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The Main is one of the most important tributaries of the River Rhine and is formed by the joining of its two headstreams, the Red Main and the White Main near Kulmbach. The former rises in the Jura Mountains, the latter in the Fichtelgebirge mountains. The Main then flows through the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and Hesse and it is navigable from Mainz to Bamberg. It is connected to the Danube via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal and this waterway, some 2200 miles (3500km) long connects the North Sea to the Black Sea. It is often seen as the dividing line between northern and southern Germany, with the Catholic part of the country extending from its southern banks.

Along the Main’s river banks are vineyards and farms and forested mountain ranges. This is a river that flows, too, through several important cities including Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Karlstadt, as well as many pretty smaller towns with red-roofed houses and graceful bridges. Wurzburg is a centre of the German wine trade and its architecture has been restored so beautifully that its Baroque bishop’s palace, with its gardens and squares and frescoes by Tiepolo, has become a UNESCO World Heritage site. Aschaffenburg is a typical Bavarian town surrounded by the forests of the Spessart mountains with a Renaissance castle and just 20 miles (30km) from Frankfurt. One of Germany’s most ancient cities, Frankfurt is now an important commercial centre – this was where the Rothschild family built its banking empire. It is also, of course, the place you’ll find those excellent sausages known as frankfurters.