As in Italy, Germany’s late unification (1871) meant that, for centuries, numerous duchies and principalities competed for power and prestige. Today, the results of that contest can still be seen in the many castles, churches and art collections. This journey will focus on Lower Franconia and its artistic treasures. Franconia isn’t historically Bavaria though they are often confused. Franconia owes its name to the Frankish Tribes whose territory it originally was, and from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century it was highly fragmented. Much of this journey is in Lower Franconia where ecclesiastical rule predominated and the archbishops of Mainz in Aschaffenburg and the bishops of Würzburg and Bamberg ruled their semi-independent fiefdoms in some style leaving behind the architectural splendours to prove it. Today it is still a fantastically diverse place to visit and is a centre for German wine growing with a feel of the sunny south – it is also the starting point for the Romantic Road linking walled medieval towns with fairy tale castles and richly decorated Rococo buildings. After a direct Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, visit Aschaffenburg and its 17th century Johannisburg Castle (above), containing some the finest works of the Bavarian State Art Collection. From there the party will continue on to Würzburg, on the vine-covered banks of the river Main which will be the base for next 5 nights. Visit the baroque Residenz of its prince-bishops, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Considered one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe, it was created by the auspicious collaboration of three artistic geniuses: architect Balthasar Neumann, the stucco-decorators from the Bossi family and painter Giambattista Tiepolo. Würzburg’s treasure trove of sights also includes Marienberg fortress, the Old Bridge, Neumann’s pilgrimage church "Käppele” and Mainfrankisches Museum’s rich collections of art and ethnography. There will also be visits to another Neumann masterpiece, the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (Vierzehnheiligen Chapel), the mediaeval walled town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) buildings of the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony before returning home on the direct Lufthansa flight to Manchester.