Lower Saxony

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Lower Saxony (German: Niedersachsen [ˈniːdɐzaksən]) lies in north-western Germany and is second in area and fourth in population among the sixteen states of Germany. In rural areas Northern Low Saxon, a dialect of Low German, is still spoken, but the number of speakers is declining.

Lower Saxony borders on (from north and clockwise) the North Sea, the states of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In total, Lower Saxony borders more neighboring states than any other federal state. The state of Bremen forms two enclaves within Lower Saxony, one being the city of Bremen, the other its seaport city of Bremerhaven. The state's principal cities include Hanover, Braunschweig, Lüneburg, Osnabrück, Oldenburg, and Göttingen.

The northwestern portion of Lower Saxony is a part of Frisia; it is called Ostfriesland (East Frisia) and lies on the coast of the North Sea. It includes seven islands, known as the East Frisian Islands. In the extreme west of Lower Saxony is the Emsland, a traditionally poor and sparsely populated area, once dominated by inaccessible swamps. The northern half of Lower Saxony, also known as the North German Plains, is almost invariably flat except for the gentle hills around the Bremen geestland. Towards the south and southwest lie the northern parts of the German Central Highlands, the Weserbergland (Weser mountain range) and the Harz mountains. Between these two lies the Lower Saxon Hill Country, a range of minor elevations.

Lower Saxony's major cities and economic centres are mainly situated in its central and southern parts, namely Hanover, Braunschweig, Osnabrück, Wolfsburg, Salzgitter, Hildesheim and Göttingen. Oldenburg, near the northwestern coastline, is another economic center. The region in the northeast is called Lüneburger Heide (Lüneburg Heath), the largest heathland area of Germany and in medieval times wealthy due to salt mining and salt trade, as well as to a lesser degree the exploitation of its peat bogs up until about the 1960s. To the north, the Elbe river separates Lower Saxony from Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. The banks just south of the Elbe are known as Altes Land (Old Country). Due to its gentle local climate and fertile soil it is the state's largest area of fruit farming, its chief produce being apples.

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