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This university city on the banks of the Rhine and Neckar rivers has seen many firsts in the history of transport. Karl Drais built the first two-wheeled draisine in Mannheim in 1817, and Carl Benz's first car took to the city's streets in 1886. The legendary Lanz Bulldog tractor followed in 1921 and Julius Hatry developed the world's first rocket-powered aircraft here in 1929. Inquiring minds clearly feel at home in Mannheim.

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What does Berlin have that other world cities don't? Well, first of all, there's the locals, whose rough yet friendly charm is all part of the Berlin experience. Add to that an incredible array of sights that reflect not only the city's newfound swagger but also its great history and the dramatic events of the 20th century.

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Frankfurt is first and foremost a city of modernity. Business, architecture and Europe's third-largest airport – they're all here and they're all at the cutting edge. Perhaps that's why Frankfurt has grown a particular fondness for museums that vary greatly in terms of size, style and subject matter. The city prides itself on always staying ahead of the times, whilst preserving traditions at the same time.

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Leverkusen is known internationally as the headquarters of Bayer AG, the world-renowned chemical and pharmaceutical company. But there is much more to this industrial city, which has plenty of opportunities for relaxation thanks to its location in the foothills of the Bergisches Land region. Leverkusen is a place where urban buzz and village-like tranquillity exist in close proximity.

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Lifestyle, joie de vivre or lebensart – whatever you call it, Munich has it in spades. It might be down to the clear blue skies or simply the city's beauty, but one thing's for certain: the people of Munich always like to show their best side, whether they're in a beer garden, on one of the exclusive shopping streets, or in Bayern Munich's stadium.

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Düsseldorf becomes the focus of the fashion world when the city reveals the latest in designer fashion and high-street trends. 'The Gallery Düsseldorf' emerged from Igedo (the world's biggest fashion show in its day) and is now a biannual event that attracts international fashion designers and buyers in their droves to the Rhine city.

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Which city is home to the world's biggest exhibition site? Perhaps Tokyo? No, sorry – try again. Chicago, London, Shanghai? Wrong again. Frankfurt? Getting closer. The answer is in fact Hannover. Thanks to its state-of-the-art exhibition centre, the city has become an engine for the global economy, and a byword for ideas, innovation and investment.

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A city of emperors and princes, leaders and followers, inventors and scholars, Nuremberg has mirrored German history ever since the Middle Ages – the power, the tension, great achievements and great tragedies. Protected by the castle, arts and crafts once flourished, while a new spirit of freedom enlivened the city at a time when few other places could offer such a quality of life. And the same is still true today.

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