Rivers have played a major role in Germany’s economic development. The Rhine River flows in a northwesterly direction from Switzerland through much of western Germany and the Netherlands into the North Sea. It is a major European waterway and a pillar of commerce and trade. Its primary German tributaries include the Main, Mosel, Neckar, and Ruhr rivers.
The Oder (Odra) River, along the border between Poland and Germany, runs northward and empties into the Baltic; it provides another important path for waterborne freight.
The Elbe River originates in the Czech mountains and traverses eastern and western Germany toward the northwest until it empties into the North Sea at the large seaport of Hamburg. The Danube River connects southern Germany with Austria and Eastern Europe. Since the recent construction of the Rhine-Danube Canal, freight can be transported by barge from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Smaller rivers such as the Neisse and Weser also play a significant role as transport routes. There are several large lakes, including the Lake of Constance (Bodensee) in extreme southwest Germany and the glacial moraine lakes of Bavaria, but none of them have rivaled the importance of rivers in German economic development. Germany’s coastline along the North Sea is characterized by vast stretches of tidal flats and several important seaports, including Hamburg, Bremerhaven, and Emden.
Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s northernmost state, is traversed by the vital Kiel Canal, which carries freight between the Baltic and North seas, eliminating the need for a shipping route around Denmark. Major seaports of the German Baltic coast include Kiel and Rostock. The coastline also features recreation areas, some on small islands off both coasts. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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