Germany

Driving Directions Germany

GERMANY is a large populous country in northern central Europe, which comprises the former East and West German Republics, reunified in 1990. In the north lies the North German Plain, which merges with the North Rhineland in the west. Further south, a plateau that stretches across the country from east to west is divided by the River Rhine. In the southwest, the Black Forest Mountains, or Schwarzwald, separate the Rhine Valley from Swabia’s fertile valleys and scarp lands. The Bavarian Forest is in the southeast, approaching the border with the Czech Republic. The Bohemian Uplands and Erz Mountains mark the bor­der with the Czech Republic. The beautiful River Danube, the second-longest river in Europe, rises in the Bavarian Alps and crosses most southern Germany.

However, Germany’s most famous river is the mighty Rhine, which flows along the border with Switzerland and France before heading northwards towards the Netherlands and the North Sea.

The Rhine has several large and important tributaries, including the Neckar, Main, Lahn, Mosel, Ruhr, and Lippe, and is a major navigable waterway used to transport considerable amounts of freight. Because of heavy industrial development along much of the Rhine valley’s length, there are considerable problems with water pollution. Efforts continue to make, however, to address this situation and to improve water quality.

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Most of Germany’s lakes are in the southern Alpine region, the largest being Lake Constance (Bodensee), which straddles the border with Switzerland and Austria. Forests and woodlands are well represented in Germany, covering about 30 percent of the land area but mainly in the southern mountainous regions. Germany administered as 16 states or Lander, one of Berlin’s remaining 15 states in former West Germany and five in former East Germany.

Generally, the country has warm summers and cold winters. Agricultural products include wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes, and sugar beet, but agriculture accounts for only a small employment percentage. A third of the country’s food has to import. The fishing fleet is based in the North and Baltic Seas’ coastal towns, such as Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven, Kiel, and Rostock, and the species caught include herring, cod, haddock, whiting, and flatfish. Germany has a considerable timber and wood products industry based on its extensive coniferous forests, but there have been problems in recent years caused by acid rain.

The most important mineral resource in Germany was coal from the Ruhr valley and Sauerland, which fuelled massive industrial developments in these regions. High-grade coal is now much depleted, and mining has declined, although Germany remains a major producer of lignite (brown coal) found in the east. Oil and natural gas deposits are found in the north and exploited, although they are insufficient to supply their domestic needs. Rock salt, potash, iron, lead, zinc, and copper, along with small quantities of some other metallic ores, are also extracted and produced.

The principal manufacturing industries’ products include iron and steel, motor vehicles, mechanical and electrical equipment, aircraft, ships, computers, electronic and technical goods, chemicals and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, clothing and footwear, foods, beer, optical and high precision instruments. Many German products are exported and enjoy a good reputation for high quality and reliability.

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Topographically, Germany is composed of northern lowlands, central uplands, Alpine foothills, and Bavarian Alps. The northern plain covers the upper one-third of the country and contains the far north’s coastal area. Inland, the plain becomes hilly and is crisscrossed by rivers and valleys. These hills open to the Alpine Foreland, where north-south ranges interspersed with deep valleys climb to the wooded slopes and craggy peaks of the German-Austrian Alps. Germany lies on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.

Germany faces the North Sea to the northwest and the Baltic Sea to the northeast. A narrow strip of land on which Germany borders Denmark separates the two seas, both of which are extensions of the Atlantic Ocean.

Did you know about Germany?

After Germany was defeated in World War II, the victorious Allies had separated the country into two parts: East Germany, controlled by the Soviet Union, and West Germany, occupied by American, French, and British troops. The East German government constructed the Berlin Wall in 1961 to separate the entire border between East and West Germany. Topped with barbed wire and guarded by armed military personnel, the concrete wall was meant to keep East Germans from emigrating to the West. In 1989, when the Soviet Union abandoned its forced program of Communism for its outside territories, the dismantling of the Wall began. In October 1990, East Germany was reunited with West Germany to form the present Federal Republic of Germany. Today, most of the Berlin Wall is gone. Much of the concrete was crushed and recycled for road construction. Some large sections of the Wall were sold, and a few sections still stand today as memorials. In downtown Berlin, the line where the Wall once stood is marked with either a red line or a double row of cobblestones.

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