The 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' (Holstein Switzerland).
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.