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126km (78 miles) SE of Heidelberg

Stuttgart, a city of about 600,000, is ground zero for German engineering. The neon-lit logos of Mercedes, Porsche, and Zeiss optical equipment light up the sky. Yet, in that German way of never getting too far away from grass roots and nature, a lot of greenery takes the hard edges off all this industry and technology. Vineyards sweep down hillsides into the outskirts, and the forested banks of the Neckar River cut a swath right through town. Softening the Stuttgart image, too, are several much respected art collections and a lot of high-brow culture (the Stuttgart Ballet is world renowned). Stuttgart is not a vacation spot, but you can easily fill up a satisfying day here on an easy outing from Heidelberg, just 45 minutes away by train.

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