Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


Travel trivia

What is Rassolnik?

This traditional Russian soup is known to have existed as far back as the 15th century, when it was called ‘kalya’. Today, famous with the name Rassolnik, the authentic Russian dish is prepared mainly with veal and lamb kidneys (or pork and beef kidneys), pearl barley, sorrel leaves and some pickled cucumbers! Yes, you heard it right. A ‘pickle soup’ it is!


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No matter how bizarre it may sound, but this bribing Slavic blend is definitely a bowl of happiness.  Rassolnik or rassoljnik, as it is known, varies from family to family and region to region. Some include barley and potatoes and is so thick, a spoon can stand up in it. Others make it with prime cuts of meat instead of offal.

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Despite of all the variations, the belief behind the recipe stays common, i.e. it is the one of the easiest and surest way of curing hangovers!  This is due to the fact that this savory soup helps the body to hold water and counteract the dehydration produced by over-imbibing, which causes hangovers.

Buy This Whiskey, Own A Land In Scotland!

Planning to get a land in Scotland? Why not buy a bottle of whiskey instead! Yes, you read it right. Scotland’s one of the finest single-malt whiskeys, Laphroaig, offers a lease on a square foot of land with the purchase of each bottle. When you buy one, you lawfully become a ‘Friend of Laphroaig’. And, as a ‘Friend’ you will be given a numbered plot (one square foot) of the distillery land, represented by your own little flag!


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Currently owned by Beam Suntory (American subsidiary of Japan’s Suntory Holdings), Laphroaig was founded in Scotland in 1815 by Donald and Alexander Johnson. It is the only Islay Scotch whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales.


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Talking about the rates, a ten year old Laphroaig can cost you around US$50 (approx. ₹3344), an eighteen year old bottle can cost you around double of that (around ₹ 6688) and the 25 year old one will lighten your wallet by approximately US$ 400. (approx. ₹26755). So, once you get your hands on any of these three, just register the bar code placed on the bottle to the Laphroaig website. And that’s it! You will, then, be a proud owner of a piece of land in Islay, Scotland.


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Ever heard of an eatable Margarita?

No, this isn’t your traditional glass of tequila and fruit juice cocktail that you sip casually on a usual Friday evening. Doug Laming’s Margarita is definitely much more interesting than that! As suggested by the name, this cocktail was introduced by Molecular Mixologist, Doug Laming at his experimental lab i.e. Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining, Sydney.


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Laming uses ‘Cointreau Caviar Spherification’ to create spheres of Tequila, Cointreau and syrup, which results in little ‘pearls’ of alcohol that burst in the mouth!  While the glass is only there for decoration, to actually consume this margarita, one has to lift up the salt rimmed lime and eat the pink finger lime and the two types of the caviar pearls. One contains a Souza Gold tequila and sugar syrup and the other contains Cointreau. Basically, you eat these and lick the salted lime. It’s a margarita unlike any other kind that you may have had.


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Which is the most expensive cheese in the World?

Originated from Serbia, Pule cheese is made exclusively from the milk of Balkan donkeys. A characteristic feature of Serbian cuisine, Pule is not only extremely rare but also the most expensive cheese in the world. This exotic delicacy would cost you a whopping $576 for a pound!


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It takes 25 liters of donkey milk to produce just one kilogram of this white & crumbly smoked cheese. These donkeys are given the very best grass to eat and live as free rein as they can, living in the wilds of Serbia, they are farmed, milked and that results in this Serbian food-treasure!

A woman milks a donkey at a farm in Zasavica Resort, west of Belgrade

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What kind of bread is zopf?

Tell Me More About China’s Panda Park

China’s 600-acre Panda Base is located just about 20 km from the north suburb of Chengdu city. ‘Cute’ and ‘cuddly’ Pandas frolic here, in their lovingly simulated natural habitat. Our correspondents Rakhi Agarwal and Supriya Kantak take you there:

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Here, they swim, climb trees, munch on bamboo and roll in the dirt; just like they would in deep wilderness. Bamboo trees form a welcoming canopy overhead. Birds tweet in the bushes: your chance to spot some endangered species, and some well-loved ones. Think black-necked cranes, thrushes, cuckoos, Kingfisher. Stop by to share a snack with friendly peacocks and pheasants strutting freely about.

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Pandas are peace-loving, happy with their bamboo diet. But if provoked, their powerful jaw muscles and 150-kg weight can give you the shudders.

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Pandas get their name from the Chinese words ‘Pan and Da’ meaning ‘fat and big.’ In anticipation of a big bear hug, Supriya and Rakhi entered the protected area; a maze of winding paths with bamboo shoots forming an arch overhead. There are other trees, of course- mostly tall and big. Willows, Gingkos, Chinars, Yulans…the names aren’t all familiar, but the fresh air cools your face and warms your heart.

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The 60 acre Panda Base also houses a charming lake, teeming with cranes and Mallard ducks and well swans. But more than that it showcases nature’s genius at thinking up shapes and sizes and colour schemes! So while gazing at the Aquarians swimming together in happy harmony how can you miss the beautifully mismatched yellow, red and orange set against the blue water? Once you have had your fill of the lake’s beauty, enjoy a scoop of ice-cream. On your way out, you must stop at the souvenir shop; take a sneak, though you should know that the shops inside offer lower prices.

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This article first appeared in our July-August, 2012 edition.

The DUBLIN PARK(ING) DAY sounds like a cool green idea. Tell me more!

Once a year in the month of September, Dublin’s car parking spaces turn into public parks, games or art installations. Park(ing) Day is “intended to promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play.”

Team TS happened to be there last September, and we couldn’t stop marvelling at some of the creative ideas on show at the parking lots.



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Get all the details on this fun concept here.

I’m a hairdresser. Pl suggest a fun name for my shop!

Hair we go!  Inspiration from our Ireland album.DSC00690DSC00708DSC00705DSC00703

Something fun for Harry Potter fans visiting Edinburgh?

Of course! 

Let’s take you to The Elephant House Cafe in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland’s pulsating capital city!


It looks like an unlikely spot for the blockbuster it secretly housed. But yes, J.K. Rowling sat here, scribbling furiously over cups of coffee and we are sure, Scottish scones.



Do visit the loo here: the walls are filled with ‘letters’ scribbled to the author from women across the world!



Besides inspiration, the Cafe also serves full breakfast, lunch and dinner. On the menu are pizzas, salads, pasta, Haggis, Neeps and Tatties (Scotland’s national dish), and something called Lucas of Musselburgh Ice Cream which we did not taste but are sure is a delicious secret in itself!

21 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EN
Tel. 0131-220-5355
Fax. 0131-220-4272

I would like to know more about Mizoram’s famous heart-shaped Lake.

Travel Secrets learned this charming secret from a blog dedicated to India’s beautiful North-East. 

A heart shaped lake located midst breathtaking greenery, Rih Dil is the largest lake in the state of Mizoram in India, but awkwardly, it is situated in the kingdom of Myanmar.


Believed to be the passage which spirits of the dead inevitably crossed on their way to the next abode of Mitthi Khua, (some even take it to be the final home of all spirits), the lake has since long influenced writers and composers of Mizoram, enriching their literary output.

Read more here.

What’s this I hear about a Whispering Gallery at the Grand Terminal Station in New York?

Hello…hello…hello…that’s the sound of our voice as it echoes in the Whispering Gallery! A romantic secret that sits right under the nose of New Yorkers, the Gallery offers intense communication to lovers, simply by being designed the way it is.


What you do is this: stand diagonally across from each other on the arches, and whisper words of love. Better still, murmur your proposal to your sweetheart. Your whisper will carry through to him or her as if by ‘telegraph,’ husky enough to sound romantic without being spooky!

Lover and proposal or not, do trip down to the Whispering Gallery the next time you cross the Grand Central Station! 

And that is by no means all. The Station houses many more secrets that are sure to give you bragging rights. Go, discover them all!

Truth or rumour? A Las Vegas nightclub serves a $10,000 cocktail.

One hundred per cent true! The tipple that’s making ripples has a deceptively simple name: Ono. It is served at the Wynn’s XS Nightclub, and one $10,000 portion serves two.


While you gulp that down, here’s why it costs so much: there’s a rare cognac in this cocktail, which costs a whopping $2000 per shot. As XS GM Yannick Mugnier puts it, “This cocktail is not about making money–it’s about extravagance.” Rather unnecessarily, he goes on to add that Ono is a big hit with big winners at the casinos. Well, duh.

Thirsty for more? Here’s where you can get all the mindblowing details. Hic!

I would love to go on an EDM tour around the world. Which are the best festivals out there?

The New Year has barely begun and Music Festival Fever is already on! TS writer Megha Uppal lists the top five music festivals for EDM fans.

Electronic Daisy Carnival


Launched in 1997 in Southern California, EDC is one of the biggest and most popular EDM festivals. Spanning over 6 cities across two continents, it kickstarts in Mexico this March, goes on to New York in May, and concludes at Las Vegas in June.

For tickets and more information, visit

Ultra Music Festival


UMF Miami  kicks off the concert season as winter is almost out and you are ready to party at the beach. Launched in Miami, but now conducted in over six cities, the music extravaganza boasts big names like Tiesto, Guetta, Afrojack and Avicii. Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2014, UMF promises to be a pulsating affair. (March 28-30).

Tickets and more info at:

Electric Zoo


New York! Need I say more? The city that never sleeps promises an EDM festival bustling with energy at Randall’s Island Park on 3 – 4 May 2014, David Guetta, Pretty Lights and Hardwell were featured in the past line-ups. Expect more in 2014!

For tickets and other information, visit:



You are no EDM fan, if you don’t know about Tomorrowland. Arguably the best EDM festival in the world, with its stage set in Boom, Belgium by end July. The magical venue of Tomorrowland packs in fanciful stage designs, innovative decor, and a superior line-up of the biggest and best DJs from the dance music scene. An unforgettable event!

For more information, visit their website:

Global Gathering


The world’s first truly global EDM festival- Global Gathering has spread from Europe to US, and further to Asia and Australia. With the likes of Steve Aoki, Infected Mushroom, Afrojack, etc. , it promises to be a crazy weekend – one you won’t forget for a long time. Global Gathering attracted more than a quarter million people last year. So don’t miss out!

For more on Global Gathering go to:

The festivals may seem to be months away, but the tickets are selling like hotcakes already – grab those early bird passes now!

Q: I want to go ‘carnival – hopping’ worldwide. What are my options this spring?

Hey, we envy you! Spring is just the season to soak in carnival colours. TS writer Prerna Madan has a cornucopia of them for you. Pick and go!

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi gras new orleans

Inspired from Christian tradition, this legal holiday culminates into the austerity of Lent at midnight. Clowns, Shakespearean gowns, and masked locals dominate this colourful masquerade-parade. You’d be lucky to get invited to one of the endless private parties and balls organised during this time.

Duration: Feb 11- March 4, 2014

Curacao festival

Curacao festival 2

Pristine silver beaches and coral reefs are not the only features of this Caribbean island. From January, it offers a host of parades and activities lasting till March. Feast your eyes on more than 30 types of ethnic dances, exuberant costumes and Disney characters at the Gran Marcha parade (Grand Carnival). Traditionally, the festival closes by burning  the effigy of King Momo at midnight, symbolising the end of evil, infertility and bad luck.

Duration: Jan 4 – March 4,2014

For more information, visit:

Nice carnival, France

Nice carnival

Dating back from 13th century, this 12 day carnival attracts 1 million visitors  every year. The artistic spectacle of  20 floats with 50 giant heads or grosses tetes on the French Riviera is a major attraction. Tingle your senses with the fragrance of mimosas and fresh-plucked flowers in staging  of the historical Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of Flowers).  Or indulge your taste buds with the innumerable local delicacies.

Duration: Feb 14 – March 4, 2014

For more information, visit:

Rio de Janeiro carnival, Brazil

rio de janeiro carnival

No one can ignore the ‘Mother of all Carnivals’. Whether it’s the exotic costumes, the glorious Samba dancers or the sheer magnitude of colours – it is certainly NOT to be missed. Soak in the rich culture of Brazil and tune your ears to the eccentric music of European and African origins. Interestingly, the biggest carnival of the world is ‘made’ by the fun loving, street people of Rio.

Duration: Feb 28 – March 4, 2014

For more information, visit:

Q: Have you heard of Ruth Reichl?


…if you have, you’re probably reading these snippets of her writing for the nth time. If you haven’t, prepare to become addicted to her prose.

Ruth Reichl writes poems about food.  In prose.


A more formal introduction, courtesy Wikipedia:  an award-winning American food writer, co-producer of PBS’s Gourmet Diary of a Foodie, host of PBS’s Gourmet Adventures with Ruth, and the last editor-in-chief of the now shuttered Gourmet magazine.

She has written a trilogy of critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs: Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise and has lately published Not becoming my Mother.  Her latest book is Gourmet Today a 1,008 page cookbook containing over 1,000 recipes.

Gourmet Today Ruth Reichl

And this is a condensed introduction, because we don’t have the page-count to devote to her achievements, much as we would like to. Suffice it to say that you should read Ruth Reichl if you aspire to be a food writer. Or are one. You should read her if you love food, and love the written word. You should read her. Period.

Reichl’s Writings (extracted from her journal

Walking down the rue Mouffetard in the early Paris morning is a completely sensual experience.  This time of year the street is perfumed with strawberries and the fat white asparagus are everywhere, poking up with a curiously aggressive air. Meanwhile the cauliflower curl shyly into their protective green leaves, as if reluctant to emerge and face the sassy herbs in their bold bunches.

Lemons make me happy; they always have. I may run out of milk, eggs and coffee, but I am never without lemons. When I am feeling sad I’ll open the refrigerator, reach for a lemon and run my fingers across the peel for the pure pleasure of the scent. It always improves my mood.

Straight off the tree, an apricot is a shy and retiring fruit, reluctant to display its charms. Add a little heat, however, and its true character is revealed.  This is a flirtatious fruit, teasing you with sweetness before turning on you with a sour smile. By turns sweet, acid and sour, a cooked apricot is a juicy and endlessly fascinating companion that likes to keep you guessing.

The surprise of finding wild blackberries creeping along the edges of the woods is one of the great pleasures of these deep summer days. Even the mean wild vines, stretching out their vicious thorns to scratch you, cannot dim the pleasure. The purple juice stains your fingers for days, a trophy, a tattoo.

In my dreams, sometimes, I walk down a New York sidestreet and find a simple, sunlit trattoria, the tables a bit rickety, the door open wide. The chef beckons me inside.  He sets bread, cheese, and salume on the table, picks up a plate and fills it with hand-made pasta topped with the simplest tomato sauce.  Music washes through the air. There is grilled meat, sautéed spinach, a splash of wine. One tiny cup of espresso. I go dancing out the door.

Q: I am off to Vegas. Tips and tricks for the Casino, please.

Casino secrets friendly dealerDon’t play with the locals

If the dealer is calling these people by name, you know they are locals. They are daily players. They know their chips, and they know the dealer—which means your chances of winning are thinner. Pick up your chips and move to a table where tourists like you are playing. If they’re drunk, even better!

Carry less cash

A standing casino joke goes like this:

Q: which machine pays the most at the casino?

A: the ATM machine.

It’s a joke with a message for you: don’t carry more than you plan to spend. It’s easy to get carried away at the casino. Leave your debit and credit cards behind, and carry only as much cash as you can spend without feeling terrible if and when you lose it. The idea is to have fun!

Cash and chips

Stack your chips safely

Always place your higher denomination chips at the bottom of your pile. That way, a roaming thief won’t be able to lop off  big amount—you’ll be surprised how many chips and bags get stolen at casinos daily.

casino betsKnow how much to bet

When you’re losing, start placing smaller bets. If you continue to lose, walk away rather than hoping for the next deal to be a jackpot. Remember: the majority of casino visitors leave with their pockets empty. That’s because the games are designed to the advantage of the casino, not the player.

know the casino game

Know the game before you play

If you’ve never played poker before, don’t start without a basic idea of what it’s all about. Ideally, you should read up on the basics before you leave your home or hotel. If you didn’t have the time to do that, simply stand by a table for a few minutes and request a kindly-looking player to allow you to let him/her play. After a few rounds, you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t be shy to ask the players for tips and advice while the game is on. Many are happy to oblige!

Play the maximum coins in the slots.
How do you get the biggest bonus? Simple. You play the most coins. So, pick a machine that lets you put in the maximum amount of coins, rather than one with a higher limit into which you can put only one or two coins. Rule of thumb: if you put in less, you will get less.

casino slots lots

Play the new machines

Team Travel Secrets has been on the move quite a bit, and we know from personal experience that brand new machines promising multiple bonuses and payouts actually deliver the goods. Try them.

Best of luck!

Q: I have just returned from a long trip abroad. My system needs some TLC. Please help!


chick spa


A: Noted spa therapist Megha Dinesh has lots of great ideas for you to revive and rejuvenate. Over to her!

A light concoction of ginger and basil in the morning is very calming for the digestive system. Add a little honey for extra comfort.



ginger basil




Q: Sounds so good! We’re already packing for our next trip. What’s your stay-well advice?

A: Keep drinking loads of fluid. Take good rest. Eat wisely. Stretch and move during long journeys. Where possible, expose yourself to safe sun.


 Q: Some prep tips for before we take off?

A: Drink loads of lemon water/tender coconut water a day prior to flying out. Avoid excess of sugar and caffeeine. Eat light but more of carbs and reduce proteins and fat intake. Chamomile tea is very relaxing. You can rub a blend of neroli, lavender and geranium on the palms or soles of feet. Besides a pleasant, refreshing aroma, it helps in combating jet lag and fatigue. Finally, wear and carry loose, comfortable natural fibre clothing.


Q: It’s a stressful world. How do you stay calm and happy? Share your secret(s): 

A: I have learnt that happiness lies within us, and I always make a conscious effort to remember this. During those ‘interesting’ days when I’m feeling down, I share my feelings with the close ones and remind them to do something special for me to pep me up (in case they forget.) And at times when I am unable to discuss or if can’t get in touch with a dear one, I do things which makes me feel content. From self healing to travel, dining, spaiing and such.



Q: What’s the most healing, soothing destination you have ever travelled to, and why is it your favourite:

A: My recent trip to Leh, Ladakh. Beauty at its best. From barren hilly mountains, to snow-covered peaks and lush greenery, from desert to gushing streams of crystal clear water. Reminds me so much of our life: there are tough times as well as plenty of opportunities and when we learn to enjoy, they all fit so well, making the entire journey beautiful.

Q: One world spa you would recommend:

A:  One and Only in Mauritius.

mauritius spa


Q: Your most breathtaking experience…

A:  Skydiving in New Zealand.

Q: To a nervous traveller, your advice would be:

A: Break your travels, don’t over exert. It’s not about number of places you need to visit but the time you spend and enjoy them fully. Eat well, try the local specialities/stuff but appreciate your body limits too and travel with a basic medical kit. Last but not the least, remember that “Travel is the only thing you buy which makes you rich…”

Q:  What healing oils/fragrances/lotions do you always pack when travelling:

 A: I love my Frankinsence essential oil and Givenchy fragrance…



 Q: People often check into spas post travel. What specific restorative therapies would you advise they pick: 

A: Though the choice depends upon an individual’s need and preference, spa therapy can be very restorative. From skin cleansing sessions including Sea Salt Scrub and a Re-hydrating Wrap, Deep cleansing Facial or a Lymphatic  Drainage Massage as well as a Deep Sculpting for stressed muscles; there’s simply so much to choose from!

salt sea scrub


Meet Megha: Spa Consultant and Healer Megha Dinesh has worked with the Oberoi, Taj Group and Park Hotels. Trained in Hypnosis, Past Life Regression and Reiki, she also practices Emotional Freedom Techniques and Craniosacral Therapy.

Maldives DSC00112




Q I would like to learn new skills when travelling. Can you suggest some one-day workshops across the world?

things to do vacation

A: With pleasure! We think it’s a great idea to make your vacation time even more entertaining and productive.  You get to experience the location in a wholly new way, make new friends and return with a new skill that might even flesh out into a business venture.
Here is a list of things we sure want to learn:

    1. Spa and Massages- From beauty massages to aromatherapy and naturopathy, take your pick and learn in just a matter of hours.  London.
    2. Art –  Like to doodle and daddle? One day landscape painting workshops in Paris, on Sundays. France. www.atelieralupi.comlandscape painting workshop
    3. Photography- For those who are enthusiastic with the lens. Jim Atwood’s photography courses all round the year. Pre booking mandatory. Tokyo.

photography workshop

  1. Shoe-making- Learn how to fashion sandals, ballerinas or pumps and design them as per you will. Bookings on your convenience. London. shoe making workshop
  2. Acting- Want to feel like a Broadway star? One and two days masterclasses with professionals. New York City.
  3. Dance- Shake a leg in a foreign land. Learn salsa, jive, tango and other dance forms in intensive one day workshops. London.
  4. Cooking, Winery and Baking- London has a host of bread baking workshops, happening almost every day. Take a chocolate making workshop, and who knows, you might start your own chocolate business!
    One day workshops for gourmet Spanish cooking, and for learning about wines and olive oils are also a worthy option. USA and Europe.

cooking workshop


I am terrified of turbulence! Is it safe to fly during the rainy season?


TS Intern Prerna took the question to Capt VK Madan,  Commercial Pilot and Inspector at DGCA, India.

Flying and monsoon are not the best of friends, but with evolving technology, flying has also evolved to be safe in monsoon.

Lightening  in thunderstorms can be up to a staggering 2 Lakh volts! Turbulence due to vertical winds can be up to 2000 feet per minute.  But, avionics like weather and Doppler radars, and satellite pictures give the pilot exact locations of thunder storms and turbulence which can be avoided and kept at  an arm’s distance of 10 Km or more.

Passengers may experience some minor turbulence but that does not endanger the safety of the aircraft. Moreover, other avionics like ILS (Instrument Landing System)  can land an aircraft in almost zero visibility in the pouring rain.

So relax and don’t let monsoon upset your plans and commitments. You’re in safe hands. Happy Landings!Image

Why should I switch off my phone on a flight?

(After all, I’ve secretly turned it on till the last minute before take-off, and switched it on first thing after touchdown. And nothing really happened.)

Well, you got lucky, and thank God for that. The fact is, electronic devices can be dangerous during flights. A report by the International Air Transport Association documents 75 separate incidents of possible electronic interference linked to mobile phones and other electronic devices.

In one case, this is what pilots reported: “Auto pilot was engaged. At about 4500 ft, the autopilot disengaged by itself and the associated warnings/indications came on. Flight attendants  were immediately advised to look out for passengers operating electronic devices. They found one handphone and three iPods to be on. The crew made an urgent announcement, requesting passengers to switch off their devices. After this, the plane proceeded “without any further incident.” (Source: Independent Traveler)

So, don’t turn up your nose at the request to switch off. Press your finger down on the ‘Off’ button instead.

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