A Travellerspoint blog

Day 19 - Plzen to Munich

overcast 6 °C

We made a quick departure from the hotel this morning and walked with our gear into the center of town again for breakfast. We went to the same little cafe as yesterday right near the center square. After filling up on hot chocolate, toasted sandwiches and crepes we made the final walk back to the train station. We stopped in again at Tesco's as we had some Czech coins to get rid of. I headed in by myself and managed to successfully buy some drinks for the train ride.

Once again it was quite easy to work out where in the train station we needed to be and where on the train we needed to be. The train systems over here really are quite easy! We settled in for the 4 hour train ride to Munich. We watched as the landscape changed and as soon as we crossed the border became filled with solar panel farms and houses with roofs covered in solar panels. Quite a sight to see!

When we arrived in Munich we found ourselves in the biggest train station int he city. It was quite tricky to work out where we needed to be and where to buy tickets for the local public transport systems. We managed to find a lady who spoke quite good English at the ticket counter. She suggested a 3 day pass for 24Euro for the two of us. This would allow us unlimited access to the trams, buses, S-Bahn and U-Bahn until 6am Monday morning. After we purchased our tickets we headed to the S-Bahn section of the station.

The S-Bahn and U-Bahn system is quite interesting in itself. The U-Bahn is supposed to the 'underground' and the S-Bahn the 'surbaban trains', however they are both underground! Anyway we found where we needed to be and made our way to the our hotel. We are staying at the Novotel which turns out is right near one of the S-Bahn stations. We are back to good hotels!:)

After checking we went in search of a laundromat. We found one not too far from the hotel and were greeted by a lovely, helpful man that showed us how to work the system. While our washing was happening we were looking at the map trying to work out where to go for dinner. He came over and we asked him where was good. He pointed us to a beer hall that was near our hotel. Decision made!

We dropped our washing back and headed to the Hofbrau-keller for dinner. Ed had pork knuckle (he was dying to try it) and I had roast beef. Both were ok but I wouldn't go shouting to the world about them!

Our plan is to be up early in the morning so and early night tonight!

Posted by AndreaSchache 08:56 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Day 18 - Plzen

rain 6 °C

We headed out this morning in search of some breakfast and walked into the center of town. We discovered quite a lovely little town. Quite picturesque.

Some breakfast secured we headed into the 'tourist information' center. We found a decent map and some information about the brewery. The people were not overly helpful though we we decided to leave and head towards the technical museum (it was raining by this point and decided that this would be a good inside option). After walking for about 45 minutes in the rain we decided that the technical museum must no long exist. We looked everywhere near where the maps and street signs say that it is and we could not find it!

We then decided that as the rain had eased up a little we would head to the zoo. We walked back towards town and Ed managed to work out the ticket system for the trams. We found the correct tram and jumped on but then could not work out how to validate our ticket. A very nice man helped Ed. Turns out you don't just put the tickets in and it automatically stamps them like everywhere else in Europe. You have to put your ticket in and then manually move a leaver to make it stamp your ticket.

After working this out we kept our eyes peeled to the windows to work out where we needed to get off. We worked out the right station and got off successfully and stated walked through the park towards the zoo. After about 2 minutes of walking in the drizzle it started to rain quite hard. We retreated to a little picnic area to re-asses. After waiting for the rain to calm a little we decided to give up on the zoo as well and head directly to the Brewery. Ed felt bad that we would not be doing anything else in Plzen but by this stage I was just happy to go somewhere warm and dry!

After tramming it back to our earlier station we then got on a trolley bus to to go to the brewery. Trolley buses are just like a normal bus but have this large arm coming out of the top of them that connects to overhead electrical wires. Very cool!

When we arrived at the brewery we discovered a very nice looking hotel right across the road. We was quite disappointed that we were staying in a dodgy place when there was a nice place right near the brewery. I reassured him that all was good and that it added to the fun!
The brewery itself was quite interesting. We got tickets to go on the brewery tour. Although we both hated the fact that it was a big group tour with rude people and not enough time to look at the things that you want to see, we both enjoyed seeing how the Pilsner Urquell beers are produced and packaged.

The package hall was the first stop and it was amazing to see thousands and thousands of green beer bottles flying around on the machines being cleaned, filled, capped and labeled. The brewery has the capacity to bottle 120,000 bottles per hour. Quite amazing. From here we were taken to the old and new brewhouse. Here we saw how things used to be done and how are done now. Our last stop were the cellars below the brewery. There are 9km of cellars that took 50 years to dig our by hand. The average temperate is 5 degrees and it is quite damp. This is where they used to keep the barrels of beer. They still use a section of it to produce beer for tourist purposes so you got to see the big open top barrels of beer and then got to sample the un-pasteurized and un-filtered beer. I think Ed enjoyed this part!

After the tour we headed to the beer hall attached to the brewery and had a late lunch, some beers for Ed and finished up with some yummy cakes. We didn't find the food here to be wonderful and the staff spoke very little English. We were both a little surprised by this as it is tourist attraction!

On our way back to the hotel we decided to stock up at Tesco's with some snacks for our train ride tomorrow and then headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Posted by AndreaSchache 08:54 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Day 17 - Prague to Plzen

semi-overcast 8 °C

I have been really slack in keeping up to date with writing my blogs so you will have to forgive me if they next 5 entries or so lack in details. I am writing them all on the 6/1!

After filing up on another awesome breakfast we checked out of our hotel and left our bags to pick up this afternoon. Our first stop for the morning was a shoe shop that I had spotted an awesome pair of boots in the other day when they were closed. The store was on the way to the metro so we stopped in on the way past. They were exactly what I was looking for in both black and brown and they were a good price (about $45 each) but they were lined with a really thick fur lining. Not really good for Australia even in the winter. I reluctantly walked away from them knowing that I would regret that decision later! (which I do!)

After checking out the store we started to head towards the metro station when I remembered that we had left our passports in the safe in our hotel room. After quick-footing it back and retrieving them quickly we were back on our way.

We decided to re-assess our plans and jumped on a tram instead deciding that we would just see where we ended up. After riding the tram for about 5 minutes Ed spotted what looked like a nice park and we jumped off quickly to check it out. It turned out to be an awesome park at the top of yet another hill with awesome views. There was also a huge orange metronome at the top which was quite interesting. These large parks that you find in European cities are really cool. Lots of people walk their dogs through them (they are so obedient - they just walk along beside their owners, not on a leash, and are not bothered by other people or other dogs) and go running.

Once we had made it through the park we jumped back on a tram and found ourselves back in the Jewish section of town. After some people watching near the Astronomical clock and some more walking around town we headed back to the brewery near our hotel for lunch. The food was so good once again! Ed had blue cheese filled, crumbed and deep fried chillies followed by slow cook sirloin with dumplings and I had the pork cheek again. We followed that with another chocolate fondant. If you are ever in Prague you absolutely, totally, must check out the Staropramen brewery restaurant. Make sure you book a table!

After filling up we collected our bags and headed for the train station to catch our afternoon train. Another easy train ride down and we arrived in Plzen for the part of the trip that was going to be the scary part for me. Plzen is only a small town in the Czech Republic and I was worried about the language difficulties etc.

We got off the train and walked the 1.5km to our hotel. We were booked into the 'Hotel Plzen'. During our walk we walked past quite a few other hotels that all looked quite nice. When we arrived in ours we entered our room to find an 'interesting' room. The decor was very dated, the floor squeaked, it smelled like a mix of musty and cigarettes, the bed was rock solid, the walls were paper thin and the TV was nearly non-existent. Oh well.....it was cheap!

After our filling late lunch we decided we didn't need to eat and called it a day.
PS - Will catch up on adding pictures later

Posted by AndreaSchache 08:49 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Day 16 - Prague

New Year's Day!

semi-overcast 5 °C

We decided that we would try and beat the crowds this morning as we figured there would be a lot of sore heads around after last night. We headed to breakfast and got chatting with one of the guys serving in the restaurant and he said that there were so many people out last night and that the area around the bridge was a 'disaster'. This was our first sign that staying in last night was a good idea!

We headed out and jumped on a tram to head to the viewing tower at Petrin Hill. You start at the bottom of the mountain and catch the 'funicular train' (cable car) to the top of the mountain. As it was before 10am we had a little walk around the park at the top of the mountain and played on the icy footpaths. At 10am we went to the tower and paid our 210 CZK (about $10) to climb to the top. The tower is 60m tall and is a climb of 299 steps to the top. It was well worth it once we were up there as we got some amazing views of the city.

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After taking the train back to the bottom of the mountain we headed to Charles Bridge and walked across. This is a very beautiful bridge and was even more so because there were not a million people around! Heading out early was a great idea!

By this stage we were ready to find somewhere warm for some lunch. Being us, we didn't really want to eat in the 'touristy areas' so we headed into the back streets looking for food. As I thought would happen, most of the pubs and restaurants were closed after last night. Walking the streets gave us more of and insight into what New Year's Eve was like in town and we were VERY glad that we didn't stay out. The streets were lined with broken glass, rubbish, firecracker packets etc etc. It wasn't very nice.

Lunch was some toasted bagels and sandwiches in a little cafe, followed by some cake and pastries. From here we decided to take a walk along the river to head back to our hotel for an afternoon rest.

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For dinner we decided to check out the brewery restaurant that is around the corner from our hotel. After waiting for a seat in the non-smoking area we had the most amazing dinner ever! I had slow cooked pork cheek in vegetable and red wine sauce on mashed potato and Ed had Corn and almond coated chicken breast with mashed potato. We then shared a yummy chocolate fondant. For these three dishes, 4 beers, 1 vodka and 2 orange juices it came to around $35! Bargain! We tipped our waitress nicely and have booked in for lunch tomorrow before we leave Prague.

Posted by AndreaSchache 00:26 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Day 15 - Prague

sunny 10 °C

Happy New Year's Eve everyone!

We started our day with the best breakfast that we have had so far on our trip. Hotel General is definitely the place to stay in Prague!

We decided to head to Prague Castle which sits proudly upon one of the mountains to the edge of town. We jumped on the tram to save a little bit of walking and then walked up the hill to check it out. The area surrounding the castle was absolutely packed! There were so many tourists around! We decided not go inside as the line was so long and it was quite expensive, opting instead to hang around off to the sides of the crowds and take some photographs and do some people watching. The castle itself is quite amazing. The intricate work involved in creating this Gothic building must have taken such a long time.

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From here we walked back down the hill and to the river. Once again the Charles Bridge (which is another major tourist attraction) was totally packed so we chose to cross the river over another bridge. We headed into the Jewish Quarter and looked around for a while. The Jewish Cemetry is quite interesting, standing a story above street level as the solution when the cemetry is full was to add another layer of dirt and then start again. From here we spent a few hours walking around town trying to avoid the main tourist areas. They were so busy that we could not even walk next to each other. We stopped for some lunch at a pub and had a yummy meal and Czech beer for Ed.

To walk off our lunch we deided to walk to the top of Wenceslas Square (once again, very touristy) and the up into the park behind the main train station. From here we could take in some beautiful views of the city.

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Earlier in the day we had found a little restaurant where you go in and they give you a slip of paper. You take it to the counter and choose what food you want caffeteria style and then pay on your way out. We decided to give this a shot for and early dinner. The food turned out to be really good and our whole dinner - A beer for Ed and two yummy plates of food - came to about $13. Inside it felt like we really were in a local hang out as we only spotted two other groups of tourists.

Because the streets have been so packed today we have opted to be an old married couple and head back to our hotel room for the night. I don't think that being out amongst the crowds for New Year's would be a great idea....

Posted by AndreaSchache 00:06 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Day 14 - Vienna to Prague

overcast 6 °C

We were up early today to have breakfast and check out of our hotel before heading to the train station. We opted this morning for a taxi as it took us an hour yesterday to walk the distance between the station and our hotel. 10 minutes and 12.50 Euro later and we were at the Station. Great idea!

We jumped onto our train and found our seats which were large roomy seats in an equally roomy cabin for 6. Turned out that we had the whole cabin to ourselves for the entire trip which was fantastic.

The train trip was about 5 hours long and we enjoyed watching the scenery change along the way. We went through some areas that had received quite a bit of snow. Very pretty.

We arrived in Prague to find ourselves in the largest train station in the city. It was like an airport it was so big. It took us some time to work out where we needed to be and what was the best way to get to our hotel. After asking lots of questions (the information people didn't seem to want to help - we only got help when we found a 'tourist point') we managed to withdraw some CZK (Czech money) and some tickets for the tram.

We headed outside to find the tram. Tram number 9 would apparently take us to near our hotel. We jumped on with all of our gear (there wasn't much room) and held on as the tram speed around the city. This is a crazy way of getting around. They accelerate really quickly and then brake really quickly and pick up quite some speed in between.

After finding our hotel (Hotel General) we were given the most friendly welcoming of our trip. We were given complementary welcome drinks (beer and OJ) and the lady from behind the desk sat down with us to explain where everything is in the city and explained all of the public transport. We were then taken to our room. We have another awesome room and would definitely recommend this hotel.

After settling in we headed out on a mission to buy a 72 hour public transport ticket. We were supposed to be able to get them from the Metro station that is around the corner from our hotel but they didn't have any. We opted instead to just by a short ticket and head back into town to buy our 3 day pass. We validated our tickets and started to head down to the trains. I have never ever seen an escalator like the one that we were greeted with. It was moving really fast and is very, very, very steep. It also seems to go on forever!

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72 hour tickets secured at the other end of our train trip and we decided to walk into the main part of the city. Once we hit the main strip we opted to head into a pub to have a couple of drinks so that we could break one of our 2000CZK notes. We sat for about an hour and Ed tried a few local beers. Would have been really nice except for the cigarette smoke. Something I won't ever understand!

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We hit the streets again to explore the Christmas markets (!) that were on the main street and had some yummy street food for dinner.
Now that we know our way around we plan to head out in tomorrow to explore some more. First impressions of Prague are very good and I am looking forward to seeing what is has to offer in the morning :)

Posted by AndreaSchache 10:26 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Day 14 - Vienna

sunny 2 °C

Breakfast was once again included at our hotel and Ed was very pleased to find some different items on the menu like smoked fish. After eating our fill we headed out into the cold to walk to Schonbrunn Palace. It was quite a hike but worth it as we got to play in lots of frosty grass and puddles that had frozen solid over night. We also saw a few cars that had obviously driven in from somewhere nearby and were covered in snow.

We arrived at the Palace to find quite a crowd. There was a Christmas market out the front of the palace! I thought I was going to miss out on Christmas markets so it was a very welcome sight for me. We had a little walk through and decided to come back later for lunch. There was quite a line to head into the palace so we opted instead for a walk around the gardens. I can imagine it would be quite a beautiful place in the spring and summer but during the winter a lot of the trees were bare. We did see some very cute squirrels and stopped to take pictures. They are very game and came right over to us to see if we had anything for them. We also enjoyed looking at the frozen over fountains and guessed it must have gotten very cold last night.

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After walking through the quiet part of the gardens we decided to head back to the center and walk up to the Gloriette which is at the highest part of the gardens and took in the view of Vienna. Quite a beautiful city from up here.

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After walking some more through the gardens and writing 'Schache' in the frost on one of the garden seats we headed back to the markets for some lunch. I enjoyed some potato soup served in a bread bowl and Ed had a baked potato. Also for sale were hot drinks. Ed got a hot apple and orange punch which was really nice but was also great to warm my hands on. When you buy a drink you pay a 2 Euro deposit and it gets served in a proper mug. When you have finished you can either take the mug with you or return it and get your money back. Ed decided that he didn't really need a Schonbrunn palace mug and returned it as we left.

We decided to walk back to the hotel a different way and ended up walking through a busy shopping district. We also walked past the train station that we need for tomorrow.

We finally made it back to our hotel room and worked out that we had basically walked for about 6.5 hours of the day. We are both shattered so have opted for a quiet meal in our hotel room and and early night before getting up early to head to Prague in the morning.

Posted by AndreaSchache 10:22 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Day 13 - Vienna

rain 4 °C

After our overnight train ride (details in my last post) we arrived in Vienna at 8:10am. We packed on the layers of clothes and loaded up our gear. Our hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the train station and we both managed to get a little wet on the way. Little did we know we were going to get more wet as the day went on!

We found our hotel (The Holiday Inn, Vienna City) fairly easily and went in to leave our bags until check in time. We then headed out to walk the city and find out what it is all about. Of course it decided it would be a great time to rain consistently for about 3 hours. Our raincoats held up pretty well and despite being slightly damp we were both warm enough while we were walking. It was kind of hard to take in the sights because it was raining so much but we managed to walk around most of the main center of town.

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At first glance Vienna seems to be quite a modern city with far less charm than the likes of Rome. There is quite a big shopping district that we walked through that I will convince Ed to take me back to tomorrow :)

We are finding it much for difficult to work out what things are here than we did in Italy. The German language does not have the closeness to English that Italian does. We managed a stop at a coffee shop where Ed had a coffee and I had a hot chocolate and we also managed lunch at a little cafe (you can smoke in cafes here....but luckily this one had a non-smoking area). Even though I really enjoyed the food in Italy it was nice to just have a simple lunch of Schnitzel and chips.

On our way back to the hotel to check in we stumbled upon a market area. We had a little look around and think we will head back there this evening.

Ed has now headed back out to do some much needed washing while I keep warm in the hotel room.

LATER THAT DAY:
We headed back out to what Ed was a night market only to find that it was closed! Just our luck. We then wondered the streets looking for a place to eat. Ed decided that he wanted to have a German sausage hot dog from one of the street stalls. When I came out from getting my food he said that he had heard a big bang in the direction we were headed. He sounded really concerned and when I questioned him he said it was like an explosion type bang. We decided to head back a to our hotel a different way and as we crossed the street something exploded right in front of us. It scared both of us and we ran back across the road to the safety of the street food stalls. We were both very on edge by this stage but looking around us it seemed that no one else was fazed by the noise. We quickly retreated back to our hotel to stay away from whatever it was that was making the explosions (We later discovered that people were setting off fireworks and that is what the noise was).

Posted by AndreaSchache 10:18 Archived in Austria Comments (1)

Day 12 - Venice and Overnight train to Vienna

overcast 6 °C

Today is our last day in Venice and we are on the overnight train to Vienna tonight (more about that later). Because it is check out day we decided to hang out and enjoy the luxuary of the hotel room until check out time at 12 noon. Once we had checked out we were able to leave our bags at the hotel and head back on the train into Venice.

We had quite a lot of time to kill today before our train at 9pm so we started walked east from the train station along the tourist strip. It was packed so we soon headed off the main street and soon found ourselves in the Jewish Ghetto. This was an interesting area to explore with it's Kosher food places and lots of little stores selling Jewish based products and artwork. We stopped at a little store and bought some little handmade biscuits....yum!

We soon found ourselves back on the main tourist strip and decided we were hungry. We really didn't want to eat at any of the places along the main strip as their food looked awful (the pizza looked more like New York style pizza slices) and the prices were pretty high. We kept walking and found ourselves at this little cafe near the lagoon edge that was not on our tourist map. Some little sandwiches, rolls and coffee later we made our way through the heart of Venice towards the southern part of town again.

Ed had his tripod with him today so we walked back out to the point again so that he could take some night photographs looking back over towards the main part of Venice. The area that we were in yesterday was so quiet but today was soooo busy. There is an art gallery at the point and we think their exhibition opened today. A lot of the little shops etc were also open. They were great to looking in. Some even had the artists making their products in the back of their stores.

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We decided on a simple pasta dinner at the same restaurant as yesterday followed by Gelato again before we caught the train back to our hotel to gather our things ready for the night train.

I was a little nervous about making a trip overnight on the train but after waiting in the cold as our train was delayed for 30 minutes we were quite happy with what we got. Ed had booked a 2 sleeper room (that could sleep 3 if needed) with a little bathroom attached so when we entered we found 3 comfy seats, a bathroom complete with toilet, shower and sink, a little table and a little wardrobe. We stashed our things and were greated by the customer service officer. He was lovely and did everything he could to make sure we were happy and comfortable. We discovered that breakfast was included so we were able to pick 6 items like breadrolls, spreads, drinks, ham, cheese to be delivered in the morning. After settling in for about 30 minutes we called our friend back and he folded down the 2 beds ready for us to sleep. Ed offered to take the top bunk as it would be easier for him to get in and out of (even though there was a little ladder that we could have put up if we wanted to).

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This didn't turn out to be a good idea. The train was not as smooth as some of the other ones that we had been on and about 2 hours into sleeping Ed was up and was unwell. He said that you moved around a lot on the top bunk and he promptly joined me in my little single bottom bunk. Being top and tail in a little single bunk didn't make for the most comfortable nights sleep but we both managed about 5 or 6 hours of sleep. Even though this option on the overnight train cost quite a bit more than sleeping in one of the 6 person cabins where you have to sleep upright it was totally worth every cent! We would probably do it again (maybe minus the bathroom - although this was useful when Ed wasn't feeling well) but I think I would take a motion sickenss tablet and sleep on the top bunk so that we both got a good nights sleep.

So now that we have left Venice here are some general observations:

  • We were both a bit underwhelmed. Venice is not all it is made up to be. It was a great place to see but we won't be rushing back there any time soon.
  • Venice is made out to be this wonderfully romantic city - it is definitely not!
  • If you are planning on going to Venice, stay at Hotel Plaza at Venezia Mestre. Well worth the 10 minute train ride back and forth into Venice and so much easier to find than the hotels in Venice.
  • Don't eat on the main tourist strip unless you want to get ripped off and have not very good food. Head instead to the backstreet and eat where the Venitians eat.
  • Venice is made out as hard to get around. It really isn't. Don't bother with the ferries. Walk! It is the best way to see the real Venice.

Posted by AndreaSchache 10:07 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 11 - Venice

overcast 9 °C

Up early today and headed down for breakfast. The breakfast room was pretty empty again today.

Ed didn't sleep very well last night. He is still not feeling 100% and coughed most of the night. The weather outside is not very nice so we opted to head back to our room for most of the day. We enjoyed just hanging out (Ed slept most of the day) and only ventured out during the middle of the day for a wonder around Mestre (the area that is right near the train station and where our hotel is found).

We decided at around 4:30pm we would head into Venice for dinner and a walk around. We walked across the road and jumped on the train for the 10 minute ride in.

Venice is made up of lots of little sections and we had read that the best area for cheap and yummy food was the sound part of the islands so we headed straight in this direction. This area consists of the local University and is where a lot of the uni students live. We had a great time wondering around the streets and found our way out to a little headland that looks over towards St. Mark's Square and Cathedral and out towards the island to the sound (I can't remember it's name but it is only accessible by boat). This part of town was so quiet. There were barely any tourists around so we really had the chance to explore. I highly recommend checking it out of if you are ever in Venice.

We stumbled upon a great little restaurant for dinner where Ed had Sardines in Onion Sauce which turned out to be a cold dish of picked Sardines, Onions and Sultanas. He said it was fantastic (even though it smelt really bad!) and like he was sitting in the home of a local whose Nona had made dinner. I had Cod with Polenta which was also really good! Ed tried a spritz which is apparently the local drink in Venice which is made up of sparkling wine, some sort of bitter drink and soda water. He didn't finish it so I'm guessing it wasn't fantastic - but then again, Ed is not a wine drinker).

As we had been walking around earlier we spotted a Gelato store that looked really good. Everything was written in Italian so it was clear to see that it was not aimed at tourists. We managed to find our way back there after dinner and had some awesome Gelato to end the night.

Posted by AndreaSchache 10:04 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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