Monday, March 30, 2009

Tibidabo Amusement Park

The end of February 2009 saw the re-opening of the Amusement Park, up on top of Tibidabo which is the mountain at the back of Barcelona. The park has been going for a fair few years, but had seen a very big drop in visitors, partly because the park is a fair way away, and partly because the attractions in the park were...well, let's just say that for an amusement park, they were mild to say the least.

Barcelona Sights - Tibidabo Amusement Park

So the council decided to add a new attraction - much to the discontent of the locals and friends of Cosserolla Park (the woodland around the mountain) which aimed to pull back in the visitors to the amusement park. The result is the new rollercoaster of Tibidabo which at 718 metres, curls and winds its way around the park at speeds of 80kph, heights of up to 522 metres and gradient drops of 66%! The website of the Tibidabo fun park has a cool video of the start of the ride, which shows just how close to the trees you are. I'm a huge fan of rollercoasters, and it certainly looks cool, but at 25 Euros entrance to the park, that's hardly an "anti-crisis price" is it?

The park is split up into 6 different levels (you enter at the top, number 6) and there are the usual suspects for a fun fair with teacups, a big Ferris Wheel, halls of mirrors, puppet shows, dodgems, pirate ships and log flumes and top views of the city to boot.

I may well be proven wrong, but I just think if you want to go for some white-knuckle rides, you'd be better off heading to Port Aventura, which is a real Amusement Park (complete with huge queues for all the rides, overpriced food and drinks but sunshine!).

Getting to the Tibidabo Amusement park has allegendly been made easier by the Park owners. You can take public transport up to the Funicular, which has been doing double the amount of journeys since 2007 (according to TMB - the company who runs it). There's also the Tibibus leaving from Plaça Catalunya and taking you up to the park. Both tickets for the Funicular or the Tibibus are refunded with the entrance fee.

So, anyone reading been since the new roller-coaster is the star of the show? I'd be very keen to hear your comments! Let me know if it's worth it and any other info. Thanks!

For details on other sights and attractions in the city, see this Barcelona City Guide. And for accomodation in the city, try Apartments in Barcelona for a great alternative to a hotel.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cool Sculptures in Barcelona

Giraffe Sculpture in Barcelona - Barcelona Sights blog
I wanted to add this post as there are hundreds of popular monuments in Barcelona, but some of them take all the glory (understandably so). However, when I was an English teacher, I used to work on Rambla Catalunya, in the Barcelona neighbourhood of Eixample which is a very central, tree-lined avenue parallel to Paseo de Gracia - probably the city's most famous street aside from Las Ramblas.

Rambla Catalunya, like Paseo de Gracia, has many terraces from some great bars, cafes and restaurants, and is a top place for shopping. But I'm not going to talk about either of those aspects on this post, rather the head and foot of the mediterranean boulevard. This is about 2 of the coolest sculptures in the city.

The Asociacio d'Amics de Rambla Catalunya presented two sculptures to "the city of Barcelona" in 1972 - one at the top and one very near to the bottom.

At the top, which is where Rambla Catalunya meets Avinguda Diagonal, there's a great sculpture of a giraffe which you can see from the image here, is lying down, coyly swinging it's tail around one leg. I think it's really cool, and is a great contrast to the serious street that it tops.

Barcelona Sights - The Bull Thinker

At the bottom, just touching Gran Via, is another sculpture of a bull, but in the pose of Rodin's The Thinker. Again, this makes me smile every time I see it (and it was a lot when I used to work there) and is something I always point out to friends or family if we happen to be passing by there.

I have no idea as to why two animals have been used at either end of the street, and especially a bull, which is traditionally a Spanish emblem, and pertains to bull fighting in Spain, something which is frowned upon in Barcelona. Maybe that's the point? That we should think about the use of bulls for spectator sports? Either way... I love them both and wanted to share them here, so I hope you like them too!

Thinking of coming to Barcelona? Why not consider renting Barcelona Apartments for your next trip - you can be closer to many cool local sights such as the Bull and Giraffe sculptures featured here today!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Barcelona Council Breathes Sigh of Relief After Champions Draw

Today's midday draw in Nyon in Switzerland has seen Barcelona draw German side Bayern Munich and the authorities at the council will breathe a sigh of relief - at least until the next round. Assuming Barcelona can beat Bayern, they will play either Liverpool or Chelsea in the semi-finals - both teams that have played in Barcelona in recent years.

Today's copy of La Vanguardia has a very large image of Celtic supporters (below)with the dramatic headline "Plan Antivándalos" (Anti-vandal plan). The article basically describes how the council had earmarked 3 zones of the city as the meeting point for the influx of supporters that will descend on the city next month - and the 3 zones depended on which team Barcelona were to draw.

The first area, dedicated to the "hooligans" as La Vangaurdia shamelessly and blatantly puts it, is the area in and around the Fira de Barcelona at the foot of Montjüic (away from the city centre) and would have been dedicated to Liverpool, Manchester Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal.
Shalke Fans at Maremagnum - Barcelona Sights
The second area, would be the area around Maremagnum and would have been dedicated to Villareal or Porto - a location recently used by Shalke (above image).

The final destination (used by Liverpool last time) is the beach area around the Olympic Village and is indeed where the Bayern fans will be encouraged to meet.

The article in La Vanguardia continues to detail how leaflets will be printed in German and handed out at the airport and other locations regarding the civic expectations, laws about public drinking, etc. All of this to avoid the, quote "lacerating images of a hooligan Plaça Catalunya in front of an impassive Guardia Urbana" in November 2007.

Now, I know that newspapers need to sell copies (more in the current climate) but what annoys me most about the situation, and the particular way in which the newspaper reports the preventative measures against any possible situations, is that everyone seems to have such a short memory.

The largest scale of public disorder, violence, vandalism and destruction of Vandalism at Placa Catalunya - credit 20minutos/Toni Garrigapublic property was caused on the 18th May 2006, BY BARCELONA'S OWN POPULATION. Not only were bus shelters and telephone booths absolutely demolished, public bins burned and pushed along streets, but shops such as Levis, Burger King, Springfield and Decathlon (to name but a few) were damaged and the Optician's at El Triangle was completely rooted in a scene usually reserved for a war zone or a Hollywood Movie.....and Barcelona WON!! The evening ended with 107 people wounded and 45 arrests.

Such was the scale of the violence and vandalism, that the council estimated the cost of the disturbances at 100,000 Euros. I personally remember the night, and couldn't believe how the crowd was allowed to run riot (the game wasn't even played in the city, but in Paris !). There was also considerable damage to the city's metro system and the service was even interrupted for a while. Objects were thrown into the mechanical escalators so that other users could not use the metro. The list goes on. And this is compared to a Scottish bloke taking a piss on the corner of Plaça Catalunya.

Barcelona sights - Football Fans in Barcelona
Funnily enough, I have searched the Internet for a good couple of hours in google images, amongst others, and have failed to find any images whatsoever of that night, save one from the above link from 20minutos. Suffice to say that there were hundreds of images to choose for today's article in La Vanguardia this morning, and they chose some Celtic fans drinking beer from a funnel (my apologies for the poor image taken from the Vanguardia website).

I think that the British football fans have a bad press, often rightly so (Germany 2006), but that the majority of times, this is caused by ignorance and a "tarnished with the brush" attitude by the local cops. I saw England vs Andorra in Barcelona when Steve McLaren was still at the realm, and the mossos literally beat the fans through the turnstiles with batons. Had my friend and I not intervened on various occasions in Spanish, there would have been some very bruised arses and ribs to say the least! And this was before kick off! and against a team outside their country!!

As always guys, I welcome comments. The last time I added a particularly controversial post I got a cheeky comment back so come on guys, let me know your thoughts - were you around at the time? Any anecdotes?!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try renting Barcelona Apartments for a change - you'll be pleasantly surprised, I'm sure.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Barcelona Welcomes Back 080 Fashion Show

Barcelona's fashion showcase used to be the Bread and Butter fair which has returned to its home in Berlin after a final turn out in January. There is another bridal fashion show in the city, but the attention is now drawn to Barcelona 080 Fashion show which returns to the city today, after a great show back in September last year.

Barcelona 080 Fashion show - Barcelona Sights
The city council and even the Catalan Government have given their full backing to Barcelona 080 fair, with an aim to cement the fair as a big player in the fashion industry, and it certainly seems to be working so far. This is part of the 2007-2010 plan to promote fashion in the city, and this week's third fair will also see the first 080 Barcelona Fashion Best Collection award, which is worth over 20,000 Euros. An international jury will decide on the prize winner from 29 designers - 10 of which are catalan or catalonia based. If you have any interest in fashion, or want to keep up with the latest trends, head on down to the Fira de Barcelona, located at the foot of Montjuic.

For your accommodation while in the city, don't discount Apartments in Barcelona, which can offer a great saving on a hotel room.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Barcelona Re-invented - as a Video Game

Barcelona is already a popular spot for filming. Many TV adverts and a couple of films have been shot here - the most recent being Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona - and filming of a new comedy called "Spanish Movie" is currently going on here right now, too. And after the recent announcement that Barcelona is going 3D it comes as no real surprise that the Catalan Capital has been chosen as a base for a new video game called Wheelman.

Barcelona Map on Video Game  - Barcelona Sights Blog

The actor Vin Diesel, is the "actor" for the main character, and it seems like a very action packed game along the lines of Grand Theft Auto, and the like. One thing of note is that the city has been somewhat displaced in order to provide better gameplay - but at least it's a "real" city, unlike Vice city or San Andreas, in GTA.

Vin Diesel in Wheelman - Barcelona Sights

I expect it to be a real hit - especially in Barcelona, as you'll be able to race down the streets of the city shooting the bad guys and driving however the hell you like on those same streets you use to go to work every day!

Placa de las Arenas on Wheelman Video Game - Barcelona Sights

For some real information on the city (!) see this great Barcelona guide. And for your accomodation next time, why not try Apartments in Barcelona ?

Catalan in Cinemas

Earlier this month, there was a proposition of a new law in Catalonia which aims to "give the right to the citizens of Barcelona to choose the language when going to the cinema". At the moment, there are very few cinemas which offer dubbed movies in Catalan, and the new law will make it the law for the distributors of the films to produce the same amount of copies dubbed in Catalan as in Spanish.

This has been received with mixed reviews - mostly that "it was about time" etc. BUT there is a suggestion that public money would be used to fund the translating of the films, and this seems to have ruffled a few feathers. If you have any views then please leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you.

One small addition that I think is perfectly acceptable, too. There is a plaque on the floor in central Barcelona, on Rambla Catalunya, in the Barcelona Eixample district. I have a photo below.

Manifest about Catalan Movies - Barcelona Sights

The plaque is in English and Catalan. It says:

"Directors and actors as the artistic authors of films demand the moral right to have their work exhibited throughout the world in the form in which it was originally released"

So if the film has been made in Catalan, everyone should watch it subtitled and not dubbed. I remember watching "La Vita e Bella" in Italian with Spanish subtitles and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I can fully understand the request but I'm sure if the film in question was dubbed it would reach a much wider audience - which is precisely the idea of the new law mentioned above, right?

Apartments in Barcelona with BCN Rentals.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Coolest Bar in Barcelona - literally

It's not often you can step out of a hot summer day in Barcelona into a bar for a nice cool cervesa and have to put a fur coat on. In fact, you'd never ever do that - even if the air-con was on full. That is unless you happen to be in the Olympic Village and down at the Barcelona ice bar.

Barcelona Sights - Ice Bar in Barcelona

Maybe some of you have come across those great shot glasses that are made out of ice, or even visited an Absolut bar somewhere in the world (Liverpool is my fave!) but this bar goes to the extremes! The bar boasts being the first ice bar on the beach and at a temperature of -8ºC inside, gives you fur coats and gloves before you enter! Once inside, you can order drinks or cocktails and the basic furniture is made from ice, as well as there being some ice sculptures from different artists. Following on from the hugely successful Ice Hotel in Sweden, IceBCN offers that unique experience in Barcelona and is a fantastic night out with friends (obviously just for one or two - if you want -8ºC you could very well have the hen weekend in Lapland right girls?!).

people in icebcn on Barcelona Sights blog

Like what you're reading? Want to hear more? Please feel free to leave a comment on this post or any of my others - I'm always glad to hear from you!

Also, if you're thinking of visiting the city, I can highly recommend Barcelona Apartments as a great alternative to hostal bunks or the usual hotel room. And for more information about the area around the ice bar see this Olympic Village guide to Barcelona.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

U2 to Start World Tour in Barcelona

Barcelona Sights - U2
Irish Rockers U2 will kick off their 360º World Tour in Barcelona this June. 30th June at Camp Nou is a date not to be missed of you happen to be in the city. The recent release of their 12th studio album, "No Line on the Horizon" is followed with the world tour. Apparently tickets will cost between 24 and 200 Euros.

I was lucky enough to get to see them in 2004 after their Vertigo tour - in August at Camp Nou as well. I remember queuing for hours as the computers crashed, and we were one of the first people to be served, but I still only got tickets for right at the top of Camp Nou! The standing seats sold out sooooo fast. It was an amazing concert, and if you've seen the DVD they brought out of the Vertigo tour then you'll be keen to re-create that atmosphere, too with your own visit.
U2 360º World Tour Stage - Barcelona Sights
The band are also touring with an innovative new stage design offering a 360º view of the band as they play, as it's located in the middle of the stadium, rather than at one end. This also means that they'll be able to fit more people in the stadiums, but the official website also maintains that they'll have plenty of tickets at a reasonable rate for the fans.

Barcelona seems to be a great place to start world tours, with George Michael's recent 25 Live tour also starting here (Palau Sant Jordi this time)amongst others.

If you're thinking of coming to see the band or any others, then I can reccomend renting a Barcelona apartment for your stay.

Let's All Move to London!

The current financial crisis is hitting a lot of people very hard, and it's a shame to see so many "For Sale" or "For Rent" signs above a load of shutters in and around the city centre - there seems to be another one up every time I go out. However, Barcelona has more or less maintained it's position with regards to prices of rented accommodation, house prices (despite what you read) local produce and goods. Don't believe me?
London Bridge on Barcelona Sights
Well, just ask the clever people at The Economist's Intelligence Unit, who have produced their list of the top most expensive cities to live in - with some surprising results. It's probably no surprise to hear that the top 2 cities are Japanese - Tokyo and Osaka (Tokyo also has the most Michelin Star restaurants than any other city, no surprise there then!), but there are some huge movers and shakers, too.

London, for example, which has always been the source of admiration from afar (the normal Spaniard would traditionally have to cough up almost a monthly wage for a weekend away) has fallen from 8th to an incredible 27th position - below even New York (first time since 2002). Barcelona is 18th, and Madrid 20th - not really moving from last year's similar study. The falling Sterling pound and the stability of the US Dollar against the Euro probably has a lot to account for the changes.

For more information about Barcelona in general, and how to save money in the current crisis, check out this Budget Barcelona city guide. Also, consider renting a Barcelona apartment for your next visit.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

They're back

Back in January, I had been debating on posting about some odd artwork that I'd seen in the streets of Barcelona's old town. In fact, I wasn't really sure if you could call it art work or graffiti.

Barcelona Sights - New building with paint
If you didn't read the post, then I'd found some walls which had been...well, splatted with paint which at first didn't seem so interesting, but then I saw another very similar one which made me think it had been done on purpose. Since then I haven't seen anything else similar. Until yesterday.

I was going up to Park Güell with my cousin, and as we got out of Vallcarca metro station, there is a brand new building or apartment block, which has been...ahem...decorated in the same manner. Given the height of some of these paint splodges, I'm pretty convinced that they must have been done with balloons/water balloons or perhaps a catapult? Any ideas of how it's been done (or who did it!) welcome!
Paint graffiti on Barcelona Sights blog

I'm fairly intrigued about it all now, and I'm sure there must be more around the city (and possibly even a myspace site or a blog out there, too?!) so any hints or pointers in the right direction welcome!

Apartments for rent Barcelona and Barcelona holidays for families with BCN Rentals.

Great Things to do in Barcelona for FREE - Part 4

With almost 890,000 visits a year, and tucked away on Carrer Montcada in el Borne district, one of the Top 10 Barcelona Museums is definitely the Picasso Museum.

Picasso Museum on Barcelona sights Blog

Picasso was from Malaga, but spent some of his youth in Barcelona, where his father worked as an art teacher in an old town school. The Barcelona Picasso Museum traces a lot of his early life here, and was the only Museum dedicated to the work of the man which was opened during his lifetime.

Arches at the Picasso Museum - Barcelona Sights Blog

So hold on, I hear you ask, surely this can't be FREE, as the title of the post suggests?! Well guys the good news is that on the First Sunday of the month, the Picasso Museum opens it doors to the public for free, and it's well worth trotting on down to see it - not only for the magnificent artwork you'd expect to find in there, but also because of the beautiful historical building housing the work. First opened in 1963, the museum has undergone substatial reconstruction work, and now covers 5 palaces over 11,500 square metres. You can see from the image below how lavish some of the places were/are.

Palace Interior at the Picasso Museum - Barcelona Sights

One of the best things about the museum (in my humble opinion) is that you see that he was actually a really good recreator of natural forms. Maybe that sounds stupid, but I mean if you ask anyone to describe a Picasso, you'd more than likely get a reply that "he paints the eyes on the same side of the face and uses wacky colours" - you get the idea.

However some of his early stuff (you'll forgive me for not remembering the names - there are over 3,500 pieces on display) are excellent. There's one in particular of which he won a prize and made his mark as a serious artist, of a bed-ridden ill woman being attended to by a doctor and apart from being huge, it's very very good. I'm sure for art-lovers, then the entrance fee is well worth the money, but for those of you simply curious and fancy a look around with no pressure, get yourselves down there on the first Sunday of the month.

Like what you're reading? Please feel free to leave a comment below - I appreciate any feedback. For more information about the city see this short but informative Barcelona Guide and check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona for a great alternative to a hotel.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Great Barcelona Bars Part.... No, Let's Make that Smallest Barcelona Bars

I've been wanting to post about these two bars for a long time, but one of the bars has been closed for ages, and I haven't had a chance to get a photo - the image used here is courtesy of virtual tourist.

Kiosko La Cazalla on Barcelona sights Blog
Anyway, they are great Barcelona bars but also probably the smallest bars, too. Both located in the old town of Barcelona, the first one is Kiosko La Cazalla and dates as far back as 1912. It's located just off Las Ramblas on Carrer Arc del Teatre (fans of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon will know the street as the location of the secret library Daniel visits.

The bar itself has seen various owners, and has also featured in the weekend magazine "Que Fem?" from La Vanguardia newspaper. I think it's a cool place and hope it re-opens soon.

The second small bar is located on Carrer Hospital, which I've also posted about in the past, too. It's got a great terrace across the road for people watching and it's next to the old Hospital which is now the Catalonian Library and a beautiful old backdrop for your cafe con leche.

Barcelona Sights - Bar Mendizabal

If you're coming to Barcelona soon, then I recommend you check them out. Keep your fingers crossed the Kiosko La Cazalla re-opens again soon! Also, for your accommodation why not consider apartments for families in Barcelona - you can save a considerable amount when compared to hotel rooms, and have the added bonus of having a kitchen, etc. too.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Barcelona Scams. The Restaurant Overcharge.

This is actually quite a serious post and one I read up on a well respected travel forum. All my previous posts about scams have involved getting duped or pickpocketed, but unfortunately this one involves violence.

The marks were 4 girls in their 30's and the scam takes place last New Years Eve in the Olympic Village, so I know for a kick off this is a very specific scam to be writing about, and not necessarily something you think might happen all the time, but I still think it's worthy of a heads up.

Barcelona Sights Blog - Restaurant Scam

The scam unfolds in a restaurant (in this case a restaurant in the Olympic Village which I won't name) and when the bill is brought, a credit card is given. Don't get ahead of yourselves thinking it's a card cloning. The waiter takes it away and returns with the bill which has been overcharged by 100 Euros. So they ask you to sign, apologise and give you the 100 Euros in cash - their mistake. The girls leave the restaurant with 100 Euros cash that they wouldn't ordinarily have, and have their bags snatched very close by - but only 3 of them.

So the victim who posted the warning suspects that the waiter is the instigator of the scam, and then communicates their description via a mobile (or whatever) to his cronies outside who then lift the bags - this is why they only take 3. Maybe 3 were brunettes and the other a blonde, so they knew it wasn't her for example.

How to avoid it? If you're ever overcharged, then insist on the amount being credited back onto your credit card, and make sure you get the receipt to verify that. Most restaurants have battery powered TPV machines for credit card transactions (chip and pin is not huge in Barcelona) so the machine could be brought to your table and swiped.

For planning your trip against any possible mishaps, see this detailed Barcelona Guide and check out my other recent posts on Barcelona Scams:

The School Questionnaire
The Postcard cover up
The Reverse Parking Scam
3 Cups Scam
The Map Readers Scam
The Football Dance Scam
The Flat Tyre Scam
The Ketchup Squirt Scam
The Dancing Dollies Scam

For accomodation in the city, try these apartments for rent in Barcelona or if you're travelling with a family look at these apartments in Barcelona for families.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Barcelona Goes 3D

Barcelona Sights - Barcelona 3D
This week the City Council announced that it was going to create a brand new website making visitors to the site able to view the whole city of Barcelona directly from their computer. It's a kind of google maps/Microsoft Virtual Earth idea, but better. At least from the advance press releases on the site, the new virtual Barcelona includes an enormous amount of detail, and you can even go in and out of certain buildings.

Barcelona Media 3D on Barcelona Sights blog

We'll have to wait until next year before the site is up and running, but the benefits are even stretching as far as the local Fire Brigades who would be able to see the structure of a burning building on the site before arriving and having to asses the site of the blaze. Local or new businesses could check the area for developments, etc. Tourists can check out the street their apartment or hotel is located on, and what else is around. Film-makers can see real-time locations in outstanding detail. The ideas and possibilities are endless, and the graphics look amazing.

Barcelona streets in 3D - Barcelona Sights Blog

Barcelona Media and the city council are presenting the project at the Barcelona Globalgeo which is running at the moment at the Fira de Barcelona at Montjüic.

3D Barcelona on Barcelona Sights blog

The project boasts the possibility of viewing over 120,000 buidlings with 250 specific buildings in greater detail. It certainly looks like it'll be the new cool thing to come out of Barcelona. And the ad revenue it could create is also huge (no plans yet, I'm assuming!).

For cheap Barcelona accomodation try looking at studio apartments in the city. Also, read up on the city with this great Barcelona tourist guide.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Great things to do in Barcelona for FREE - Part 3

OK, well, maybe I should re-post this as "Great things to do in Barcelona for less than a Euro" as this is not strictly a free activity, but for 70 cents, you can't complain...

Montjüic mountain in Barcelona offers a great escape for families and anyone really wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. There are some fantastic views of the city from up there, as well as the Olympic Diving boards, Botanical Gardens, A Cactus park, the Greek theatre and the Miró foundation, and of course the cable car ride up to the top of Montjüic castle.
Cables at Montjüic Funicular - Barcelona Sights
Barcelona's tourist bus stops at various places in and around Montjuic, but as I'm trying to offer some money savers for the coming months, then I can highly reccomend taking the Funicular de Montjüic.

The Funicular is a bit like a train, but it's pulled on a cable and while one goes up, the other goes down. Funiculars are used to climb inclines and can be found at the back of Barcelona at Tibidabo and also on day trips outside Barcelona at places like Montserrat.
Barcelona Sights - Montjuic Funicular Entrance
It's a fun way to get half way up to Montjüic and if you can get a seat at the front, you'll see the oncoming train as you go up/down - the trains are without drivers, and controlled solely by the cable.
Barcelona sights - Tunnel at Montjüic Funicular
The Montjüic funicular leaves from Paral·lel metro station, on the entrance next to Carrer Nou de la Rambla. It's included in the metroploitan transport area, so it can be used as one trip if you arrive from the station from elsewhere (you don't need to pay again, just walk straight through, as if changing lines on the metro) and if you arrive there on foot, you can just use 1 trip on a T-10 journey card which is the equivalent of 70 cents - so come on guys, almost FREE?!

Don't forget, you can also make considerable savings on accomodation choices in Barcelona with cheap apartments to rent in Barcelona instead of going for the more traditional hotel rooms, for example.
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