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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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Explore the far corners of the globe and return via Hamburg – travel itineraries don't get much better than that. Gateway to the world, beautiful seafaring hub, maritime capital of the north – even the normally reserved locals find it hard to conceal their pride in their home city, its ambience and its cosmopolitan charm.

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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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Leipzig's key role in setting the rhythm for the peaceful revolution of 1989 is testament to the city's musical endowment. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leipzig was labelled 'City of Heroes' – a title which could also be in reference to the many great musicians, kapellmeister and composers who are arguably more popular and more prominent here than anywhere else in the world.

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