Federal Republic of Germany is situated in the heart of Europe. It has nine neighbours:
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 3 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 Community and NATO, Germany is a bridge to the countries
of Central and Eastern Europe.
The Federal Republic of Germany covers an area of 357,000
sq km. The longest distance from north to south as the crow flies is 876 km, from
west to east 640 km. 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 3,767 km. Germany has a population of 80 million, the
largest in Europe after Russia's, followed by Italy (population 58 million), the
United Kingdom (57 million) and France (56 million). In size, however, Germany
is smaller than France (552,000 sq km) and Spain (505,000 sq km).
Geographical features. Germany has various 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 south of the Central
Upland Range. These lowland penetrations include the Lower Rhenish Bight, the
Westphalian Bight and the Saxon-Thuringian 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 are, in the North
Sea, the East Frisian Islands such as Borkum or Norderney, the North Frisian Islands
of Amrum, Fohr, Sylt and the Halligen as well as Helgoland in the Helgoland Bight.
Situated in the Baltic Sea are the islands of Rugen, Hiddensee and Fehmarn. Some
parts of the Baltic coast have flat, sandy shores, others steep cliffs. Between
the North and Baltic Seas lies the low-hill country called 'Holsteinische Schweiz'
The Central Upland Range divides north 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 Slate Mountains
(Hunsruck, Eifel, Taunus, Westerwald, Bergisches Land and Sauerland), the Hessian
Mountains, the Weser and Leine Mountains in western and central Germany. Right
in the centre of Germany are the Harz Mountains. In the eastern region are the
Rhon Mountains, the Bavarian Forest, the Upper Palatinate Forest, the Fichtelgebirge,
the Frankenwald, the Thuringian Forest and the mountains of the Erzgebirge.
The terrace landscape of the Central Uplands in the south-west
embrace the upper Rhine valley with the adjacent mountain ranges of the Black
Forest, the Odenwald 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 Slate Mountains, whose not
very fertile highland areas (Hunsruck, Taunus, Eifel, Westerwald) are considerably
less densely populated than the sheltered wine-growing areas on both sides of
the Rhine which are very popular with tourists. The alpine foothills embrace the
Swabian-Bavarian highlands and lakes, the 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 Allgau, the Bavarian Alps and the Berchtesgaden Alps. In this
alpine world lie picturesque lakes, such as the Konigssee near Berchtesgaden,
and popular tourist resorts such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Mittenwald.