The Commonwealth Games get under way in the central English city of Birmingham on Thursday. Here are a few things you many not know about the host city, and some reasons why you should consider making a trip there at some point.
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A city of many firsts
Birmingham in the late 18th century was termed "the first manufacturing town in the world" and earned the nickname "the city of a thousand trades". Scottish inventor James Watt's revolutionary steam engine was created there in 1776. Letters may be a little outdated now, but it was Birmingham school teacher Rowland Hill who is widely credited with introducing the first postage stamp and the roots of what became the modern postal service.
In popular culture
Birmingham was represented on television in the long-running soap opera "Crossroads", about life in a motel on the outskirts of the city. It was much ridiculed but had very high viewing figures. "Some of the acting would have disgraced the humblest of village halls. Many of the plots were so farcical they could have been written in a bad dream," said television historian Hilary Kingsley.
The more recent hit crime drama series "Peaky Blinders" changed all that and helped put Birmingham on the global map. "An absolute winner internationally," purred one local tourism chief.
Where to eat
Birmingham boasts plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants but its most famous culinary experience is the Balti Curry. The Balti made its first appearance in the United Kingdom in Birmingham, introduced to the city in the 1970s by Pakistani immigrants who adapted it from Kashmiri recipes to a more westernised palate. Its popularity has grown so much that there is a Balti Triangle and even the Balti Mile, which has 12 restaurants serving the curry. For those with a sweeter tooth, Cadbury Chocolate began life in Birmingham.
Sports and the city
Premier League side Aston Villa and second-tier Birmingham City enjoy a fierce rivalry, their matches titled the "Second City" derby. Villa were one of the founding members both of the Football League and then the Premier League, and won the European Cup in 1982.
Birmingham is not a one-sport town though. Edgbaston regularly hosts Tests and other international cricket matches, and former England batsman Dennis Amiss and present international Moeen Ali were born in the city.
Formula One's 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell grew up in Birmingham and although he was often bullied at school, he looks back with a certain fondness on those days and calls himself "a proud Brummie".
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