Room with a View

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On one side the sea

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On the other, Fort of St. Lawrence

We also thought about the place with the best view from our room and realized that in general none of them really had a good view, except in Dubrovnik.

There we stayed at Eddie’s Sea View Rooms (also found on Booking.com). Eddie’s is just outside the Old Town of Dubrovnik through the Pile Gate, so is well situated. The actual rooms were pretty ordinary (luckily with a/c as it was extremely hot), but our view was very nice, looking out on the Fort of St. Lawrence and the small bay, where people can rent colorful kayaks, and across to the old city walls. The rooms are run by Eddie and his brother, and Eddie is quite a character—very chatty and liberal with advice about the city.

Dubbed

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Our Award for Best Places to Stay

As I said earlier, many of the places we stayed were fine, but nothing special. But, three that we thought were outstanding were in Prague, in Bled, and on the island of Korcula. And, because they were so nice, we of course have many photos!

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Prague apartment

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Entrance to the apartments is past the Konirn Restaurant

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Nath and Sonya enjoy dinner at Konirna

First, in Prague we stayed for 5 days at Charles Bridge Apartments (found through Booking.com), on the Mala Strana side of Charles Bridge. It was a large apartment with two huge bedroom/sitting room areas, a well-fitted kitchen, good bathroom and a washing machine. We were able to buy groceries in a nearby small grocery store and had all our breakfasts in the apartment. We also cooked in one evening and it turned out fine. The apartment block is just off a small square, a few blocks off the main street, so was very quiet. The ground floor of the building has a very nice restaurant called Konirna (inside seating and a patio), where we ate twice.

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Hotel Garni Berc, Bled

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Different view, different day

bledroomSecond, we loved our hotel in Bled. It’s the Hotel Garni Berc (where Rod and I stayed before when we visited, found through Rick Steves). The hotel, and the Pension Berc next door, are run by the Berc brothers (we met Luke mostly), who are extremely friendly, helpful and hospitable. The attractive buildings are built in an Alpine chalet style, and all rooms have a balcony where we could sit at night and enjoy a glass of wine and the moonlight. The breakfast, which is included in the price, is buffet style and really good.

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Apartments Lenni on small street in Old Korcula town

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Sonya happy at our outside table

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Viv catches up with the journal and enjoys a glass of wine from Korcula

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Room with a fish tank

Third, we had a great time at Apartments Lenni in Old Town Korcula (also found through Rick Steves). Lenni himself met us at the boat when we arrived and walked us to the narrow stepped street where the apartments are—good thing as they’d be hard to find by oneself! Lenni is very friendly and helpful with advice and arranging things for his guests. We had two separate small apartments, one on the ground floor, one just above it, and both were nice. Rod and I took the ground floor one, which had a long fish tank separating the bedroom area from the kitchen—very soothing. Nath and Sonya were upstairs, and they had a washing

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Nath and Sonya’s room, with a line for wet swim wear

machine, plus special lines outside their window for hanging wet swimsuits etc. We did buy supplies for breakfast here, but didn’t try to cook in—mostly because the many restaurants along the waterfront were just too appealing! A bonus was a small deck on the stepped street with a table, where we could sit and write our journals, relax with a drink etc.

 

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Award for the Worst Hotels or B&Bs

 

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The busy street below our apartment in Krakow

We were gone for a long time on this trip so stayed in many different places. Many were fine, not outstandingly good or bad, so they don’t get a mention I’m afraid!

As we discussed this and went through all our photos, it was interesting to realize that we had hardly any photos of the places that we hadn’t liked. I suppose that’s not really surprising as one tends to take pictures of things and places that appeal to one or are interesting/pretty/different.

First, the WORST HOTELS (three made the list), and why we thought so.

Nath and Sonya started with a few days in Amsterdam before meeting us at Schipol airport. They spend a couple of nights at Hotel ViJayain Amsterdam, not too far from the train station, and were not overly impressed as it was small and a bit rundown.

Next, in Krakow: Grodzka 4 Apartments made the list. Our actual apartment was nicely

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Sonya contemplates the street below in Krakow

laid out, with plenty of space, all the utensils we could need in the kitchen area, good beds. The problem though was two-fold: it faced Grodzka street, which is a very busy tourist street just off the main square, so it’s a very noisy street at all hours—people walking, talking, partying, horse carriages clip-clopping by. To try and cut out the noise we needed to have the windows closed, but that was impossible as there was no a/c. And we happened to arrive at an extremely hot period in early summer.  Even with a fan it was way too stuffy to have the windows closed! So, we had to suffer the noise and had very little sleep. Pity, as it’s a nice place and the people who run it are charming. Maybe an apartment facing an inner courtyard, or one with a/c (If they have it) would be better.

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The horse carriages are a nice touch in Krakow, but not below our windows early in the morning or late at night!

Last, in Vienna we also had a real heat problem at the Austria Trend Hotel Astoria. As I mentioned, it was a very hot summer, and sadly this hotel also had no a/c and our rooms had little ventilation, even with windows open. It’s a grand old hotel, right in the heart of Old Vienna, but we’d think twice about staying there again in the summer.

Next time, where we thought was great.

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Award for the Smallest Bathroom Shower

award9Nath and Sonya thought this merited a special mention, so here goes!

At Hotel Jadran in Zagreb. It had a shower so tiny that when Nath dropped the soap she couldn’t bend over to pick it up.

Otherwise, the hotel was fine and luckily it had a/c as it was extremely hot at that time.

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Award for Risqué Statues in Prague

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Piss (Proudy) by David Cerny

Toy

Youth (Mladi) by Milos Zet

opposite Kafka

Entrance to Malastranska Beer Hall

Prague has numerous outdoor art pieces, many beautiful, all interesting or thought-provoking, some rather crude or risqué.

Two that our group commented on were what we called “The Penis Statues.

One is inside the entrance gates of the Franz Kafka Museum in Mala Strana, the area along the River Vltava below the Castle hill. We were going to eat at the Malastranska Pivnice (Beer Hall), which is basically opposite the entrance to the Kafka Museum.

The statue is called Piss (Proudy), by David Černý, known as Prague’s rebel artist. His creations can be found throughout Prague, all of which tend to provoke strong reactions.

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kafka3This one from 2004 consists of two male statues that relieve themselves in a metal pool of water shaped like the map of the Czech Republic. While they are peeing, the two figures move realistically. An electric mechanism swivels the upper part of the body, while the penis goes up and down. The stream of water “writes” quotes from famous Prague residents.

Visitor can interrupt them by sending an SMS message from their mobile phones to a number displayed next to the sculptures. The statue then “writes” (streams) the text of the message, before carrying on as before.

Outside the Kafka Museum seems like a fairly fitting place for one of Černý’s statues, as both artist and writer are a bit strange and provocative. The work of Kafka typically has isolated protagonists who face bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers. Scholars interpret his works as exploring themes of alienation, guilt, existential anxiety and absurdity.

For the second statue, however, we couldn’t understand why it is placed where it is: in the courtyard of the Toy Museum. The Toy Museum is in the Old Count’s Chambers of Prague Castle, close to the Golden Lane, and is said to be the second largest museum of this kind in the world. Apparently adults love this museum, but presumably many kids will also visit. Which makes the statue in the courtyard surprising, an odd curiosity.

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Youth, outside Toy Museum

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ToyVIt is a bronze statue on a simple stone pedestal of a nude young man with a golden penis. It is called Youth (Mladi in Czech), by Milos Zet (1920-1995), a Czech sculptor.

People say that rubbing the boy’s penis brings good luck! We all did so, as did many other visitors! Wonder what luck we’ll get? Back to Prague maybe?

 

 

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Crowded Cities in Summer

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Old Town Square in Prague—crowded, but also fun with a busker making bubbles

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Dubrovnik, around Big Onofrio Fountain, just inside Pile Gate

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People crowd around the Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square in Prague–note there’s even a wedding party there

Most Crowded Place(s) on our Trip

We traveled through Eastern Europe in June and July, the peak tourist season, as that was the time we were able to be away from life and jobs at home. So, of course pretty much everywhere was rather crowded, which we expected. But, some places were definitely more crowded than others, at least when we were there. Crowds, in and of themselves, are not a bad thing, and after all, we as tourists too are also part of that crowd! But, we also try to be travelers rather than just tourists, and try to learn more about the culture and life of a place, try to stay a bit and just be there, and that can be harder to do when there are thousands of others crowding around.

Hence this award! We didn’t take any pictures deliberately of crowds; in fact, quite the opposite, as we tried to find spots that had the fewest people, but these give a small idea I think.

 

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Entering Old Town Dubrovnik through Pile Gate

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Lining up for a spot at Karmenice Restaurant in Dubrovnik

We thought the worst crowding was in Dubrovnik, something that really struck us when we first entered the Old City through the Pile Gate. There were people literally swarming in and it was a hustling jostling feeling, being swept into the Old City. Part of the problem is that all visitors want to spend some time (most of their time) in and around the Old City, which is a rather small area so there’s not much space for people to spread out. It seemed this was so marked in Dubrovnik because it is a major cruise-ship port-of-call and during the day throngs of people flock off the docked ships. But, luckily they mostly throng back in the late afternoon, and evenings are relatively quieter.

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Viv and Sonya on Charles Bridge, Prague

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Old Town Square, Prague. Note the gorgeous buildings—and the bubbles

Prague was also pretty crowded, but not everywhere. Charles Bridge and the areas around it, and Old Town Square were the worst. Luckily, the city of Prague is quite spread out so other areas, like the Castle Quarter and the Little Quarter below the Castle Hill, didn’t seem quite so full (even though there were actually a lot of people).

Vienna, another really popular destination, also had a lot of visitors, most notably in the Hofburg Palace area and around St. Stephen’s Cathedral. But elsewhere it didn’t seem too bad.

This whole idea of too many tourists and of tourists actually being a bad thing for many

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Selfie in Vienna, with Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral)

of the world’s top destinations is a topic that seems to come up more and more often nowadays, and many places are trying to think of ways to curb and control the number of visitors. I read that Amsterdam is badly affected, as are some special historic sites, like Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for example.

So, let’s hope these lovely places we visited on our trip can escape the worst of these negative effects.

 

 

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Another (Difficult) Award

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Part of Auschwitz Concentration Camp

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Guidebooks about some of these places

SADDEST PLACES

This is a very difficult category to think about, but important. On this trip we visited a number of places that fit this category, I guess partly because the countries we visited were affected badly by events in WW2 and the wars during the break-up of Yugoslavia. These include many spots—some big, some small, but all important—that commemorate and remember people’s cruelty to one another. I’d say the top of our list is Auschwitz Concentration Camp, but the bronze shoes on the Danube riverbank and the House of Terror in Budapest come a close second. As does the Srebrenica exhibit in Sarajev.

I wrote about all of these separately, so here are the links to read those for more details.

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Heart-breaking piles of personal things in Auschwitz—here bags and luggage

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And here…shoes confiscated

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One of the infamous train cars for transporting people to/from Auschwitz

AUSCHWITZ, A TRIP OUT OF KRAKOW, POLAND

https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/a-dark-site-of-tourism-auschwitz-oswiecim/

austraintracks

 

BRONZE SHOES ON DANUBE RIVERBANK IN BUDAPEST

https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/budapest-shoes/

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HOUSE OF TERROR IN BUDAPEST

https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/budapests-house-of-terror-an-infamous-address/

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The words on the roof read “Terror”

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Many information boards in the House of Terror tell the story

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Chain wall at House of Terror

SREBRENICA EXHIBIT IN SARAJEVO (No photography allowed inside)

https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/sarajevo-srebrenica-exhibition/  

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Wall of names of victims of Srebrenica

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Posted in Budapest, commemoration, exhibition, historical sight, Hungary, Krakow, memorial, Nazi propaganda, Sarajevo, sights in Budapest, sights in Krakow, war story, WW2 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking A Long Way

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Nath and Sonya look over Lake Bled to Bled Castle

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Sonya in the basement of the Old Palace, Split

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Sonya and Nath on Charles Bridge, Prague

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Nath and Sonya walking around Lake Bled

As I said in the previous post, we’ve had fun deciding on our “Awards List”. Today, we’re talking about walking, the most common way that we got  around on our trip.

DAYS OF MOST WALKING. Both Sonya and I wore a Fitbit and had fun seeing how much we’d walked each day. Every day we walked a fair bit, some less than others (travel days, or if we went by bus/train/metro) and some a long way.

For each of these 3 days below I tried to choose a few photos that capture what we did and where we went, so have fun scrolling through!

 

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The Island in Lake Bled

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Nath walks up to the Island’s church

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One place to stop as you walk around Lake Bled

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Nath and Viv on a pletna boat

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View of The Island and Lake Bled from the Castle

Number One: The day with the most walking on my counter was Day 21, at 7.95 miles, at Lake Bled. On that day, Nath, Sonya and I (Rod was at a conference in Potoroz, also Slovenia) walked slowly around Lake Bled (about 3.5 miles), anticlockwise, with many stops to admire the drop-dead views. We also took a pletna boat to The Island (Otok) and walked up to the Church of the Assumption there, and then we walked around Bled Castle up on the hill on the town side of the lake. Back to our hotel and then out again for dinner at Panorama Restaurant on the lake.

 

 

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narrow street in the Old Palace, Split

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walking along the Riva, Split

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Sonya greets the “Roman soldiers” in the Old Palace, Split

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Viv , ruins in Old Palace

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Rod and Viv, part of Old Palace, Split

Number One A: On Sonya’s counter it was Day 28 in Split, at 8.43 miles. That was the day we walked along the Riva (waterfront), through the Palace basement, all through the Old Palace, with its various cathedrals, crypts, temples, and out through the Silver Gate and the Golden Gate. Sonya also walked around on her own a bit, doing some shopping.

 

 

 

 

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View from Prague Castle

Number Two: The second biggest walking day on my counter was Day 11, at 7.6 miles, in Prague. On that day we walked over the famous Charles Bridge to Old Town Square with the Astronomical Clock. Then back over the bridge and up the hill to Prague Castle, which also has St Vitus Cathedral, with lovely views across the city and down to the Vlatava River. We walked back down on the other side of the Castle, past some old vineyards on the hill, where you can stop for a cool drink and/or a glass of wine.

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On the way down, we stop for a cool drink and glass of wine

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Nath at a shop on Golden Lane, Prague Castle complex

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Entrance into Prague Castle complex

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St Georges Basilica in Prague Castle complex

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Awards Lists

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First evening in Krakow

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Final afternoon in Vienna

Awards Lists

Just for fun, after we got back and we could begin to absorb more about all our travels and experiences and start to sort out and organize all the many photos, we decided to make an Awards List. We had obvious categories, like best meals and hotels, most interesting museums, most expensive city, the saddest places. But, we also came up with some rather more wacky ideas, like the smallest shower, the hottest room, the most beautiful roofs.

It was a lot of fun to do and another great way to relive some of our memories (besides writing about them in the blog). I hope you’ll also have fun sharing them with us in the coming weeks and months.

To start off, this was a simple one to pin down:

BEST GUIDE BOOK was without doubt Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe. Each place we stevesvisited also had local maps, pamphlets and books on special places for sale—all good. But the single best general reference was Rick Steves.

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We Fly Home, But It’s Not Over

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First selfie of the trip—Schipol Airport, Amsterdam

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We set out—plane from Amsterdam to Krakow

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Going to Krakow

We fly home, but it’s not all over

(Sorry for a long delay in posting here, but I have been ill and rather limited in what I could do. But seem to be on the mend now).

And so we came to the end of our special Eastern European trip. I’ve written about the main meals we ate, many of the excursions that we took and attractions that we saw in each place. We took so many photos and had so many more experiences that I’ve decided that, slowly over the next few months, I will attempt a round-up of certain things and a summary of others. So, don’t go away yet!

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On the road to Prague from Poland

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Our apartment in Prague—another bedroom off to the side

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On the road from Prague to Budapest

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Nath leaving St Louis to start the trip

Since we came back Nath had her baby, a beautiful little girl, and said that she (the baby) made it so worth it that Nath was not able to sample any of the great wines along the way on our trip! I think the rest of us probably made up for that!

Besides experiencing so much and learning so much, one of the best things about this trip was that the four of us traveled together all those miles, through all those countries and towns, for so many weeks, but we all turned out to be great travel companions. There were no problems, no altercations, no arguments, and we enjoyed each other’s company the whole time. That is a real joy and a bonus, to find ideal travel companions, as it’s not easy and not common.

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Cable car up to Ljubljana Castle

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We went to Lake Bled from Ljubljana by bus

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To Zagreb from ljubljana by train

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Our rooms in Split, just outside the Old Town/Palace

We’ve done small weekend trips together, with the baby now, and we look forward to another big trip with 5 of us!

In this post, I’ve included a small summary of some of our modes of transport photos and a couple of our accommodation. All very varied and all fun!

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Catamaran from Split to Korcula Island

ViennaCAT

CAT (City Airport Train) in Vienna

Viennaleaving

Last coffee at Vienna Airport before leaving

 

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