Germany Table of Contents
The Central German Uplands are Germany's portion of the Central European Uplands; they extend from the Massif Central in France to Poland and the Czech Republic. Germany's uplands are generally moderate in height and seldom reach elevations above 1,100 meters. The region encompasses all of the Saarland, Hesse, and Thuringia; the north of Rhineland-Palatinate; substantial southern portions of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, and Saxony-Anhalt; and western parts of Saxony.
In the west, the Central German Uplands begin with the Rheinish Uplands, a massive rectangular block of slate and shale with a gently rolling plateau of about 400 meters in elevation and peaks of about 800 to 900 meters. The Rheinish Uplands are divided by two deep and dramatic river valleys--the Moselle and the Rhine. The high hilly area to the south of the Moselle is the Hunsrück; the one to its north is the Eifel. The Rhine separates these areas from their extensions to the east, the Taunus, and, to the north, the Westerwald. To the north and east of the Westerwald are further distinct areas of the Rheinish Uplands, most notably the small range of hills known as the Siebengebirge, across the Rhine from Bonn, and the larger hilly regions--the Siegerland, Bergishes Land, Sauerland, and the Rothaargebirge. The higher elevations of the Rheinish Uplands are heavily forested; lower-lying areas are well suited for the growing of grain, fruit, and early potatoes.
Because of the low elevations of its valleys (200 to 350 meters), the Uplands of Hesse provide an easily traveled passageway through the Central German Uplands. Although not as dramatic as the Rhine Valley, for hundreds of years this passageway--the so-called Hessian Corridor--has been an important route between the south and the north, with Frankfurt am Main at one end and Hanover at the other, and Kassel on the Weser River in its center. The headwaters of the Weser have created a number of narrow but fertile valleys. The highlands of the Uplands of Hesse are volcanic in origin. The most notable of these volcanic highlands are the Rhön (950 meters) and the Vogelsburg (774 meters).
To the north of the Uplands of Hesse lie two low ranges, the Teutoburger Wald and the Wiehengebirge, which are the northernmost fringes of the Central German Uplands. It is at the Porta Westfalica near Minden that the Weser River breaks through the latter range to reach the North German Lowland.
One of the highest points in the Central German Uplands is at Brocken (1,142 meters) in the Harz Mountains. This range is situated about forty kilometers to the northeast of Göttingen and forms the northwestern boundary of the Leipzig Basin, an extension of the North German Lowland. The Harz are still largely forested at lower levels; barren moors cover higher elevations. An important center for tourism in the 1990s, the range was once an important source for many minerals.
The Thüringer Wald, located in southwestern Thuringia, is a narrow range about 100 kilometers long, with its highest point just under 1,000 meters. Running in a northwesterly direction, it links the Central German Uplands with the Bohemian Massif of the Czech Republic and forms the southwestern boundary of the Leipzig Basin. The basin's southeastern boundary is formed by the Erzgebirge range, which extends to the northeast at a right angle to the Thüringer Wald. Part of the Bohemian Massif, the Erzgebirge range reaches 1,214 meters at its highest point.
The southeasternmost portion of the Central German Uplands consists of the Bohemian Forest and the much smaller Bavarian Forest. Both ranges belong to the Bohemian Massif. The Bohemian Forest, with heights up to 1,450 meters, forms a natural boundary between Germany and the Czech Republic.
Between the Central German Uplands and the Alpine Foreland and the Alps lies the geographical region of Southern Germany, which includes most of Baden-Württemberg, much of northern Bavaria, and portions of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. The Main River runs through the northern portion of this region. The Upper Rhine River Valley, nearly 300 kilometers long and about fifty kilometers wide, serves as its western boundary. The Rhine's wide river valley here is in sharp contrast to its high narrow valley in the Rheinish Uplands. The southern boundaries of the region of Southern Germany are formed by extensions of the Jura Mountains of France and Switzerland. These ranges are separate from those of the Central German Uplands. One of these Jura ranges forms the Black Forest, whose highest peak is the Feldberg at 1,493 meters, and, continuing north, the less elevated Odenwald and Spessart hills. Another Jura range forms the Swabian Alb (see Glossary) and its continuation, the Franconian Alb. Up to 1,000 meters in height and approximately forty kilometers wide, the two albs form a long arc--400 kilometers long--from the southern end of the Black Forest to near Bayreuth and the hills of the Frankenwald region, which is part of the Central German Uplands. The Hardt Mountains in Rhineland-Palatinate, located to the west of the Rhine, are also an offshoot of the Jura Mountains.
The landscape of the Southern Germany region is often that of scarp and vale, with the eroded sandstone and limestone scarps facing to the northwest. The lowland terraces of the Rhine, Main, and Neckar river valleys, with their dry and warm climate, are suitable for agriculture and are highly productive. The loess and loam soils of the Rhine-Main Plain are cultivated extensively, and orchards and vineyards flourish. The Rhine-Main Plain is densely populated, and Frankfurt am Main, at its center, serves both as Germany's financial capital and as a major European transportation hub.
Data as of August 1995
Germany Table of Contents