One of the sixteen Länder
(federal states) of Germany.
Area: 2570 sq. km.
Capital: Saarbrücken (pop. 190,000)
Political division: Six Kreise (districts) and Saarbrücken.
Named after the river Saar, Saarland is the smallest of the thirteen Flächenstaaten, the Länder excluding the autonomous city states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg. For much of its history it has been considered a part of France, and was under French administration between the years 1918-1935 and 1945-1957.
Dispute over the land has been mainly due to its rich mineral wealth, particularly its coalfields. However despite being heavily industrialised, it is one of the poorest parts of modern Germany. Its level of trade union membership is the highest of all the German Länder. It is also among the most densely populated of the Länder, and the only one to rival North Rhine-Westphalia in density, with over 400 people per square kilometre.
Along with Bavaria, it is among the most strongly Catholic areas of Germany. Its historical links with France leave a linguistic legacy - French is quite widely spoken, and "Salü" replaces "Guten Tag" as the common greeting.