Germany's federal states
Germany is made up of sixteen federal states (also known as Bundesländer). Their current boundaries were primarily created in the aftermath of World War Two, even though there was already an existing provincial system before that. After World War Two, old provinces were rearranged to create new federal states. In most of these states, it is headed by a Minister-President who oversees the State Parliament (a unicameral legislative body.) Like in the federal system, the Diet members are elected every four or five years, from which the Minister-President is chosen from the Diet members. The Minister President then appoints a cabinet to implement the state government's executive functions. In some states (e.g. Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg), the executive branch of the state government comprises a eight-member Senate, who are chosen from the State Parliament.
The list below is a brief introduction to some of the interesting features of each of these sixteen states.
Population: 10.8 million
This is one of Germany's most prosperous states. Currently the third largest federal state, Baden-Württemberg was created on 25 May 1952 from the merger of Württemberg-Hohenzollern, Württemberg-Baden and Baden. It is well-known for the congregation of high-tech and automobile industries such as DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Boss and Bosch, as well as where many export-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises are based.
Stuttgart, the state capital, hosts many universities, educational institutions and a famous ballet company. It is also Germany's second-largest wine-growing state. In addition, it is a popular tourist destination, with many cultural sites and natural scenery locations.
Population: 12.5 million
Bavaria is the largest federal state in Germany. Its economic vitality stems from the industrial regions of Munich and its surroundings, as well as in the Nuremberg-Erlangen-Fürth region. There is also a well-developed network of medium-sized firms in various sectors, as well as future-oriented technologies such as aerospace). It is well-known for producing fine wine in the Franconia region. It is also a popular holiday destination, with famous features like the Oktoberfest, Neuschwanstein Castle and a beautiful Alpine scenery. Munich, the state capital, is home to more publishers than any other German city. It also has a rich cultural tradition, as reflected in its hosting of the annual Wagner Festival and the Passion Play in Oberammergau (held every ten years).
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria
Population: 3.5 million
Berlin is the capital of Germany. Previously a divided city, it is now a symbol of a united Germany. Since reunification in 1990, the city has gradually developed to become the country's political and cultural centre. This city-state is a popular venue for trade fairs and congresses, as well as a major industrial and service centre in Germany. It is also home to businesses such as Schering and Philip Morris. Its unique cultural life is reflected in well-known features like the Museum Island, the Berlin Philharmonic, musical theatres and 17 universities and institutes of high education.
Museum Island in Berlin
Population: 2.5 million
Formerly the heart of Prussia, it is now one of Germany's least populated states. In the 1990s, there were even proposals to merge Berlin and Brandenburg into one state (with Potsdam as the state capital), but this was rejected in a referendum in 1996. Brandenburg currently surrounds Berlin but does not include the latter.
Its economy has traditionally been dominated by lignite mining and processing, steelworks and the chemical industry. However, in recent years, new industries have come to the forefront, such as the paper and printing industry, communication and environmental technology industries.
Brandenburg is known for its well-preserved natural environment, where 15 large protected areas were designated in the 1990s. Each of them has a state-financed service staff to ensure its conservation. Typical landscapes in Brandenburg include pine forests, sandy soils and lakes. The beautiful natural scenery makes it a popular holiday destination for tourists, who are also drawn to its many architectural monuments and cultural events.
Brandenburg Gate at night
Population: 0.66 million
One of Germany's three city states (together with Berlin and Hamburg), Bremen is the second oldest city republic still in existence (after San Marino). It has Germany's most southerly port, which is also the largest container transhipment centre in Europe. Its economy is very diverse, comprising of a wide range of industries such as aerospace technology, automobile manufacturing, electronics, food and beverage, tobacco, etc. Due to the state government's role in promoting research and technology industries, as well as the development of universities and scientific research centres, Bremen has acquired a status of as one of the key learning and research centres in Germany.
Bremen's rich cultural life comprises of a wide range of museums and institutes such as the famous Uberseemuseum (Overseas Museum) and the Schifffahrtsmuseum (Maritime Museum). Bremen's architectural legacy dating back to the Hanseatic times can still be seen throughout the city.
Population: 1.8 million
Hamburg has been described as Germany's gateway to the world, thanks to the Hamburg port, which, with its tanker terminals, is home to all the major oil-refining companies in Germany. It is also where much of Germany's products are exported to the rest of the world. Hamburg is also an important industry and service centre, not only for Germany but for European markets as well. For example, it is Germany's media capital, hosting the headquarters of many newspapers, TV broadcasters and publishers. It is also a popular destination for trade fairs and conventions.
As the second largest city in Germany, Hamburg has a rich cultural life with its famous musicals, numerous museums, exhibitions, concerts and 35 theatres. It is also famous for its green policies with many parks and open spaces in the city. In fact, tourism is another key economic engine for the city, bringing in revenue of more than €10 billion a year.