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A reminder to what was the world's greatest source of mercury
13 September 2019


Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is a beautiful, mirror-skinned metal that is liquid at room temperature. Unfortunately, it is also extremely toxic.

For many years, the world's greatest source of mercury were the mines at Almadén, Spain, which produced some 250,000 metric tons of mercury over nearly two millennia of operation.

So when Spain decided to build a monument to the mine (which was long worked by criminals and slave laborers, most of whom died of mercury poisoning), they commissioned American sculptor Alexander Calder to build a graceful fountain which, instead of water, would pump pure mercury. It was to be displayed at the 1937 World's Fair.

At the time, the inherent beauty of the liquid metal was well understood, but its toxicity was not. Today, the fountain resides in the Fundacio Joan Miro in Barcelona, Spain, and continues to pump pure mercury, though now it does so behind a pane of glass to protect viewers from touching or breathing fumes produced by this deadly work of art.



[Contributed by P. Spokes]

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The Pink Salt Lakes of Torrevieja
05 September 2019


Two colourful salt lakes flank the northwestern edge of the seaside city of Torrevieja on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Together, they form a nature reserve called Las Salinas de Torrevieja. One lake, in particular, stands out, as its eye-catching 'bubblegum' pink colour overshadows its green-tinted neighbour.

The sight is caused by the work of bacteria and algae. Halobacterium (also known as “salt bacterium”) thrives in salty places, as does a micro-algae called Dunaliella salina. These are the two magical ingredients that concoct the lake’s bizarre pinky hue. Despite its funky colour, the water is perfectly fine, though it can get rather smelly.



Torrevieja relies on its salt lakes. People have been collecting the mineral from the waters for centuries. In the early 19th century, they officially became a hub for Spain’s salt industry. In addition to boosting the city’s economy, the lakes also act as a natural spa. Supposedly, the sludge of mud and salt at the bottom have healing properties that can relieve common skin and respiratory ailments. The water’s high salt concentration makes it a fun place to relax and enjoy floating around with ease.


Flamingos, much like the local people, also frequent the pink lake. Feasting upon the algae-filled shrimp that live there giving their feathers that characteristic rosy tint that almost matches the water.


[Contributed by  Jane McGregor - Torrevieja]

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Basque Cod - worth a try!
05 July 2019

Bacalao a la vizcaina is yet another example of the very tasty yet very simple dishes that come from the northern Spanish region of the Basque Country. The main ingredient of Bacalao a la vizcaina is codfish. Cod is perhaps one of the most consumed fish in Spain, although historically this fish was mostly a product eaten during Lent. It is also a fish that is easily fished around the coasts of Spain, of which there is a lot!

Originally from the Basque Country, Vizcaina sauce on the other hand, is a sauce that is extremely versatile and is used in a number of dishes from the region. It is often used for many stews and products such as the pork dish called 'Manos de cerdo con salsa vizcaína'. In some parts of the Basque Country, they even use the sauce in an escargot recipe. However, most people will associate the sauce immediately with cod. Nowadays it is a rather polemic recipe - as is the case with most traditional recipes - the argument whether tomatoes should be one of it's ingredients or not is a very alive debate among gourmets and cooks, though many say that the red ingredient is pepper. Either way, the sauce is a rich red colour and is tasty with either ingredient. So when you come to make this dish, the choice is up to you!

The pepper theory seems historically more plausible, as tomatoes were not used as food in Spain even 200 years after they were imported; first, they were used as ornamental plants. Perhaps, pepper was used originally and then, once the tomato became more commonly used in Spanish cooking, the sauce was adapted. But it doesn't really matter, in truth, there are many formulas to prepare this sauce, and despite how much people may argue about its historical accuracy, they are delicious anyway.

You might find that certain people use a type of Spanish biscuit, often a 'galleta maria', when they are making the sauce. These biscuits are used to help thicken the sauce, but it can often make it much sweeter. The sauce may be thick or runny, depending on your personal taste. If you don't want to use biscuits to thicken your sauce, you could always use plain or corn flour instead, which I prefer.

One of the great things about vizcaina sauce is that it is fairly simple to make and generally uses common and inexpensive ingredients. This means that it is a great option for those people who love Spanish gastronomy, but want to enjoy it on a budget!


Bacalao a la Vizcaina | Cod Bizcaine Style


1 large salted cod loin (or fresh cod loin)
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
2 roasted peppers (preferably chorizo peppers
1 tomato
1 tbs of flour
Extra virgin olive oil


  • Soak the cod loin in water for 24 hours, changing the water every 8 hours to get rid of some of the salt.
  • Then put the cod loin in a pan with cold water and heat. Remove from the heat when it begins to boil.
  • Cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil. Stir fry the diced onion until it begins to brown, then add the garlic cloves, peppers and tomato.
  • When all the ingredients are lightly fried add the flour, you need to cook it a little.
  • Add some of the broth in which the cod was cooked (two teacups) and let it boil at low heat. This broth has the flavour and jelly of the cod.
  • When the sauce gets a good thick consistency, add the cod and keep on low heat, only enough time to heat up the cod and then serve!


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El Marco - a unique bridge
19 June 2019


Though it measures only 10.4 feet long (3.2 meters), this bridge spans two countries. You can effectively cross from one country to another in a single hop.

Funded by the European Union, the tiny wooden piece of infrastructure was built in the first decade of the 21st century by labourers from both the Spain and Portugal sides of the stream.

Known as the "El Marco" bridge, it links the Spanish municipality of La Codosera with the Portuguese Arronches. Given its reduced size, the bridge is largely for pedestrians, not automobiles, though two-wheeled vehicles may use it as well.

The title of World’s Shortest International Bridge is often erroneously awarded to the bridge that spans the United States-Canada border between Zavikon Island and another tiny island that happens to fall in USA territory.
The Portugal-Spain bridge is at least 13 feet (4 meters) shorter than its North American counterpart.




[Shared by Ellen Jones - Badajoz]

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A Bizarre Festivity
12 June 2019

Spain has an abundance of bizarre and wonderful festivals, from burning giant effigies and running with bulls to tomato or flour fights and jumping over newborn babies. None may be quite so strange, however, as the coffin procession, which is more commonly known as The Festival of Near Death Experiences or by its local name – the Fiestas de Santa Marta de Ribarteme.

The festival is held in the small village of As Nieves in the municipal of Pontevedra in Galicia and is held every year on July 29th, so not far away now. Galicia is Spain’s westernmost region, bordering Portugal to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the north. The festival is held here because it’s home to the Iglesia de Santa Marta de Ribarteme, the church dedicated to Saint Martha, the sister of Mary Magdalene.

During the event, people who have had near death experiences that year will travel to the village of As Nieves, along with their family and friends. Upon arrival, they will climb into coffins and pretend to be dead, while their family carries them through the streets, along with processions of mourners. People who have had no near death experiences in the family that year must carry empty coffins to show their respect. This strange parade of death-cheaters, families and mourners culminates at the cemetery of the Church of Santa Marta de Ribarteme, where prayers to the statue of Santa Marta begin. The pilgrims pray to the Saint, saying: ‘Virgin Santa Marta, star of the North, we bring you those who saw death’, after which they give thanks that their lives were saved and give a gift to the Saint, usually in the form of money.


The festival ends as most Spanish festivals do, with lots of eating, drinking, dancing, music and fireworks. People gather round to here to revellers’ wild stories of how they cheated death, often with plenty of profanity thrown in, and begin to feast. One of the most typical dishes that will be served is Pulpo a Feira, Galician-style octopus, which is boiled, sprinkled with paprika and eaten on a thick wooden plate, often with potato slices at the bottom. There will also be lots of the local Albariño wine to sample, as well as many stalls selling religious icons and trinkets.


The festival has roots in both Christianity and paganism, and since many Spanish people are both religious and superstitious they have kept the tradition alive. They believe that it is important to thank the Saint for saving their lives and that she will keep them safe in the year to come. It’s also a great excuse for a party and to spend time with family and friends.


[Contributed by - Jane Alice Parker - Galicia]

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Family-friendly resort in Mallorca goes one step ahead of the the 2021 plastic ban replacing more than 7 million plastic items
28 February 2019

All-inclusive holiday specialist Club Mac Alcudia is going green and ditching plastic at its Majorcan base. Aiming to get one step ahead of the 2021 plastic ban. Club Mac Alcudia has already taken the initiative to protect the environment now, and not wait for the ban to kick in.


The resort, popular with UK families and people from all over the world, has pledged to replace more than seven million items with environmentally friendly options, with immediate effect.

Plans include swapping traditional, one-use plastic glasses for re-usable and cardboard options, limiting the use of plastic drinking straws and switching plastic for paper packaging as part of an ongoing commitment to reducing Club Mac Alcudia’s environmental impact. Other items, including plastic cutlery, will be replaced with wooden and sugar-cane versions in a move that will see 7,400,400 individual pieces of plastic saved from becoming waste.

As Club Mac’s CRM and E-Commerce Manager, Eva Monserrat Llompart explains: “We’re very happy to announce we’re going green in 2019 – and beyond. The environmental impact of Club MAC is important to us
all, and we know it’s something that our guests care about too. Thousands of holidaymakers visit us every year and as well as working hard to ensure that their holidays are as much fun as possible we want them to know that we care about our impact on the environment too. Our ‘going green’ focus is mainly on removing plastic from our products 
and off the resort completely. Club Mac Alcudia takes its position within a conservation area seriously, and we hope to make a real
inroad into the environmental impact of our resort.”

This is what they have done:

27,600 Club MAC t-shirts Changed plastic packaging to paper
13,000 plastic bags Eliminated
8,000 plastic spoons Swapped for wooden spoons
104,000 plastic coffee spoons Changed to wooden spoons
177,500 plastic coffee stirrers
Substituted for wooden stirrers
114,000 plastic knives Swapped for wooden knives
1,540,000 plastic straws Eliminated apart from for slushies
77,200 foam plates Swapped for sugarcane plates
187,508 plastic plates Eliminated
62,000 plastic forks Swapped for wooden forks
459,000 foam glasses Swapped for recyclable cardboard glasses
541,336 plastic beer glasses Eliminated
1,847,484 clear plastic glasses Eliminated
1,500 clear tube plastic glasses Eliminated
2,175,000 clear plastic glasses Swapped for Macky recyclable cardboard cups

Situated in Port d’Alcudia, on the north coast of Majorca, and just 900 metres from the beach, Club Mac Alcudia offers guests use of a sprawling 10,000 square metre estate. Boasting eight pools, a water park, two natural lakes - that form part of the S’Albufera wetlands - and entertainment options, it has been a popular choice with British holidaymakers for 30 years.


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The Ossuary - a reminder of our mortality.
28 May 2018

Notably Wamba is the only municipality in Spain whose name contains the letter W, but it also contains one of the country's largest ossuaries.

Its name comes from the Gothic King Wamba , who was elected king in that city in the year 672 . At that time it was called Gérticos and King Recceswinth had a villa there resting. As Receswinth died in this town, the nobles elected Wamba immediately that day.

This tiny town lies outside the city of Valladolid in northern Spain is home to a giant collection of bones, and like other bone churches the original reason for piling the bones up was a simple lack of space remaining in the cemetery.

Unlike some of the other bone churches, the Wamba ossuary doesn’t have walls or ceilings which are ornatelydecorated with bones. Instead, the bones are just in huge piles – they’re organized piles, but they’re piles.

Deep in the vaults of the Santa Maria Church, the skeletons of thousands of monks and villagers are on display. The jam-packed ossuary is full to the ceiling with bones. It is so dense that it takes looking at it for a second to start picking out the over 3,000 skulls that stare out from the rest of the jumble of bones. It doesn't seem like there was a great deal of order to the stack other than making sure to face out the skulls so that their yawning sockets could stare, dead-eyed at visitors.

The cache of bones was deposited there between the 12th and 18th centuries, but the church only became a national historic site in 1931. Better late than never, so long as the old bones are protected.  
To get an idea of why someone would collect so many bones in one death-filled spot, an epitaph written on one wall gives some insight: "As you see, I saw myself as you see me, you see all ends here Think about it and you will not sin...."

The Catholic order insists that the display is not meant to be macabre, but a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.

 Researchers have studied the bones and learned a great deal about medieval village life in Spain, but since all the bones are mixed together it’s impossible to put together a complete skeleton of one particular human being.


[Contributed by Jane McDonald - Traveling around Spain]

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Jellyfish you need to recognise!
16 May 2018

Author : John Patterson 


Jellyfish are invertebrates which present special cells used to capture prey and defend themselves. These cells have a poisonous capsule inside. When a prey or predator makes contact with the jellyfish, the capsule opens and the cells stick to them, injecting poison. Jellyfish are usually transparent as they are 95% water, allowing them to camouflage easily.

They usually live 20 to 40 miles from the coast where the water is saltier and warmer. If it has been a dry winter and rainfall has been low, the water at the beach may be of similar salt levels, thus providing a favourable environment for jellyfish. However, the main cause for an increase of jellyfish in an area are the marine currents and overfishing, especially when tortoises are captured, as these are the main jellyfish predators in the Mediterranean.

Types of Jellyfish in the Mediterranean

Fried Egg Jellyfish / Medusa Huevo Frito (Cotylorhiza Tuberculata)


Sting level: not very painful.

They are yellow and look like a fried egg, usually 17cm wide. They are common in the Mediterranean during summer and autumn. These jellyfish can sting and cause temporary itching, but do not require medical assistance.


Common Jellyfish / Medusa Común (Aurelia Aurita)

Sting level: not very painful.

Round, like a cup, usually white with pink or blue tones and have long tentacles, they are normally about 25cm wide. They are easy to find near the coast. Contact causes irritation and itching. Applying ice may reduce symptoms, but medical assistance is not required.

Compass Jellyfish / Medusa de Compases (Chrysaora Hysoscella)

String level: painful.

Looks like an umbrella, usually white and yellow, they are around 20cm wide. They are not very common near the coast, but live in the Mediterranean Sea. Causes an itching and burning sensation and can scar the skin for up to 3 weeks. 
Shiff Arms Jellyfish / Aguamala (Rhizostoma Pulmo)

Sting level: painful

They are one of the more beautiful jellyfish in the Mediterranean and are about 50cm wide. They are bluish with a purple ribbon and have 8 tentacles, which if touched causes pain, but no other effects. 


Pink jellyfish (Pelagia Noctiluca)



Sting level: painful and dangerous.

It is a 10cm fluorescent jellyfish, transparent with pink or purple tones. It has 16 long tentacles that can cause pain, burning, nausea and muscle cramps. They are not very common, but if seen do not touch!

Portuguese Man o’War / Fragata Portuguesa (Physalia Physalis)


Sting level: very painful and extremely dangerous.

Not technically a jellyfish, but treated as one. The most dangerous sea creature found in the Mediterranean. It floats on the sea, has a purple colour and is about 10cm high. Its tentacles can be 2 meters long and they are fast swimmers. They can cause extreme pain, fever, burns to the skin and neurological shock. Due to their dangerous nature, the Spanish Coastguard keeps watch for them and reports are issued on the local TV, radio and newspapers if they approach the coast. 
Purple Sail or Velella / Medusa Velero (Velella Velella)

Sting level: not harmful to humans.
As with the previous one, not technically a jellyfish, but treated as one. With an approximate diametre of 6cm, they have a transparent stiff sail and their body is deep blue with circles. It is a carniverous species, catching their prey with its tentacles and are very difficult to spot. They move by catching the wind on their sails. Their venom is not harmful to humans. 

What to do if there are jellyfish at the beach?

    1.    Do not get in the water, keep an eye on the shore too.
    2.    If one jellyfish is spotted, there will probably be more around.
    3.    Do not touch them even when they appear dead. It takes 24 hours for the sun to deactivate their poison.
    4.    If stung:

a. Do not scratch the skin with sand or a towel.
b. Do not pour fresh water over the affected area.
c. Apply ice for 15 minutes. Ice must be inside a plastic bag to avoid fresh water melting onto the affected area. If the area is still painful, seek medical attention.

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The Wolf Park of Antequera
09 March 2018

The Lobo Park in Antequera is an unspoilt nature and wildlife park in the heart of Andalusia; where you may look at a wolf eye to eye for the first time in your life!

The wolves in the park live in big enclosures so they have enough space to roam, play and hide when they want to. However, out of curiosity the wolves often come close to the observation points where you would go as a visitor, allowing you to see them very well. Some wolves are socialised and some have never been touched by a human hand, yet still they will all come up close because they have learnt from the pack to have confidence and that no one will bother them. No human interferes with the social development of the pack and therefore one can observe the natural behaviour in the enclosures.

You reach the enclosures by a path which leads you not only to the different enclosures but also to the individual platforms that offer you an excellent view of the wolves. In the park there are  4 breeds of wolf:

Timber (Canis lupus occidentalis) - The Timber wolves in the Lobo Park originate from the vast forests of Canada. This also explains their distinct colouring.

Alaska Tundra (Canis lupus tundrorum) - These wolves originally live in the Tundra of Alaska, where they survive extreme weather conditions from very cold winters to very hot summers. This subspecies is close to extinction and there are only a very few in the wild and in captivity.

European (Canis lupus lupus) - Still today, we find European wolves from Russia to Poland and Romania. Meanwhile, we find the European wolves also in many European countries such as in Scandinavia, Germany, along the border of Switzerland, France and Italy.

Iberian (Canis lupus signatus) - These native wolves live in Spain and Portugal and are a subspecies of the European wolf. Spain, together with Portugal, has the biggest population in Western Europe. One estimates that there app. 2000 wolves living in the wild in the North of Spain in provinces such as Asturias, Castillo y León, Cantabria, Galicia and Zamora.



The Lobo Park arranges guided tours for visitors in both English and Spanish. Visitors can obtain insights into how wolves behave in the real world. The Lobo Park is built to provide the wolves with an environment that resembles their natural habitat. This allows the wolves enough space to display their innate traits, as well as play and run around freely. The tours are designed so that this natural behaviour can be observed, and the fear that most people have of wolves is notably reduced. 

If you are looking for a very special evening out, don’t miss the regular Wolf Howl Nights on every full moon evening all year round and from May until October on weekends. 

See the wolves in the evening and you’ll experience them in a different light. As the air cools down and the sun starts to set, the wolves get livelier. It is also the best time to hear them howl.

When asked how wolves communicate, most people would respond that they howl. However, they actually communicate in a variety of methods through sound, smell and body language. Wolf sounds range from the hair-raising howls that call the pack together and play a huge role in socialisation and bonding, to the rough short bark-like sound that signifies fear and is used to warn other pack members of threats or to scare away intruders. Other sounds include the whine, whimper, yelp, growl and snarl, all of which are probably heard more often than the howl, and yet it's the howl that defines the wolf and fascinates us. Definitely an unforgettable evening! 



[Post sent by Jane Evans - Málaga]


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Christmas in Spain
14 December 2017

Christmas is all but upon us. A time for traditions, celebration, gifts and, above all, joy: the day of the “Santos Inocentes”, cribs, family dinners, Three Kings’ parades, New Year’s grapes… Should you decide to spend your Christmas in Spain you will find a country transformed although not as it is back in the UK.  Excessive Christmas decorations, lights and cheesy Christmasy TV adverts are few and far between. If you are not careful you could even miss that fact that Christmas is around the corner... but then again, Christmas is celebrated differently here.

Calendar of Christmas Events:

December 8th – This is the public holiday of Immaculada (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) which marks the beginning of the religious Christmas celebrations. Most notable in Seville.

21st December – In a few cities including Granada the celebration of Hogueras (bonfires) takes place. This date marks the winter solstice (shortest day) and where it is celebrated involves people jumping through fires to protect themselves against illness.

22nd December – All over Spain people never stray far from a TV or radio as the Christmas lottery is drawn over a period of many hours. Everybody in Spain buys tickets for this lottery in the hope of winning El Gordo (the fat one) and the winning number usually means that a good number of people from the same village become a lot better off overnight. Besides the big three prizes there are thousands of smaller prizes shared by people all over Spain. You can buy Spanish Christmas lottery tickets online.

24th December – Christmas Eve is called Nochebuena in Spanish (The Good night) and it is the most important family gathering of the year. In the evening people often meet early for a few drinks with friends then return home to enjoy a meal with the family. Most bars and restaurants close in the evening. Seafood platters followed by meats or roast lamb would be a typical meal rounded off with a typically Christmas sweet called turrón which is a nougat made of toasted sweet almonds. Another typical festive sweet is called Polvorones which is made from almonds, flour and sugar. Cava, Catalan 'champagne' and Asturian cider, would be the chosen drinks for the Christmas toast though plenty of fine Spanish wines will also be consumed with the meal.

25th December – Children may receive a small gift on Nochebuena or on Christmas morning but the day for presents is still 6th January, The Epiphany, when the Three Kings bring gifts for the children. However, this tradition is starting to change with the younger parents as everyone realises that if they give their presents on Christmas day the kids have more time to play with them. Christmas Day is a national holiday in Spain so shops are closed yet it is not a day of great celebration but rather a calm day when people go out for a walk, drop into a bar, visit relatives etc. Another large family meal at lunchtime is common though it’s becoming more common to see families eating out on the afternoon of Christmas day.

28th December – This is the day of Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents) and is the equivalent of April Fools’ Day when people play practical jokes on one another. Often the national media will include a nonsense story in their broadcasts. In some villages youngsters light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to carry out civic tasks such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration.

31st December – New Year’s Eve is known as NocheVieja. To get involved, don’t forget to buy 12 grapes in advance. Why? According to Spanish tradition, everyone has to eat one grape in time with the striking of the clock at midnight. If you manage to eat them all on time, you will have a New Year full of luck. Although the New Year is broadcast on television, you will have an amazing time if you head for the main squares of towns and cities, normally the location of their clock towers. One of the most emblematic places to experience the celebration? Following the clock at Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. There you will find thousands of people decked out with hats and squawkers joyfully toasting and welcoming in the New Year. Later on you can join one of the many parties held until dawn at hotels, bars and clubs 

1st January – A low key public holiday with plenty people sleeping off their excesses.

5th January –  To ensure smiles on the children’s faces at Christmas, nothing better than the Three Kings Parade held on 5 January, the day before the feast of the Three Kings. In Spain it is the three Wise Men of the East, Melchoir, Caspar and Balthazar, who bring Christmas presents to children who have been good. Three Kings Parades, with their page-boys, camels and all kinds of weird and wonderful characters, make their way through the streets of villages, towns and cities all over Spain, to then leave gifts and toys at the houses. They are all spectacular, but special mention should be made of the one in Alcoi, in the province of Alicante, one of the oldest in Spain. Another is in Sierra Nevada where the Three Kings (Wise Men) can be seen to ski down to the village from the mountaintops.

6th January – This is the Feast of the Epiphany (Día de Los Reyes Magos) when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem. For many Spanish children, this is still the most important day of the year when they wake up to find that Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings/Wise Men) have left gifts for them in their house. Santa may leave them some token gifts on December 25th but the Three Kings are their favourites, but this may not be the case in years to come, Santa is gaining ground on the Kings. During the day of 6th, the Three Kings continue their good work and are seen distributing gifts to children in hospitals all over Spain.

7th January – The day after receiving their gifts children return to school, their parents go back to work and Christmas in Spain is all over for another year.

Depending on where you are this Christmas ...

“Feliz Navidad” from Spain
“Bon Nadal” from Catalonia and Valencia
“Gabon Zoriontsuak” from the Basque Country
“Bo Nadal” from Galicia


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