Lower Saxony lies in north-western Germany and is the country's second largest federal state. It is named after a historical province that emerged during the Middle Ages; its capital is Hanover.
Much of northern Lower Saxony is a vast lowland of heath and bog, part of the North German Plain. It includes the Lüneburg Heath - an expanse of heather, bracken, pine, bog and fields interspersed with small towns and villages - that gained its wealth, historically, from the salt trade centred on Lüneburg, but was also the site of the surrender of North Germany at the end of the Second World War. Today, much of the area is a nature park, but retains its military connexions, being home to the largest military training area in Europe. To the northwest were once great marshes by the North Sea, but these have largely been reclaimed and are famous for cattle and horse rearing. Off the North Sea coast is a string of islands, popular with holidaymakers, known as the East Frisians.
In the south are some of the most fertile plains in Europe: the Börde around Hanover and the north Harz Foreland. Away to the southwest the Weser Uplands form a series of knife-edge ridges, and whaleback hills sliced by the River Weser. And in the far southeast, the Harz has Lower Saxony's only mountains. Formerly the greatest silver mining area in Europe, the area is now a popular tourist destination.
The River Elbe
marks Lower Saxony's eastern boundary, once part of the Inner German border
where West faced East across the Iron Curtain