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Germany - Geography

Germany is located in the heart of Europe, at the crossroads between west and east, north and south. The northern border is formed by the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, separated by a brief border with Denmark. Germany borders on the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France to the west, Switzerland and Austria to the south, and Poland and the Czech Republic to the east. Germany has an area of 357,022 square kilometers. The longest distances are 876 kilometers from north to south and 640 kilometers from east to west. One-third of the country’s territory belonged to the former East Germany.

Germany is divided into four distinct topographic regions. From north to south, they are the Northern Lowlands, the Central Uplands, the Alpine Foreland, and the Alps. From the north, a plain dotted with lakes, moors, marshes, and heaths retreats from the sea and reaches inland, where it becomes a landscape of hills crisscrossed by streams, rivers, and valleys. These hills lead upward, gradually forming high plateaus and woodlands and eventually climaxing in spectacular mountain ranges. As of the turn of the century, about 34 percent of the country's area was arable, and about 30 percent was covered by forests.

Germany (or officially, The Federal Republic of Germany) is situated in the heart of Europe surrounded by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea on the north; by Poland and the Czech Republic on the east; by Austria and Switzerland on the south; and by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands on the west. The Alps are located in the south; some of the largest European rivers – the Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe – flow through Germany.

In area, it is the sixth largest country in Europe. Its territory encompasses roughly 357,000 square kilometers or 138,000 square miles. Extending 853 kilometers from its northern border with Denmark to the Alps in the south, it is the sixth largest country in Europe. At its widest, Germany measures approximately 650 kilometers from the Belgian-German border in the west to the Polish frontier in the east.

Germany is a parliamentary federal republic of sixteen states or Länder. The territory of former East Germany (divided into five new Länder in 1990) constitutes almost one-third of united Germany’s territory and one-fifth of its population. After a close vote in 1993, the Bundestag, the lower house of Germany’s parliament, voted to transfer the capital and seat of government from Bonn in the west to Berlin, a city-state in the east surrounded by the Land of Brandenburg. Other major German cities are Munich, Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover, Frankfurt, Nuremburg, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf.

German landscapes are extraordinarily varied: A plain dotted with lakes, moors, marshes, and heaths retreats from the sea (in the north) and reaches inland, where it becomes a landscape of hills crisscrossed by streams, rivers, and valleys. These hills lead upward, gradually forming high plateaus and woodlands and eventually culminating in the spectacular mountain ranges of the Alps. As of the mid-1990s, about 37 percent of the country’s area was arable; 17 percent consisted of meadows and pastures; 30 percent was forests and woodlands; and 16 percent was devoted to other uses.

With its irregular, elongated shape, Germany provides an excellent example of a recurring sequence of landforms found the world over. The terrain of Germany is extremely diverse, with huge stretches of monotonous sands, marshes, bogs and heathlanas, colorful wooded highlands of great aiversity and infinite variety, beautiful mountain lakes, rivers and countless streams, steep mountains and soft hills, intensively cultivated low-lying plains, mountain valleys and basins, thickly forestea and pastoral uplanas, nigh ruggeo mountains, and deep river valleys

Geographers often divide Germany into four distinct topographic regions: the North German Lowland; the Central German Uplands; Southern Germany; and the Alpine Foreland and the Alps. The North Geramn Plain extends across the northern reaches of the country; this flat, lowland terrain is dissected by numerous bogs, rivers and streams, and is mostly used as farmland. The North Sea coastline is low, marshy wet land, with dikes, mudflats and scattered islands. The Baltic Sea is hillier with some jagged cliffs. Rugen, Germany's largest island, is forested and rather hilly with steep cliffs and sandy beaches. In the northeast, and then stretching to the south of Berlin, Germany's land remains sandy and punctuated by dozens of mostly small lakes formed by retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age.

The land then rises into the forested uplands of central Germany. Major landforms here include the volcanic in origin Harz Mountains and the thickly wooded Rothaargebirge Mountains. Further south the rounded hills and mountains of the Eifel and Huynsruck uplands front the Rhine River Valley. Moving eastward through Germany, the Vogelsberg Mountains, Rhon Plateau (or Mts.) and Thuringian Forest are the dominate features. The uplands continue eastward, eventually rising into the Ore Mountains on the Czech Republic border.

In the far south the land remains mostly hilly, with heavily forested mountains. The Bohemian Forest covers a lower mountain range along the Czech Republic border, and along the country's far-southwestern border with the Rhine River and France stands the thick (story-book famous) Black Forest. The Bavarian Alps, the highest mountains in Germany stretch across its southern border with Austria. Snow covered Zugspitze, Germany's highest point is found here.

Stretched along the northern coastline, the Frisian Islands, East and North are separated from the mainland by the Waddenmeer. These barrier islands provide a small level of protection from the North Sea.

The country is drained by dozens of rivers. The longest river in Germany is the Rhine. Rising in the Alps of Switzerland, it's overall length runs (820 miles) (1,319 km), and along it path numerous tributaries and branches stretch in all directions Another river of note is the Danube, which rises in the Black Forest to then stretch across central Europe all the way to the Black Sea. Additional rivers of size include the Elbe, Ems, Havel, Isr, Lahn, Lech, Main, Moselle, Oder, Spree and Weser.

The largest lakes include Chiemsee and Muritz, and Lake Constance along the Swiss border in the south. Across Germany a large series of man-made canals join navigable rivers, creating thousands of miles of interconnecting inland waterways. They're used for commercial and local traffic, and by large fleets of cruising riverboats and charter barges.

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Page last modified: 09-01-2019 18:52:21 ZULU