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About Germany

One of Europe’s largest countries, Germany encompasses a wide variety of landscapes: the tall, sheer mountains of the south; the sandy, rolling plains of the north; the forested hills of the urbanized west; and the plains of the agricultural east. At the spiritual heart of the country is the magnificent east-central city of Berlin, which rose phoenixlike from the ashes of World War II and now, after decades of partition, is the capital of a reunified Germany, and the Rhine River, which flows northward from Switzerland and is celebrated in visual art, literature, folklore, and song. Along its banks and those of its principal tributaries—among them the Neckar, Main, Moselle, and Ruhr—stand hundreds of medieval castles, churches, picturesque villages, market towns, and centres of learning and culture, including Heidelberg, the site of one of Europe’s oldest universities (founded in 1386), and Mainz, historically one of Europe’s most important publishing centres. All are centrepieces of Germany’s thriving tourist economy, which brings millions of visitors to the country each year, drawn by its natural beauty, history, culture, and cuisine (including its renowned wines and beers).

Geography

Germany's central and southern regions have forested hills and mountains cut through by the Danube, Main, and Rhine river valleys. In the north, the landscape flattens out to a wide plain that stretches to the North Sea. Between these extremes, Germany is a country of incredible variety. Germany's location at the heart of Europe has shaped its history both for good and bad. It borders nine neighbors, more than any other European country.

Germany's largest wooded area, and its most famous, is in the southwest near the Swiss border. This is the Black Forest, a mountainous region full of pines and fir trees. This forest contains the source of the Danube, one of Europe's longest rivers.

Transportation

Hamburg boasts an extensive public transport system including underground trains, a light-rail network, buses and ferries.
Whether you prefer walking, driving or biking ─  getting around in Hamburg is easy. The city boasts an extensive public transport network of rapid transit and regional trains, buses and harbour ferries, operated by Hamburg's public transport organisation HVV.

Tickets

A range of single, daily and weekly tickets that are valid for all buses, trains and ferries are available at HVV ticket machines. For frequent travellers, monthly or annual tickets are the cheapest options. Also, be sure to ask your Hamburg-based employer if the company takes part in the ProfiCard-programme. The Hamburg CARD is recommended for tourists, as it grants discounts on various cultural and leisure activities in addition to free transportation. Note: Day-passes are cheaper after 9:00 a.m.

S-Bahn and U-Bahn

The key element to Hamburg's public transport system is the network of rapid transit and regional rail services that connect the city centre to the greater region. There are four U-Bahn underground lines, six S-Bahn suburban lines and nine regional rail services that link Hamburg to other cities in the region.

Bus

The rail network is complemented by an extensive range of bus services with metro buses (frequent services), express buses, sprinter buses and regional buses (connecting to stations and surrounding towns).

Ferry

There are six ferry lines serving the harbour and the River Elbe. These routes have two-digit numbers starting at 61. You can use your HVV ticket to 'set sail' and even go on a little trip around the harbour. All ferries stop at Landungsbrücken.

Zones

The public network is structured into five rings centred around the Alster Lakes. Rings A and B (called Großbereich) cover the City, and if you are travelling further, Rings C, D, E will take you up to 60 kms away from the city. Some regional trains are also included in the fare (Gesamtbereich).

Operating hours

On weekdays, U/S trains operate from 4:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. the next morning and 24 hours on weekends. Bus services operate on similar schedules, with night buses running on main routes after midnight.

Assistance

If you require assistance, just ask the staff at one of the information desks on the platform of larger stations or the Service Point at Central Station or find your closest Service Point on www.hvv.de. Hamburgers ─ if not in too big of a hurry ─ are also happy to help.

Languages

Standard German is the official language of Germany. It is a West Germanic language that is also the most commonly spoken first language in the European Union. Over 95% of the population of Germany speaks the language. This figure also encompasses speakers of Northern Low Saxon, a dialect of West Low German. The German language is closely related to Low German, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, and Frisian. The writing system uses the Latin script. The vocabulary is mainly based on that of the Germanic branch of languages, but minorities of words are also derived from Greek, Latin, English, and French. German is one of the official and working languages of the European Union.

Minority Languages Spoken in Germany

Low German
Low German is one of the minority languages of Germany. The West Germanic language is spoken mainly in northern Germany. The language is quite distinct from Standard German and more closely related to English, Frisian, and Dutch. There are about 5 million native speakers of Low German in Germany.
Upper Sorbian
Sorbs living in Germany’s historical Upper Lusatia province speak the Upper Sorbian language. The province is today part of Saxony.
Lower Sorbian
Sorbs living in Germany’s Lower Lusatia historical province, which is now part of Brandenburg, speak Lower Sorbian, which is a Slavic minority language. Most speakers of this language are elderly. The language is currently highly endangered.
About 0.09% of the population of Germany speak the Upper and Lower Sorbian languages.
Frisian
The minority West Germanic Frisian language of North Frisian is spoken by about 10,000 people living in the North Frisia region of Germany. Saterland Frisian, East Frisian language’s last living dialect, is also spoken in Germany.
Other Minority Languages Spoken in Germany
Romani and Danish are the two other minority languages spoken in the country. Around 0.08% of Germany’s population speak the Romani languages. Danish is spoken by about 0.06% of the country’s population.
Immigrant Languages Spoken in Germany
Immigrants to Germany speak their native languages. Turkish, Polish, Balkan languages, Kurdish, and Russian are the most spoken immigrant languages of Germany.
Foreign Languages Spoken in Germany
English is the most important foreign language taught in schools in Germany. French and Latin are also taught as second or third languages in schools. Depending on the geographic location, schools in Germany also offer classes in other languages like Dutch, Spanish, Greek, Polish, and Russian.

Frequent discussions take place in Germany regarding the recognition of English as an official language. According to a 2013 survey, 59% of Germans are in favor of the recognition of English as an official language in the European Union.