By size, Germany is the seventh-largest European country and from north to south the topography varies quite dramatically.
The North European 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
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.