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Many of the current German states are very different from the states that existed in Imperial Germany and the Weimar Republic, when Prussia made up most of Germany. After World War Two, the Allies first broke up Prussia into smaller units, then merged small states to larger continuous units within their four zones of occupation. (If you go back to before 19th century German unification, you'll need a bigger scorecard: there were hundreds of tiny principalities and grand duchies, all of which were for practical purposes completely independent autocracies.)
Then the Allies split up, and West Germany and East Germany were formed. The differences between then and now are that Baden-Württemberg was formed out of three smaller states in South West Germany, the Saarland rejoined Germany, and the East German states were broken into districts and only restored with German reunification in 1990.
Still, regional and local identities based on historic territories, some of them going back to the Holy Roman Empire, abound.
In German language order -
South West Germany. Three post-1945 Länder to begin with, until they merged in 1952. Notable for precision mechanics, some famous universities, and banning Muslim female teachers from wearing headscarves. Used to be ruled consistently by the CDU (which often won absolute majorities) but as in spring 2011 it became the first German Land to have a Ministerpräsident from the Green Party.
This Land is noted for innovative businessmen, scientists, and engineers, and also for very thick accents. One of their "attract business" slogans some time ago was Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch:" "We can do anything. Except speak Standard German." 
(Alemannic) Badeners and (Swabian) Württembergers tend to regard themselves as totally different people. There is also the small territory of Hohenzollern which used to belong to Prussia and contains Hohenzollern castle, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern.
One of the best known geographic features of Baden-Württemberg is the Black Forest (der Schwarzwald), home of Kirschwasser (known as kirsch in English), Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (a type of rich cake, made with Kirschwasser) and cuckoo clocks. The latter were falsely credited to Switzerland by Orson Welles in the film The Third Man.
State capital and former capital of the Kingdom of Württemberg. Where the four-wheeled automobile was invented, it is the home of Porsche und Mercedes. More recently gained attention for its train station to be rebuilt. 
Meaning "free town", the full name is Freiburg im Breisgau. Though frankly, "Burg" translates into castle and is a cognate for English -burgh. It can sometimes also be derived from "Berg", meaning mountain or hill.
Notable for its university, the local belief that it's the warmest place in Germany and being a centre of Catholicism. And cyclists. And Catholic Cyclists.
- Features in The Little Drummer Girl, by John Le Carre.
Home of the oldest German university, or more correctly the oldest university in the Federal Republic (the oldest universities of the Holy Roman Empire were those of Prague and Vienna). Heidelberg used to be the capital of the Palatinate until the French burned it down in one of Louis XIV's wars. Heidelberg is the town most associated with the 19th-century image of roisterous German student life, thanks in large part to Wilhelm Meyer-Foerster's play Alt-Heidelberg (which was adapted into the operetta The Student Prince). Popular with American tourists.
Translates to "Karl's resting place". Former capital of Baden (grand duchy, then republic), now seat of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court), the supreme court of the Federal Republic.
In its day a modern fortress-city, it became the new capital of the Palatinate after the sacking of Heidelberg. Was an important centre for music and theatre in the 18th century; Schiller's first plays were first performed at the city theatre and Mozart met his wife here. In the course of territorial redistributions during the wars of the French Revolution the city was allotted to Baden. Also nicknamed "the city where the streets have no names" because its inner city has a chessboard-like grid and its blocks are labeled by a letter and a number.
Historically a state on its own, it's been joked that it's not part of Germany. Many non-governmental organisations have a separate branch in Bavaria and the place has its own Christian Democratic Party, the CSU, although they always co-operate with the CDU.
It is officially called Freistaat Bayern - the Free State of Bavaria.
A not inconsiderable part of the state only became Bavarian during the Wars of The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars (the rulers of Bavaria were made kings by Napoleon). The inhabitants of these regions are sometimes jokingly called "Beutebayern" (booty Bavarians) and retain distinct regional identities. After World War II, many German expellees from Czechoslovakia settled in Bavaria, and thus in political rhethorics it is customary to speak of the "four tribes" of Bavaria - Bavarians, Franconians, Swabians and Sudeten Germans.
BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke, or in English, Bavarian Motor Works) of course comes from here.
In English, the French name Munich is preferred. State capital and home to the world-famous Bayern München football club (20-times German Champions and four-times European Cup winners), München has the lowest crime rate of any major German city, although ironically it seems that every other German television crime series is set there, including Derrick, the one seen most in non-German countries.
Historically, it was where the first Nazi attempt to take power took place, the Beer Hall Putsch, where Adolf Hitler fired a bullet into a ceiling.
Just outside was the Dachau concentration camp.
In 1972, München hosted the Summer Olympics, an event most known for what happened to 11 Israeli athletes there.
It has the Bavaria Film Studios, where the original Enemy Mine was filmed.
Largest city in Bavarian Swabia, a former Free City founded by the Romans and named after the Emperor Augustus (Augusta Vindelicorum). It was home to the wealthy Fugger family (financiers to emperor Charles V and one-time owners of Venezuela), important to the history of Protestantism for the "Augsburg confession" and other things, many of which happened at the Imperial Diets that were held here. Bertolt Brecht came from here and spoke with a noticeable Augsburg accent all his life.
Formerly the capital of a principality ruled by a branch of the Hohenzollerns, later home to Richard Wagner and the festival he founded. In 2011, its (actually very young) university gained attention for a plagiarism affair about the at that time defense minister of Germany.
Formerly the capital of the (Thuringian) duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and home to the ruling house of Belgium and the United Kingdom, this town by referendum opted to join Bavaria, not the new Land of Thüringen in 1920. As Thuringia became part of the Soviet zone, but Bavaria part of the American zone of occupation in 1945, this choice turned out quite significant.
An old university town. Adam Weishaupt, lecturer in philosophy and church law, founded the Illuminatenorden here in 1776, but in 1785 the "order of Illuminati" was dissolved by order of the Bavarian government and ceased operating. Also home to Audi, a sub-chapter of Volkswagen that provided a certain Will Smith movie with a Cool Car prototype.
- In Mary Shelley's novel, Victor Frankenstein was a student at Ingolstadt University.
Anglicized as Nuremberg. The former Free City is home to artist Albrecht Dürer, shoemaker and poet Hans Sachs, and Julius Streicher. The first German railway was built in 1835 from Nuremberg to neighboring Fürth (Henry Kissinger's native town). The Nazis held their party rallies here, using one of them to enact the infamous Nuremberg Race Laws. After 1945 seat of the International War Crimes Tribunals. Regional centre of Franconia. On a lighter note, it's also world famous for its Christmas market.
Nuremberg shares its university with nearby Erlangen (which hosts the bi-annual International Comic Salon).
See that entry. The eastern half was capital of East Germany, while the Western half, due to the ambiguous legal status of the place, couldn't vote in West German federal elections (although its citizens, like Chancellor Willy Brandt, could stand elsewhere) and had 20 non-voting representatives in the Bundestag instead). Starting in 1956, it did issue license plates in the standard (then-)West German format (B; sometimes Germans use these as a shorthand for city names in other places, like Internet forums, incidentally).
A highly ambigious legal status. Technically under Allied occupation until 1990, the German Basic Law didn't apply there. West Berlin was pretty much the 11th state of West Germany, with West German treating all West Berliners (and East Germans too, which is why so many tried to cross The Berlin Wall) as German citizens. However, the city was exempt from conscription, which attracted a counter-culture there and West German airlines weren't allowed to fly there as the three air corridors linking West Germany and West Berlin were for British, French and US planes only. The East Germans wouldn't let them use their airspace either, claiming the Lufthansa name for themselves - see East Germany.
Since reunification, Berlin is a single German state.
What do we call this city?
The two halves of the city were called a variety of different things in German during the Cold War - you can deduce a source's political leanings from the terms they use.
- Berlin (West)- the official West German name.
- Westberlin- the official GDR name for most of the Cold War, suggesting it wasn't part of the real Berlin.
- Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR ("Berlin, Capital of the GDR")- the official East German name, sometimes just shortened to Berlin.
- Berlin (Ost)- the West German name.
- Ost-Berlin, Ostberlin and Ostsektor- West German media ("Ost" is German for East), suggesting it wasn't part of the real Berlin.
Entirely surrounding Berlin, it was recreated in 1990, having been broken up by East Germany. Berlin is completely surrounded by Brandenburg territory.
Historically the Margraviate of Brandenburg, it was a major part of the Holy Roman Empire and became the core of Prussia; until World War II, the province of Brandenburg also extended to the eastern bank of the Oder (Polish: Odra) river. The southeastern corner of the state, the Niederlausitz (Lower Lusatia) with the Spreewald (Spree forest), is home to the Sorbs, a Slavic minority with a language of their own.
The capital of Brandenburg, the place is best known in the English-speaking world for the Potsdam Conference and is home to the oldest large-scale film studios in the world, Babelsberg Studios, where Metropolis and V for Vendetta were filmed.
Potsdam (the name is derived from a Slavic one meaning "beneath the oaks") is situated between woods and lakes and was a favoured residence of the kings of Prussia who built many palaces, mansions and pavilions in and near the city. Most famous is Sanssouci, the little summer residence Frederick the Great had built according to his specifications with its adjoining park. Frederick William IV had landscape gardener Peter Josef Lenné transform the town and its environs into what effectively is one great park. The Potsdam conference was held in Cecilienhof, the last palace built by the Hohenzollerns (in the style of a Tudor country home for the last crown prince).
Brandenburg an der Havel
The medievel cathedral city of Brandenburg on the Havel river gave its name to the margravate.
Chósebuz in Sorbic. Brandenburg's second-largest city and center of Lower Lusatia.
Also known as Frankfurt an der Oder (Frankfurt on the Oder) and not to be confused with the bigger and more important Frankfurt am Main in Hesse. This city unsuccessfully applied to become Brandenburg's capital, is situated on the west bank of the Oder river, its former east bank suburb is now the Polish city of Slubice. Brandenburg is home to an old university, which in 1810 was moved to Breslau (now Wroclaw) but which was founded anew in 1991. The dramatist Heinrich von Kleist was born here. And the boxer Henry Maske as well.
One of the city-states of Germany, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen is actually two separate areas - Bremen and Bremerhaven. Unlike Berlin, which only became a state of its own after the post-WW 2 dismemberment of Prussia, Bremen and Hamburg were autonmous and self-ruled Reichsstädte" even during the Holy Roman Empire and thus have a republican tradition going back to the middle ages. From 1945 to 1949, Bremen was an American enclave in the British zone of occupation as the American forces used Bremerhaven as their main port.
With "The Bremen Town Musicians", this city even has its own Fairy Tale. Well, sort of, considering that the protagonists, who went on a journey to Bremen, actually never arrive there. (Don't worry, nothing bad happened to them, they just changed their plans.) At Bremen's town hall, there is a neat statue of those four intrepid animals.
Another city state, it is officially called the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. Hamburg is the largest German city after Berlin. Its citizens are called Hamburgers, the word for the food item actually coming via the city's name.
Best known for its parks, being a major port and the Reeperbahn. The latter, a famous red-light district and the largest in Europe, was where The Beatles started off. It is also the seat of the International Maritime Court.
As the biggest and most important seaport (and, according to the slogan, "Gateway to the World"), Hamburg has been considered Germany's most cosmopolitan city for centuries. It also has a long tradition of welcoming people persecuted for their religion, at least when Hamburgers believed they could help increase trade and industry. Thus the 16th century saw the immigration of Dutch protestants and the 17th that of Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula and Huguenots from France, and the 18th exiles from Revolutionary France. Since Elizabethan times there has also been an English community after some Merchant Adventurers set up the English Court (closed by the French during the Napoleonic Wars), who caused a pronounced Anglophile tradition among Hamburgers in general. In the 19th century Hamburg was thus called "the most English town on the continent". Its proximity to Hannover, which was ruled by the same king as Britain for over 120 years, reinforced the cultural connection in the 18th and 19th centuries. The popular image of Hamburg is that it is a city typefied entirely by trade and big business, but actually it has a long and rich cultural life. For instance it has the oldest civic opera (that is, opera not connected to a monarch's court) in Germany, which boasted Händel, Telemann, and Mahler in its staff.
- Hamburg was a major setting in Tomorrow Never Dies and Backbeat.
- Although this was changed in pretty much every adaptation, Jules Verne's Voyage to the Centre of the Earth begins in Hamburg, the novel's protagonist Professor Otto Lidenbrock taught at the Johanneum, the city's most prestigious school (founded during the Reformation).
- Not only that, but this is the town where i.e. The Beatles frequented the night club stages before getting famous.
Hesse in English, located in west-central Germany. Source of an alternative name for Burlap, mercenaries from the area fought on the British side during the American Revolutionary War. Home to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and thus often associated with fairytales to some degree.
State capital. Home to the US 1st Armored Division, it's on the opposite side of the Rhine to Mainz, another state capital. Famous for its spas - it does have "baden" (baths) in its name after all.
- First city to get nuked in The Day After.
Frankfurt am Main
Full German title, used when wishing to avoid confusion with the Brandenburg town of Frankfurt (Oder). Financial centre of Germany and the European Union, being home to a stock exchange and the European Central Bank. 660,000 inhabitants. 
From the 16th century to the end of the Holy Roman Empire the place where German emperors were crowned. During the abortive revolution of 1848/49 the Deutsche Nationalversammlung (German National Convention) convened here in the secularized Paulskirche (St. Paul's church). Also the only german city with a true skyline, as the other major cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne) are much larger area wise and thus have no need for real skyscrapers. The Frankfurt am Main Airport is by far the biggest airport in Germany, and one of the largest in the world.
Formerly the capital of the grand duchy of Hesse and one of the centers of Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) in Germany. Seat of a technical university with a physics institute specializing in heavy elements (element 110 is called Darmstadtium). Butt of many toilet-humour puns ('Darm' is German for 'intestines')
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was formerly in East Germany and provided it with a coastline on the Baltic. This meant that it was and still is a holiday destination. Western Pomerania was part of Sweden from the Thirty Years War to the Napoleonic Wars and includes Germany's biggest island, Rügen.
Like most of Germany east of the Elbe, this region used to be populated by various Slavic nations until the Germans moved in during the middle ages, intermingling with the locals and making it culturally their own. Of these regions Mecklenburg is perhaps the one that took the greatest pride in its Slavic roots. Its ducal house was that of the princes of the Obotrites; George III's consort Charlotte and Prussian Queen Louise both came from this house, specifically its Mecklenburg-Strelitz branch).
State capital. Landmark is the castle, home of the Dukes of Mecklenburg and now seat of the state parliament.
Larger than Schwerin, with one of the world's oldest universities and was a member of the famous Hanseatic League. The most notable resident was aircraft designer Ernst Heinkel.
Where the Nazis tested their missiles and where the world's first CCTV system was used for that purpose.
Lower Saxony in English, this, unlike the other Saxonies, was West Germany. When "the Saxons" are mentioned in regard to Dark Age Europe (as in the Anglo-Saxons), this is the land they are from. The later Kingdom and current state of Saxony (whose inhabitants are also called Saxons) is located in an entirely different part of Germany. VW is based in the Lower Saxon city of Wolfsburg.
The duchy, then electorate, then kingdom, then Prussian province of Hannover was integrated into this Land (that's where George I came from) Also home to the Scorpions.
Contains Ostfriesen, the Butt Monkey of many German Jokes
"Why do all East Frisians have flat heads? Because the toilet seats always fall on them while they drink out of the toilet bowl."
Spelled with one "n" in English, the state capital. Home of the philosopher Leibniz (honoured in the name of a popular biscuit produced by the local Bahlsen factory), the Dadaist artist and writer Kurt Schwitters, and the serial killer Haarmann.
A small place on the Weser river, home to Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen.
Known in English by the Low German form of its name, Brunswick. Formerly the capital of the duchy of Brunswick, it gave its name to the Guelph dynasty that ruled in Britain as the House of Hanover (officially the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg, hence the name of the Canadian province of New Brunswick). Brunswick was the first city in Germany where football was played according to the Association Rules ("Soccer").
Seat of a very famous university founded in 1737 by George II of Hanover and Great Britain. Many famous scholars and scientists lived, learned and taught here, including the mathematician and writer of aphorisms Lichtenberg, the "prince of mathematicians" Gauß (who invented an early electric telegraph), Philipp Reis (who built the first telephone in 1860) and many others. In 1837 seven professors of the university protested against king Ernst August abolishing the Hanoverian constitution and were subsequently relieved of their post; these Göttingen Seven included The Brothers Grimm.
Known in English as Hamelin, almost exclusively for a certain musician who passed through there.
The main port of the German navy on the North Sea was founded in the 19th century as a Prussian enclave in the duchy of Oldenburg. Sailors gave it the uncomplimentary nickname "Schlicktaun" (mud town). After World War II it became the major German tanker port.
North Rhine-Westphalia in English, it is the most populous and, arguably , richest state in the whole of Germany. Although the Rhine-Ruhr Area is a massive conurbation (over 10 million residents), 52% of the state is actually agricultural.
The Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War and invented the modern concept of the sovereign state was signed here after a five-year Peace Conference; specifically, it consisted of two treaties, those of Münster (in NRW) and Osnabrück (transferred to Niedersachsen).
State capital, it is not a small village by any means, but a city of half a million people. Home to the world's largest digital clock.
One of the city's most famous people was Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII. Another is Claudia Schiffer.
Close by is the Neandertal (old spelling: Neanderthal) where some very well-known prehistoric human fossils were found.
- Monster is set in Düsseldorf, as is Auf Wiedersehen Pet (first series). One of the reasons for the former could be that the city is one of the largest Japanese settlements in Europe, with 8000 Japanese in the town itself and another 4000 in the immediate vicinity.
Aken in Dutch, Aix-la-Chapelle in French, Akwizgran in Polish, Oche in the local dialect, there seems to be a different name for this place in every language but English. An old Imperial free city, favourite residence of Charlemagne and the place where most German kings were crowned until the 16th century. Its hot springs have been used for baths since Roman times and in the 18th century this was one of the most fashionable spas in Europe. Germany's westernmost major city, directly on the Dutch and Belgian borders, and the first German city to be taken by the US Army in 1944.
- The pharma watchdog group in The Constant Gardener is based on a real-life one based in Bielefeld.
Cologne in English (the word for perfume comes from here and the place still produces Eau de Cologne), it's much more populous than Düsseldorf, just shy of a million people.
Its most famous landmark, the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), was for ten years, 1880-1890, the world's tallest building. It claims it has the remains of The Three Wise Men. It survived World War Two because the Allies used it to navigate by.
Alarm für Cobra 11 is set in and around Köln.
It has a local dialect, Kölsch. Also being the name of a local beer, some wits comment it's the only language you can drink.
Köln is the host of the Games Com, the successor of the Leipziger Games Convention.
Cologne is well-known for its Karneval, its intense rivalry with Düsseldorf, and for its gay community. The latter is perhaps disproportionately well-known due to the hugely successful comics creator Ralf König, who lives in Cologne.
Centre of the rural Münsterland, deeply Catholic (although it briefly had an Anabaptist semi-communist regime in the 16th century) and said to be the most bicycle-friendly city in Germany. It has one of the largest universities with over 40,000 students. All in all Münster has over 50,000 students and 30,000 pupils, meaning that more than 25% of the population are either attending school or university.
The cities of the Ruhrgebiet (Ruhr-area), by the natives also called Ruhrpott, or just Pott: Bochum, Bottrop, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Hamm, Herne, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Oberhausen, as well as a few smaller towns within the Kreise (districts) of Ennepe-Ruhr, Recklinghausen, Unna and Wesel. (Phew! Forgot anyone?)
During the 19th and the 20th century, black coal was mined in the area framed by the Rhine's tributaries Ruhr and Lippe, luring other industies such as metallurgy into said area. The Pott developed into the "industrial backbone" of Germany. It is currently seeking to redefine itself after the decline of its "traditional" mining-industries, for example by luring in newer industry-branches. And by encouraging tourism: Old gasometers or pit heads are treated as the Ruhr-area's answer to the Eiffel Tower or the Brandenburg Gate. Also, home of two famous (of course rivaling) football teams: Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04. (Schalke is a quarter of Gelsenkirchen.)
- The webcomic Union of Heroes is set in the Ruhr-area, specifically Dortmund.
The Rhineland is normally thought of as a Catholic region, but there are exceptions, the most notable being this industrial city (result of the fusion of Elberfeld and Barmen), a hotbed of the Protestant work ethic. Friedrich Engels was born here.
With Niedersachsen, North Rhine-Westphalia is the home of the British bases such as Paderborn, Herford, Herne, Bad Fallingbostel)
Rhineland-Palatinate in English, formerly the northern part of the French zone of occupation, it consists of territories that before World War II belonged to the Prussia (Rhineland), Bavaria (Palatinate) and Hesse (Rheinhessen). Bordering France, Luxemburg and Belgium. Much agriculture and viticulture, offering a wide variety of and many good vines.
Formerly commonly translated Mayence, as in French. Capital of RP and home to one of the biggest German TV stations, ZDF. Also home of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. Until 1803 the chief of the ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire and seat of the Prince-Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, the "Primate of Germany."
Home to many US soldiers serving at Ramstein and especially famous for its football club. (West) Germany couldn't have won its first world cup in 1954 without its fair share of guys from Lautern.
One of the few major German cities founded in the 19th century, it was built on the opposite bank of the Rhine from Mannheim. Former Chancelor Helmut Kohl is from here, and the chemical company BASF is situated in Ludwigshafen.
Ramstein and Spangdahlem
Hosts of large US Air Bases.
Formerly commonly translated Treves, as in French, though pronounced "Treevz", not "Trayv". THE oldest city of Germany, founded in or before 16 BC. Formerly a provincial capital of the Roman Empire. Until 1803 one of the ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire and seat of the Prince-Archbishop and Elector of Trier. Birthplace of Karl Marx.
Another old cathedral city on the Rhine. In the Nibelungenlied, this is where the Burgundian kings lived. The Diet of Worms where everyone knows Martin Luther said "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me, Amen." was held here in 1521.
After the war, Saarland was actually placed under French control, but was handed back in 1957 (it had been under de facto French adminstration from 1920 to 1935). Smallest of the non-city states, French is the most common foreign language here. Tried to qualify for the 1954 World Cup, and came second in their group... to the West Germans.
The capital and largest city.
Saxony. The Free State of Saxony was part of the former GDR, and the PDS does well there. Until 1918 it was one of the four kingdoms of the German Empire. The easternmost part, the Oberlausitz (Upper Lusatia), is home to the Sorbs, a Slavic minority speaking a language of their own, and includes the only part of the former Prussian province of Silesia that did not become Polish after World War II.
State capital of Saxony. Very much destroyed in the Dresden bombing raid of 1945, one of the most controversial raids of the war due to the very high number of civilian deaths. 
The bombing is commemorated every year and has sadly became an attraction for Neo-Nazis in Germany. Having been part of East Germany, it took some decades longer than elsewhere to rebuild several famous sites that got bombed during the war. This is especially for sites like the Semperoper and even more so for its Church Of Our Lady (Frauenkirche).
Budysin in Sorbic. The center of Upper Lusatia gained a sad notoriety after World War II as the site of a Soviet internment camp. It is also home to an old prison colloquially known as Gelbes Elend (yellow misery) where many political prisoners were kept under the Nazis, the Soviet occupation, and the GDR. Also known for its mustard.
Called Karl-Marx-Stadt during East Germany.
Germany's easternmost city or half of a city, as it lies directly on the Neisse (Polish: Nysa) river and the part on the east bank belongs to Poland and is called Zgorzelec.
The other major city in Sachsen. Traditional host to the "Games Convention", now the "Games Convention Online". Places great importance on its historic city center. Has a long history as a judicial center, serving as the site for the German High Court under from 1879 to 1945 (encompassing the Imperial Era, the Weimar Era, and the Nazi regime), and currently serving as the seat of the Federal Administrative Court. Also a major trading center since the middle ages, home of one of Germany's oldest university, and as a musical center. The Thomanerchor, the boys' choir of St. Thomas' church, is the oldest in Germany and was led by Johann Sebastian Bach for a long time, while the Gewandhausorchester has been conducted by the likes of Felix Mendelssohn and Kurt Masur. Richard Wagner was born here. It's been here where the protests against the Honecker regime really kickstarted.
Known for its medieval cathedral and its porcelain manufacture (the first in the western world, although its products are usually referred to as "Dresden china" in English).
Saxony-Anhalt. Made up much of the Western border of the GDR. Continues to receive bad press for high unemployment and Neonazi concentration; decried as the typical post-reunification un-success story.
State capital, apparently also the least known of these. History buffs may remember Magdeburg from the siege by Tilly during the Thirty Years War. Has a very large gothic cathedral. The city was mostly bombed to rubble during the tail end of World War II, requiring much rebuilding. Curious mixture of architectural styles, ranging from medieval churches to some surviving Weimar Republic-era housing to Soviet-style Plattenbau neighbourhoods.
Capital of the United States of Europe in 1632.
Or "Halle an der Saale" (Halle on the Saale). Was briefly considered for state capital after the reunification, but was passed over in favor of Magdeburg. Operates the largest regional airport in cooperation with Leipzig.
German British composer Georg Friedrich Händel/George Frederic Handel (the guy who wrote the Messiah) was born in Halle, as was the longest-serving foreign minister of modern Germany, Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
Halle has a famous university which absorbed the older university of nearby Wittenberg. Martin Luther taught in Wittenberg, Doctor Faustus, contrary to what Christopher Marlowe said, did not.
Formerly Englished as Sleswick-Holstein. Home of the famous Schleswig-Holstein question, a dispute over the relations of two duchies with Denmark and the German Confederation. Well and truly entering the farcical territory, this dispute was finally resolved by force of arms in favour of the Germans. Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, better known as Lord Palmerston and British "Prime Minister" on two occasions (the title had not entered official use yet - this was the subject of a QI question)
"Only three people understood the Schleswig-Holstein Question. The first was Albert, the Prince consort and he is dead; the second is a German professor, and he is in an asylum: and the third was myself - and I have forgotten it."
Schleswig-Holstein is the northern most German state and part of the Jutland or Cimbrian peninsula with the rest of it taken up by Danish Jutland. Danish flags are not uncommon as the land was both German and Danish, the question has much to do with how the King of Denmark was also the Duke of Schleswig and Holstein and had a seat in the old Holy Roman Empire as the latter. In the late middle ages the city Lübeck (then a free city) was the second largest city in Germany and later the capital of the Hanseatic League that controlled most trade on the Baltic Sea. Even today, Schleswig-Holstein has many cultural similarities with neighboring Denmark and Sweden, arguably even much more than with other German states like Bavaria or Saxony. This however is partly due to the considerable cultural influence of Germany and Northern Germany in particular on Scandinavia. Transport is a major function of the area. A canal goes between the Baltic and North Sea saving hundreds of miles going around Jutland.
The name of the canal depends on who you ask. Baltic Canal, Kieler Canal and Nord-Ostsee-Kanal are common names.
Apart from standard High German, Schleswig-Holstein has three more official languages, Low German, Frisian (spoken on the North Sea coast), and Danish. The Danish-speaking minority on the northern border has a special status, most notably in that the "Südschleswiger Wählerbund" (SSW), the South Schleswig Electors' Association, is exempt in state elections from the German law that admits only parties that receive at least 5 percent of the total vote or receive the majority of votes in a constituency to state and federal parliaments. The SSW thus usually has one representative in the Landtag in Kiel. A similar status applies to the German-speaking minority in Northern Schleswig, which became part of Denmark due to a referendum after World War I.
One other oddity of Schleswig-Holstein history is the region of Dithmarschen, which in the middle ages was a republic of self-governing farmers. In 1500 they managed to defend their independence against the army of the Danish king and the Holstein nobility in the battle of Hemmingstedt, capturing the original Dannebrog. However, the Danish tried again later and succeeded in conquering Dithmarschen and bringing home their "holy flag" in 1559.
The state capital. A port city, which played a part in the end of World War One. The German Navy at Kiel was ordered on what was essentially a suicide mission, but refused to leave. It has the largest shipyard in Germany, which produces many of Germany's modern ships and submarines. Germany does some rather good diesel U-boats, in fact (they sell them around the world--and occasionally donate them to the Israelis With Infrared Missiles, whom some claim have equipped them with nuclear warheads).
Also famous for the Kieler Woche (Kiel's Week) festival every year. A large presentation and parade of all kinds of ships, from modern military ones to old or reconstructed ones, often from around the world.
Holds an annual festival, which incorporates a winnable wedding- engaged couples can enter to have their wedding as part of it.
Formerly the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck, its old town was largely destroyed in one of the Royal Air Forces's first major air raids in World War II. Home of writing brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and currently where Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass is based.
The northernmost German city on the mainland (Westerland on Sylt is further north still) is known in Germany mainly for being the country's main entry port for rum, Beate Uhse (who opened Germany's first sex shop), the Flensburger brewery, and the central registry for traffic violations in Germany. If you have too many "points (Punkte) in Flensburg", you'll lose your driver's license.
The fourth and smallest major city of Schleswig-Holstein, being famous for absolutely... nothing. It has no famous sights, no famous citizens, no important industry, never was even remotely involved in any historical events, and never shows up in fiction either.
Thuringia, which belonged to the GDR, was formed in 1920 from eight minor monarchies (one grand duchy, three duchies, and four principalities). Thuringia was occupied by US forces in 1945, but was soon traded in for West Berlin.
Where Johann Pachelbel (him of the Canon) was an organist and a setting in the 1632 series. Johann Sebastian Bach was born and grew up in the town of Eisenach in this state. Eisenach is also the town nearest to the famous Wartburg Castle, home of St. Elizabeth and Bl. Louis of Thuringia, where Martin Luther wrote much of his German translation of The Bible, the site of the famous Wartburg Festival for German unity in 1817, and where Richard Wagner set his opera Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg.
The state capital is home to the third oldest university in Germany; Martin Luther studied and received his master's degree here.
Home of another famous university, where around 1800 Schiller, Hegel, Fichte, the Schlegels and other luminaries of the day were to be found. The Carl Zeiss firm is famous for its optical instruments and an early model of having employees participate in the business profits.
The former capital of the grand duchy of Saxe-Weimar is famous for the Weimarer Klassik, that is the era in the late 18th and early 19th century, when Goethe, Schiller, Wieland and Herder all lived at the residence of "muses' court" of duke Charles August and his mother Anna Amalia (after whom the famous library is known). Goethe for a time served as the duke's minister and the director of the Weimar theater. Later Friedrich Nietzsche lived here and in 1918/19 the Deutsche Nationalversammlung (German National Convention) framed the constitution of the new republic in this city. The former concentration camp of Buchenwald is nearby.
- ↑ According to the German-language chapter of The Other Wiki, the ad agency behind the slogan first offered it to Saxony, which declined.
- ↑ Due to the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement, let's just say you're welcome by googling "Stuttgart 21".
- ↑ Don't look so surprised! All right, there may be more during the day working in the CBD.
- ↑ As a former coal mining region, it suffers silimar problems as Northern England or the US Great Lakes do.
- ↑ (It is not a funny expression in German, as "Worms" sounds very different from the plural of 'worm' (Würmer) in German, and the word translated into English as 'diet' is actually Reichstag.)
- ↑ The estimated death figures for the raid, inflated massively (by a factor of 10) by Goebbels to begin with, have now been revised down significantly to 25,000-35,000 as new evidence became available and there were actual military targets there, including a poison gas factory.
- ↑ Since the middle ages, the Danish royal house is a branch of the German house of Oldenburg or Schleswig-Holstein, other branches of which ruled in the duchy of Oldenburg and, since Peter III, in Russia. The House of Windsor will technically be part of this House upon the death of Elizabeth II, as her husband, Prince Philip, is a member, and house membership passes through the male line; however, nobody except royalty nerds really care.