California – the Golden State

California, which is nicknamed the “Golden State” (Golden State), is the third largest of the federal states in terms of area and is therefore roughly twice the size of Great Britain.

California is bigger than Germany and Switzerland combined. The state owes its nickname to its sunny climate and the time of the “gold rush”. In terms of population, California is the most populous state in the United States. Every eighth American lives here. Every third resident is of Spanish-speaking descent, just under 12% of the population have Asian ancestors. The proportion of whites has dropped to 47%. The largest cities are Los Angeles (around 3.7 million), San Diego(over 1.3 million), San Jose (around 950,000), San Francisco (over 800,000) and Fresno (around 500,000).

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The landscape is diverse and offers something of almost everyone: beaches, mountains, rugged coasts, deserts, forests and vineyards. Here you can find the highest mountain in the USA outside of Alaska (Mount Whitney, over 4,400 m high) and also the lowest point (Death Valley, 86 m below sea level).

The country’s climatic and geographical advantages make it one of the most popular residential and tourist areas in the USA. The landscape is diverse: beaches on the Pacific Ocean, mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada and sand dunes in the Valley of Death. Even the constant danger of earthquakes through the San Andreas Fissure, which stretches over 900 km from Mexico to northern San Francisco, is not a deterrent.

But California is not just a vacationer’s paradise; the state is threatened by water shortages, forest fires and financial difficulties. The budget deficit reached a record high of around 38 billion dollars in 2002. The liberalization of the electricity market is considered to have failed and the end of the high-tech boom is in sight. The world’s fifth largest economy in its own right has poor credit ratings among the 50 states.

The governor is head of administration and is directly elected by the people. He has no policy authority, but still has considerable influence. He can veto parliamentary decisions and convene special sessions of MPs. He has extensive control over the finances and is the master of around 140,000 civil servants. According to Article 5 of the Constitution, the governor exercises the right of grace (although there are hardly any controversial executions in California any more).

Recommended reading : GEO Special No. 1 February / March 2006 “California & Las Vegas ” reports on the Golden State and Sin City, including hotel recommendations and a travel service section of over 20 pages.


From a seismographic point of view, a “big” earthquake must be expected at any time (the big one); numerous smaller earthquakes are “common”. The earthquake danger in the state of California is many times greater than that in other states in the country. See also one Article in the world. The US Geological Survey has a map for California online that includes an earthquake forecast for the next 24 hours. Typically, most areas in California have a 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000 chance of an earthquake. But in certain areas the risk increases to 1: 1,000 for an earthquake to occur.

Climate and Weather

The climate is generally mild, with warm summers and cool winters. The extent of California covers 100 degrees of latitude and the climatic differences are correspondingly large. “It never rains in California” is just a hit phrase, the reality is different.

South of the city of Santa Barbara, the cliché applies to the greatest possible extent: blue skies, sun, searing heat. The winds cool on the coast, the further you go into the hinterland, the more oppressive it becomes. North from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, the weather is more capricious. It’s not that hot anymore, the water is cooler and in summer there are more clouds in the sky during the day.

San Francisco itself has weather peculiarities due to its location. The summer months are not hot because the famous fog covers the city like a haze and hinders the sun’s rays. The Golden Gate Bridge can usually only be seen from noon, sometimes not at all. Many hotels therefore do not have air conditioning in the rooms. The best time to travel to San Francisco is from late August to mid-October.

North of San Francisco, the summers are noticeably cooler and wetter. Gray skies and clouds can last for several days in a row. For the area south of San Francisco, the months of April / May and September / October are considered the best travel times. On the coast there is changeable, fresh weather, in the inland it is pleasantly warm. The main season with a corresponding rush is from mid-June to mid-September.

Alcohol and smoking

Alcohol is available for purchase throughout the state. Alcohol is prohibited under the age of 21. Smoking is prohibited in public buildings and means of transport; otherwise, this is often different from region to region. Tobacco products can only be bought from the age of 18.


The state sales tax is 7.25%, local surcharges can be up to 2.50%. Status: 06/06/2012

Traffic rules

The minimum age to drive is 18 years, for locals with special training 16 years. There is a blood alcohol limit of 0.8 when driving a car. If you suspect driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), a blood test is mandatory.

Seat belts must be worn by all occupants. For children under 4 years of age or weighing less than 40 lbs. a certified child seat is required. Children under 6 years of age or weighing less than 60 lbs. Must be secured in a special safety seat (safety seat or booster seat). Motorcyclists must wear a helmet. Helmets are also compulsory for cyclists under the age of 18.

Turning right in spite of the red traffic light is generally allowed (right on red). Accidents are to be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles if people have been injured or the property damage is more than $ 500.

California - the Golden State

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