In the town of Rottweil, deep in the Black Forest of Baden-Württemburg, stands one of the strangest churches in Europe.
The Kreuz-Münster Cathedral was built over a span of 700 years in four distinct architectural styles, and should be a monstrosity. Somehow the pieces blend together seamlessly; and that, in a nutshell, is Germany.
Forged from dozens of squabbling principalities in the 19th century and rebuilt after two World Wars and 50 years of political division, Germany is a nation where thousands of different mindsets peacefully coexist.
The country is 34% Catholic and 34% Protestant. Roman ruins share the horizon with glass-and-steel corporate headquarters. While grim-faced, punctual businessmen and traditional country-folk are going to sleep, purple-haired ecstasy enthusiasts, proudly assertive gay populations, and party-happy youths begin to stumble out of bed.
In this land of meat and potatoes, 20% of Germans are vegetarians, and falafel is well on its way to being the most popular type of fast food. Nor does the landscape offer consistency: snow-capped Alps in the south balance sandy beaches and mud flats in the north, with windswept heaths, sprawling lake plains, and castle-dotted river valleys falling in between.
Bach and Beethoven have no more of a monopoly on the German psyche than do Kraftwerk or Herbert Grönemeyer, and the average German is more likely to be wearing an American football jersey than a pair of Lederhosen. So throw out whatever stereotypes you have and discover Germany, the land of the World Cup 2006