The land of
a thousand lakes. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, situated in northeastern
Germany along the Baltic Sea, is sparsely populated (approximately 80
inhabitants per square kilometer) and has a predominantly agrarian character.
One of the prime assets of this state dotted with inland lakes (Lake
Müritz, with an area of 117 square kilomenters, is the largest)
is its unspoiled nature: Its exceedingly varied coastline affords sweeping
vistas, as do its variegated inland landscapes with their gently rolling
hills, broad fields and pastures, and extensive forests.
A European industrial area. Industrial heartland, modern technology center, land of culture and the media: Formerly an industrial landscape dominated by factory smokestacks, winding towers and blast furnaces, North Rhine-Westphalia with nearly 18 million inhabitants the most populous state has undergone a profound structural change in recent decades. The land of coal and steel has become a land of coal, steel and promising new industries, an attractive site for domestic and foreign investors not least because of its outstanding infrastructure. Nearly half of its people live in large cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants; at 527 persons per square kilometer, its population density is one of the highest in Europe. The nickname Kohlenpott (coal scuttle) is a thing of the past, for the state has long since satisfied the call of the 1960s for blue skies over the Ruhr.
Nearly 52 percent of North Rhine-Westphalias land area is given over to farming; 25 percent is woodlands. Nevertheless, the Ruhr, with a population of approx-imately 5.4 million, is Europes largest industrial region. Many energy producers and suppliers have their headquarters here. North Rhine-Westphalia is also a prime location of the large-scale power plant industry and the chemical industry.
The creation of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia dates back to the time of British occupation after World War II: In 1946 the greater part of the former Prussian Rhine province and the province of Westphalia were merged and later augmented by the inclusion of the former state of Lippe-Detmold.
In 1949 the city of Bonn on the Rhine (303,000 inhabitants) was chosen the provisional capital of the Federal Republic. After the unification of Germany, Berlin became the permanent capital. In the year 2000 the seat of the Bundestag, the Bundesrat and the Federal Government was moved to the banks of the Spree River in Berlin. The federal city of Bonn, however, will continue to play an important role in the future as an administrative and scientific center.
Coal, steel and the media. Today the states economy has a broader foundation than ever before. Since 1960 the percentage of the work force employed in the coal and steel industry has dropped dramatically: from 12.5 percent to four percent. Only 14 coal mines are still in operation in the Ruhr. Many new jobs have been created in the media and cultural sector, which has become the sector with the highest annual increases in turnover. In 1996 the media conglomerate Time Warner opened a movie park and movie studio complex in Bottrop-Kirchhellen built at a cost of more than DM 360 million the largest investment ever made in this sector in Germany. The Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, the Institute for Media Practice and Media Transfer at the Folkwang Academy in Essen and the academy for the media in Siegen are further examples of the endeavors undertaken by the state in this area.
Today about 66 percent of the work force in North Rhine-Westphalia is employed in the service sector. Here the restructuring process has always been conjoined with ecological renewal as well: The states innovative firms active in the field of environmental protection have made it one of Europes foremost centers of environmental technology.
North Rhine-Westphalias bustling economic life is supported by a dense network of autobahns, rail lines and waterways connecting the states numerous big cities such as Cologne (964,000 inhabitants), Essen (612,000), Dortmund (597,000), Düsseldorf (571,000), Duisburg (533,000), Bochum (398,000), Wuppertal (380,000), Bielefeld (324,000), Gelsenkirchen (289,000), Mönchengladbach (267,000), Münster (266,000), Krefeld (248,000) and Aachen (248,000). The Düsseldorf and Cologne/Bonn airports round out this network; Duisburg on the Rhine has the worlds largest inland port.
44 of Germanys 100 largest firms have their headquarters in North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition to industrial giants such as Bayer Leverkusen, VEBA AG or the printing and publishing corporation Bertelsmann, about 600,000 small and medium-sized businesses are engaged in production. Düsseldorf is one of Germanys largest banking centers. Cologne is one of the nations leading insurance headquarters. With Düsseldorf, Cologne, Dortmund and Essen, North RhineWestphalia boasts four internationally competitive trade fair venues. The state generates more than one fourth of all German exports and consumes nearly one fourth of the Federal Republics imports.
Scholarship, culture and leisure. North Rhine-Westphalias 52 higher education institutions and trade and technical schools offer professional training for some 510,000 students at 70 locations. A network of technology centers and transfer sites including ten institutes operated by the Max Planck Society, five run by the Fraunhofer Society, and ZENIT, a center for innovation and technology in Mülheim an der Ruhr ensures that small and medium-sized businesses are also able to profit from higher education know-how.
Well over twelve million people visit the states 570 museums every year, for example Bonns Museum Mile, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the Düsseldorf State Art Collection and the Folkwang Museum in Essen. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia contributes to the maintenance of more than 75,000 architectural monuments. Prominent representatives of the modern fine arts pursue their work at the academies of art in Düsseldorf and Cologne. The states more than 160 stages ensure cultural diversity and international renown, as do the Ruhr Festival, the NRW Theater Encounter and the Oberhausen Days of Short Films. Pina Bausch and her dance theater are just as well known in New York and Tokyo as they are in their native city of Wuppertal.
Given this wealth of offerings it is no wonder that nearly 13 million people (booking 34 million overnight stays) come to North Rhine-Westphalia every year as trade fair visitors, for instance, or as vacationers attracted by the unspoiled scenery of the Münsterland with its charming moated castles and by recreational opportunities such as skiing in the Sauerland or windsurfing on one of the states many artificial lakes.
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In the middle of
Europe. The state of Rhineland-Palatinate was formed after the end of
World War II, on 30 August 1946, by the French military government.
Traditional structures were not taken into account; instead parts of
Germany were merged that had never before belonged together: parts of
the Prussian Rhine provinces, the territory of Hesse on the left bank
of the Rhine, and the strongly Bavarian-influenced Palatinate. These
regions have become closely knit over time, however, and Rhineland-Platinate
has acquired its own identity.
An eventful history.
The political evolution of the smallest German state (apart from the
city-states) mirrors the vicissitudes of German history in the 20th
century. After World War I, upon the entry into force of the Treaty
of Versailles in 1920, this coal and steel region was detached from
the German Reich and placed under the administration of the League of
Nations. In 1935 the people of the Saar voted by a majority of more
than 90 percent in favor of its political reintegration into Germany.
The same thing happened after World War II. France, the occupying power,
closed off the border between the Saarland and the rest of Germany.
In a referendum held in 1955, the Saarlanders again voted by a large
majority in favor of the return of the Saar to the Federal Republic.
Frances consent to this wish was a milestone in the process of
Franco-German reconciliation. The reintegration of the Saarland on 1
January 1957 was effected in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic
Law (the German constitution) setting a precedent for the process
of German unification in 1990.