select a place World Americas Asia Australasia Africa Europe British Isles London Decorative Celestial Charts
Matters of national importance, such as defense and foreign affairs, are reserved to the federal government. At both the state and federal levels, parliamentary democracy prevails. The Federal Republic has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community ( see European Union ). During the four decades of partition, the Federal Republic concluded a number of agreements with the Soviet Union and East Germany, which it supported to some extent economically in return for various concessions with regard to humanitarian matters and access to Berlin. West Germany’s rapid economic recovery in the 1950s ( Wirtschaftswunder , or “economic miracle”) brought it into a leading position among the world’s economic powers, a position that it has maintained.
The most photographed building in Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle, is also one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Nestled among the breathtaking beauty of the Bavarian Alps near the town of Fussen, this fairy-tale castle served as the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Constructed in the late 1800s, Neuschwanstein was never built for defense purposes as most castles. Instead, this castle was created as a fanciful retreat for Ludwig II of Bavaria. Dazzling chandeliers and beautiful paintings adorn every room in the castle while the third floor is devoted to Ludwig’s fascination of swan scenes from operas by the famous composer Richard Wagner, whom Ludwig deeply admired.