The Weather we encountered on our European Trip

3 08 2010
Location/Date High Low Precipitation
Prague/May 25 19C 10C 0mm
Prague/May 26 19C 10C 0mm
Karlovy Vary/May 27 14C 10C 0.3mm
Ceske Budejovice/May 28 20.2 5.3C 0.5mm
Cesky Krumlov/May 29 15.8C 7.2C 0.3mm
Cesky Krumlov/May 30 15.8C 11C 5.8mm
Salzburg/May 31 11C 2.8C 25.91mm
Salzburg/June 1 10.3C 3C 14.99mm
Sankt Wolfgang/June 2 11.2C 9.2C 20.07mm
Obertraun/June 3 14C 6.6C 39.62mm
Hallstatt/June 4 21C 10C 1.02mm
Graz/June 5 25.3C 5C 0mm
Dreznik Grad/June 6 26.3C 11.2C 0mm
Dreznik Grad/June 7 29.6C 13.0C 0mm
Seebersdorf/June 8 28.3C 14.6C 0mm
Vienna/June 9 31.3C 18.8C 0mm
Vienna/June 10 31.2C 19.0C 0mm
Budapest/June 11 31C 18C 0mm
Budapest/June 12 32C 19C 0mm
Szentendre/June 13 32C 20C 0mm

 

As you can see we had weather that was all over the charts.  Definitely VERY cold in Salzburg and VERY hot in Vienna/Budapest. All temperatures were recorded at the closest weather station that I could find near where we stayed.

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June 10, 2010 Vienna Austria

5 07 2010

We woke up and talked to the reception.  We said we NEEDED to have another room.  I had no desire to sleep with a fan blowing hot air across me for another night.  We were assured that we would have another room when we came back. Also, our laundry came back while we were having breakfast.  It was a little damp, but nothing that a little hanging couldn’t fix.

Today we headed out to see Schloß Schönbrunn.  The imperial residence of of the Hapsburg family.  We took a metro to about 2 blocks from the palace.  The weather was getting hot already by 0930 when we arrived.  This was tourist mecca.  Yuck.  Everywhere you turned, there were tour buses unloading and groups of tourists filing into the palace.  We pondered for a while as to which ticket would be best for us and settled upon the “Grand Tour”  The whole thing isn’t too terribly clear about what gets you what, but we figured that with the discount of the Salzburg card that the Grand Tour would be a reasonable price and it got us the 40 room tour as well as entry into the “Gloriette” and the “Privy Gardens”.  We got our tickets and were told we’d have to check our packpacks.

“WHAT?”  With all my photo equipment in my bag, I had no desire to leave it to some part time student with a summer job to ensure that my bag would have its original contents when I returned.  I rearranged various stuff with Mrs D and managed to get my lenses into her smaller bag which WAS allowed.  Being much heavier now, I carried that bag.  It was about 10 metres later that we saw the “No photos” sign when we really sighed.  Grrr.  Another place trying to make sure it had a monopoly on its images.  It would have been nice to know BEFORE we headed out.  This kind of stuff should be listed on websites and tourist books.

We got our audioguides and began the walk through the palace.  The tour took us through the different rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Maria Theresa.  It was interesting to learn about the Hapsburg dynasty and the effect they had on all of Europe.  The rooms were lovely and the palace resembled a “poor man’s Versailles” The direct comparison was not kind to  Schönbrunn as Versailles outclassed it totally.  I think that had they not tried to be an “Austrian Versailles” it would have been better.  One serious drawback to the tour was that there were many HUGE tour groups going through.  It really made it difficult to enjoy the small rooms with groups of 20-40 people milling around you all the time.

After the inside tour we went out to see the gardens after getting back our backpacks.  Wow, was it hot.  We planned our walk up to the top of the gardens based on the availability of shade.  That’s how hot it was!  The flowers in the garden didn’t seem very bright or full.  Perhaps we were in between blooms?  There was a massive shelter being constructed in the middle of the gardens so that the view of the garden from the palace or the view of the palace from the garden was obstructed.  I’m not sure what they were building but my guess is some sort of “summer concert” area.

We walked up to the “Gloriette”, a strange sort of monument.  I’ll let the palace website describe it for you. Our “Grand Tour” included admission to the viewing platform so we figured we should go up and check it out.  We climbed up the stairs and enjoyed the slight breeze that wafted over us.  The view of Vienna was nice although the heat induced haze made photos less than spectacular.  I tried a panorama of the view.  We’ll see how it turned out.  What you COULD notice from up here was that the garden flowers had been arranged in the form of the Austrian Coat of Arms.  Cool.

We considered taking the little train back to the palace but decided that we could walk down in the shade via one of the side “alleys” in the bushes and trees.  Our walk took us down next to the zoo.  It would have been nice to visit but nobody really seemed to be too interested in that idea.  Down below the Zoo was the labyrinth(admission also included in the “Grand Tour”.  Actually 4 labyrinths.  We stopped for some cold ice cream and took a brief rest.  Mrs D and I tackled one labyrinth while the others looked on from the shade.  It’s surprisingly hard to walk through a maze when you don’t know where you are going. One maze was enough for us.  We moved on to see the Privy Garden next.

Upon arriving in the garden we were shocked to see that the first 1/3 of the garden was citrus trees.  In Austria!!!   There were lemons and oranges visible on the trees.   We walked along under ivy covered trellises that kept you shaded and cooler and afforded periodic glimpses out onto the garden.  At the far end of the garden was a viewing area where you could ascend and have a more overarching view of the garden and the palace.  The garden was very nicely kept and had a clean and very uniform design element.It had been a long morning/afternoon touring the palace.  We were now pretty tired and ready to move on.  We were headed for Hundertwasserhaus Wien.  It was a subway and a tram to get there and the neighbourhood in which we disembarked from the tram really didn’t seem like the kind of place that tourists would frequent unless lost. 

We got our bearings and headed up a few more blocks and then left into Hundertwasserstrasse. We were immediately greeted by the apartment complex.  It was multicoloured and had plants growing OUT of it.  It was really very funky.  There were strange ceramic inlays that tracked along the building in different places and each apartment had its own cube of colour.  The building was built in 1986 and has quickly become one of the “must see” attractions in Vienna.  Apparently even the floors in the apartments aren’t flat.  In the words of the architect:

"an uneven floor is a divine melody to the feet"

Yeah.  And not being able to put a chest of drawers anywhere is a pain for the movers 🙂

The building was nice and fountain nearby was a gathering area for the large group of tourists that were there checking things out.  Of course a tourist attraction would be nothing without a cluster of tourist shops to hawk their wares to you after you have seen the sites.  The group shopped for a while and I rested.  Walking around in this hot weather was really dragging me down.  I found a small shop that sold 2L of Ice Tea for 2 Euros. At that relative deal (most places 300ml of Coke was costing 2 Euros!) I snapped it up and worked at replenishing the liquids I’d sweated off at the palace.

Now that our various “out of town” visiting was complete, we returned to the center of the city.  We got off the metro at our usual stop, Stefansplatz. The cathedral is quite lovely.  We took some more shots but I was dismayed at the fact that it, too, was under renovations.  We had passed a Swarovski store previously and it was apparently well worth the visit.  I had my doubts.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a lovely store with three floors displaying different things.  The bottom floor was the one that I found interesting – it had the actual crystal ornaments that made Swarovski famous.  They also had some really esoteric stuff that was really cool but that I couldn’t really imagine myself owning.  Pictures of crystal don’t quite do them justice unfortunately.

The other item on our list of “must do” items was to visit Sacher Cafe.  While the other three headed directly to the cafe Mrs D and I dropped in on the info center to get our Budapest Train tickets.  Finally the ticket system was working.  Wow – it’s close and cheap. Only 2.5 hour train trip would bring us there.  Enough about the boring train stuff – back to the food! Some of us had been to the Sacher Cafe in Salzburg but we were going to go to the Vienna one so that we’d all have the chance to visit the Sacher Cafe.  While apparently the Vienna Sacher Hotel was the original, we found the one in Salzburg to be more “high end”.

Vienna

Salzburg

  • Seat yourself
  • Please wait to be seated
  • Tourist in T-shirts and shorts
  • Older local folks dressed for afternoon tea
  • Lively , almost boisterous
  • Quiet, refined – you could hear the pages of a newspaper turning
  • Staff: Friendly and cheery.
  • Staff: Friendly but in a formal way.
  • Atmosphere – cheap
  • Atmosphere – old school rich.

The food was quite excellent but we were disappointed (or more specifically Francis was disappointed) that they didn’t have Kaiserschmarren.  The Ice Coffees sure helped though!

We split up again – Mrs Dan and I were going to go back to the hotel and rest (I was going to catch up on some blogging) and Francis, Maggie and Iris were heading out to the Secession museum.   I can’t vouch for what they did but I can tell you that we were happy to spend a bit of time moving into a new room with FUNCTIONING air con!!  I got the laptop set up and the the Live Sync was busy syncing again.   The rest in the cool air conditioning did us wonders. The temps had gone up to 35C and it FELT like it! We had until about 1800 to rest as we were going to meet for dinner down on the Naschmarkt street.

We had doddled a bit in the room (man that cool conditioning is addictive) and it was already 1815 when we realized we’d have to rush out to meet the others.  I brought the tripod with me as I had plans for some night photography after dinner!  We stepped out of the front door of the hotel and there were the other three!  They had been to the museum (and were a bit disappointed) and were wandering around the area with the plan to head down to the Naschmarkt but were sidetracked by some window shopping.

We stopped in a few shops near the hotel and then we headed down to the Market street together.  It’s surprisingly faster when you know where you’re going instead of wandering aimlessly 🙂

We walked up and down the restaurant zone a couple of times.  The choices were varied.  It seemed that the preference was heading toward seafood.  Of course, isn’t Vienna renowned for its seafood?? ;)  We managed to find a place that could shoehorn us into a little corner.  It was hot and the air wasn’t really circulating much so it felt hotter.  With the great luck that we had, we managed to be seated right next to a table of chain smoking business men who just kept lighting up one cigarette after another.  Disgusting habit that the Europeans haven’t got smart enough to ban from their restaurants yet.  Yeach!  When the wind DID blow, it blew the smoke right over to our table.  Sigh.

The menu items were pretty pricey.  We were wondering if we had made the right decision with the smoke and the cost of the food.  We saw a plate or two come to other people and realized that we could probably make do with 4 plates for 5 of us as the portions seemed quite large.  We had two sampler plates of seafood and one that had a tasty white fish of some sort (Hey – it was all in German!)  We managed to enjoy our meal despite the smoke and the heat.  The food itself really was quite tasty and between the sharing and large portions we also managed to enjoy the bill 😉

We were glad to get up and walk about and let the cooler evening air cool us down.  I led the group down towards the Russian Monument for some night pictures and we took a tram to Karlplatz where we caught the metro to Stefansplatz.  Stefansdom  was sitting quite gloriously lit as we came out allowing for a couple of cool night lit shots on our last evening in Vienna.

It was about 2130 when we arrived back at the hotel.  The others all went in while I had decided I was going to try to get a few shots of the Hofburg Palace with night lighting.  It was bound to be well lit.  I had seen a few postcards with it that way 😉

While out shooting, I noticed that there was a building in the distance with some beautiful spires.  I had assumed it was a church.  When I got home tonight I figured out that it was the Rathaus (City Hall).  The one scare in Vienna came this evening.  I was engrossed in getting my shots when all of a sudden a voice chimes up behind me.  I turn and see two guys and a girl eyeing my camera.  They start asking “what are you shooting with?” etc and I start to make sure I know where my backpack is (between my legs) and that I am aware of the rest of my surroundings.  It was a few minutes before I could ascertain that they were just locals that had been out having a few drinks and really WERE just trying to help the tourist get the good shot.  They turned out to be quite nice, but it was an important reminder to me that I need to keep my wits about me – particularly when shooting at night.

With my night photography adventure complete, I headed back to the hotel so that we could get everything packed.  I got home at about 2230.  Mrs D was repacking and rearranging all the goods as we’d be travelling by train tomorrow – you can’t just throw your stuff in the extra car seat :)  We went to bed around midnight.  Tomorrow we were heading to Budapest, Hungary!  Highs of 35C-38C predicted.  Yikes.





June 5, 2010 Hallstatt to Graz Austria

10 06 2010

By the time I got up and showered Francis, Maggie and her sister were already out and about going to shoot around the town before breakfast.  Mrs D and I went out and I took Mrs D over to where she could get the “postcard” shot:

Hallstatt Austria Salt

As we arrived at the spot, there were the others, already trying various shots and angles as well as some portraits with the town as a backdrop.  We wandered down towards the other side of town and saw a swan taking off across the lake – (s)he was magnificent with the wing tips just touching the water enough to leave little circles with every beat.  Unfortunately I had the wrong lens. The 17-55 just wasn’t going to be able to cut it 😦  No worries.  The early morning walk and snap was still fun.

By 0830 we had all woken up and we gathered for breakfast in the hotel while overlooking the lake.   The day was sunny and promised to be hot.  Too bad we were losing three members this morning.  The last few days had been so cold and it was just promising to get better!  After our classic Austrian breakfast, it was last minute shopping for the three that were leaving us.  We had to get them on a 1107 train to Salzburg and the station was BACK in Obertraun.

With shopping complete, we started moving the luggage down from the top floor where we were down to the lobby.  After hauling down Mrs D’s an my bags, I went up to get the van so that we could load.  I whipped around to the end of the tunnel and then back so that I could get into the village and discovered that the gate which had been open when we arrived was closed – and you needed a ticket to open it. I didn’t have one of those…  Ack. To make matters worse, someone had come in behind me and was waiting.  I threw the van into reverse and let it slowly creep slowly backwards.  The car behind got the hind and moved right off.  Back into the tunnel to try and find my free parking spot and back down to the hotel get the ticket so that I can reverse the procedure all over again.  I brought Francis with me this time.  We came back around to the gate again, this time armed with the ticket and we watched as some small Winnebago-like vehicle had just experienced the same lesson we did.  The backing up and the rearranging of cars was quite comical.  I just pulled out of line and went for a spin in the handicapped parking area while the Winnebago dude played his game.  It felt quietly good inside to know that I wasn’t the only poor guy to have this happen.  some sort of signage would go a long way. I drove down the little windy road of the town and through the narrow clearance area and arrived to find that 3 other vehicles were loading in front of our hotel.  The town square was beginning to look like a parking lot.

We loaded the van and we all hopped in.  I made a loop around the town square (about 80 feet in diameter) and figured I’d go around the other parked cars and into the narrow passage.  Coming at the passage from an angle meant the already narrow passage got even narrower with plants and people all around.  I was just about there when another car came through from the other side.  Back out… try again.  Ugh.  By now, two other cars had left the area where we were parked, so I could get a nice straight run at the passage.  Success!  We were were on our way out of Hallstatt.  Thankfully, no mirrors scraped or pedestrians hit on the way out.  We made it to the train station in Obertraun with about 7 minutes to spare, so we took some pictures and said all our good-byes.  The train was punctual and was in the station for about a total of one minute and then it whisked the three women away from us as we waved them on their way.  We were sad to see them go.  It did mean one thing though… More space in the van!!!  We now had a van for 9 with only 5 people in it.  It was downright luxury 🙂

From Obertraun we drove the route up into the hills above and then along winding roads in the pre-alps that afforded beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. I found one opportunity to turn out and take some pictures, but for the large part there was no chance to stop.  The drive was about 2.5 hours and getting to our hotel in Graz was pretty straightforward thanks to the GPS.

The hotel was located right near the train station (far enough that you didn’t hear it though) and directly next to a strip club.  We had great jokes at Iris’ expense about her choice of hotel locations.  The hotel name was “Daniel” and it was a nice new “boutique” hotel.  The rooms were furnished in modern “Ikea” styling and there were big bean bags in the lobby with an iMac for surfing.  The one really odd thing about the rooms (and we wonder if the strip club proximity had anything to do with the design) was that the shower had a full length glass window onto the bedroom.  That’s right.  You could sit in bed and watch someone shower.  Weird.  The room with Francis, Maggie and Iris managed to work around this problem by stacking up their beanbag chair and some luggage against the window so that people could shower in private.  It really was odd.

We walked down to the old town of Graz shortly after arriving.  The was about 2km but it was hot and it felt longer.  Temperature had begun to creep upwards and was about 25-28C today.  We did our best to try and follow an old town walking tour as suggested by the guide book.  The second stop brought us to the Graz armoury.  The largest European collection of war items from pre 19th century.  30,000 items!  It was really cool.  The armoury is 4 floors high and on the 2nd floor we ran into a staff member that was VERY keen on cameras and was happy to talk about all the different armour and its design while also discussing the latest in Canon cameras.  He was super helpful, unlike the woman on the first floor that just kind of said “Hello” and “Don’t touch’”  What a difference.  It was cool to learn about the different type of armour you got if you were just a peasant fighting for the king or if you were someone with some money, in which case your armour had a bit more design involved and wasn’t jus a hammered out piece of metal.  On the top floor, they let you put on a couple of “prop” helmets (the real ones would probably have been too heavy) and wield a sword.  You could take pictures of yourself looking goofy 😉

We followed the old town route some more and we decided to veer off it and head up to the bell tower.  Of course, like any good part of any ex-castle, the bell tower was atop a hill which meant more climbing. Calves and thighs were reminding me of that.  The bell tower used to be part of a fortification here but when Napoleon came to town and ruled things he had the previous castle razed to the ground and the only thing that spared the bell tower was the townspeople paying a hefty amount to keep it there.  Typical government.  Everything is overpriced  🙂

The view over Graz from the Bell Tower was great.  We had timed our arrival with sunset so we enjoyed using the golden light of the setting sun for various portraits in the rose garden below the tower.  Some shots were great – others – not so much.  I managed a nice panorama shot of Graz but won’t know how it turns out until I get home and can stitch it together.

We headed back down from the bell tower and had another late dinner at around 2100.  More classic Austrian food, this time Styrian. Some good beer!

By the time we got back to the hotel it was quite late and we said our goodnights and agreed to be up and ready to go by 0830.

Sleep came easily again after blogging.





June 3, 2010 Sankt Wolfgang to Obertraun, Austria

8 06 2010

0600… Boom, boom boom.  Ratatatat.  What the Heck was that!?!?  I sprang out of bed and my first thought was “OMG Earthquake!”  Then I realized… it’s a marching band.  At 0600!!

“Quick! Camera!”, I yelled at Mrs D.  We ran over to Maggie and Francis’ room to see a band of about 50 people pass by.  It seems that the Corpus Christi celebrations begin a bit earlier than 0830. Hah.  I went to the window below and got some pictures of the band as they came back from up the street, headed to the church.  Thankfully the rain from the day previous seemed to have stopped.  It was all done in about 10 minutes and then it was off to sleep again.  Breakfast time would be upon us soon.

Sleep was out of the question really though, so after a shower and shave, Mrs D and I headed down to the church with Clara and Maggie’s sister.  We wanted to see the celebrations. As we got down to the church we saw the band again!   They were coming down the street towards the church with simply a drummer for cadence.  I shot a movie this time.  First movie on the 7D. We walked over and into the church and saw the beautiful ornate decorations.  Saint Wolfgang seems to have been a wood cutter or something since all the depictions of him were with an axe as well as a shepherd’s crook. 

We went down for breakfast and the atmosphere was very old-school, conservative.  You really felt that you didn’t dare make too much noise or risk being scolded.  You should have heard the owner when Maggie and Francis came back in the evening with a few bottles of water.  “Not in the restaurant!  That MUST go to your room!"  It really didn’t feel like he was saying “Whenever you want”  There was a feeling of “You will do it now, or I’ll throw you out of my hotel” to it.  There was a British couple in the restaurant at breakfast this morning making for a bit of inter table conversation and lightening things up a bit.  Francis went to make some toast and was admonished for playing with the darkness dial.  “You just put the toast in – Don’t play with the toaster”.  Francis ended up with basically warm bread, but we were afraid to make any changes to the toaster.

With breakfast complete, we all headed down to the church and village centre.  The men were arriving in their traditional vests, leather pants and felt hats.  The women came in lovely dresses that had delicate white lacy edging.  Very Austrian!  Some women had a large gold hat on as well while the children looked the perfect image of Austria.

While the church service went on, we wandered the shops around the town and the group bought more souvenirs.  We made careful note of the time as we had told the hotel owner that we would be out by 1100.  Austrians and Germans are very punctual. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t seen as impolite.  As the church service ended we saw a wide of array of traditional Austrian outfits as well as a few groups of men with standards with various pennants hanging from them.  I’m not sure of the significance of them but I managed to get a group of them together to get a shot.  Shortly afterwards Maggie managed to get two young girls to pose for her and very shortly there was a cluster of photographers around the girls – shooting like the paparazzi.  Their mother was quite patient to let us shoot.

We walked down the town main street to see what possible candids we could come up with when I noticed a lady with the gold hat waiting for a ride with (presumably) her daughter.  I approached and asked if I could take their picture.  They happily obliged and I ended up with a great picture of a mother and daughter in the good dress outfits.  Our girls, meanwhile, kept shopping.  I was able to get back into the church again, now that the service had ended and tried to find out why they had branches in the church and why people brought part of those branches home with them. Unfortunately the German explanation escaped me – remember, my German is pitiful.

At 1045, we headed back to the hotel and managed to get our bags down to the lobby by 1100.  Whew!  Just in time!   We stashed all our luggage in the van and the women went back to shopping. AGAIN.   We went down to a shop near the church that had something that one our party wanted to buy.  Unfortunately the shop was closed until 1230 so we hung out in the area and killed time by doing some “Everybody jump” pictures.  They were kind of fun and good practice for shooting animals.

1230 seemed to take forever to come around.  When it finally did and the shop opened we poured into the tiny space like water from a freshly opened floodgate. I’m not sure the poor lady was ready for us.  I decided it best to stay outside and wait since, with my backpack, I was a bit large for the space available.  It turns out that the shopkeeper was quite happy that we stopped by.  I think almost everyone bought something there!

With our shopping done, we loaded into the van, bid Sankt Wolfgang “Goodbye”  and headed for Obertraun.  We covered the distance in about 45 minutes.   Somehow it had started raining again.  It seems that God kept things clear and dry for the celebrations.  Coincidence?    As we approached the area where our hotel was situated, it became clear fairly quickly that we were in for a bit of an unusual stay.  You see, the SeeHotel in Obertraun was not only BY the lake, but it appears to have ended up IN the lake!!  The road to the hotel was flooded!  We had to park about a half block from the hotel and walk across a walkway made of planks over benches.  Definitely a first in my hotel experiences.  Mrs D and I had a ground floor room and were reassured that we wouldn’t need lifejackets as well as sheets :)  The others were up on the 1st and 2nd floors…we were pretty scattered around the hotel.

After checking in, we were ready for our late lunch.  The restaurant was closed.  Sigh.  Apparently we COULD go over about one block to the restaurant/bowling alley.  We ate a pretty typical Austrian lunch and then we drive down the 5 minutes to Hallstatt.  We tried to find parking but ended up driving up and down the tunnel a couple of times looking for free parking.  We ended up over in “P2”, paying about 4 Euro/hour.  We made a mental note that the Funicular for the salt mines was right near here.  P2 would be THE place to park tomorrow.  We walked over to the “core” of town.  It took about 5 minutes from the parking, so it wasn’t too bad.  It was quite fun watching people navigate the flooded roads.  The town of Hallstatt only has about 500 inhabitants but apparently that number swells to a few thousand during tourist season.  Everyone wants to come and see the town that has been mining salt for seven thousand years.    Hallstatt was a pretty town and exists between the sharp walls of the alps and the lake, Hallstattsee.  This situation really means that Hallstatt is just a thin strip along the water’s edge.  It’s quite surprising that a town can exist here at all.  In the rain, we wandered all the way down and found our hotel for tomorrow.  it was right in the centre of town.  How the heck was I going to get the van down there with the luggage??? 

While others wandered through shops, I headed to the far end of town to get a vantage point that would give me a “postcard Hallstatt” shot.  On my way there, I ran into an apparently flightless duck, and a salamander.  Strange but interesting.  I took some good shots and finally met up with the others close to the core where I had left them.  I swear they had only moved about two shops while I was gone.  With an idea of the wheres and whats of Hallstatt under our belts we headed back to Obertraun.  It already seemed that the water levels were dropping.  A good sign. 

Dinner was in the hotel, and the restaurant was full of people.  One large group was celebrating a birthday and it leant a jovial feeling to the evening’s dinner.

Not much to do after dinner.  I banged out another day of the blog and got some pictures uploaded.   Surprisingly, I found myself going to sleep after midnight AGAIN.

G’night!








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