Ships enter the Kiel Canal at the mouth of the mighty Elbe River, on whose south bank sits the resort town of Cuxhaven. The Kugelbake there is a famous 30-meter-tall (100-foot-tall) wooden navigational tower that looks like a quirky sculpture. The ecologically vital tidal mudflats of the Wadden Sea National Park start here too. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009, the 4,400-square-kilometer (1,700-square-mile) protected area is home to 3,200 animal species, including sunbathing seals.

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