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Destination Deustchland

11 May 2006

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Lucky fans heading to England's first three fixtures will have Frankfurt, Cologne or Nuremberg in their sights. But there's plenty going on at the other World Cup destinations if you're going to watch a different team, or - who knows - if England make the finals...

Football fans know Munich as the home of Bayern - to petrolheads it is famous for BMW, who have their own museum here. And everyone knows it's the home of the Bierkeller! The most famous is the Hofbrauhaus, where Hitler tried to launch a takeover of the city in 1923. It is still open for you to quaff a few Steins - the vast one-litre jugs of the seriously strong local lager. There's also the 1972 Olympic village, scene of the terrorist attack that inspired Steven Spielberg's latest film.

Football aficionados will remember that Kevin Keegan left Liverpool to join Hamburg SV in 1978. The cosmopolitan city is Germany's second largest. And if you thought Amsterdam was the European capital of naughty, Hamburg actually boasts the biggest red-light district in the Union - Reeperbahn. Indeed, journalists getting in on the action early for 'investigative purposes' are already being turned away for fear of discouraging the regulars.

Britain, France and Prussia (now Germany) signed a peace treaty at Hanover in 1727, and we all know how well that worked out. In contrast to Hamburg, Hanover is more austere and stereotypically German. The Old Town is beautiful but it's perhaps not the top pick as a party destination. Two of Germany's infamous unrestricted Autobahns - the A2 and A7 - intersect here, so give that rental Mercedes a proper caning.

Frankfurt city skyline is dominated by imposing modern skyscrapers. But the real attraction is a one-and-a-half-hour drive out of town. Make your pilgrimage to the temple of speed itself - the formidable Nurburgring Nordschliefe. 172 turns, over 14 miles, former home of the German Grand Prix (until the authorities decided it had killed too many drivers) you can hand over a few Euros and do a lap yourself - but check your insurance policy covers it first!

Bayern Munich may be the top German football club these days but Borussia Dortmund were the country's first European champions, beating Liverpool in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in Glasgow in 1966. The city is heaven for the horticulturally-minded: Nearly half of the city is green space including parks, a zoo and botanical gardens.

First of all if you're driving there don't be confused by the German spelling of Cologne: Koln. The river Rhine runs through this fine city. Vineyards cling to the banks of the river and the hillsides, soaking up the sun and producing some excellent local wines. The local Kolsch beer is also very good and the chocolate museum a worthwhile stop if you've got the kids in tow.

Kaiserslautern has a strong football tradition: 1. FC Kaiserslautern (excellent name!) supplied five of the players in West Germany's 1954 World Cup-winning side. But the team almost succumbed to controversy and bankruptcy in the early 2000s. If you're staying nearby you could always make a long holiday of it and take in the German Grand Prix later in July - the Hockenheimring circuit is only an hour away.

One of only two World Cup venues in the former East Germany (the other being Berlin). Leipzig is Mecca for musicians, the birthplace of Richard Wagner and home to St Thomas Church where Bach performed for 27 years. Leipzig hosted the draw for the 2006 World Cup and is the venue for four of the opening round matches.

The modern and rapidly-developing town of Gelsenkirchen is an ideal stop-off for shopaholics - its 'Centro' shopping centre is the largest such complex in Germany. Or, if you've got a family in tow, the 'Movie World' theme park might be a better bet. The Veltins-Arena, home of FC Schalke 04, is an ultra-modern stadium and features a slide-out pitch, four massive video screens in the centre of the pitch and a retractable roof.

Nuremberg Nuremberg
In the Nazi years, Nuremberg was the site of the vast parade grounds where Hitler's supporters rallied in their thousands. After the war, Nuremberg held the famous trials of Nazi war criminals. Today the parade grounds remain, but are used for a hugely popular touring car race in July - if you're in Nuremberg towards the end of the World Cup, it's well worth hanging around for.

Stuttgart is an especially pretty city and the picturesque Black Forest countryside makes it even more so. Local team VFB Stuttgart were the first football squad to win the Bundesliga after reunification, in 1992. Petrolheads may choose to take in the Porsche and Mercedes museums. The Stuttgart shield features on the Porsche crest, and looks very similar to Ferrari's world-famous Cavallino Rampante emblem (the Prancing Horse).

Berlin oozes history. The cracked, chipped remnants of the infamous wall are evident everywhere. The old gateway to the Soviet east, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, remains. There is some fantastic architecture, too: the old parliament building ('Reichstag') reconstructed by Britain's Sir Norman Foster, and Daniel Liebeskind's imposing Jewish Museum are both essential sights.

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