Germany's physical characteristics include mountains, lowlands, woodlands, rivers, islands and lakes. Germany's terrain starts at sea level in the north, gradually rising until it turns into mountains in the south.
Marshes characterize Germany's northern border, which butts up against the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Because the marshes are below sea level, the Germans built dikes to control flooding in the coastal areas. However, the coast rises at the Baltic Sea into cliffs. The marshy terrain moves into lowlands and the fertile, agriculturally rich center of the country. Rivers flow over these lowlands, part of the North European Plain. The plain continues into both Poland and the Netherlands.
In the south, the land rises into the Bavarian Alps. The highest peak, Zugspitze, sits at 10,000 feet above sea level. Several smaller mountain ranges move through central Germany along with woodlands and the Thuringian Forest. The Ore Mountains border Germany on the south, separating it from the Czech Republic. Germany boasts many lakes, the largest of which is Lake Constance, lying on the German/Swiss border. There are also several glacial lakes in the plains of Berlin, such as Muritz Lake. Some of the major rivers are the Rhine and Danube. The Rhine river flows through Germany to the North Sea.