Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.3)

This is the third and final part of my phooto walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. Here are part 1 and part 2.

Above and besides the Megaro Moussikis Metro Station, you'll see a park called Parko Eleftherias. The main feature is a bronze statue of former Greek Statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, seen here with the Hill of Lycabettus in the background.

Eleftherios Venizelos statue, constructed by sculptor Yannis Pappas in 1969 - Parko Eleftherias - Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece; Lycabettus Hill in the background.

Right next to it you have the building that lends its name to the metro station and is one of the major modern landmarks of Athens. The Athens Concert Hall (literally 'Mansion of Music' in Greek) which was inaugurated in 1991, after almost 40 years of planning and works. Ever since, it has become the main place for classical music concerts (and more) in Greece. A "sister Concert Hall" was created in Thessaloniki in 2000. A few years ago, the Conceret Hall's building was complemented with the restoration / creation of a park in the surrounding landscape, in the form of a garden that is referred to as Parko Eleftherias (the second half of it) or simply as the Garden of the Athens Concert Hall.

Panoramic view of the Athens Concert Hall, Vassilissis Sophias Ave., Athens, Greece. The US Embassy stands to its right.

I don't have a photo of the US Embassy as, quite frankly, I avoid taking a picture of it for fear of being black-listed as a dangerous element or something...  I will however, post a photo that does not belong to me (for the first and last time) and which comes from the 1960's when it was first built. It was a really beautiful building at the time, in full harmony with its surroundings, but now it has become something of a concrete monster and a fortress, due to the continuous upgrading of security measures. [Do contact me if you know anything about the source of this photograph].
U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece in the 1960's. Corner of Vassilissis Sofias and Petrou Kokkali St. Source unknown.
After "the Embassy", there's the small Mavili Square which for many years had been an Athens after-hours hang-out. Cafeterias, bars, a pastry-shop and the most famous sandwich shop in late night Athens.
The last part of Vassilissis Sofias gets increasingly impersonal and dissolves into the Ambelokipi neighborhood which stands for “vineyards” but is now one of the most densely built areas of Athens.

Buildings along Vassilissis Sofias, right after Mavili Square (to the left).

The entrance of a most characteristic block of flats, at the corner of Vassilissis Sofias and Xenias St., Athens, Greece

Hippokrateio Hospital, 114, Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece

The grand exception to this are the “Athens Towers 1 & 2” which were built in 1971. Athens Tower 1, at 103 meters (28 floors) tall has been Greece’s tallest building for the last 45 years. One could see it as a metaphor for the country’s “agrarian conservatism” and resulting stagnation of the past decades but that’s a different kind of discussion…

Athens Tower 1 and Athens Tower 2; Athens, Greece

Athens Tower 1 (left) has been Greece's tallest building since 1971.

The construction of tall buildings in Greece has faced a red light for the last 40 years.

After the towers you come to a major intersection. The continuation of Vassilissis Sofias is called Kifissias Avenue, as it leads to the northern suburb of Kifissia. To the right you have Fidipiddou St., and to the left you have Alexandras Avenue, which I have already presented in a similar post years ago.

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Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.2)

This is part 2 of my photo walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, in central Athens. For part 1 go here.

After Evangelismos Metro Station, the first thing that stands out is the Athens Hilton to your right, behind a major triangular intersection of Vassilissis Sofias, Vassileos Konstantinou and Vassileos Alexandrou. In the middle of this intersection there's an iconic, modern Athens landmark: the statue of Dromeas (the Runner) that used to sit on Omonia Square (from 1988 to 2000) but was relocated here due to the Metro works. Coincidentally, its new location sits right on the path of the Classic Athens Marathon (the Marathon-Athens Marathon) about 1.5km before the finish line.
'The Runner', in front of the Athens Hilton hotel, Athens, Greece

'The Runner' sculpture, near the Athens Hilton hotel, Athens, Greece

After Hilton, Vassilissis Sofias makes a left turn and its buildings gradually take a less upscale character, but not before you come across some interesting architectural creations.
At 77Α Vassilissis Sofias, you come across this small memorial sculpture. It comemmorates a sad page in Greece's modern history; the assassination of Greek diplomat and conservative politician Ion Dragoumis, in 1920, by a group of political opponents, who suspected him of having orchestrated an assassination attempt against then prime-minister Eleftherios Venizelos. On the side looking at the street there's a short poem written for the memorial, by Dragoumis contemprary, poet Kostis Palamas.
Ion Dragoumis memorial, Leoforos Vassilissis Sofias, Athens, Greece

An apartment building of the 1950s, with a mermaid adorning its front wall, at 79 Vasilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece. The building is c creation of architect Panagiotis Michelis and today houses the "Panagiotis & Efi Michelis Foundation".

Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece

On the right hand side you have a typically dense urban area (Ilissia) with Parko Ilission (Illissia Park) reaching up to the foothills of Hymmetos Mountain.   

Iridanou St., to the right of Vassilissis Sofias, with the Agios Charalambos church and Ilissia Park in the background; Hymittos Mountain in the far back, Athens, Greece

Flats at Iridanou St., vertical to Vassilissis Sofias, and Hymittos Mountain in the background, Athens, Greece

The interesection of Michalakopoulou St. w/ Vassilissis Sofias, Athens, Greece

A block of flats with a most unusual division in two parts, forming something of a residential tunnel; Corner of Michalakopoulou St. & Vassilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece
The major landmarks of this area come right after Megaro Moussikis Metro Station. But we'll get to those in the third and final part of our walk!
Entrance to the Megaro Moussikis Metro Station; Athens, Greece

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Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.1)

Previous posts presenting Athens streets have proven to be quite popular, so here is a short (photo-) essay in three parts, presenting one of the central avenues of Athens. Vassilissis Sofias (Queen Sophia’s) Avenue, is one of the largest and oldest avenues of the capital of Greece and probably the most beautiful one. Travel guides often refer to it as Museum Lane due to the high concentration of museums nearby. There are four museums along it (Theocharakis, Benaki, Byzantine & Christian, War) and another two on adjacent streets half a block away (Cycladic Art and National Gallery). As a mostly wide-paved, tree-lined boulevard, it is much more pleasant to walk than the average Athens street. Here are some of the main spots of interest, starting from Syntagma Square, with the Grande Bretagne Hotel on your back and walking upwards.

The start of Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece - The Greek Parliament to the right, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the left and Hymittos Mountain in the far background. The Grande Bretagne hotel is behind me.

On your right hand side there’s the city’s largest block, with the building of the Greek Parliament (initially built as a Royal Palace in 1843) standing prominent over the city center.

Flower-shops right next to the Parliament building, Athens, Greece; they have been in operation in this same location since around 1930.
The side-entrance of the Greek Parliament, on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.
Tourist bus in front of the National Garden

Right after the Parliament, in the same block, is the National Garden. It’s the most interesting urban park in Athens and you’ll come to appreciate its shade and calmness if you walk around this area in the summer. One of its entrances is on Vassilissis Sofias, right across Sekeri St.. Continuing on the right, at the corner with Rigillis St. you’ll see the Sarogleio Mansion, built in 1932 to house the Greek Armed Forces Officers’ Club. Soon after, you’ll come across the Byzantine & Christian Museum and the War Museum before reaching Evangelismos Metro Station (Metro Line 3). 

The Sarogleio Mansion - Greek Armed Forces' Officers Club

Byzantine & Christian Museum, Athens, Greece
The War Museum, with old military aircraft in the front-yard, Athens, Greece

Going back to the beginning, on the left hand side of the avenue this time, Vasilissis Sofias starts with various buildings of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in various architectural styles, and a large mansion housing the Embassy of Egypt, the first in a long string of foreign embassies all along, or near, Vassilissis Sofias. At the corner with Merlin St. sits the Theocharakis Museum of Visual Arts while two roads later you have the main building of the Benaki Museum (at the intersection with Koumbari St.) and the Cycladic Art Museum at 4 Neofytou Douka St. These are all part of the -still partly upscale- Kolonaki neighborhood.
The Embassy of Egypt is the first one in a long series of embassies along and near the avenue

One of the entrances of the Cycladic Art Museum

You'll also see various old mansions or upper-class apartment buildings which are for the most part well maintained. Most of them are occupied by foreign embassies, law offices, doctor’s offices, maritime companies and the like.

A sculpture adorning a front-yard, at the posh Kolonaki area, along Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece

The only eye-shore in this otherwise pleasant route is the building housing, among others, the Embassy of the fellow-bankrupt Republic of Argentina, right after Evangelismos Metro Station.

The building housing the Embassy of Argentina (and some other offices)
Athens Metro sign, marking Evangelismos Metro Station, Athens, Greece - less than half-way along Vasilissis Sofias Ave.
But, let's make a pause at Evangelismos Metro Station and come back in December for part 2 of my photographic walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.

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A difficult, if necessary decision: deleting a restaurant from my food guide

Even if I keep updating the "cultural events" page, my first major move after two-and-a-half months of blogging abstinence is to delete a post of a restaurant presentation. One of the advantages of having an online travel guide vs. a printed one, is the ability to make changes instantly and at zero nominal cost. 

However, the psychological cost of deleting something that you have worked for and enjoyed is a different question. So, it took me a while to make up my mind about this one. One of the Athens areas I know quite well food-wise is the neighborhood of Ambelokipi. I have listed various restaurants around here, even though the area doesn't have any real interest for visitors who try to squeeze as much as possible into their tight schedule. The Metro provides easy access though, and there are a few hotels around, so the possibility of dining here isn't that far-fetched, especially if you want to get the feeling of a 'real' Athens neighborhood.

Three and a half years ago, when I wrote that post, this place served authentic Greek food that was homely and tasty, but recently it underwent some design changes for the worse and the food has also taken a downturn. I will be mostly sorry for deleting the comment of a Greek-American reader who had told me how much he used to like to dine there and had been looking forward to revisiting. 

But so be it! The writer in me is sorry, but the blogger has no other choice.

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Cheap flights from the USA to Athens

News site Quartz, recently teamed up with flight search engine Hopper, to present a tool that helps you find cheap flights from some major US airports to select destinations (US and international), with Athens being one of them.

The results aren't really that surprising - if you want a cheap summer flight to Athens you're out of luck - but the tool does help you to come up with some ideas and focus your search a bit, if you're not really set on certain dates. 

For five US airports (Baltimore, Boston, LA, Miami and NY LaGuardia) the cheapest Athens flights can be found in the fall. For another ten (Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas, Houston Bush, NY JFK, Newark, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington Reagan, Washington Dulles) the cheapest flights are during the winter. So, if you're a New Yorker start your search by LaGuardia in the fall and JFK or Newark in the winter, not that the one is necessarily cheaper than the other (different airlines use different hubs). So, maybe this is just a publicity trick and I took the bait! But it's a good reason to start you thinking about a non-summer vacation to Greece, especially if you're less tolerant to heat and you live in a place that enjoys a reasonable amount of sunshine in itself.

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Latest events in Greece and your vacation (pt. 2) - Continuous updates /snapshots of life in Athens (latest: July 22)

I find it hard to hit the streets and post photographs of sunsets, buildings and the like these days. I'm sure you understand why... So, in this evolving post I will give you snapshots of daily life in Athens as the latest episode in "the Greek financial crisis" unfolds.

Also, following my previous post ten days ago (that seem like an age the way things are running) I will post here (and update when necessary) articles that are worth reading in order to get a full and concise grasp of the situation in Greece. I have done it in the past and always provided a clear picture for visitors and all people interested in the situation in Greece. In recent days, a great number of Greeks living abroad, mostly Greek-Americans or Greek-Australians, have been talking out of their @ss about the situation in Greece and the need to be "heroic" and the like. Sure, when you have your big, safe house in New Jersey to go back to every night, it's easy to ask people 5,000 miles away to satisfy your morbid fantasies of traditional Greek "heroism".
But I like Americans as a whole, so I won't stick to that. I just had to get it out of my system!

So, here's the one insightful political analysis that you need to read about the current Greek government: "The referendum was one of the biggest frauds in Greece’s modern political history" (posted in GR Reporter).
The other big news of the day (Wed., 8 July 2015) was the pulverizing speech of Liberal MP Guy Verhofstadt in the European Parliament today, in a plenary session with Greek Prime-Minister Alexis Tsipras, which has been watched and re-watched by millions of people throughout Europe. You need to watch this 7min50sec video, especially if you're a Greek expat and you think you know what's happening in the country! Finally, here's a good attempt for a balanced perspective from a Greek professor working in the UK: Half-truths in the Greek crisis conceal the big picture (by Haridimos Tsoukas).

Now, concerning your vacations, CNN put on a really good and concise article this week with the latest travel advice for tourists heading to Greece: Do as it says; it's really good. Just one detail: Bring small change with you as well (in Euros or dollars), because people are practically left with 50 and 20 Euro bills (and debit cards) with few other banknotes or coins in circulation. Also, if you follow the advice and bring cash with you remember to keep it safe when moving around such as in a safety pouch a.k.a. waist pouch or wallet.

Thu., 9 July 2015: A much smaller rally of the "We Stay in Europe" camp in the evening, at Syntagma Square. Summer heat, pessimism, optimism or exhaustion? 
Rays of light and hope towards the evening, as news emerged that French and EU officials have taken the Greek govt. by the hand, to help it draft a decent bailout / reform package / expense slashing proposal.  

Fri., 10 July 2015: Too hot and a lethargic day at work today. Air-condition in bad condition (for the nth straight year). 
On my way home I passed from the drugstore. A 50-year old man came in, holding two plastic bags. He was trying to sell(?) 250Euros worth of coins in 1 and 2 Euro-coins. He was asked to return on Monday, when the boss would be there.

Sat., 11 July 2015: I bought my first beers after more than a month. Cheap domestic lagers. No final deal yet on the bailout...

Tue, 14 July 2015: I have become quite ruthless in passing out my 50 Euro banknotes in order to get change... "No madam, I have no change. Nothing!"

Wed, 15 July 2015: This morning, for the first time ever, I came across 2 broken buses on my way to work. Running short of supplies?

Wed, 22 July 2015: A hot summer day, following another hot summer day. During our -unofficial- lunch break I had a craving for an ice-cream. I ventured out into the heat towards a nearby kiosk to get an ice-cream of my favorite brand. As I approached I saw an ambulance and people gathered around a bench behind the kiosk. I heard the paramedic saying something about a body bag. It was then that I noticed the body of a homeless(?) man laying still, sideways, on the bench. I went back to work.

Fri., 25 July 2015: Almost impossible to find "Lucozade Lemon" in supermarkets. Only the crappy "Lucozade Orange" available. I was told by a manager that as neither of them is a very big seller they are not prioritized in the supermarket's procurement policy in light of capital controls. "Necessities" first. I get furious thinking of the pretentious idiot who will find it appropriate to say something ironic about this. On related news, I read a Facebook post by a farmer saying tomato seeds imports are not prioritized either, by the special government committee set up to oversee the regulation of imports (and exportation of cash).

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Latest Greek political events: "We Stay in Europe" rally, bank run, your Greek vacation and travel advice (update)

"We Stay in Europe" : A pro European rally was organized last week in Syntagma Square, in front of the Greek Parliament

I have deliberately avoided discussing politics in this blog, even though, as a typical Greek I am fiercely interested in the country's political life. My difference from the typical Greek is that I don't feel compelled to incessantly spew my opinion on others. Well, I'm going to make a small exception today tonight.

Two hours ago (at around 1:00am at night) the current Greek Prime-minister, following a 5-month long nationalist-socialist rhetoric and practice (with constant threats to dissenting TV stations, newspapers, journalists and even cartoonists), announced his government's intention to carry out a referendum on a tentative deal offered to the Greek government by its international creditors (the text of which the average Greek citizen has of course not seen). EU leaders will most likely say that this is a referendum on staying in or out of the Euro. It is doubtful (if not outright impossible) that the government will be able to organize such a referendum in just 8 days and if it does try to pull it through in such short notice I doubt about its validity and legitimacy.

Meanwhile, Greek banks are on life-support from the European Central Bank and people have been constantly withdrawing cash from their bank accounts or transferring their savings abroad. The current government's decision has already sent people rushing to ATMs in the middle of the night, making the bank-run inevitable to hide any longer, as Greek TV stations are now reporting.

As far as you're directly concerned, this decision is essentially setting a bomb under the Greek tourist season which has already been affected by the long-standing, fruitless, negotiating show.
Syntagma Square last Monday
Last week, a pro-European rally titled "We stay in Europe" was organized through social media.  About 10,000 to 20,000 people were present. I have no doubt that -sooner or later- the European side of Greece will prevail.

Some Greeks still have the merchant's mentality alive in them: A hot dog stand before last week's rally at Syntagma Square...

...and a seller of Greek flags and whistles (the rally organizer's suggested "weapon" for waking up the government)
The statue of Eleftherios Venizelos - a true Greek statesman - at the courtyard of the Greek Parliament.

More, continuing updates in my next post.

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English-language, new Greek musical suggestions

I am taking a break from my usual photographic or food-related endeavors to serve you a post full of music that I've been compiling for quite some time now. After the new, a.k.a. "weird", Greek cinema we now have a Greek wave of English-language, indie, musical acts trying to break through into the international scene. The Swedes did it about 10-20 years ago, so why not the Greeks?

A few are using elements of Greek musical forms and tradition while others are vying for the "mainstream" part of the indie scene armed with lyrical melodies and lots of synthesizers. Some are trying, or have managed, to already garner some attention. Some music experts, like Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame voting member Yannis Petridis, claim that Greek singers will be seen / treated as something of an exotic fruit by international audiences with the expectation of some... Greekness in them. So, they either have to offer that, or be ready to relocate to some English-speaking country where they can become part of that local scene. Or both.

A few Athens radio stations and a local mobile network operator are supporting this musical movement and are helping to build a local base for these new Greek artists, providing air-time for their songs, usually without mentioning the country of origin, perhaps as a test of their popularity potential. Support them and this blog by buying their music through the Amazon links below.

Acid Baby Jesus

A warping, psychedelic sound that you feel compelled to surrender to. One of the biggest names in this list in terms of international acclaim. Here are a few articles about them:
Shake Appeal (Pitchfork, 2014-09-08)
Greek psych band Acid Baby Jesus ready new LP (stream it) (Brooklyn Vegan, 2014-11-13)
Listen: Acid Baby Jesus – Selected Recordings (CMJ, 2014-11-14)
European tour planned for May-July 2015, including an Athens show on June 6.
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de


Baby Guru

You can read about this psychedelic-rock band on Wikipedia and on their own website. MTV Iggy hailed them as one of "our best 5 musical discoveries from CMJ 2014". Check them out for yourselves on YouTube and their SoundCloud.
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de


DJ, freestyle jazz, trip-hop and all-around atmospheric music composer Cayetano has made a name for himself in European alternative circles after 19 years of music production, endless live shows and more than five albums. Check out his full biography and listen to his music at Soundcloud. Connect with him on Facebook and get his music at Amazon.co.uk.
Here's a track from the collaboration record "Loopa Scava Meets Cayetano".

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de


Angelika Dusk

Angelika Dusk is already working her way up in the music industry and opened for Kovacs this week at an Athens concert. Her band's debut album, featuring single "Love on your own terms," was just released on iTunes and Spotify. Also, on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.fr.

Katerine Duska 

A deep, soulful voice best exemplified in what is already a small local hit:

Here's her personal page at ReverbNation.
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Amazon.de


Imam Baildi

Remember that Greek element I talked about above? Imam Baildi give their own modern renditions of old (1950s, '60s) Greek songs in a way that obviously has significant local and international appeal. They were invited to play at the SXSW festival in Austin in 2013 and here's an article about them in Slug Magazine. Currently on a European and Greek tour (Athens: July 9 at Technopolis, Gazi). Here's their Facebook page.

IMAM BAILDI LIVE @ VRAHON THEATRE || ATHENS JULY 14 2014 from Imam Baildi on Vimeo.
Buy on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es and Amazon.de


Keep Shelly in Athens

A duo whose name is a wordplay on the Athens neighborhood of Kypseli, and often abbreviated as KSiA in international press. Lots of international coverage (right column here) for their airy compositions such as "Fractals".
Singer Sarah P. left for new projects in 2014, replaced by a new singer caller Myrtha, featured in the new, 2015 album. Their music can be found on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es and Amazon.de


Greek electro-pop from a most melodic female duo. Here's their rendition of Billy Idol's "Eyes Without A Face":
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de



A big local hit 6 years ago, with aid from Calexico in her debut album "Avatar". Since then, she's moved on to writing music for theater plays and the like and has released two more full length albums. Ironically, even though her success has given a major boost to the local, English-language music scene, she's without much of an international presence yet. Focused in Greece, I think she has a voice and lyricism that mostly appeals to Greeks, or maybe she just hasn't tried to move on yet. According to Wikipedia she gave her first N.Y. concert in December 2014. Listen to her songs on MySpace and see a video in her official site.
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de


An unholy, eye-blistering, alternative spelling of "David" but you do need to check him out nonetheless. Him being music producer George Bakalakos in real-life. Never Without You, his latest collaboration with Stella (see below) is becoming a 2015 local hit. Nice, 70's retro video as well!

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de

Prins Obi

Prins Obi is a member of the aforementioned Baby Guru who just came out with a solo album, which I like a lot. Read and listen here. The dreamy, Beatlesque Weekend Lovers is already becoming a small local hit and you can listen to it on Spotify. Here's CMJ's presentation of his first solo EP Love Songs for Instant Success.


Read about Sillyboy and his latest album at Klik Records and listen to his rhythmic, groovy Stalker, on YouTube.  A... rather positive, yet slightly... politically correct review of his LP can be found on Planet Stereo.
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de


Written as Σtella, if you can read the initial Greek Sigma, she's been around as a second act / collaborator in various music projects but the self-titled Stella is her first solo album. Read a presentation by CMJ and listen to the single Made to Attack.
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de

Irene Skylakaki

Two small hits and an album make for a rather promising debut. In the Light was her breakthrough song.
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de


His catchy pop tune On the Run, featuring Sarah P, formerly of Keep Shelly in Athens, has been described as a mini-masterpiece by Under the Radar magazine. Sundayman (in real world Kyriakos Moustakas) has mostly been around as a music producer. His Cutty Sark theme song Now that i found you is another of his tunes that you might have listened to.
Check out all his airy, ambient pop, retro-electronic tunes on SoundCloud:
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.de

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