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Once a year, on the Monday preceding Ash Wednesday, the streets of Mainz erupt into a riotous celebration of spring, accompanied by a vibrant procession of glittering floats, costumed dancers and marching bands. This is the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) parade, the dramatic culmination of the Mainz Fastnacht or Carnival, which draws thousands of spectators to the historic city to join in the biggest party of the year.

Even if you aren’t in town for the carnival, there are plenty of good reasons to visit Mainz and the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate makes a popular base camp for tours and boat cruises into the Rhine Valley. The heart of the city is the Old Town, preserving much of its medieval character in its timber-fronted houses, narrow laneways and traditional Weinstuben (wine bars), set on the banks of the picturesque Rhine River.

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