When it comes to national monuments, Germany abounds. One million objects carry the title - like this statue of German reformer, Martin Luther. The "monument" umbrella also includes German landscapes and archeological sites. More than a few "monuments," however, aren't really monuments at all.
Monuments remind one of historical events, fascinating people, technical achievements and former architectural styles. Schwerin Castle, located in the capital city of Germany's northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, was modeled in the 19th century after the majestic French castles of the Loire Valley. Today it's the home of a large museum and the seat of the state parliament.
In the past, on Berlin's broad Hamburgerstrasse, there used to be a Jewish home for the elderly and a school alongside the city's oldest Jewish cemetery. These were removed or destroyed by the Nazi regime. Many monuments and plaques bear testimony to lost landmarks of Jewish daily life - and to the deportation of Berlin's Jews.
Its opening in 1989 became the symbol for the fall of East Germany. A large portion of the Berlin Wall was later ripped down. More than a kilometer of the former border strip was left standing, and it's now central to those attempting to either visualize or remember Germany's 44-year division.
The casted form of Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of the German empire, is the most common monument in Germany. There are about 700 statues, sculptures and towers recalling his reign. They're often coupled with monuments marking the foundation of the German empire in 1871.
A structural reminder of both a social and technical peculiarity can be found in Gotha, a small city in the central German state of Thuringia. In 1878, as Europe's first crematorium, it was a one-of-a-kind facility. The building was lavishly restored 10 years ago.
In Germany's northern landlocked state of Saxony-Anhalt, many half-timbered houses in the old city of Sangerhausen enjoy special protection as historical monuments. For the owners, that means that they can only carry out changes or restorations with the approval of monument authorities. It's often a costly endeavor. In this area of Sangerhausen, synthetic substances are taboo.
Grain, oil and wood - the mills in Straupitz are a favorite day-trip destination for those in and around Berlin. A monument renders vivid the manual labor and earlier lifestyles of those who used these mills. The location is so historically significant that a large portion of its restoration funds came from the European Union.
The natural paradise of Dessau-Wörlitz in Saxony-Anhalt is more than an impressionist's dreamscape. For UNESCO, it's a distinguished example of the application of philosophical principles. The original developers' enlightened intentions can still be seen today in the park's structure. Not a single fence divides this city garden, allowing citizens to stroll right up to city's castle.
Sometimes a cultural spectacle has little to do with artistry. In 2001, UNESCO recognized the coal mine and customs union in Essen, a city in Germany's largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, as a World Heritage Site. The committee saw the coal mine as representative of the development of heavy industry in Europe. For decades the Essen institution served as a model for heavy industry architecture.
This bronze sculpture doesn't meet "monument" standards as viewed by public officials. But it's an unofficial monument. Knut was a beloved polar bear at the Berlin Zoo who was known the world over. He singlehandedly broke the zoo's record for visitors. Knut died in 2011, and with the help of numerous donations, a bronze sculpture of the bear was installed in autumn 2012.
What do Martin Luther, a crematorium and a polar bear have in common? In Germany they're all monuments. What constitutes a 'monument' in Germany is sometimes surprising.