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Natural features


The Federal Republic of Germany is situated in the heart of Europe. It has nine neighbors: Denmark in the north, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France in the west, Switzerland and Austria in the south, and the Czech Republic as well as Poland in the east. This central location has been more pronounced since 3rd October 1990, when Germany was reunited. The Federal Republic is more than ever a link between East and West, but also between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. As an integral part of the European Union and NATO, Germany is a bridge to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Federal Republic of Germany covers an area of about 357,000 square kilometers. The longest distance from north to south as the crow flies is 876 kilometers, from west to east 640 kilometers. Its extremities are List on the island of Sylt in the north, Deschka, Saxony, in the east, Oberstdorf, Bavaria, in the south, and Selfkant, North Rhine-Westphalia, in the west. The total length of the country’s borders is 3,758 kilometers.

Germany has a population of about 82.0 million, the largest in Europe after the Russian Federation, followed by the United Kingdom (58.9 million), France (58.5 million) and Italy (57.5 million). In size, however, Germany is smaller than France (544,000 square kilometers) and Spain (506,000 square kilometers).

Geographical features. Germany has an extraordinary variety of charming landscapes. Low and high mountain ranges intermingle with upland plains, terrace country, hilly regions and lakelands as well as wide, open lowlands. From north to south Germany is divided into five regions with different topographical features: the North German Plain, the Central Upland Range, the terrace panorama of the southwest, the Alpine foothills in the south and the Bavarian Alps.

In the north are dry, sandy lowlands with many lakes as well as heaths and moors. There is also the fertile land stretching southward to the Central Upland Range. These lowland penetrations include the Lower Rhenish Bight, the Westphalian Bight and the SaxonThuringian Bight. The marshes along the North Sea coast extend as far as the geest. Characteristic features of the Baltic Sea coastline are in Schleswig-Holstein the fjords, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania the lakes and the counterbalancing coastline. The main islands in the North Sea are the East Frisian Islands, among them Borkum and Norderney, the North Frisian Islands of Amrum, Föhr and Sylt (and the Halligen), as well as Helgoland in the Helgoland Bight. Situated in the Baltic Sea are the islands of Rügen, Hiddensee and Fehmarn. Some parts of the Baltic coast have flat, sandy shores; others have steep cliffs. Between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea lies the low-hill country called “Holsteinische Schweiz“ (Holstein Switzerland).

The Central Upland Range divides northern Germany from the south. The central Rhine valley and the Hessian depressions serve as the natural north-south traffic arteries. The Central Uplands include the Rhenish Schist Massif (Hunsrück, Eifel, Taunus, Westerwald, Bergisches Land and Sauerland), the Hessian Mountains, and the Weser and Leine Mountains in western and central Germany. Right in the heart of Germany are the Harz Mountains. Toward the east are the Rhön Mountains, the Bavarian Forest, the Upper Palatinate Forest, the Fichtel Hills, the Franconian Forest, the Thuringian Forest and the Ore Mountains.

The terrace landscape of the Central Uplands in the southwest embraces the upper Rhine valley with the adjacent mountain ranges of the Black Forest, the Oden Forest and Spessart, the Palatinate Forest with the Haardt, and the Swabian-Franconian terrace country with the Alb.

In a narrow valley between Bingen and Bonn the river Rhine, the main north-south axis, slices through the Rhenish Schist Massif, whose highland areas are less densely populated than the sheltered wine-growing areas on both sides of the Rhine valley which are very popular with tourists.

The Alpine foothills embrace the Swabian-Bavarian highlands with their hills and large lakes in the south, broad gravel plains, the hilly landscape of Lower Bavaria, and the Danube valley. Characteristic features of this region are the moors, dome-shaped hill ranges and lakes (Chiemsee, Starnberger See) as well as small villages.

The German part of the Alps between Lake Constance and Berchtesgaden is limited to the Allgäu, the Bavarian Alps and the Berchtesgaden Alps. In this Alpine world lie picturesque lakes such as the Königssee near Berchtesgaden and popular tourist resorts such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Mittenwald.

Climate. Germany is situated in the moderately cool west wind zone between the Atlantic Ocean and the continental climate in the East. Sharp changes in temperature are rare. There is precipitation all the year round. In the winter the average temperature is between 1.5°C in the lowland areas and -6°C in the mountains. In the warmest month of the year, July, temperatures are between 18°C in low-lying regions and 20°C in the sheltered valleys of the south. Exceptions are the Upper Rhine Trough with its extremely mild climate, Upper Bavaria with its regularly occurring warm Alpine wind (Föhn) from the south, and the Harz Mountains, a climatic zone of its own with cold winds, cool summers and heavy snow in winter.


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