Minggu, 03 Februari 2013

Seoul has an unusual amalgam of both traditional attractions and modern locations crowded into the city. It’s best to plan your visit around an area, head there via subway, and then explore the neighborhood on foot.
Note: Street names aren’t widely used in Seoul (or most of South Korea for that matter). Some major streets may have street signs, but in general streets (and especially smaller alleyways) have no mark. More commonly, people will always give you directions starting from a famous landmark or a store in the area. When traveling by taxi, it’s best to know the gu (district) and the dong (ward) where you’re headed.
Because this city has been the capital of Korea for centuries, it’s natural that the city would have the country’s most elaborate palaces and historic buildings. An important part of Korea’s intricate history, these palaces tell stories of fallen kings and centuries old dynasties, and hold more mysteries within their walls than we can ever know.
Changdeokgung    (창덕)
This palace was built in 1405, the fifth year of the reign of Joseon King Taejong, as a separate palace adjacent to the main one, Gyeongbokgung. Located to its east, it is also known as Donggwol (the east palace), while the Gyeongbok-gung is the north palace. Changdeokgung was also burned down the same time the main palace was in 1592, during the Japanese invasion. Reconstructed in 1609 to 1611, it served as the seat of royal power for 300 years until Gyeongbokgung was rebuilt at the end of the Joseon Dynasty. Left in disrepair afterward, the palace was renovated in 1907 and used again by King Sunjong, the country’s last king. Although he lost his crown in 1910, Sunjong continued to live here until his death in 1926. His widow, Queen Yun, kept the palace as her home until she died in 1966. The last royal prince died here in 1970 and the last royal family member lived in the palace until her death in 1989.
The palace grounds are divided into administrative quarters, residential quarters, and the rear garden. The existing administrative section includes Donghwamun (the front gate and the oldest existing palace structure), Injeongjeon (the throne hall), and Seon-jeongjeon (the administrative hall). The residential area includes Huijeondang (the king’s bed chamber), the Daejojeon (the queen’s bed chamber), the royal kitchen, the infirmary, and other annex buildings.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, Changdeokgung’s rear garden has remained a resting area for the royals since the time of King Taejong. Sometimes called Huwon, Bukwon, and Geumwon, it was named Biwon   (or “Secret Garden”) by King Kojong and it has kept this name since. Some of the trees in the garden are now over 300 years old and represent the height of Korean garden design and landscaping techniques.
Changgyeonggung (창경)
Located east of Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung was a summer palace. Built in 1104 and called Sunganggung, the palace was given its present name in the 1390s, when the first Joseon King lived here while waiting for Gyeongbok-gung to be built. Destroyed in 1592, it was reconstructed in 1616, with the majority of the buildings rebuilt in the 1830s after a terrible fire. During the Japanese occupation, a modern red building was built in the grounds and it was turned into a zoo and botanical gardens. The zoo was removed, though the botanical garden remains, and the palace was completely restored from 1983 to 1986.
Unlike the other palaces in the city (which all have north-south orientations), Chang-gyeonggung has an east-west orientation, as was customary during the Goryeo Dynasty.
The houses face south, but the office of the king, the Myeongjeongjeon, faces east. Because the ancestral shrines of the royal family are located in the south, the gate couldn’t face south, according to Confucian customs. The largest building in the complex is Tongmyeongjeon, which was built as the queen’s quarters. The pond, Chundangji, located in the north of the complex, was constructed during the Japanese occupation before that, much of the land now underwater had been a rice field that the king tended.
Deoksugung  ()
The smallest of the city’s palaces, Deoksugung is located at the corner of one of downtown Seoul’s busiest intersections. It is known for its stone wall and the walk along its outside. Deoksugung (“Palace of Virtuous Longevity”) originally belonged to Wolsandaegun, the older brother of Joseon Dynasty King Seongjong, but later became a proper palace when Gwanghaegun (Prince Gwanghae) took the throne in 1608. The east wing was for the king and the west wing was reserved for the queen. In 1900, Jeonggwanheon was the first Western-influenced building to be added to the 9 palace grounds. The red-and-grey brick structure features massive columns, ornate balconies, and a green tile roof. King Gojong, who reigned from 1863 to 1907, enjoyed having coffee and spending his free time there. The back of the building had a secret passageway, which still exists, to the Russian Emissary. The other Western-style building is Seokjojeon, which was designed by a British firm in 1905, when the Japanese occupied Korea. It was completed in 1910 and became a Japanese art gallery after King Gojong’s death in 1919. After Korean independence from Japan, a joint commission of Americans and Russians held meetings there in 1946 in an attempt to reunite North and South Korea. The east wing of Seokjojeon now serves as a gallery for Palace Treasure exhibitions, and the west wing is part of the National Modern Arts Center.
Gyeongbokgung  ()
Of the five grand palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty, this was the largest and most important one. Two years after King Taejo took power in 1394, he ordered the construction of this palace. It is said to have had 500 buildings when it was first built and it served as the home of Joseon kings for the next 200 years.
During the Japanese Invasion (1592–98), the palace was burned, not by the invaders, but by disgruntled palace workers who wanted to destroy records of their employment as servants. The palace was later restored in 1865 under the leadership of Heungseon Daewongun during the reign of King Gojong. Using the original foundation stones, over 300 structures were completed by 1872, but at a great cost to the Korean people. Sadly, King Gojong used the palace for only 23 years after its reconstruction—he fled to Russia when his wife, Queen Min (p. 99), was murdered on the palace grounds. A year later the king moved into Deoksugung.
During the Japanese colonial period, all but 10 structures were demolished and only a fraction of its structures remain, including Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (which is on the +10,000 note), Geunjeongjeon (the imperial throne room), and Hyangwonjeong Pond.
The National Palace Museum is located south of the Heungnyemun (gate), and the National Folk Museum   is located on the east side, within Hyangwonjeong. Entry to the palace includes admission to the museums as well. The National Folk Museum is well worth a visit, especially if you want an insight into Korean culture and the daily lives of Koreans throughout the country’s long and turbulent history. I especially liked explor-ng the complex of dioramas, pagodas, and model homes on display in the museum’s outdoor court. The museum itself is made up of three interconnected buildings—there are maps available to help you explore.
The National Palace Museum was created in 1992 and is filled with relics collected from archaeological digs at Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Jongmyo. Focusing on the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), it’s the perfect place to learn about Confucianism (once Korea’s main religion) and ancestral rites that were passed on through the royal line. The displays give insight into the lives of Joseon royalty and palace architecture as well.
Gyeonghuigung    (경희)
Constructed in 1616, this was the fifth palace built in the city and one of the best royal grounds for a nice stroll the name means “Palace of the Shining Bliss.” The palace was designed following the slant of the surrounding hillside and an arched bridge used to connect it to Deoksugung (which is now across the street). The complex used to house over 100 buildings, but most of them were destroyed and the site was reduced by half when the Japanese built Gyeongseong Middle School during the colonization period. A major restoration project was started in 1988 and the palace was reopened to the public in 2002.
The Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Seoul Historical Museum now occupy parts of the original site. The Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art has both permanent collections and temporary exhibits of contemporary South Korean artists, including painters, potters, sculptors, and photographers. The Seoul Historical Museum exhibits artifacts and documents chronicling the history of Seoul from the Stone Age to today. Opened in 2002, the majority of its collection is from the Joseon Dynasty, but other exhibits display the landscape of the city, lifestyles of Seoul’s citizens, its culture, and its development as a metropolis.
Unhyeongung  (운현)
The childhood home of King Gojong (26th king of the Joseon Dynasty), Unhyeongung is smaller and architecturally different from other palaces. It is a representative home for noblemen during that period. Under the orders of the Queen Mother Jo, the small residence was renovated into a palace with four gates. Gojong’s father and regent, Heungseon Daewongun, continued to live at the palace even after his son became king. Like the other palaces in the city, Unhyeongung was damaged during the Japanese colonization period and the Korean War, so it is a much smaller version of its former glorious self. The small row of rooms on the right (when you first enter) is the Sujiksa, the quarters for the servants and guards. A bit to the left is the Norakdang hall, used for welcoming guests and for holding important events such as birthday parties and wedding ceremonies. In fact, a re-creation of the 1866 wedding of King Gojong and Queen Myeongseong is held here Saturdays from late April to late October from 1 to 3pm. Korean classical music and performances are held on Sundays from April to October at 4pm. Entrance to the palace is free starting from 1 hour before performances are held.

from: Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee-Frommer Korea Selatan 2

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Sabtu, 22 Desember 2012

Because of its volcanic history, Jeju-do has some fascinating basalt rock formations, lovely beaches, stunning waterfalls, and other natural phenomena to explore.

Bijarim Forest 
Designated a natural monument, this pine forest has about 2,800 trees, ranging from 500 to 800 years old. This is the largest bija namu (torreya tree) forest in the world. The oldest tree of all of these beauties can be found in the middle of the forest. Looming over 25m (82 ft.) tall with a girth of about 6m (20 ft.), it is called the ancestor of all the bija trees. There is a nice path provided for a leisurely walk through the forest.

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall   
Not to be confused with the Cheonjeyeon waterfall in the Jungmun Resort, the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall is located in a narrow valley in the coastal hills near Seogwipo Port. Its name means “where the sky (cheon) meets the land (ji).” Especially nice in the evening (when they light the water), the path to the waterfall is through a lush garden of subtropical plants. The pond into which the water falls is home to migrating ducks and the Korean marbled eel, one of many national treasures.
Jeongbang Waterfall   
One of the three most famous falls on Jeju-do, the Jeongbang Waterfall is said to be the only one in Asia in which the water falls into the ocean. The water falling from 23m (75 ft.) is a dramatic sight to behold. Be sure to wear shoes with good traction since the only way down is a set of steel steps and the rocks get slippery from the water. If you walk about 300m (984 ft.) east, you’ll see a smaller fall, the Sojeongbang Waterfall, a cool place to beat the summer heat.

Jusangjeolli Cliffs 
Thousands of years ago, when Hallasan was an active volcano, the lava flowing down to the ocean created the Jusangjeolli Cliffs, off the Jungmun Daepo Coast. The rocks that make up these cliffs have been sculpted by the elements into a series of hexagonal and cubic pillars. The rock formations look like they’ve been hardcarved, though they are solely the work of Mother Nature.

Manjang-gul (Manjang Cave)   
The world’s largest lava cave, Manjang-gul was created centuries ago, back when Hallasan was still an active volcano. Only the first kilometer (half mile) of the 13km (8-mile) cave is open to the public, but that’s enough to give you a good glimpse of its impressive rock formations and stalactites. The inside temperature is always cool no matter how hot it is outside. Although the cave is well lit, watch your step because the humidity makes the rocks slippery.

Sanbang-gulsa (Sanbang Grotto)  
Local legend has it that the top of Mt. Halla was taken off and thrown away, and that piece became Mt. Sanbang. On the southwestern side of Sanbangsan is Sanbang-gul, which used to be called Sanbang Cave, but now is called a grotto since it houses a Buddha statue. This 5m-high (16-ft.) cave is where monk Hye-Il lived during the Goryeo Dynasty. From inside the cave, you can see Marado (Mara Island) and Yongmeoli Haebyeon (Dragon Head Beach)  , where Sanbangsan stretches into the ocean and looks as if a dragon’s head is going underwater. The entrance fee includes both Sanbang-gulsa and Yongmeoli Haebyeon.

Sangumburi Crater 
One of three major craters on the island, Sangumburi crater was, like the rest, a result of volcanic activity. But unlike Hallasan, this one exploded quickly, spewed relatively little lava, and left barely a trace of cone behind. In other words, if you want to see an extinct volcano, but don’t feel like climbing, this is the one to visit. There is a well-paved path from the parking lot to the crater’s rim. You can walk around part of the rim, but the rest of it and the crater itself are off-limits. Around the grounds are several traditional Jeju-style grave sites as well. Unfortunately, none of the buses from Seogwipo stops here, so you’ll have to take a taxi.

Sarabong (Sara Peak)   
This mountain rises above nearby Jeju port with a lighthouse that sits on the shore at its foot. A small temple Sarasa is also nestled on its hillside. You’ll find the area dotted with young couples coming to watch the romantic sunset over the ocean. But the show doesn’t end when the sun goes down; stay a bit longer to watch the lights go up on Tap-dong and the lights of the fishing boats dotting the nearby waters. On the southeastern (inland) side of the mountain is the shrine Mochungsa, built in commemoration of those who fought against the Japanese occupation of Korea during the early part of the last century.

Seongsan Ilchulbong (“Sunrise Peak”)   
This parasitic volcano rose from the sea about 100,000 years ago. The southeastern and northern side of the crater are cliffs, but the northwestern side is a grassy hillside that connects to Seongsanpo (Seongsan Village). The ridge is good for a nice walk or a horseback ride. Bright yellow with rapeseed flowers in the springtime, it’s worth an early-morning climb to see the spectacular sunrise from the peak.

From: Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee-Frommer's South Korea 2nd

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Senin, 12 November 2012

Germany has an area of 137,847 square miles (357,021 square kilometers).  It  stretches  about  520 miles  (840  kilometers) north  to  south,  reaching  from 47  to 55 degrees north  latitude, and 385 miles (620 kilometers) east to west, between 6 and 15 degrees east longitude. The terrain can be divided into three regions that  increase  in  elevation  from  north  to  south.  Each  is  unique  in terms of natural resources and human activities.

Germany has 1,485 miles (2,389 kilometers) of coastline facing the North Sea to the west and Baltic Sea to the east. A break in the coast is created by  the Jutland Peninsula, which predominantly belongs  to Denmark (although the southern half of the peninsula is occupied by the German state of Schleswig-Holstein). The two seas are connected south of the peninsula by the Kiel Canal. Germany has a 12-mile territorial water  limit  and  a  200-mile  exclusive  economic  zone, which represent a mutually agreed upon international standard. Because of the shape of the coastline and the proximity to other countries, however, the actual area claimed is quite small.
The coastline  is generally  low  lying with sandy beaches and marshlands. In the summer, the beaches of both the North and Baltic seas are popular holiday destinations. Shrimp and mussels abound in the mudflats and tidal waters along parts of the coast.
In  some  areas,  marshes  have  been  reclaimed,  similar  to the polder  lands of  the Netherlands. These  areas provide  rich pastureland and a landscape of dairy farms and fields of vegetables. Other low coastal areas contain peat bogs. Peat is primarily made up of moss, which can be spread on lawns and gardens to improve growth, or dried and burned as a fuel. Where peat has been removed, a landscape of shallow ponds is created

South of the Baltic and North sea coastlines  is the  low, gently rolling North German Plain. This almost featureless landscape is part of the huge North European Plain, which extends westward  to  the  Pyrenees  Mountains,  through  the  Netherlands, Belgium,  and  France,  and  eastward  through  Poland, Belarus, and Russia to the Ural Mountains.
Five northward-flowing  rivers  cross  the  plain.  From west to  east,  they  are  the Rhine, Ems, Weser, Elbe,  and Oder. The Rhine is the largest of these rivers. Beginning in Switzerland, it flows through Germany and into the Netherlands, reaching the North Sea at Rotterdam, the world’s busiest seaport. The Ems, a shorter river, reaches the North Sea at Emden. Germany’s largest  fishing port, Bremerhaven,  is  located  at  the mouth of  the Weser. The  larger  city of Bremen  is  farther downstream. The city of Hamburg, with a population of 2 million, is a port near the mouth  of  the  Elbe River. The Oder  forms  the  boundary between Germany and Poland and empties into the Baltic Sea. The mouth of the river is in Poland.
Regions near the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea experience a maritime climate. Winds blowing from the west, having passed  over warm water,  have  a moderating  effect.  Summers average 61°F (16°C) and winter snow lasts for only short periods. Unpleasant weather can occur when winter storms move in  from  the  east,  often  causing  freezing  rain.  This  happens when  cold  air masses  from Siberia  expand  southward during wintertime  and  clash  with moist Atlantic  air  over Germany. Moving  away  from  the North  Sea  to  the  south  and  east,  the climate  becomes  less  maritime  and  more  continental,  with warmer summers and colder winters. The Rhine River usually remains largely ice-free, but the Elbe River often freezes in winter. Most of the lowland area receives between 20 and 30 inches (50 and 75 centimeters) of precipitation per year.
Continental  glaciation,  the  advance  of  huge  ice  masses during  the  ice  age,  has  left  deposits  of  clay,  gravel,  and  sand across  the plain, which  accounts  for  the  soil’s  limited  fertility. The natural vegetation across  the North German Plain would be deciduous  forest; however, most of this woodland has been removed to clear  land for farming during the past 1,000 years. Going  back  into  time,  large  areas  of  Europe were  covered  by dense  forest. One  could  enter  the  forest  in Portugal  and walk through dense  stands of  trees all  the way  to Germany and on into Russia without  ever  leaving  it, but  that  is no  longer possible. Nowadays, here, as throughout the remainder of Germany, most woodlands  are  in  areas  that  are protected or marked by rugged  terrain. The modern  landscape  is  one  of  pasturelands and  grain  crops.  Barley  is  grown  along  the  Baltic Coast,  oats near the North Sea, and rye farther inland. Potatoes are another traditional crop. However, due to modern agricultural methods, the widespread use of chemical fertilizers, and improved hybrid strains  that  mature  during  a  shorter  growing  season,  many farmers have changed to corn, which is a more valuable crop.
Grains are grown to feed animals, and herds of sheep or cattle have traditionally grazed among the fields of this landscape. Livestock herding can only be done, however, where the quality of the soil provides sufficient grass and grains upon which the stock can feed. Today, most chickens, pigs, and cattle are raised in  large barns and provided with grain  to eat. They do not go outside to graze. This means that there is no longer a close link between agriculture and soil quality, and farm animals are  less often seen when traveling in the countryside.
When the glaciers retreated around 10,000 years ago, they left  gravel  ridges,  called moraines, which  spread  east  to west across  the  plain.  Examination  of  the main  rivers  on  a map reveals  that although  they generally run south  to north, most turn  sharply  to  either  the  east  or west  as  they  pass  through the valleys between the moraines. Today, these portions of the rivers are connected by  the Mittelland Canal, which runs east to west  across  the North German  Plain.  The  cities  of  Essen, Hanover,  and Berlin  are  on  the  canal. The  sedimentary  rock beneath  the North German Plain holds some natural gas and oil deposits. These are found north of the Mittelland Canal and contribute to Germany’s petrochemical industry.
Along the southern margin of the plain,  loess (windblown silt)  deposits  create  extremely  fertile  soils  that  support  sugar beets,  wheat,  and  corn.  About  a  third  of  Germany’s  land  is suitable  for  raising  crops  and  another  15  percent  is meadow or  pastureland.  The  cities  of  Cologne,  Düsseldorf,  Essen, Hanover,  Leipzig,  and Dresden  dot  the  southern  edge  of  the North German Plain. These  cities provide  access  to  both  the best agricultural  land of  the plain and  the  forest and mineral resources of  the uplands  to  the  south. All of  these cities have populations between 500,000 and one million people, making the  landscape  different  from  either  France  or  Poland, where only one city—Paris and Warsaw, respectively—dominates the urban structure. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers are grown close to these urban markets.
Beneath  the  southern edge of  the North German Plain, a broad east-west band of coal crosses the country. In the west, it is the black, high-quality bituminous variety that can be used to  produce  coke  for  the  production  of  steel.  The  industrial city of Essen, on  the Ruhr River, developed on  this  coalfield. In the east, the coal is the lower grade known as brown lignite. Lignite  is not suitable  for steel production but can be used to provide energy  for  factories and electricity generation. Potash is the other main mineral  found on the North German Plain, particularly near the city of Hanover.
The  largest  city on  the North German Plain has no  rela-tionship  to  the  physical  features  or  natural  resources  of  the area.  Berlin  is  the  seventh-largest  city  in  Europe.  It  is  an artificial  product  of  the  central  governments  of  Prussia  and Germany. The city was established as the capital because of its central location at a time when Germany extended farther east than it does today.

South of  the North German Plain,  the  land becomes  increasingly  rugged  due  to  the  geological  process  of  faulting.  This creates  steep-sided,  flat-topped  hills  that  because  of  erosion have become rounded in appearance. The highest elevations in this zone are found in the Black Forest, in the southwest corner of Germany,  just east of the Upper Rhine, where the hills rise to  4,898  feet  (1,493 meters).  The  Bohemian  Forest  and Ore Mountains on the border with the Czech Republic reach 2,536 feet  (773 meters),  and  the Harz Mountains, which  form  the boundary with  the North German  Plain,  to  the  southeast  of Hanover, reach 3,747 feet (1,142 meters).
The Rhine, Weser, and Elbe rivers flow through the valleys between  these  hills,  sometimes  in  steep-sided  gorges.  South of Bonn,  the Rhine Gorge  is a popular  tourist attraction. The Rhine Valley in the southwest is the warmest part of Germany. The mean summer temperature is 66°F (19°C) and the average January temperature is just above freezing. The Black Forest to the east and the Vosges Mountains in France, to the west, create a  sheltered  environment.  The  valley  sides  are  used  for  vineyards. Early Christian monks from Italy introduced grapes into the Rhine Valley for the production of wine. Vineyards are also found  along  the Moselle,  Saar, Main,  and Neckar  rivers. The valley  floors have  rich alluvial  soils. Wheat, corn,  sugar beets, tobacco, hops, fruits, and specialty vegetables such as asparagus are grown here.
The Central Uplands are not high enough  to be a climate barrier;  however,  rainfall  increases  with  elevation—reaching up to 59 inches (150 centimeters)—and temperatures decline. There is abundant snowfall in the winter, continuing well into March. By 1800,  the  rivers provided waterpower  for  industry and  today  the Central Uplands provide water  for  the cities of the North German Plain.
Much  of  the  Central  Uplands  region  is  forested.  River valleys have alder, willow, and poplar where it is wet, and oak, ash, and elm  in drier  locations. Maple, chestnut, and walnut trees are also found in some areas. In the nineteenth century, the  forests were  cut  to  provide  charcoal  for  the  smelting  of local  iron ores  into metal  goods. The discovery of  coal  as  a power  source moved  this  industry  to  the  nearby  Ruhr Valley  (Essen)  in  the  west,  and  Chemnitz  and Dresden  in  the east. Many areas have now been reforested. The Black Forest and the Jura Mountains are popular tourist destinations, and there  are  numerous  national  and  state  parks,  where  Germans can enjoy their favorite pastime of hiking. The Central Uplands also have small deposits of zinc,  lead, silver, copper, and uranium. Most of the mines have closed because they are no longer profitable.
Farther  south,  the  land  is a  series of plateaus crossed by  the Main and Neckar rivers, both of which flow into the Rhine. The main city on the Neckar River is Stuttgart, while Frankfurt is on the Main River and Nuremberg (Nürnberg) is on the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. The Danube River forms the southern boundary of this area. It flows eastward from the Black Forest across southern Germany and into Austria, eventually reaching the Black Sea. A canal has been built to connect the Danube to the Main.

The  Bavarian,  or German, Alps  occupy  the  extreme  southern part of Germany. These mountains are a northern extension of the Alpine  system  that  extends  across  portions  of Austria  and Switzerland,  as well  as  into northern  Italy  and  eastern  France. The  Alps  are  high,  folded  mountains  similar  to  the  Rocky Mountains of the United States. Their spectacular terrain is the result of alpine, or mountain, glaciation that scoured a variety of  jagged features. The highest elevation in Germany is Zugspitze, at 9,721 feet (2,963 meters). The Alpine foreland, or foothills, slopes down  to  the  south  bank  of  the  Danube.  The  city  of Munich, (München) with a population of more than one million, is located at the northern end of a pass through the Alps. Precipitation in the Alps can reach 78 inches (198 centimeters) annually, and the rivers of the Alps provide sites for the generation of hydroelectricity.
About  31  percent  of Germany  is  forested. Approximately 45 percent of this forest consists of pine and about 40 percent is beech. Pine is found at higher elevations and on poorer soils. Beech  grows  in well-drained  areas with  a  temperate  climate. Areas  that  have  been  replanted  with  spruce  now  make  up 20 percent  of  the  productive  forest  of  Germany.  Spruce  will grow in colder temperatures and are found on the higher elevations of the Alpine region.
Germany  supports  an  abundance  of  wildlife.  Deer  are found  in  the  forests,  as  are martens  (large weasels), wildcats, and,  in remote areas, wolves. Beaver  live along  the Elbe River, and wild boars are  found  in  the north. Because of  its  central location, a wide variety of birds also are found, including those common to both western and eastern Europe. Laws to protect plants and animals have been passed.

Extensive  industrialization  has  contributed  to  significant  air and water pollution in Germany. The burning of brown lignite coal emits  sulfur and other chemicals  into  the air. These pol-lutants combine with water vapor in the air to form acid compounds, and when it rains, it is as if vinegar were being poured onto  the  land. Trees  are  killed  by  this  acid  rain,  and when  it accumulates  in  lakes,  fish and other animals die. The government has undertaken efforts to control and reduce emissions in western Germany and has closed heavily polluting factories in the former East Germany.
Germany’s rivers have been used for the disposal of industrial and municipal wastes and are also polluted by  the heavy volume of  shipping. Water of  the Rhine River  is  so  contaminated that swimming  is prohibited. Although the government has now  imposed  strict  regulations,  considerable damage has already been done to the aquatic life. The cleanup is very expensive, and  it  takes a  long  time  to eliminate contaminants  from the  environment.  Large  volumes  of water  are  extracted  from rivers to be used for cooling, particularly by steel mills, nuclear power plants, and other  industries. Water used as a coolant  is returned  to  the  rivers  at  a  higher  temperature,  endangering aquatic life by what is called heat pollution.
          The  Baltic  Sea  poses  a  special  environmental  problem, because it is almost landlocked. Being nearly enclosed by land, its water is not flushed clean on a regular basis. There are more than  a dozen  countries  that dump pollutants  into  rivers  that flow  into  the  Baltic  Sea.  Germany  has  tried  to  clean  up  the industrial  and municipal  waste  dumped  into  the  sea  by  the former  East Germany,  but  it  needs  the  cooperation  of  other countries  if the Baltic  is to be rejuvenated. Residue from agri-cultural chemicals that flow  into the Baltic are now the major source of pollution.
Open pit mining, particularly of  lignite coal, damages  the landscape  and  releases  toxic  chemicals  into  the  surface  and groundwater. After 1990, about one-third of the mines in East Germany were closed because of environmental concerns. This is a problem of considerable significance also found in the coal mining areas of  the United States. Nuclear power plants provide  some of Germany’s  electricity needs. Two plants  in East Germany were closed  in 1990 due  to  fears  that  they were not safe because of maintenance issues.
As was mentioned, one of the serious environmental issues confronting Germans is acid rain, which has devastated forests throughout much  of  central  and  northern  Europe.  Pollution and  its  causes  do  not  recognize  international  boundaries. Because winds in the region primarily blow from the west, air masses filled with damaging particles travel eastward from the huge  industrial  centers  of  western  Europe.  Once  they  reach central Europe, they release acid rain that destroys vegetation. Germany,  then,  is both a cause and a victim of acid  rain and its devastating effects. Faced with this and other critical issues, countries  of  the  European Union  are  increasingly  improving their  environmental  standards.  Thus, Germany  is  one  of  the leading supporters for the reduction of greenhouse gasses and industrial pollution, which is enormously significant considering the country is Europe’s industrial leader.
Germany  is  relatively  free  of  devastating  environmental hazards. A country’s geographic  location often contributes  to its  potential  harmony with  or  threats  from  the  natural  environment. The biggest problem in terms of financial damage is flooding. Rivers often spill over onto their surrounding flood plains  causing  considerable  damage.  Floods  in  Germany  are mostly  the combination of  two  factors:  seasonal  snowmelt  in the Alps and heavy  rains  that  sometimes occur  in  the  region. They  create  conditions  to  which  northern  Germany’s  low lands  are particularly  vulnerable. Cities  are  located  along  the riverbanks, and often spread out barely above  the water  level, thereby exposing  them  to rising water. The Rhine, which cuts through  a  hilly  area  of western Germany,  often  floods  cities that are located on a narrow floodplain between the river and hill slopes.

From: William R. Horne - Germany, Second Edition

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