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Nuremberg to Bamburg along the Main-Danube Canal

sunny 24 °C

It is now Sunday, July 8th and we left Regensburg last night. We sailed through the night and awoke to another beautiful sunny morning cruising thru the spectacular German countryside. Much of the cruise so far has been in lovely pastoral country with lush growth along the shores broken up by the occaisonal small town. We are now in the Main Danube Canal which is not more than several hundred meters wide and often not wide enough to turn the ship around. By lunch time we arrived at Nuremberg. After breakfast there was an interesting presentation from a local expert on the history and development of the European Union. After getting tied up in Nuremberg we had a light lunch and quickly departed for a city tour of Nuremberg. The first stop on the tour was the unfinished Nazi Party Rally Grounds – a massive structure modeled after the Colliseum in Rome and clearly a monument to Hitler's ego. It is so massive you would need an ariel picture to get an idea of its size.

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Dave inside the Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Nearby is the location of the old Nuremberg courts of justice where the famous Nuremberg Trials took place in Courtroom 600.

Like so many of the German cities that we are visiting, Nuremberg was heavily bombed during WW2 and about 80% of the city center was destroyed, so many of the buildings we saw have been restored to their original form after the war. Restoration of old sites has been a huge industry after the war and they have done a wonderful job of recreating the many old sections of towns that were completely leveled during WW2. Nuremberg is a lovely old city with more of those square Italian-inspired towers. While here we also visited the very old and beautifully restored Nuremberg Castle.

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Square Tower of Nuremberg Castle

The Castle is very large with a dry moat surrounding its walls. It has a very steep entrance and many steep roads and pathways within the castle. It is easy to see why it was designed to be easy to defend and very difficult to conquer.

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Inside Nuremberg Castle

In the 15th and 16th centuries Nuremberg became the center of the German Renaissance and was the place where Albrecht Durer lived – he is considered the Leonardo da Vinci of Germany. He was very important and so his house is right outside the castle. If you look closely you can see the castle walls on the right of the street across from his house.

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Albrecht Durer’s House

With the reformation and Martin Luther, many of the previously Catholic churches and cathedrals were converted to Lutheran Churches. The churches that were already owned by the municipality as many were in that era were converted to Lutheran as a result of a vote by the citizens. Only the churches that were owned by the Catholic church remained Catholic. Here we have a Lutheran Church. Note the different colors of the stones which show what was rebuilt after WW2.

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After the castle tour we walked down into to the central Market Square

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Market Square

where we saw what they have named "The Beautiful Fountain"

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The Beautiful Fountain

And the Church of Our Lady which is one of the few Catholic Churches in Nuremberg

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The Church of Our Lady

After a little free time to explore we hopped on our tour bus and returned to the ship.

We left Nuremberg at 1 am and through the night and the next morning we continued along the Main-Danube canal to Bamburg on the Main River. There was more beautiful scenery with the castles, churches and cathedrals.

Bambeg is one of the few cities not destroyed by WW2 bombing and was named an UNESCO World Heritage site because of its many medieval structures. We took a coach into town and had another guided walking tour. While we were on tour, the ship was going to move on and we were to rendezvous with the ship further down the river.

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Bamburg Market

Of note is the Town Hall which was built on a bridge because the Prince-Bishop of the day wouldn’t give the city fathers any land because he didn’t want any other authorities challenging his authority. Local artists vied to have their painting on the wall as a local marketing tool. Note the leg sticking out at the base at the far end. At this point in history the line between church, state and military was often very blurred and church leaders were often municipal leaders and even military commanders too.

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Old Town Hall

In the picture below, the building at the right with the curved openings at the base was a slaughter house. Its location made it convenient to dump waste into the river, hardly an environmental best practice. The row of medieval houses to the left is called Little Venice.

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Little Venice and slaughter house.

We went on to visit the Bamberg Cathedral but it was closed due to renovation.

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Bamberg Cathedral

We saw the "New Residence" which was never finished – note the construction links ready to tie in the anticipated 3rd wing running down the corner at the left side of the building.

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The New Residence

Bamberg is famous for beer (a common claim of many of the towns in Bavaria), especially the Rauchbier which is a smoked beer made with malt dried over open flames and which tastes a bit like smoked ham. To me it was the perfect example of people saying: “This tastes terrible – try it”. So naturally we stopped by one of the local roadhouses famous for this beer and tried it with our new friends from the ship.

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Hazel, Steve, Jeanne, Bernie, Ron, Charm and Rebecca.

We returned to our coaches and learned that the ship had been delayed at one of the locks and would be an hour late meeting us at the prearranged rendezvous point. The Program Director and Managers improvised quickly and arranged for the coaches to drive us around for a tour of the local countryside. 90 minutes later we arrived at a small road along side the canal just as the ship arrived at the meeting point. We all got to stand around on the bank of the canal and watch as the crew set up the gangplank. The captain, not a man with a lot of patience, was once again not a happy camper with the delay as it would negatively impact his preset schedule once again.

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The unhappy Captain

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Setting up the gangplank

The staff were wonderful and clapped as we appeared and offered us treats and champagne as we boarded.

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Soon after we were underway the canal joined the Main River. The Main is a narrow river with a lot of locks. While we slept the ship passed through 14 as we headed to Wurzburg.

Posted by DavidandHazel 05:21 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Wurzburg on the Main to Koblenz on the Rhine

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Once again the ship cruised all night while we slept. Although very small compared to ocean cruise ships the River Cruise ships are very quiet and free of vibration. The big reason for this is the ship's very advanced propulsion system. There are four large diesel generators which provide all the power for the boat including the four electric motors which drive the four unit propulsion system - two in the bow and two in the stern. At night they use the two drive units in the bow which are directly under the dining room, the lounge and the sun deck so there is no vibration in the passenger area which occupies the aft two thirds of the ship. The ship also has two large bow thrusters which aid in making the ship extremely manouverable. This is critical as the ship frequently has to move around in the locks mere inches from the sides of a lock or another ship because they jam as many ships into the locks at one time as they can.

By morning we had arrived in Wurzburg, Germany and discovered that we had left the Main Danube Canal and were now in the Main River. The river continues to be very scenic with numerous castles dotting the hillsides and is quite narrow. Most of the time a good throw could reach the river bank on either side.

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Magnificent Marienberg Fortress in Wurzburg

We boarded our coach and headed to the center of town to pick up our daily walking tour. Today our tour was to the impressive baroque Bishops’ Residenz, one of Germany’s largest and most ornate palaces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This former residence of the Würzburg prince-bishop was designed by architect Balthasar Neumann and built over a 70-year period, starting in 1720.

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Residence of the prince-bishop

Unfortunately we were not permitted to take pictures inside this opulent palace much of which has been painstakingly restored in recent years after being badly damaged during WW 2.

After our tour of the palace we struck out on our own to explore the town. We explored the old Main Bridge which was built in the 1500’s.

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Old Main Bridge

There were a number of very ornate churches and cathedrals

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Cathedral of St. Killian

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including this chapel below

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Chapel

It is called a chapel because it did not have a resident priest – otherwise it would be a church.

After our personal walking tour we returned to the ship for another amazing lunch. We then spent the afternoon relaxing aboard catching up on organizing our pictures and writing this blog.

Part of our daily routine was to head up the main lounge around 6:45 pm and hear the Cruise Director explain what we would be seeing over the next twenty four hours. Then we would go down stairs to the dining room on deck 2 for dinner at 7:00. We now had our own table which we share with our six new friends. Dinners are a major social event every evening and we are really enjoying the company of this group of friends. We seldom finish dinner before 9:00 pm as we work our way through the many wonderful courses. This evening the ship pulled away from the dock as we were having dinner. Once again we sailed through the night landing in Wertheim the next morning. There is something truly magical about waking up in the morning throwing open the drapes and opening our patio door to view a little village that dates back to the 9th century.

Wertheim is a beautiful little village located on the Main River where the Tauber joins in. It has a long history of being flooded despite some pretty drastic measures taken by the inhabitants over the centuries. One of the early efforts was to add massive amounts of fill in an effort to raise the villege by a meter or so. This was not a bad effort considering they had very little in the way of mechanized equipment to assist them. In modern times the addition of flood control dams on the river have greatly reduced the risk of floods but there have still been several major floods in the past twenty years. The villagers seem to have resigned themselves to this flooding and have developed a few coping strategies that allow them to continue to live here. In the picture below you can see an old archway which once was twice as high as it is now after the ground level was raised.

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“Lowered” archway

At several places in town there were records on the walls of buildings indicating the height of the flood waters in various years.

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Flood levels

With all of the flooding and the massive amounts of fill the soil in the village is not very stable. The local Pointed Tower (Spitzer Turm) developed a significant list during construction in the 13th century. Construction stopped but being the innovative souls that they were the locals just built the second half leaning the other way to counteract the initial lean. Today the local people often call it the “Leaning tower of Wertheim” Our very droll guide offered to prop it up so we could be safe in passing.

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Leaning Tower of Wertheim

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Our helpful guide

On a number of our walking tours there have been references to the Jewish population of Germany and their fate during the Nazi era. The residents of Wertheim are no exception and they have clearly acknowledged the appalling treatment of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis and the complicity of local communities in not doing enough to prevent it. In the village they have placed brass plaques with the names of former Jewish residents in the sidewalks in front of their former homes.

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Former home of a Jewish family

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Plaque in the sidewalk in front of the home above indicating the names of the former residents.

This is the old Wertheim Market Square which was the center of much activity in the middle ages.

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Old Market Square

It was not only the place people gathered to buy and sell goods, it was also the place of some pretty gruesome public punishments. Everyone wanted to know what was going on in the square so many of the houses in the lanes running into the center square were offset and had windows placed so that the residents of the houses could view down the narrow lane and see what was going on in the square. Our guide referred to these being the houses of the “Nosey people of Wertheim”.

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Houses of the nosey people of Wertheim

After spending the morning on our walking tour and then doing some exploring on our own we finally walked back to the ship for lunch. During lunch the ship cast off and we continued on our journey along the Main River travelling towards our our rendezvous with the mighty Rhine river.

In the afternoon we joined a tour of the ship's galley which we found to be surprisingly small considering they are feeding nearly two hundred people every meal. For example they had only 2 large free standing ovens and 8 large cooktop rings in two separate countertop units. All of the stove top elements were magnetic induction technology which is very popular in Europe.

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Cooktop

From this kitchen they make much of their own bread and baked goods, and a good deal of their own pasta. The food has been exceptional. Here are a couple of shots of the galley. It was so small you really couldn’t get good pictures.

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After the Galley tour we had a German Tea which featured meats and sausages as well as sweets.

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Once again the ship cruised all night and when we awoke the next morning we were on the Rhine River – a much busier and much wider river than the Main. We are now finished with the locks and have passed through 68 of them. This area is the Middle Rhine.

We continued to sail along the middle Rhine seeing many more castles in various states of repair,

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scenic villages,

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more churches and vineyards.

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Shortly after lunch we docked in the village of Braubach. Once secured to the dock we boarded the coaches for a trip up to nearby Marksburg Castle where we once again had a great walking tour.

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Marksburg Castle

Most of the Rhine castles have been heavily damaged or largely destroyed by everything from battles to lightning, but Marksburg is intact and provides a great insight into life in the middle ages in a castle. We saw the Blacksmith shop

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The Blacksmith area

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The Kitchen

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The toilet which simply opened outside the castle walls.

The castle was well designed for defense with narrow, and very irregular pathways

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Narrow walkway in castle

There was also a terrific display of Knights in Armor through the ages. (These pictures are for Desmond.)

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The castle has a commanding view of the town of Braubach and the Rhine River below

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At the end of the walking tour we once again boarded the coaches and travelled along to Koblenz where we met our ship Koblenz is on the Rhine where the Moselle merges in. That evening we had the official Captain's Farewell Dinner (a bit early). We had another great evening of fun with our group of friends. After we went to bed the ship cast off and we headed Cologne.

Posted by DavidandHazel 17:39 Comments (0)

Life On A Longboat & The End Of Our Adventure

overcast 21 °C

Just imagine waking up and peeking out or your window to see lush riverbanks studded with quaint old villages, majestic churches with steeples soaring above the village roofs, and up on the hill the remains of an old castle watching over the landscape – magic!

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Typical River Scene

This was our experience most days on our trip from Budapest to Amsterdam.

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To take a step back, the riverboats or "Longboats" as Viking Cruises likes to call their new boats, are long (125 meters), narrow (11.4 meters), low vessels built to fit through the narrow rivers, canals and locks and under the low bridges of the European river system. By ocean cruising standards they are tiny boats and carry around 180 guests compared to the 2000-3000 found on a typical mid sized ocean cruise ship. However, the cabins on the riverboats are very similar to those on an ocean cruise ship.

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Our cabin

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Dave sitting in front of the "balcony"

With only 180 guests it is a much more intimate experience and you get to know many of your fellow passengers. Often while walking in the smaller cities we would recognize our fellow passengers and wave and say hello as we passed in the street.

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The Viking Presitge

As you see in the picture above, there is a top deck or sun deck as it is called, with umbrellas, tables and chairs at the front, the square Wheelhouse from where the captain steers the ship, and then further back there are two canopied areas where passengers can sit as well.

There are 3 enclosed decks below the sun deck all with guest cabins. All of the cabins on the top two decks (decks 2&3) have cabins which each have what they call a "French Balcony" which is a big patio door to the outside opening to a 3 inch "balcony". The bottom deck (deck 1) has cabins with much smaller water-level windows. Those cabins would certainly not be our first choice!

When the ship passes under a low bridge, they have to stow the umbrellas, tables, chairs and canopies. They even lower the entire Wheelhouse which is on some sort of hydraulic lift mechanism.

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Canopy lowered

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Wheelhouse 2/3 down

If a bridge is not too low they only lower things part way and they position crew on the sun deck to ensure that passengers get down on their knees. When the ship goes through areas where many of the bridges are low they completely close the sun deck to passengers.

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Some bridges are so low there are mere inches to spare. Then all the furniture must come off the top deck and everything else is folded flat against the deck.

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Ship docked under a bridge.

On those days when the ship was going under a number of very low bridges they took on 600 tonnes of ballast water to sink the ship down lower into the water in order for it to squeeze under the bridges.

We were on Deck 3 with a French Balcony. Here is Hazel waving from the “Balcony”. The aft or rear two thirds of the ship is mostly dedicated to passenger cabins. The forward third of the ship is dedicated to common areas.

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On Deck 2 forward is the main dining room. One evening the waiters dressed up – here is our group of friends with Ericsson, our favourite waiter in the main dining room.

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Dave, Steve, Rebecca, Jeanne, Bernie, Ericsson, Hazel, Ron, and Char

Up on Deck 3 at the front of the ship was a nice open-to-the-air seating area

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Deck 3 at the bow

Just inside that was the large Viking Lounge where we met for our daily briefings, to listen to presentations, music or just chill and swill - the bar was also in the Viking lounge. Often when there wasn’t something official going on, the ship’s musician, Konstantin, played the lovely little baby grand for all to enjoy.

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Viking Lounge.

For breakfast and lunch, we always had the choice of a buffet up on deck 3 or the main dining room service. Dinner was served in the lovely main dining room every evening. The food was ample and of superb quality. The small galley made its own baked goods including bread and some of its own pasta. They made a real effort to use local foods which the chef sourced in our ports of call. Wine and beer were complementary for lunch and dinner and flowed abundantly.

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Our Group at Dinner

Now for the final leg of our trip – from Cologne to Amsterdam.

Cologne, the 4th largest city in Germany with 2.1 million people, is considered the oldest city in Germany and is known for its churches – the most famous of which is the Cologne Cathedral which is the second tallest church is Europe.

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Cologne Cathedral from the Rhine

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Bottom of the Cologne Cathedral

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Top of the Cologne Cathedral

It is so tall it was used by the allied bombers during WW 2 as a landmark. This was probably the reason it was only lightly bombed while the rest of Cologne was devestated with about 80% of the city destroyed.

It is a magnificent building which is in a constant state of restoration

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Artist Restoring some of the gold work on a statue

Which contains many tombs including the tombs of the 3 Magi

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Tombs of the 3 Magi

After our walking tour of Cologne we had the option of staying in town for the rest of the afternoon until about 6 or staying on the ship while it made a short trip to a local dry dock for some repairs. We elected to stay on the ship because it was a chilly, rainy day. Some of our friends elected to tour some of the museums in town. One couple made it to the museum of chocolate – period.

Drydock was a non event. We weren’t even aware that we were being raised from the water a little. While there they installed a new heat exchanger for one of the 4 main generators.

By 6:00 pm we were back around to the main harbour to pick up the rest of our passengers.

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Passengers embarking from Cologne

As usual everything went smoothly and we quickly headed out northbound for Kinderdijk in Holland.

The next day as we cruised through the waterways of Holland we were treated to an excellent lecture by a local Dutch woman on the history and life in the windmills. Kinderdijk is a tiny village located on a strip of land between the Lek and Noord Rivers. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it has the largest concentration of operational windmills (19) some dating from the 14th century.

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Windmills of Kinderdijk

In 1421 there was a heavy flood that devastated the area. One legend developed about a child in a cradle which was kept afloat by a cat jumping from side to side keeping it in balance. “The Cat and the Cradle” became a popular fairytale, and the area became known as “Child’s Dike” or Kinderdijk in Dutch. To this day all cats around the windmills are protected and honored as “windmill cats”.

By late afternoon we left this magical and calm place and got ready for our last dinner aboard. As always it was a fun dinner but ended on a somewhat sad note as we bid our new found friends goodby and vowed to stay in touch. After saying our goodbys we headed off to our cabin to pack as we had an early departure at 6:30 am the following morning.

During the night the ship continued towards our resendvous with Amsterdam. We were up bright and early the following morning and our ship was already docked and lots going on. We grabbed a bit of breakfast and then headed ashore to our taxi which would take us through Amsterdam and on to the airport. After the usual airport confusion we boarded our big KLM Airbus and headed towards home at 9:30 am. We now had 7 hours to kill before we would arrive in Toronto at 11:30 am local time.

We are now home and have had some time to think about our first River Cruise. Bottom line it did in fact exceed our expectations on all fronts and we will certainly be doing another river cruise. We also would recommend this highly as a fascinating and entertaining experience in which we learned huge amounts of history (recent and ancient) and geography. We will still do traditional ocean cruising as we enjoy it too but river cruising is truly a unique and wonderful experience.

David & Hazel

Posted by DavidandHazel 16:53 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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