Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the 16 German states. Its capital is Kiel; other larger cities include Lübeck and Flensburg. Historically, the name can also refer to a larger region, containing both present-day Schleswig-Holstein and the former South Jutland County in Denmark. Lübeck was the center of the Hanse, and its city center is a World Heritage Site today. Thomas Mann was born here. The Duchy of Schleswig/Southern Jutland was originally an integral part of Denmark, but was in medieval times established as a fief under the Kingdom of Denmark, with the same relation to the Danish Crown as, for example, Brandenburg or Bavaria vis-à-vis the Holy Roman Empire.
In the western parts, there are lowlands with virtually no hills. The North Frisian Islands, as well as most of the North Sea coast, form the Nationalpark Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea Nationa Park), which is the largest national park in Central Europe. Germany’s only high-sea island, Helgoland, is situated in the North Sea. The Baltic Sea coast to the east is marked by bays, fjords, and cliffs, with rolling hills and lakes. Fehmarn is the only island off the eastern coast. The longest river is the Elbe; the most important waterway is the Kiel Canal which connects the North and Baltic Seas. The region has been strongly Protestant since the time of Reformation. Nowadays, members of the Lutheran / Evangelical Church make up 53% of the population, Catholics only 6%, and 41% of the population is non-religious or other.
Schleswig-Holstein combines German and Danish aspects of culture. The castles and manors in the countryside are the best example for this tradition; some dishes like Rote Grütze (Danish: Rødgrød) are also shared, as well as surnames such as Hansen, DIederichsen, etc. The most important festivals are the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, an annual classic music festival, and the Lübeck Nordic Film Days for movies from Scandinavian countries. The annual Wacken Open Air festival is considered to be the largest heavy metal festival in the world.