louvre – the world’s largest art museum in Paris, France
Courtyard of the Louvre Museum
Courtyard of the Louvre Museum
Top 10 Places To Visit In France – 4K Travel Guide

Key Takeaways:

✎ Germany’s involvement in WW2 featured Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 kicked off what would become World War II.
✎ Berlin was separated into two parts during the Cold War.
✎ Germany is a major tourist destination.
✎ France is the second-largest European country.
✎ Agriculture is an important sector of the French economy.
✎ French cuisine and fashion have long been held in highest esteem worldwide.

Next: Benelux Countries

We want to know what you thought of what you just read and watched! Leave us a comment! Please also let us know if a link or video isn’t working. 🙂

Image and additional information credits:

Germany map
By Directorate of Intelligence, CIA –, Public Domain,
Germany locator map
CC BY-SA 3.0,
Schwabisch Hall
By Petar Milošević – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Treaty painting
By Anton von Werner – Museen Nord / Bismarck Museum: Picture, Public Domain,
Europe WWII Axis military conquests
By Morgan Hauser, derived from File:Second world war europe 1943-1945 map en.png and File:Second world war europe 1941-1942 map en.png by users Jarry1250 and ArmadniGeneral, respectively. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Neuschwanstein Castle
By Thomas Wolf,, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,
Germany info
By Heribert Pohl — Thanks for half a million clicks! from Germering bei München, Bayern – O’zapft is! Münchens 5 Jahreszeit hat begonnen – O’zapft is! Munich 5 season, the Oktoberfest has begun, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Public Domain,
By Gürgi – Own work, Public Domain,
Black forest cake
By Mikelo – [1], CC BY-SA 2.0,
By Brücke-Osteuropa – Own work, CC0,
By Ra Boe / Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,
By Rainer Z … – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Marzipan fruits
By Carlos Varela –, CC BY 2.0,
France map
By David Monniaux – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Tournachon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Cuckoo clock
CC BY-SA 3.0,
Cuckoo clock info
France info
By Johan Bakker, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Monet – Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge
By Claude Monet – [1], Public Domain,
By Sunny Ripert – originally posted to Flickr as Arc-en-ciel comestible, CC BY-SA 2.0,
By NJGJ – photography by NJGJ, CC BY 2.5,
By Arnaud 25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Beef bourguignon
By DC – Own work, CC BY 3.0,
By Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Notre Dame: By DXR / Daniel Vorndran, CC BY-SA 3.0,

8 thoughts on “Germany & France

  1. Hello, I just want to make one small correction. The photo that you have up for Notre-Dame is actually Notre-Dame de Reims, more commonly known as Reims Cathedral. While still a well-known and important site, it’s not quite as famous as Notre-Dame de Paris. That’s what people mean when they just say “Notre-Dame.”

    1. Thank you SO much for taking the time to leave a comment and let us know about the correction! We so appreciate you. I’ll get that fixed up asap! 🙂

      1. Hello,

        I wasn’t very clear in my first comment. Sorry about that. There are actually two completely separate Notre-Dames in France.

        One ( is located in the city of Reims northeast of Paris. This is called Notre-Dame de Reims or Reims Cathedral in English. It was the cathedral where French kings were coronated and still is a major tourist site.

        The other ( is located in Paris. This one is known as Notre-Dame de Paris or simply Notre-Dame. This is the much more famous one with the most visitors of any monument in France. This is also the one damaged by fire a couple years ago.

        The cathedral in the picture is Reims Cathedral, which is still famous, but much less so than the one in Paris. The one in Paris is the one people mean when they are referring to Notre-Dame. This is a picture of the cathedral in Paris:(,_20_March_2014.jpg)

        Thank you for taking the time to read through my whole comment.

        1. Thank you so much for the clarification and for the education, too!! We really appreciate you and your terrific comment that was so helpful! Now I think we’ve got it straight, lol!! 😀

  2. Hi. I think you should probably mention Monet’s name in the list of French artists. Also maybe check Picasso’s nationality. I believe he was Spanish although he did spend time in France.
    Thank you for a great curriculum, we are really enjoying it!

    1. Thank you so much for the suggestion and for the comment about Picasso! You are absolutely right that he was Spanish! I’m fixing that up asap! 🙂 So glad you are enjoying the curriculum!

  3. We enjoyed the lesson, but feel that France needs a travel video. France has a lot of gorgeous, interesting places that people might be surprised by. This is a good one:

    1. Thank you so much for the recommendation! 🙂 I found a video that is a bit shorter and added it in! <3

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