To cruise the River Main is to experience quintessential Germany at its very best; a truly picture-postcard landscape of perfectly medieval villages with quaint timber-framed houses set against a backdrop of rolling hillsides, dotted with ancient castles awaits along the banks of this magical river. Quietly winding its way across Central Germany, over wide plains and through lush valleys before meeting up with the romantic Rhine at charmingly pretty Mainz in the very heart of the country’s wineland region, this is the longest river located entirely in Germany.
Although the region’s Golden Age didn’t arrive until much later, Celtic architecture dating back to 1000BC can be found along its shores and by the Roman Empire, settlements along the Main were flourishing. As time wore on it became a critical trade route for the expanding Empire and even Charlemagne himself, left his mark here, investing in canal construction and erecting the mighty 8th century cathedral in Wurzburg. During World War II, the cities along the Main were especially hard hit – by the end of the war the cities of Wurzburg, Frankfurt and Mainz were all but destroyed – Bamberg remains one of the few cities in Germany that survived the bombings because of its close proximity to an artillery factory that prevented planes from getting near it. After decades of planning and construction, the Main-Danube Canal finally opened in 1992 which connects the Main and the Danube Rivers. Beginning in the beautiful city of Bamberg and ending in Kelheim on the mighty Danube, this engineering feat allows both passenger ships and smaller commercial vessels to travel between the North and Black Seas.
Europe’s Main river flows through the heart of quintessential medieval Germany and while less well-known than the Danube or Rhine, it’s a major tributary of the latter. It weaves a glorious 530 km (330 miles) route from the lush valleys of the German Highlands to romantic Bavaria, passing some of the most picturesque medieval towns in the country before it reaches historic Mainz.
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