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Germany

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Temperate and marine; cool, cloudy, wet winters and summers; occasional warm föhn wind. The greater part of Germany lies in the cool/temperate climatic zone in which humid westerly winds predominate. In the north-west and the north the climate is extremely oceanic and rain falls all the year round. Winters there are relatively mild and summers comparatively cool. In the east the climate shows clear continental features; winters can be very cold for long periods, and summers can become very warm. Here too, long dry periods are often recorded. In the centre and the south there is a transitional climate which may be predominantly oceanic or continental, according to the general weather situation.

The northern third of the country lies in the North European Plain, with flat terrain crossed by northward-flowing watercourses (Elbe, Ems, Weser, Oder). Wetlands and marshy conditions are found close to the Dutch border and along the Frisian coast. Sandy Mecklenburg in the northeast has many glacier-formed lakes dating to the last ice age.

Moving south, central Germany features rough and somewhat unpatterned hilly and mountainous countryside, some of it formed by ancient volcanic activity. The Rhine valley cuts through the western part of this region. The central uplands continue east and north as far as the Saale and merge with the Ore Mountains on the border with the Czech Republic. Upland regions include the Eifel and Hunsrück west of the Rhine, the Taunus hills north of Frankfurt, the Vogelsberg massif, the Rhön, and the Thüringer Wald. South of Berlin, the east-central part of the country is more like the low northern areas, with sandy soil and river wetlands such as the Spreewald region.

Southern Germany's landforms are defind by various linear hill and mountain ranges. The Alps on the southern border are the largest, but relatively little Alpine terrain lies within Germany compared with Switzerland and Austria. The Black Forest, on the southwestern border with France, separates the Rhine from the headwaters of the Danube on its eastern slopes. The Danube cuts across central Bavaria, relatively flat land, before curving to the southeast around the southern tip of the Bavarian Forest -- another range on the border between Bavaria and the Czech Republic.

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Germany is a very safe country and the law is strictly enforced. There are no ghettos but certain city areas should be visited with care or avoided by women traveling alone. Recent statistics show a significant drop in major crimes like murder or robbery. Pickpockets can be a problem in large cities or at events with large crowds. Big cities also have their share of beggars and punks, but they are not dangerous. Germany has one of the world's best social systems, at least keeping its inhabitants alive, so those asking for money may be "professional beggars" who want to improve their standard of living. It is not illegal to give money to them (by doing so you might even lower the crime rate ...), but keep in mind that they do not really need it.