Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) with its capital Hannover is a federal state in Northwestern Germany. It’s 2nd in area, 4th in population among the 16 Länder. Lower Saxony’s major cities are Hannover, Braunschweig, Osnabrück, Wolfsburg, Salzgitter, Hildesheim, Göttingen, and Oldenburg, near the northwestern coastline. The region in the northeast is called the Lüneburg Heath (Lüneburger Heide), the largest heathland area of Germany and in medieval times wealthy due to salt mining and salt trade. To the north, the Elbe river separates the state 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. Most of the state’s territory was part of the historic Kingdom of Hanover; the state has adopted the coat of arms and other symbols of the former kingdom. It was created by the merger of the State of Hanover with several smaller states in 1946.