Europe’s history seems easy to grasp. Visitors to France and England and many other countries know what to expect. Impressive buildings commemorating a national triumph. As questionable as this might be, it also indicates a national idendity. Centuries of the country and its people having been shaped and administered by a “strong central power”, a single governmental structure, one or more family dynasties.
This is where Germany’s history is different. This is also why Germany’s monuments are different. And very quickly, it is becoming obvious that Germany has long been politically fragmented into autonomous states. Seemingly countless principalities, kingdoms and dukedoms, which were each ruled by an independent sovereign.
Only the Holy Roman Empire, which encompassed most of German speaking Europe as we know it today, offered a sense of belonging, a kind of unity, however even this system was not positioned to unite and coordinate the very many independent structures.
The confusing fragmentation of different German speaking states was not united until 1871. Under the influence of Prussia’s First Minister Otto von Bismarck, an attempt was made to form a German Empire and thus create a national identity.
No book better describes the richness and diversity of German culture, history and memory than the book by British art historian Neil MacGregor’s “Germany, Memories of a Nation”. This publication makes a truly fascinating read before, during or after any trip to Germany.
Few innovations thought up by German inventors have had as great an impact on the world as Gutenberg’s invention of letterpress printing in the 15th century. Without the ability to efficiently print, reproduce and distribute the newly translated Bible, Martin Luther’s Reformation would certainly never have got off the ground.
Europe, Germany and its neighbouring states hold many of those fascinating stories. History which comes to live and makes for unique and memorable trips.