A Travellerspoint blog

Crusing in Croatia

Welcome everybody, to another episode of “Maddie & Scott’s Disasters in Europe”. This episode we’ll call “Frankie Strikes Again”. Yes, you guessed it, we’ve had more Frankie drama. At least we can say there’s never a dull moment when she’s around. That being said I’d rather be enjoying the Croatia coastline than trying to understand another mechanic in a foreign language.

That story, however, comes in at the end of this instalment so you’ll have to read the whole way to get the good bits. As I mentioned last time, after our mini break in Greece we headed off to Croatia. What I didn’t mention was that in Croatia we were welcoming our first house guest into Frankie. So we aimed ourselves toward Dubrovnik for her arrival. The journey there was just a bit too long to do in one go, and we had a day or 2 spare, so we made a couple of stops on the way, staying at little auto-camps situated right on the edge of the water, so close that we could stumble every morning into the crystal clear Croatia waters.

The one big stop that we did do on the way down was to go to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Now here is where I must amend a comment that I previously made. I earlier told you that Lake Bled (Slovenia) held the bluest, most clear water I have ever seen in my life. While that was true at the time it only took a matter of 2 weeks for that to be trumped by Plitvice Lakes. While Bled remains in my eyes and incredible place, The Plitvice Lakes were absolutely out of this world. The park is made up of a series of tiered lakes that cascade into each other via endless waterfalls. It took us about 4 hrs to walk around the park and we were blown away with every step.
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Once we had arrived in Dubrovnik we made our way to the airport to welcome Caitlin into our mobile home. As you might remember we met up with Caitlin in London when we were there and as it so happened she was able to swindle a couple of days off work at the time we were planning on being in Croatia. So why not have a long weekend away? Having picked up our guest we checked into our campsite and headed into the Old Town of Dubrovnik. Now in all our travels so far this would have to be up there with the best preserved old towns we’ve seen. And the bonus, the city walls are continuous the whole ways so when you walk them you get a full 360 degree view of the centre. I would say, if you’re ever in Dubrovnik, walking the walls is an absolute must do, and of course that is where we started our tour. Next stop was, of course, a walking tour. Unfortunately, due to Croatia’s tax law, “free” tours are illegal, thus we had to pay for this one. Very worth the money though as you get a much better feel for the city when you know a bit of the history behind it. By this time we were ready to take the gondola ride up the mountain. So that we did, and had the most amazing view of the city with the sun setting over the ocean in the distance. It really was incredible. As you can imagine, after all that touring, we had built up quite the appetite. So our last stop for the day was dinner. We’d gotten a couple of restaurant suggestions from our tour guide earlier so we new exactly where we were going. And, boy was dinner mighty fine! I had the most amazing seafood risotto (if you like seafood that is), and Maddie’s lamb could have been cut with a spoon it was so tender. Incredible food right on the Dubrovnik Harbour. How better to end the day?
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For our second day in Dubrovnik we had a boat tour booked, which would take us to visit 3 islands around an hour from the city. We had such a relaxing day doing this, cruising the blue waters, sun shining, swimming in endlessly clear waters, working on our tans. Pretty much the perfect way to relax for the day.

After our relaxing day onto water it was time to cover some ground. We packed up camp in the morning and aimed ourselves for split. Now although she had already given us glimpses of her talent, this is where Caitlin really shone! Over a total of 3.5hrs driving I think she accrued around 3.25hrs sleep. That may be over exaggerating a little, but not much. In her defense she was still recovering from zero sleep before flying to Croatia, and I'm sure the English climate hadn't prepared her for Croatia's sun, so she was perhaps a little sun stroked. Nevertheless we arrived in Split, set up camp, then spend the evening lounging by the beach.

The next day we took another drive to Krka National Park. No this one probably wasn't quite as impressive a Plitvice; but it did have one big advantage. We could swim there! The water was so clear and fresh that it felt amazing to just sit there all day. We took a quick and all around the waterfalls and then headed back to the bottom for more swimming. Naturally we were exhausted after that big day, so we spent another quiet night at the camp site.
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Unfortunately, Tuesday was Caitlin's last day with us. So we headed into the centre of Split for a walking tour. I think we were pleasantly surprised by how much History and ancient architecture the old town of Split has. They've even got a 3000 year old Sphinx there! So after an ice-cream, a climb up the bell tower, and a bite to eat, it was time to get Caitlin to the airport and say farewell.
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Now here's where the "fun" starts. We got Caitlin to the airport with no dramas and decided to try to cover some ground in the evening as we were aiming to get to Austria the next day. So we're driving along, around 150kms from our destination in Slovenia, when our battery life warning light starts flashing. Now if you remember this was the start of our problems in Budapest. We had everything running at the time so we decided to switch the fridge off and see if the battery's would be able to soak up a bit of charge without the fridge sucking the life out of them. So on we continued, and soon the warning light had turned off. Winner! Then, around 100kms from our destination, our indicators decided to stop working. Yay! Now this time we thought we should probably pull over and see what's up. So we pulled over and checked our battery lights, which both said full. I switched the engine off and went to have a look at the battery. All the connections appeared to be secure so we decided to continue on our way. I got back in, put the key in the ignition, turned it, and... Nothing! The battery was absolutely lifeless. "Great" we thought, "we're having the same problem all over again." We figured that if you could get a jump start we could drive to the closest town and find a mechanic. Mind you this is at 8pm. So Maddie walks to the side of the road with the jumper cables and starts waving them at any cars passing by. We're not sure if they were confused, scared, or just plain rude because none seemed to be stopping. Eventually though a nice Austrian man in a camper van stopped and tried to jump start us. Unfortunately, the positioning of his battery, and the spot we were parked in didn't match and we couldn't make the jumper cables reach. So we thanked him and he went on his way. Strike 1. The second car to stop was a Polish family. We got the cables all connected (with a bit of difficulty), turned the key, and nothing! So we thanked them and they went on their way. Strike 2. By this stage we decided it was time to call for assistance. Now I must say, third times a charm. After making the call we only waited about 10mins until 2 men in a tow truck arrived. They gave the battery a minute or so to charge up then got Frankie roaring back to life. We then followed them into the next town where their mechanic shop was. We sat there and watch Frankie again get jacked up and have a wheel removed. They removed the alternator then told us that they would be able to fix it until the morning. Sad times. Luckily the lady upstairs has apartments for rent and immediately offered us a room for the night. Since we were dying for a bed and hot shower we quickly accepted.
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The next morning we started pretty slowly, unsure of what would be waiting for us downstairs. When we got to the bottom we found Frankie reassembled and the keys waiting for us. The mechanic then told us (if you trust my non-existent Croatia) that the alternator should be good but the battery itself was pretty stuffed. Then came time for the bill. Now this time I was all prepared, ready for the total in Euro, and then he wrote 950 on the page. Oh dear. Luckily I had been wrong again as he then converted this Croatian currency to €127. Not too bad at all really.

With that we were on the road again, and a full day of driving (around 8hrs) took us to Innsbruck. Back in one of our favourite places so far. Austria!

Posted by ScottGosling 14:08 Comments (1)

We're all going on a... summer holiday!

We took a mini-break in the Greek Islands

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Now I must first start by apologising to my avid readers. Those of you who have been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for the next instalment, dying to know whats been going on. I hope I haven’t caused the 3 of you too much distress. But, what could I do? I’ve been on holiday’s. Or a holiday within a holiday as we’re calling it.

Before we get stuck into it I should tell you quickly about our 2 days in Slovenia. We started of our time there with a tour of Ljubljana, which, if you haven’t heard of it before, is the capital of Slovenia. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time there, but the time he had was wet. In stark contrast to the week before of scorching heat, Slovenia produced a hail storm as we crossed the border, and thunder storm right in the middle of our bicycle tour. Hooray. So what was meant to be a 2 hour tour turned into 4 by the time we’d seen the sights, had some coffee, ducked for cover, stopped for food, and hidden from the rain again. All in all it was a really beautiful little city that still seems relatively untouched by tourists compare to some places.
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The next stop was lake Bled, and here’s where all the tourists hang out. The town, Bled, is pretty much made up of hotels, hostels, and a lake. But once you’re there it’s easy to see why. The lake itself held some of the clearest, most blue water I’ve ever seen in my life. We visited both lake Bled and lake Bohinj and loved them both. We could literally see the trout swimming around in the water. Of the 2 Bled was probably the most beautiful (hence the tourists), with it’s castle on top of the cliffs and church on a island in the middle, but Bohinj was definitely better for swimming. Either way, we loved them both.
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Before we go any further I’d like to continue the way I started; another apology. This time for the endless spelling and grammatical errors that I’m sure you’re all finding in everything I’ve written. Don’t stress. This is not a new discovery. Just like in school and uni I fail to see the importance of reading over anything I’ve written. But enough of that, it’s holiday time!

For those of you who don’t already know Maddie and I spend our long weekend not the Island of Santorini, in Greece. We were tossing up for a long time whether or not to go or to save the money. In the end we decided that it would be worth it because we wanted to see our friend Hayley and Sonia, who just so happened to be travelling Europe at the same time as us. So after a disgustingly early start on Wednesday morning, and Maddie yelling at a completely innocent man for “trying to steal our bikes”, we boarded our flight from Venice to Santorini.
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When we landed the first thing that struck us was the glorious heat. Not the “it’s too hot to move” kind of heat we’d been used to, but that perfect mix of heat sun and cooling ocean breeze. The next thing we noticed was that the island appeared almost completely barren. I think I would have been able to count the number of plants I could see on one hand. Nevertheless we boarded an extremely packed bus and got a ride into the main town of Thira where we were staying. And here is where our love of the heat quickly disappeared. After around an hour and a half trudging around with backpacks on trying to find our hostel, we were dripping in sweat and longing for the cool weather back.
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Our anger at the heat had long disappeared but the time Hayley and Sonia arrived, and we’d had a decent meal and a dip in the pool. And in all seriousness; the weather could not have been better for us all weekend. 30-31degrees every day, never a cloud in the sky, and a gentle ocean breeze. Pretty much paradise I’d say.
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Needless to say, we quickly fell in love with the island of Santorini. We spent our day lunging in the pool, hiring quad bikes, getting massages on the beach, swimming in crystal clear water, and eating delicious Greek food. I only wish I was able to properly describe it to you in a way that would actually do it justice. So I think I’ll leave the stories of the island until I can tell you them in person. I will give you a couple of highlights though. The first would have to be going for a donkey ride up and down the trail from Thira to the port. So much fun and such well trained donkeys. I named mine Francesca. I’m sad to say we were beaten into 1st place by Hayley on Terry. The next highlight would be cliff jumping and the crystal clear waters at Ammoudi bay. such a magnificent spot and well worth the trip. And finally, the incredible view, sitting at a restaurant, watching the sunset over the sea on our first night in Santorini.
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So basically we have had one of the most incredible weekends of our trip so far, and I am at a loss for words to try to describe it to you. Can’t wait to tell you all about it properly one day. But for now, we’re safe and sound back in our Frankie, on the road to Croatia!

Posted by ScottGosling 00:11 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Are you, Hungary?

After a sad farewell in Poland on Monday we were back on the road, chugging along in little old Frankie. And this is where our problems started. Now, I'm not going to bore you with all our problems right away. We'll talk about more interesting things first and the I'll give you a full recap of the less enjoyable parts of our week.

So after Poland our first destination was Bratislava. If I'm being honest (which, of course, I am), before this trip I don't know if I could have said that I had ever even heard of the city of Bratislava, let alone told you where it was. So for anyone who may share my lack of knowledge, Bratislava is the capital city of the Slovak Republic (aka. Slovakia). We pulled up for the night in a free carpark with probably one of the nicest views in the city. We were parked right next to the river with direct views across the river to the main centre and up on the hill, the Bratislava castle. Of course, with all this lit up in the night, reflecting on the river, the view really was spectacular! Following up this view we obviously went on a morning walking tour. The unfortunate thing here is that, although Bratislava is a beautiful city with a lot to show for itself, there is a lot missing from the city. During the communist years Bratislava lost a lot of it's important buildings and areas in favour of more "practical" options. Despite this I found myself thinking that it is a very underrated city, and I'm really happy that we decided to go there. I think one of the highlights there would definitely have been going up to the castle on top of the hill and the amazing view from the top!
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Our next stop was Budapest, and I was quite excited for this one. It really did not fail to deliver! Again we did a walking tour to get a better feel for the sights of the city. The history in this city is incredible, and the best part is that you really still can see so many of the incredible buildings still standing. From the St Stephen's Basilica, and the Parliament building, and all through the castle district, there is just so much to see! Now we were quite hot and sweaty after all that walking around, so there was only one thing to do; head to the famous bathhouses! This was probably the most relaxing thing we've done in a while. There were so many different options from scalding hot to freezing cold. We spent a good couple of hours lounging in the outdoor pool, soaking up some sun. Unfortunately, we weren't able to lounge there forever as we had plans later that evening. at 9:30pm, just as darkness was really setting in, we boarded a boat from nighttime river cruise. This I would also recommend. We got to see all the major buildings we'd visited through the day all beautifully lit up in the night. It's amazing how much more magnificent a city can look all lit up in the night! With the cruise over all too soon we headed to one of Budapest's famous ruin bars to finish off the evening. For anyone who hasn't heard of them, the ruin bars became prominent around 10 years ago, with hollowed out shells of buildings being converted into eccentrically decorated bars and clubs. This was definitely worth a looks, but takes a little getting used to after you walk in. After the day of adventuring we prepared to leave the next morning, however circumstances dictated that we should spend another night in Budapest, so we instead took a nice bike ride and watched the musical fountain on Margaret Island while reading our books.
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After a slightly delayed departure from Budapest we headed toward Zagreb, Croatia's Capital. We stayed around an hour from the city, then made a flying visit during the day. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, again, we did a free walking tour. Despite the stinking hot day, beads of sweating rolling down our bum cracks, putrid body odour, and moderate dehydration, we had a great day in Zagreb. No really, we totally loved it. Such a relaxed, slow paced city. After seeing the sights (and acquiring some new sunburn) we settled ourselves in the recommended restaurant to sample the local traditional food; Strukli! The only way I can describe this in like cannelloni past (but more doughy), filled with either sweet or salty cheese, the baked in a creamy sauce (like potato bake). And then you can get a range of additives, like blueberries or mushrooms for example. Maddie and I both had the truffle strukli. It was amazing!!! So much baked cheesey goodness it was hard to resist ordering a second course. So feeling refreshed, with full bellies, we made the ride back to Frankie and hit the road for Ljubljana (I leave the pronunciation of that one up to you), where we're now settled nicely into a caravan park.
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Now for the drama, which I know you've all been waiting for. Now our troubles began the day we left Poland. Initially, nothing seemed to be a miss. That was, until we noticed that our "living room" battery warning light was flashing. We had a think and concluded that the 4 days spent in Poland with no power or driver had depleted the battery and it just needed a good day's driving to charge it up again, so we continued on. Around about half way there was no improvement, so we decided to switch the fridge of to give the battery a chance to charge. By the time we reached Bratislava there was still no change and we were getting a little worried. However, once we parked and got ourselves settled the battery level improved. So we optimistically settled in for the night.

The next day of driving proved worse. By the time we had reached Budapest, not only was the living room battery light flashing, but the engine battery warning was also lighting up. We arrived at our campsite with no trouble and got ourselves plugged into power. And the batteries began to charge. "Well thats good", we thought. Our elation was temporary. on the second morning in Budapest we packed ourselves up and prepared to leave, and of course, Frankie would not start. We were going nowhere. Now know what everyone's thinking, but no, it was not a flat battery. Luckily, the man working at the campsite was very helpful and called a few mechanics for us. He managed to find one that would come to the site and have a look at the van. Around 2 hours later 2 men turned up and had a quick look over the engine, connected up a cable and started the engine up like there was nothing wrong. This, at least, was a big relief. They said we had 2 problems, one was that the alternator was stuffed so our batteries weren't charging, and the other was that we had a loose cable or dodgy connection on the ignition. All sounded reasonable enough to me. They also said they would be able to fit us in at 8am the next morning to fix it all; so we spent another night in Budapest.
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The next morning we got up nice and early, packed ourselves up (again), and turned the key. Again Frankie wouldn't start. Luckily the mechanics had anticipated this and told us to call them if it wouldn't start and they'd come get us going again. So after their second visit we were on our way to their workshop. Once we arrived (with a little bit of a detour thanks to Serena) we left Frankie with them and thought that they were trying to tell us to come back in 2 hours. We're still not really sure that's what they were actually saying as 1 of them spoke around 3 words of English, and the other even less. So we trotted of to McDonalds for a cold drink and some free Wifi. Now when I say trotted I really mean trudged slowly and painfull in the 30degree 9am heat. By the time we arrived we were dripping. So after around 2 hours we started heading back, after a fairly lengthy detour to try to find an ATM. And upon arrive back we found Frankie still jacked up. After attempting conversation again they explained that the part needed to go away to be fixed then come back and they would put it back in (well we think). So we finally work out that we should be back at 3:30pm. And again we trudged to the shopping centre for some aircon, lunch, and more free Wifi. Once we finally arrived back at 3:30 we were exhausted, but excited to see that Frankie once again had 4 feet on the ground. They said that she was all fixed, and we were happy to see that she started first go. And the came time to pay. Pointing to a number on the screen I had to do a double take when I saw 55,500. But checked myself once I realised that was in Hungarian Forints, making it around $260.

We are happy to say that so far since Frankie has been running like a dream. And we're praying it stays that way. Fingers crossed!

Posted by ScottGosling 03:12 Comments (3)

Hedghog Hunting!

Berlin and Poland... what a mix!


View Europe 2016 on ScottGosling's travel map.

We're still playing catch up here so I'm going to be packing a bit into this one. So hold onto your hats, fasten your seatbelts, and get ready for this rollercoaster adventure!

From the Czech Republic we made our way back to our old friend Germany. On our little western tour we had obviously left off the all important far eastern Berlin. So we thought it only fair that we fitted it in somewhere. And here it is! So we arrived to Berlin on Tuesday evening last week and immediately set out for the city centre. We had decided it was time to meet some more people so we found another organised pub crawl to get ourselves out there. Now we're thinking, "Tuesday night. There'll probably be around 15-20 people there." Sounds reasonable right? Well after 108 people squished themselves into a tiny little pub we quickly realised that we had been very wrong! Nevertheless we had a excellent night! We got to see a bit of Berlin's night life and meet other cool travellers. Notably, 4 fellow Aussies and a trio from Sweden.
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After a surprisingly swift start the next morning we again headed into the centre for another free walking tour. Now this is where we really saw the history that Berlin has to offer. With stops including the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Memorial the the Murdered Jews, and the Gendarmenmarkt square we were in awe of the long (and somewhat savage) history the city had to offer. Even just walking around after the tour we were constantly finding fascinating old building and market squares. The city was absolutely worth the addition onto our itinerary!
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So after our all too brief visit to the German capital it was time for us to make our way to the town of Nasławice in Poland's south. For those of you who don't know, Maddie spent 2 lots of 6 months as an Au Pair in Poland after she finished high school. So we headed there to visit the family she lived with for the weekend. Never before have I been so bombarded with language diversity. Often we'd be sitting around the table with conversations occurring in English, Polish, and Spanish (the family currently have a Spanish Au Pair) simultaneously. Despite the fact that we weren't always entirely sure what was going on, the bi- and tri-lingual group made Maddie and I really keen to start learning a new language (although I'm not sure I could handle Polish).
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First stop on our little Polish adventure was Wrocław. Now Maddie had seen a fair bit of this city before, but we decided to do a walking tour anyway. And again Europe never ceases to amaze us with just how beautiful and historic it can be. The most incredible part of Wrocław was however the paczki. For anyone who hasn't tried these they're kind of like a glazed jamball doughnut. But the best damn warm, soft, melt-in-your-mouth jamball doughnut you've ever had! And, they come in an endless number of flavours (cream cheese was our favourite).
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We had a great time staying in a proper house in Poland. Wojtek had us climbing mountains and tunnelling through rock labyrinths, while Kinga fed us like kings and queens. There was, however, one dissapointment. The hedgehogs. I made it my goal to feed one of the local hedgehogs while i was in Poland as I'd often heard Maddie say how they would come to the verandah and eat the cheese left out for them. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. They must have sensed that I was there and stayed hidden away in their home. Nevertheless we had an excellent time in Poland!

And now, on to Slovakia, Hungary, and beyond!

Posted by ScottGosling 15:59 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Czech it out!

Country number 4, Czech ✔️

They say better late than never, right? well this is only about a week overdue so I think that applies here. From Vienna we made our way back up north to the Czech Republic on the 9th of June. So we're only 9 days late here. But that's ok, we'll catch up.
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Now we had a pretty brief visit to Czech. We really only visited 2 main places. Our first stop was the incredible Cesky Krumlov. If anyone ever gets the chance to go here I would strongly recommend it. It's probably the most well preserved old school town we've seen with an excellent castle sitting up on the hill overlooking it. And the castle even has some pet bears! Again we found ourselves a free walking tour so we could get to know the place a little better. And of course, after all that walking, we'd worked up an appetite. So we found ourselves an incredible Czech favourite; a curled tube of pastry, roasted over coals, covered in cinnamon sugar, and of course we had ours filled with soft serve ice-cream! Delicious!
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Now, of course, with all that extra energy we decided a nice paddle on the river would be a good idea. Which it was! Cesky Krumlov has a excellent river flowing through it which you can hire a canoe to paddle down. This was a really great way to see the town and they drop you upstream so you don’t have to paddle too much if you don’t want to, not to mention the 5 set of artificial rapids we got to go down.
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The next stop on our little Czech adventure was Prague. Oh beautiful Prague! It really is worth all the hype that it gets. The 1 downside, however, is that it is incredibly touristy. I think we saw around 15 bucks party groups on our first day there, most of which were from the UK. It’s still an incredible city despite that fact. So many stunning old buildings and so much history. We again did a free walking tour the first day, followed by a Prague Castle tour the second day.
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All in all the Czech Republic was incredible, even though we only saw a small portion of it.

Before I leave you I thought you’d all like a little update too. Frankie is going well. Her muffler has been repair (even if it was my dodgy patch job). And she hasn’t overheated again (yet).

Thanks for keeping in contact with us everyone! We having an amazing time!

Posted by ScottGosling 11:06 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (2)

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