A love of nature and cities alike, healthy food and gourmet restaurants, a strong sense of tradition and a cosmopolitan mindset – measuring 357,000 square kilometres, Germany is the fourth largest country in the European Union (EU) after France, Spain and Sweden. From the North and Baltic Seas to the Alps in the south, Germany is geographically sub-divided into the North German Lowlands, the Mittelgebirge ridge, the Central Uplands in southwest Germany, the South German Alpine foothills and the Bavarian Alps. From north to south the greatest distance is 876 kilometres, from east to west 640 kilometres.
Germany is one of the countries with the highest standards of living in the world. The 2014 United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) puts Germany sixth out of a total of 187 countries. With 81.2 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous country in the EU and one of the most densely populated; around 77 percent of its inhabitants live in densely and highly populated areas. Around 30 percent of the population resides in big cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, of which there are 76 in Germany; Munich has 4,460 people per square kilometre, Berlin 3,780. Experts believe the ongoing trend of growth and innovation is reflected in the renaissance of cities, and forecast that by 2030 the number of inhabitants in major cities will have surged – with considerable consequences for the housing market, inner-city mobility, and infrastructure. In particular, the 18-to-24-year-old age bracket is showing a pronounced willingness to move to cities. This urbanisation makes Germany part of a global trend. The cities are also great tourist attractions – Berlin especially is developing into a real magnet and is currently setting one visitor record after another. In the European rankings for the absolute number of overnight stays, Berlin, with its 3.4 million inhabitants, places third behind London and Paris.
At the same time, however, this longing for urban life contrasts with a strong call for things regional – in particular when it comes to what Germans eat. The organic food industry is firmly established in German agriculture, generating sales of organic products worth 7.6 billion euros annually. Indeed, 23,500 organic farms, 8 percent of agricultural enterprises, cultivate 6.3 percent of agricultural land. The organic products are supported by certifications (around 70,400 products boast the German state organic seal), extensive consumer protection laws, and comprehensive marking obligations. In 2014, 7.75 million people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland referred to themselves as vegetarians; 900,000 said they live a vegan lifestyle. Gourmets, however, do not miss out. This is thanks to the 282 restaurants in Germany with one or more stars in the 2015 Guide Michelin – the number of them has risen by 25 percent since 2010.