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Day 5 | Visiting Split - the capital of Dalmatia

And finally the day came to go to Split! I am not sure whether my sister and I were more looking forward to it than Madoka did. She had no expectations of course whereas my sister and I knew more of Split and wanted to spend a day there but it was always difficult if not impossible. But now things changed. What is more, we were not going to spend the time there alone. If you remember - we met my design colleagues while eating pizza in Šibenik, they were on a one day trip to Šibenik and we made a deal that they were going to guide us around and show us something of Split. One of them is the local. This was also the longest day so far and maybe at all of these 9 days there. Lastly, our way back home in the bus was the best so far. You will read in the end way.

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Why is Split so special? There are a few things you need to know. Split is a very old city with rich history and culture. It is also known as the "capital" of Dalmatia being the largest place in this area and of historic importance. Split is the second largest city in Croatia after Zagreb. Split is home to numerous festivals and events. It is home to football club Hajduk Split which is one of the oldest clubs in Europe (since 1911). Split is known as "the most athletic city" of Croatia according to the number of won medals by the sportsmen not just in Croatia but on international competition. Being the largest city on the coast and especially of the south there is a rivalry and sort of a competition (most visible in sports) between Zagreb and Split, Zagreb representing the Northern Croatia and Split the Southern. Split was also one of the location for the filming some scenes from the Game of Thrones.

The bus ride from Vodice to Split

We check the timetable at the bus station and the web, there were two buses going in the morning, one around 7. 20 h arriving at 9. 35 h and one around 9. 10 h arriving at 11. 35 h. We decided to take the one at half past 7 so we have more time in Split and hopefully avoid even hotter weather.

As for the tickets it varies during the day, season and the bus company. The prices in one direction are normally between 47 and 60 kuna before 3 p. m. There should also be student discount so you should ask for one and prepare your student ID if needed. We also thought this time would be better as it is cheaper too! Few euros difference means one smaller pizza in Croatia.

For the buses you can refer to this website.

After packing all our stuff including bottles of water and fruit with some chocolate just to keep us alive throughout the day we went to the bus station. And as you can guess, the bus rides are never boring in Dalmatia. Luckily, there were free seats what we bought though the bus was already around 70% full. Now, we could begin with our hobby in the bus - sharpening our ears to hear the conversation between the bus drivers and passengers. So, already in the beginning one of the tourists asked 'How long does it take to Split? ' and the driver replied 'Who knows, I have no idea. '

The bus stopped several times on our way to Split at the local towns and villages sometimes getting to the very centre of them... but sometimes just stopping "In the middle of nowhere" on the local road where people would have to be picked up by someone else or walk for 15 minutes until reaching their destination. But by using the local roads you have the opportunity to enjoy the landscape along the sea and have a look at the islands. One of the most beautiful towns on the coast that can be often found on many lists of "top towns in the world" is Trogir. We passed by it and if you have time make sure to pay a visit! Recently I have discovered that it has been put as number 1 on the list of top 10 most beautiful island-towns in the world by National Geographic or someone. It is also under UNESCO protection, the whole historic core. If you ever wanted to walk among the streets, houses and walls of the medieval town with a beautiful blue sea around you and escaping the reality of 2016... there is your chance!

After passing by Trogir and the peninsula of Čiovo there on the other side of the huge bay you can see the white city of Split. Just half an hour more and we are there!

Arriving to Split's Bus terminal and Railway station

After around 2 and half hours we made it. The bus enters the city from the NE side and then goes down the road towards the main port. Split is also not flat but climbing up and down with the streets. Although it is the second largest city in Croatia it does not have the tram network. Only the buses as the mean of public transport. Another problem that you are going to face in Split as a driver (and notice if in the bus) is that it does not have a very well organised street network for the motor vehicles. Due to this reason the traffic is moving slowly and everyone is annoyed.

While going down the big street you can see the sea, a bit of the riviera and the hill Marjan in the distance. Finally arriving to the bus terminal. There are lots of buses and this one is much bigger than in Šibenik of course and slightly smaller than the main bus terminal in Zagreb. It was very crowded and it took us a few minutes to escape the people and get the fresh air. On the other side of the bus station there is a railway station and trains.

There is another thing that you will also notice after being surrounded with the locals for a minute - they are taller than the average, both men and women. It was especially strange and new for Madoka.

We went straight away to the ticketing office and bought three tickets with student account for the evening around 20. 30 h (8. 30 p. m. ). Afterwards we found quickly an exchange office and Madoka had finally had a chance to exchange some Yens for Kunas. Great!

Now off to the city centre! The first thing we all wanted to visit in the historic core was the Emperor Diocletian's Palace. But first let me tell you a few interesting things and fun facts about Split.

Understanding Split

Population and geography

Split being the second largest place in Croatia after Zagreb has a population of a bit less than 180 000. Actually, the number dropped in the last 16 years decreased from almost 190 000 to around 177 000 which follows the negative trend in Croatia of depopulation. When compared to Zagreb's 790 000 citizens it seems a bit impossible that Split will ever reach Zagreb, except for potential migrations. The problem in Croatia is strong centralisation with Zagreb, we are too small to be centralised which leads to demographic problems in other regions. I do not think there is a need for the so known "ghost towns".

Speaking of the citizens themselves, there is a popular distinction between the inhabitants whereas by their origin and they way they speak they can be divided into 2-3 groups. Those who consider themselves and speak what is known as Chakavian Croatian are referred to as 'the real Splitians' (or 'fetivi') along with the islanders who are called 'Boduli'... the last group that actually makes the majority of modern Split are the people who immigrated from the hinterland and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Similar situation is in the north in Zagreb with the "local locals" and those who immigrated from other regions in the latter half of 20th century. In both cases the population in these two cities was rapidly increased during the 90s.

Split is a city situated on the peninsula of Marjan (or Split) being surrounded with the mountains of Mosor (the big one you see behind), Perun and Kozjak. The historic town is situated under Marjan which we were about to visit later during the day. Being on a peninsula the city is surrounded with the sea on both sides. The islands you can see that are close to Split are Brač, Hvar, Šolta and Čiovo (with Trogir). Being the administrative centre of Splitsko-Dalmatinska county it is also mostly the main and only connection with the land for the islands nearby.

Split also has an airport, you can see the landing from the pilot's cab here! So, except for the boat, ship, train, bus and car you can get to split by airplane!

History

Split has a very long history that apparently dates back 2, 400 years ago. It was founded by the Greeks (okay, Greeks are everywhere! ) and the name of their settlement was Aspalathos. Normally people take the construction of Diocletian's palace as the beginning and birth of Split about 1, 700 years ago at the beginning of the 4th century AC.

Throughout the centuries Split has been the administrative centre of Dalmatia and the Kingdom of Dalmatia being under the rule of Croatian Kingdom, the Venetians and the Byzantine Empire, later Kingdom of Hungary, under Austro-Hungarians and within few Yugoslav states. In the 2nd millennium it has spent most of the time under rule of Venice. The population of the town has also been a community of both Croats and the Romance speakers whereas the Romance Speakers have become slavized and today are part of the modern Croatian society. Thus you can see the mixture of different influences and cultures, all of them make Split what it is today. There used to be a threat of the Ottoman invaders and few times the city was in the trouble but never fell in the hands of the Ottoman Empire. It was occupied during the Second World war and in the 90s incorporated into Republic of Croatia.

"The sportiest city in the world" and the home to the tallest people in Croatia

Split is well-known as one of the sportiest cities in the world (at least we say it) due to the large number of medals won on the competitions. If you follow sport such as tennis, basketball, athletics and others... Split is home to Goran Ivanišević, Blanka Vlašić, Ivano Balić, Dino Rađa and Toni Kukoč, Petar Metličić, brothers Skelin, Mario Ančić... and the football club Hajduk Split which is one of the oldest football clubs in Europe founded in 1911.

Most of the more successful sportsmen come from Split or Dalmatia and when walking from the riviera to the west you will notice that the path is filled with the names of the famous and successful citizens not just in sports but music, art and culture in general as well.

Speaking of the tallest people, Split currently holds the top in the rankings in Croatia. Actually, the whole Dalmatia, including Montenegro, Herzegovina and southern Serbia - all that are within Dinaric Alps region - are being the tallest people in the world with an average of 1. 85 m for males (6'11'') and females with height of 1. 71 m (5'7''). This is not the case in the rest of Croatia as you might have noticed. For Madoka it was especially interesting to see the difference after spending her life more or less in Japan! My sister and I also felt a bit like hobbits there since every third person was a head taller. And I am 1. 84 m.

So yes, there are lots of individuals who had a huge success in sports and brought medals from the Olympics (more than 90 I read).

FC Hajduk Split

The football club is kind of a pride of Split's citizens and you will find lots of graffiti 'Hajduk živi vično' (Hajduk lives forever) around made by the fans "Torcida". Hajduk is now 115 years old club with a long tradition and interesting stories. It used to be much more successful (including European cups) until last decade when Dinamo took #1 place in Croatia. I already mentioned the rivalry between the clubs from Split and Zagreb. So my advice is not to wear any dress of FC Dinamo in Split as you will most likely get attacked by the local hooligans (and they won't care if you are a foreigners or a local)... or if there is a football match between these two, don't wear the blue shirt and walk towards the white groups of Hajduk's fans.

Visiting Diocletian's Palace

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Now back to us. After exchanging money we headed towards the historic town where in the very heart of it lies the Emperor Diocletian's Palace. We had to cross the road a bit up and then pass by the huge number of souvenir shops until we reached one street between the historic walls. It was also fully of souvenirs where you could buy hats, shirts, magnets, postcards and other stuff. We headed along the wall in direction of north until we left this crowded place.

Now to our left there was a relatively big green area around the walls of the ancient Roman fortress with the gates opened. We went there and before the gates stood the huge statue of the bishop Gregory of Nin (Nin is a small town in Northern Dalmatia). He also has a golden toe which according to the stories should bring you a good luck if you touch it. We did not touch it.

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At the gates there were two guys masked in the Roman Soldiers so we asked them for a photo with Madoka. Then we entered the system.

Diocletian's military complex (as that was the purpose) of fortification is characterised by the very narrow streets, block buildings and it is all pretty geometric with square shapes (network of the streets) which was one of the characteristics of the Roman urban architecture. You can find again lots of agencies and souvenirs shops within these streets but I think they more expensive than the others outside so you can be patient a bit. It took us not long till we reached the main thing you find on the internet - the peristyle of Diocletian's palace, the yard and the tower. It was crowded with people of course but we tried to take some photos anyway and go around. People usually take this place as the birth of Split, as from this place further out (outside the walls) people started settling as the life was much safer around the fortress... and thus the future Split was growing up bit by bit.

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You can also find one small statue of sphinx that was brought from the Egypt back in the time and stands next to the tower. We decided to make a small circle and check the things. First we went downstairs into the basements which were now renovated and been filled with lots of souvenirs. There was also a path and passage that led to the 'famous' Diocletian's Wine Basement... but we heard it was not worth paying a price so we didn't go there. Straight from the basements you end up in the centre of Split's riviera surrounded with the palm trees. But we came back around the street and stopped by the tower and belfry. To climb up you had to pay and there was a relatively big waiting line. In the end Madoka went upstairs and enjoyed the view over Split and showed us some nice photographs.

All in all, the palace was a nice experience and worth of seeing. Standing there surrounded with thousands of years old architecture where more than a millennium ago the Roman soldiers and the Emperor were standing seemed to be cool. And it is the architecture that brings us back in time. The palace is also listed on UNESCO's World Heritage list and represents one of the most famous and completed architecture on Croatian shore and is one of the marvellous examples of this kind in the Mediterranean.

We were still wandering a bit around. The plan was to meet with our friends soon (the more exciting part of the day).

Exploring the historic town and going back to the riviera

We found the tourist office which is located also somewhere in the centre of the riviera and picked up a few plans of the centre. Then decided to go a bit more around as we had no idea what to do next without our friends. We came back to the old town and went upwards through the streets which were full of visitors. We also came across the statue of Marko Marulić who is known as the 'Father of Croatian literature'. He was an Renaissance poet and writer with some of his work being translated in many languages in Europe at the time (something like modern best-sellers, let's say). Afterwards we just went totally random through the streets looking for those in shadows to relax a bit and cool down after being exposed to sun.

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After 15-20 minutes of walking we decided to take a break dead tired and sit somewhere in the shadows under the palm trees at the riviera. That proved to be a bit impossible since all the benches in the shadows had already been taken. Luckily, we found one that was 75% covered in shadow. I had to sit at the place being exposed to the sun. We used to play cards (again Šnaps game) and eat and drink a bit. We found some public well earlier to fill the bottles again.

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Now I contacted my friends and they should arrive soon. Meanwhile I just felt so tired after previous few days of going everywhere and the sun killed me, wanted to lay down on the grass and sleep.

Meeting with our friends and climbing towards Marjan

We met with two of our friends (one of them is the local) at the end of riviera standing in the middle so we cannot miss each other. While waiting for them we also saw a few of stands (or souvenir shops) that were offering tours around the Game of Thrones locations in Split. It costed around 100 €. Sure... Bars and the restaurants along the riviera were just to expensive to sit and drink something so we decided to go one of the ice-cream confectionery that was nearby to refresh ourselves. The third friend was a bit late and had to walk from the other half of Split but we all got together in the end.

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After the ice-cream in the street of Ban J. Jelačić our friend the local told us there is a way close by to climb up to one of the viewpoints of Marjan. He added though that he is not sure which streets lead precisely there but we had no other option but to trust him. It took us maybe 15 minutes until we reached our spot and going mostly left and right in the streets. Then at one road that goes upwards there are stairs which lead you to one point (but not the top) of Marjan with a restaurant or a bar. There we made a little break. We were now above the belfry's level and had a nice perspective view over Split. Time for several pictures! Relatively far behind from Split is the big mountain Mosor which is over a kilometre high. When looking towards the south you can see the islands (Brač is the first one) and lots of boats and ships going in many directions.

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It had been already time for lunch so we were discussing where to go now. Before eating something the idea was to go to one cool cafe and have a drink of something.

We climbed down the stairs which went zig-zag at times but at least covered with "forest" and shadows so it was not that difficult as climbing up. We came by same spot we started climbing up and then we just had to follow Nikola (the local) to this cafe. We went into the old town again but cannot remember the name of the bar. It was in the yard and you had to go through several narrow streets and be careful where you go (left, right, straight or... ) to find it.

This cafe (I cannot remember the name, sorry.. ) was not that big like Azimut but I would put it in the same category with all the "improvisation" and used materials. We were sitting outside being covered from all sides with the tall houses so there was shadow and it was pretty comfortable. There again barrels served as the chairs and additionally there was a fan that sprayed the cold water into the particles above our heads so we really could not complain about the location. We ordered coffee more or less for an affordable price (still less than an average coffee in Vienna, it is a euro and a half) and talked for around 40 minutes. This was a better chance for my friends to get to know Madoka better and they could ask her anything they wanted about Japan. For me it was funny because just thinking of the situation with the Japanese guest and them sitting together... there are no words that can convey the meaning in the best way and you will never understand it. Just trust me it was funny.

We agreed it was time to eat something and Nikola told us there was a good and affordable place to eat something delicious, and also close to our other sightseeings.

Lunch break and enjoying view from the park of Sustipan

We went back a bit different way. Nikola wanted to show us Marmont's street (named after Napoleon's general Marmont who governed Dalmatia shortly and actually did good things) where you can find the fish market. In the winter if it gets cold and freezing (which started happening last years, usually there is no winter such as one in the north in Split) it can be very dangerous to walk through Marmont's Street as the stone floor made from the tiles can get icy and slippery. Many 'Splitians' fell down and end up in the hospital. But we had no problems in summer of course.

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Now we passed through the part Matejuška and left the riviera. The walk took us maybe 20 minutes to reach our Fast food Popaj (yes, Popeye! ) in the relatively newly built 'Obala kneza Branimira'. This is the place where you could see hundreds of names of the Split's successful citizens and the year of their achievements. We also passed by many luxurious ships that were staying there. At time it seemed like it would takes us ages to reach the food but we made it eventually.

After waiting 10 minutes in the line we finally got to order something. Well, we enjoyed awesome hamburgers and drink. We took it to the park Sustipan nearby and ate there in peace while sitting on the bench in the shadows. One of the best moments of the day for sure, especially when you are hungry.

Sustipan is a park dedicated to the St. Stephen (Sveti Stipan) and it's also a promenade. You have to climb up a bit but then you can enjoy the greenery and the scenery. There are also apparently some concerts being organised there as we saw a stage that was not removed. We rested there for half an hour and enjoyed the peace. There were no other people actually so we were the loudest.. kind of. Behind the small fence there are the cliffs so be careful and do not play at the edge if you don't want to end up in hospital or next to St Peter. Sitting there in the shadows you can have a nice view towards Brač and other islands.

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When we rested and felt comfortable to go our next thing on the list was the beach. Time to go for a swim!

Swimming at the beach in the bay of Zvončac

Now we were going down the road through some playground and campus until reaching the bay of Zvončac. You could also swim there as that was the beginning of the beach but we walked few more minutes further until we reached the desired spot (or our guides actually). We found one pretty close and it was in the shadows. There were lots of people but you could find your spot. So, there was 6 of us but only 3 of us went to swim. Madoka decided not to go into the sea today and my friends Nikola and Elizabeta were also not feeling like doing it. Our third friend, Mladen, along with my sister and me wanted to jump again. I could not wait to refresh myself.

There is also a dressing cab so we used it. And the beach has the showers with cold water so you can remove the salt after getting out of the sea. I decided to jump in the sea form the rocks, as I always do it when there is a chance. Nothing better than diving in and out in the warm sea and sun above. It was already around 16 h so it was not directly above us. We swam to the buoys and back trying to enjoy maximum.

After having a great time we stayed 10 more minutes, talked about Japan again and how Madoka feels in Croatia and then decided that we go back to the town. Our friends also had other business to do (my friend, Mladen, was actually leaving for Zagreb the other day, he said he had too much of the sea already) and we did not want to bother them more.

Going back to the centre and goodbye to our guides

We headed all the way back along the sea, passing again by the "walk of fame" and ships, then along the whole riviera in front of the old town and the palm trees. Then the rain started a bit and we did not know whether it was going to be a heavy rain which suddenly surprises you... or not. Luckily for us, nothing bad happened and it stopped after several minutes (we did not bring umbrellas of course). Passing by the bus station and the souvenir shops and started climbing up a bit. Our friends told us we can go together until the park Bačvice which leads to the most popular city's beach - Bačvice.

Time to say goodbye came and 'arigatou gozaimashita' for showing us Split. They were also happy to meet Madoka and Madoka certainly had no boring time in Split. Now alone again and time to visit Bačvice.

Bačivce - the most popular beach in Split

It took us around 10 minutes to go down (south) through the park till we reached Bačvice. We heard loud music and found out there was a stage with some concert or just loud speakers going on.

Bačvice are around 1 km away from the bus terminal and the railway station so it is really not far away. We were finding a way to get down from the park to the shore and then decided to have a look around. Non of us was feeling like going to swim again (I was in doubt a bit but then.. meh, next time). There were lots of people so we decided to find something nicer and maybe explore a bit further. After finding some stairs we climbed up and ended up on the road again.. but soon found some way downhill and to one more calmer part (still with lots of people). We sat at the bar and spent there an hour drinking Cedevita. It was around 18 h or so. We still had 2 hours left so tried to stay there and talk. Everything started to turn orange which is this phenomenon I see only in August, like some filter.

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Now having an hour and half left we decided to go back slowly to the bus terminal. And also stop by some post to buy the postcards. We came back a bit different way while trying to leave Bačvice and behind the stage. Taking a few more photos and then after 10 minutes coming to the bus terminal. We had around 40 minutes left and decided to walk around and buy the postcards. Now the sunset was slowly visible on the horizon and the night was approaching. After sitting at our platform we finally saw our bus and got into it. While waiting for the bus among the crowds I saw the bus driver who was driving from Zagreb to Vienna in June when I visited my studio. But of course he would not remember me and he disappeared in few seconds.

Well, we had a nice time in Split. Until next time! But our adventures are still not over.

Crazy ride on our way back to Vodice

So, when one thinks that you can finally rest in the bus for 3 hours until you reach your home - one is terribly wrong. Especially if one talks about Dalmatia and Croatia in general.

Firstly, once we sat in the bus our seats were already taken. But okay, that's kind of a thing and manner here, no one complains, you just take another seat. There would be no worries but then one girl came to us and said 'This is mine, I have a reservation. ' We also said that our seats with reservations are taken but that should not be a problem, just sit down any where else! But she was really persistent and after a few minutes return back with the bus driver. He checked our seats and saw they were taken by someone else and recommended the other girl to do the same - sit somewhere else. Yet, she was bothering him much so he asked politely my sister if she could switch the places with her and go up in the front. My sister was angry but we agreed in the end. So this girl sat now in front of me next to Madoka. And I was sitting next to some weird old woman who was sniffing every here and there.

I think I fell asleep a few times during the ride and missed some fun parts but here is what my sister told me. When she switched the seats everyone in the front told her they were happy that they got rid of that complaining student and my sister said she had a great time and laughter with people there, including the bus drivers (who were by the way not from Dalmatia but from Istria, these two are two different mentalities and much more enjoyable to have a ride with). The girl apparently was on a long trip from Split to Pula in Istria (which was going to be probably 6-8 hours in the bus since it has to stop too). And the bus driver said 'Huh, I would rather pay 150-200 kuna more to fly by airplane than be in this stupid bus. " And the other guy, who talked to us back, said she was so arrogant and rude that they thank God now they got rid of her.

Another funny thing (not that funny actually) happened while still leaving Split. We noticed there was some kind of red light, something like smoke or flame and at first I did not react to it, I thought it must have been some party or something... then we heard someone hitting our windows to the right and it came from the direction of the red light. It was the Torcida fans who threw the torches at the bus. Luckily the glass did not break. I was wondering what could have been the reason (though no reason for this stupidity should exist) and found out that Croatia lost to Serbia in water polo so they were angry. Madoka also looked what was happening and I just said "Oh, no worries, they are just having fun, nothing's going on, this is normal... " I hope she believed.

Another funny moment was when one guy after leaving the bus at some station tried to open the cargo without the bus driver. The bus driver quickly ran out and started shouting 'Are you crazy?! ' and then we listened to the comedy for the next few minutes.

The absolute winner of the evening which made the whole bus laugh (I was sleeping mostly but go the last parts, the beginning told me my sister) was one older Asian tourist. Since the moment we left Split she kept asking whether the next stop is Šibenik (which was 2 hours away at least) and wanted to go out on every stop. The other guy had to stop her every time and calm her down. The bus driver was pretty polite and always kept saying "Please mam, do not worry, we are going to tell you when we arrive to Šibenik, just relax and enjoy the ride. " but she tried to go out at literally every stop. Then the funny thing happened when we were in the middle of nowhere, there was one bus stop and one person had to go out, some local. But the Asian lady was so persistent and tried to run outside. The bus driver then started "What the.. wait! " and had to grab her on the stairs. He said something in Croatian which made everyone who understood it laugh hard for several minutes and he told the lady "please, I will personally take you out once we stop at Šibenik, just sit there and stay calm! ". She was also laughing. Then after an hour or less we came to Šibenik, he took her hand and the megaphone and said "Alright, Šibenik! We arrived to Šibenik, welcome! And have a nice day! ". The strange thing is that she had already been to Šibenik before Split so we were wondering how can you mix the town of nearly 50 000 citizens with a road in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, after 20 more minutes we came to Vodice.

After telling all the stories at home and having another dinner, we went to sleep. The other day we made a little break and the day after the plan was to visit Zadar.

Thanks for reading. Zadar...coming soon!


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