Darmstadt Things to Do

  • Haus Deiters, Darmstadt
    Haus Deiters, Darmstadt
    by antistar
  • Platanenhain, Darmstadt
    Platanenhain, Darmstadt
    by antistar
  • History House, Darmstadt
    History House, Darmstadt
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Most Recent Things to Do in Darmstadt

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    Ernst-Ludwig Haus – Art Nouveau collection

    by Trekki Updated Oct 10, 2013

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    Ernst-Ludwig Haus - pompous old entrance
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    Ernst-Ludwig-Haus is an impressive building on Darmstadt’s Mathildenhöhe and houses a museum with Art Nouveau collections of the heydays during Ernst-Ludwig’s regnancy. It was built around 1900 by architect Olbrich on the occasion of one of the Art Nouveau exhibitions taking place here. The building itself is quite simple on the northern side, where main entrance is located,, but on the southern side it looks magnificent. Broad stairs lead up to the entrance portal which is flanked by two huge statues – man and woman in the typical style of Art Nouveau. The portal itself is symmetrically decorated with two interesting figurines and lovely ornaments (detail photo 2).

    Inside the museum the Art Nouveau exhibits are distributed on the main floor. Most of the time there is another exhibition with changing themes in the basement. The Art Nouveau exhibits range from furniture to dishware and other typical objects, mostly manufactured by the colony’s artists. In addition, some models show how Mathildenhöhe looked during its heyday and other models are of houses which no longer exist (which were bombed during WW II).

    Would I recommend a visit to the museum? Yes, but only if you are really an Art Nouveau lover, of objects that is. All the fine Art Nouveau architecture outside on Mathildenhöhe is for free, and believe me, even after several visits here, I still discover new details. But back to the museum: what I don’t like is the sort of spacey attitude of the museum responsible personnel: while the entrance fee sign and the website (now sadly gone) clearly said combination ticket (for this museum and the other one next to the Wedding Tower) is 6 Euro, they will charge 9 Euro (this was in 2007). Addressing this will simply result in “Oh, sorry dear, we didn’t manage to change this yet”. They don’t mean it as a rip-off; it is just their thoughtless attitude.
    I smiled when I saw several reviews on Tripadvisor complaining about just this: thoughtless and unfriendly museum personnel. So it is not only me and my … not overly happy perception of Darmstadt’s visitor friendliness.

    To avoid misunderstandings: this museum is called “Museum Künstlerkolonie” in Ernst-Ludwig-Haus. Next to the wedding tower is another museum, which is mostly exhibiting changing modern art. This one is more expensive, 12 Euro as far as I remember. I was there only once, in 2009.

    Opening hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 11:00 – 18:00,
    Entrance fee (only this museum, as of October 2013): 5 Euro – but well, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is 5 € and they say “Oh, sorry dear….”

    Directions:
    Mathildenhöhe is located northeast of Darmstadt’s city centre.
    By car: drive direction Dieburg (which is east of Darmstadt) and follow the brown signs to “Mathildenhöhe”. But be aware that parking up there can be a nightmare.
    By public transport: at Luisenplatz, take bus “F” and exit at Mathildenhöhe.

    Location of Ernst Ludwig Haus (Museum) on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2007; update October 2013: wording only.

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    Platanenhain - and boule in summer

    by Trekki Updated Oct 10, 2013

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    Platanenhain in spring - and the boule players
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    This grove was built to the order of Princess Mathilde Caroline of Bavaria, wife of Duke Ludwig III of Hesse, in 1833, as part of an English landscape garden. Apart from the very symmetrical arrangement of the planes the grove is full of sculptures, made by artist Bernhard Hoetger. He modelled them in 1914 according to the concept of an eternal life cycle, life and birth, spring and summer.

    As soon as temperatures increase, locals flock here and play boule.

    Directions:
    Mathildenhöhe is located northeast of Darmstadt’s city centre.
    By car: drive direction Dieburg (which is east of Darmstadt) and follow the brown signs to “Mathildenhöhe”. But be aware that parking up there can be a nightmare.
    By public transport: at Luisenplatz, take bus “F” and exit at Mathildenhöhe.

    Location of Platanenhain on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    Russian Chapel, Darmstadt's link to the last Tzar

    by Trekki Updated Oct 10, 2013

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    The cupola cross of Russian Chapel
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    Russian Tzar Nicholas II married princess Princess Alix of Hesse (Alexandra Feodorovna) on November 26, 1894. Because he did not want to miss attending Orthodox services during his visits at Alix' family, he had commissioned the building of this chapel. Between 1897 and 1899 it was constructed by Leontij Nikolajewitsch Nebnois (Louis N. Benois), architect from St. Petersburg and grandfather of Peter Ustinov. The chapel is devoted to Mary Magdalene, with a big mosaic of her above the entrance portal.

    But the chapel is not just remains of the days of Tzar Nicholas and Alexandra’s visits. It is still the religious centre of Darmstadt’s Orthodox people. Service is held regularly. It is possible to visit the church, but it is expected to give a small donation for restoring. Given the magnificent interior and exterior, minimum 2-3 Euro is considered appropriate. A lot of the exterior has been renovated over the years. I remember to have seen it in 1989, when I first came to Darmstadt; these days it looked not as splendid as today. And today a blue sky lets the golden cupola with the crosses gleam like liquid gold.

    Photography inside is not allowed. But the website below shows the marvellous interior in detailed photos. It shall go without saying that these photos are copyright protected although there seems to be no mentioning of this.

    Interesting side note:
    Princess Alix was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. After her marriage, she changed her name into Alexandra Fjodorowna and was the last Tsarina of Russia.

    Directions:
    Mathildenhöhe is located northeast of Darmstadt’s city centre.
    By car: drive direction Dieburg (which is east of Darmstadt) and follow the brown signs to “Mathildenhöhe”. But be aware that parking up there can be a nightmare.
    By public transport: at Luisenplatz, take bus “F” and exit at Mathildenhöhe.

    Location of Russian Chapel on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    Wedding Tower – tribute to the duke

    by Trekki Updated Oct 10, 2013

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    Mathildenhoehe - Wedding Tower
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    The Wedding Tower was a gift of Darmstadt's citizen to Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse when he married Elenore von Solm-Hohensolms-Lich in 1905. Its architect was Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908), who has designed the tower according to the echeloned gables of Gothic brick buildings in northern Germany. The finished building, however, is of Expressionism style. The tower has a height of 48 metres and is separated into three parts: a grey base with the entrance portal, the almost windowless tower body, made of dark-red clinker, and the five pinnacles on the top covered with copper foil.

    On top of the entrance, sculptor Heinrich Jobst (1874-1943) has created a relief, which shows the four virtues of rulers: strength, wisdom, fairness and benevolence. The inscription below mentions the marriage and is flanked by Darmstadt’s coat of arms, the lion.

    The wedding tower is open to the public and I highly recommend getting up to the top. The tower is built on the highest elevation of Darmstadt which grants magnificent views of the city and surroundings in good weather (see photo 3, taken in winter). On good days I could see as far as Frankfurt. One can walk on top or take the elevator. Nevertheless I recommend walking back at least to get views of the two rooms inside, one for the duke and one for his wife (photos 4 and 5).

    Opening hours (status October 2013):
    March to October: Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 – 18:00, November – February: Friday - Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00;
    Admission fee:
    Adults: 3 Euro, kids younger than 12 years can visit free of charge.

    In case you are interested in the details: I wrote separately about the architectural details and weddings in the tower

    Directions:
    Mathildenhöhe is located northeast of Darmstadt’s city centre.
    By car: drive direction Dieburg (which is east of Darmstadt) and follow the brown signs to “Mathildenhöhe”. But be aware that parking up there can be a nightmare.
    By public transport: at Luisenplatz, take bus “F” and exit at Mathildenhöhe.

    Location of Wedding Tower on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    Mathildenhöhe & Artists’ Colony

    by Trekki Updated Oct 10, 2013

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    Wedding Tower in spring
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    Without doubt, Mathildenhöhe and circumjacent Artists’ Colony is Darmstadt’s most famous sight. Longtime pleasure garden for the local dukes, it was transformed into an English landscape garden in 1833. The name derives from Princess Mathilde Caroline of Bavaria, daughter of King Ludwig I of Bavaria (hence she was aunt of famous King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the king who commissioned Neuschwanstein Castle). [On a side note: it is really fun to become aware of all these connections!]

    Mathildenhöhe came to its fame when Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse founded the artists’ colony end of 19th century on the hill: he called for Art Nouveau artists to build houses and work on other artisan objects for daily use. Centre of the colony is Ernst Ludwig Haus, a museum exhibiting artefacts of these days. Surrounding it are several houses designed and built by the Art Nouveau artists who lived and worked here: Joseph Maria Olbrich, Peter Behrens, Albin Müller, Hans Christiansen and Ludwig Habich.

    During the Artists’ Colony’s heydays four exhibitions took place, to promote views of modern architecture, decoration and interior design: 1901 “A Document of German Art”, 1904 “Three Houses Group”, 1908 “Hessen State Exhibition for the Fine and Applied Art” and 1914 one, which was devoted to state of the art tenements.

    But it is not only the houses of Artists’ Colony that makes Mathildenhöhe worth a visit. It is also the Wedding Tower, nowadays symbol of Darmstadt, the Russian Chapel, the Sycamore Grove, and another museum, the Municipal Exhibition Building, which houses constantly changing art exhibitions (see separate reviews). This especially in spring when the wisteria trees are in full bloom (see my main photo for Darmstadt).

    Museums and Wedding Tower require entrance fees. It is not possible to visit the artists’ houses because they are private homes or belong to institutions today. But it is worthwhile to just wandering around and take in views and atmosphere.

    Directions:
    Mathildenhöhe is located northeast of Darmstadt’s city centre.
    By car: drive direction Dieburg (which is east of Darmstadt) and follow the brown signs to “Mathildenhöhe”. But be aware that parking up there can be a nightmare.
    By public transport: at Luisenplatz, take bus “F” and exit at Mathildenhöhe.

    Location of Mathildenhöhe and Artists’ Colony on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    Hessisches Landesmuseum: still closed (renovation)

    by Trekki Updated Oct 10, 2013

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    Main entrance of County Museum (Messel Bau)
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    Darmstadt’s Landesmuseum is an excellent museum – in theory. In practice it is closed for renovation since… yes, since 2007, which makes it now 6 years of closure up to now. The sad part is that it should be closed for four years but each year I looked on their website, there was another postponing. The current status is that it shall open again in spring 2014. We will see.

    I was inside only once, luckily just before it closed. The idea behind the collections is to combine science and art. The science section - geology, palaeontology and zoology - was marvellous, especially with respect to UNESCO listed Messel Pit close by. It also had quite nice information and explanation about nearby Odenwald GEO Nature Park’s geological history.

    On another floor I saw magnificent medieval ivory carvings, religious wooden sculptures and technical instruments of 18-19th century, such as microscopes, scales, globes, etc.

    When I was there end of 2006 they had no leaflet with floor layouts and a suggested visitor’s path through the museum. I definitely missed a kind of timeline or a logical sequence of the individual arrangements. Especially because each of the exhibits has a story and a context to it. Maybe this will change when the museum might open one day.

    The website, however, is quite good, and can serve as a kind of guide, but… it is unfortunately only in German. This was the same for most of the descriptive signs inside of the museum. Maybe this will also be improved once it might be open again.

    Following my visit in 2006 I have added some details about several exhibits I found interesting to my local customs section. If these exhibits will still be there after renovation… I don’t know.

    In 2006 entrance fees and opening hours were as follows:
    Entrance fee: 2,50 Euro
    Opening hours: Tue-Sat: 10-17, Wed: 10-20, Sun: 11-17
    (I am curious how much they charge after renovation. But by then I won’t live in Darmstadt anymore to see this. Hopefully someone else will report about the new look and exhibitions).

    Directions:
    By car: exit Darmstadt centre, and then drive east, direction Aschaffenburg. This will lead you through the city tunnel. After having alighted from the tunnel, turn left, and “halfway around” the Residence Castle, which is to your left. The museum is opposite of the castle. Parking is in the basement, however costs quite much (it is one of the hefty fee parking garages in the city).
    By streetcar/tram: take a tram that stops on Luisenplatz. Walk east, direction Residence Castle and turn left before you reach the castle. The museum is in front of you then.

    Location of Hessisches Landesmuseum on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    • Museum Visits
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    Residence Castle – home to the police

    by Trekki Updated Oct 10, 2013

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    Residencial Palace, main gate (at market square)
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    Ok, the heading is a bit misleading, because not only Darmstadt’s city police has offices here, but also parts of the castle is a museum and also some rooms belong to Darmstadt’s Technical University and to the city administration.

    Like with so many historical buildings of Darmstadt the castle was often destroyed and rebuilt and heavily bombed during WW II. Renovation afterwards was slow and is still ongoing. At least, during the many years I live here, I never saw the castle without a building crane.

    The museum is surely worth a visit if you are interested in local history. I have to confess, I never made it yet because the opening hours on weekends were quite unusual (open until 13:00 only). But it seems that the house has changed; now it is open Fridays to Sundays from 10:00 – 17:00. Entrance fee is 4 Euro (as of 2013). The museum can only be visited through guided tours, which take place every 90 minutes, starting at 10:00.

    Back to the castle complex: it is nice to stroll around in the several courtyards, because it is quiet and can be a nice retreat, especially in hot summers. Inside, there is a cafe (at the northern entrance) and a students’ pub. During the summer festivals are being held (Schloßgrabenfest (2014) to be precise) and the courtyards are filled with little eateries and live music.

    Directions:
    From Luisenplatz, walk east until you reach the market square. Then turn left and enter the castle's courtyard through the main entrance (photo 1). The museum is then to your right (photo 3).

    Location of Residenzschloß & Museum on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    • Castles and Palaces

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    The White Tower - guards the city, somehow

    by Trekki Updated Oct 8, 2013

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    White Tower, Darmstadt
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    Originally, Weisser Turm (White Tower) was part of Darmstadt's town wall in 14th century, which was built by the town founders, dukes of Katzenelnbogen. The tower was much smaller than it is today. It also served as defence tower and once had pinnacles. In early 18th century it was enlarged, to the height we see today. It is said that it once had some secret passages used quite frequently by the dukes to leave the castle and do whatever they wanted to do secretly.

    In the course of time the tower was bell tower, dungeon, and treasure chamber for the county's archive. During the bombing night of September 11, 1944 in WWII, it was heavily bombed, however reconstructed in the Fifties of last century. Today it houses a little museum with exhibitions from time to time. And it is also one of Darmstadt's main meeting points :-)

    Guided tours are available. The tower is open Wednesday 15:00-19:00 and Saturday 13:00-17:00.
    [According to the information on their website, I would assume that it is only open from April 17 – October 5 (in 2013, and slightly different days in the following years)]

    Directions:
    Walk east from Luisenplatz, direction castle. It is to your right, just next to “Kaufhof” department store.

    Location of Weisser Turm/White Tower on Google Maps

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    Luisenplatz - Darmstadt's main square

    by Trekki Updated Oct 3, 2013

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    Luisenplatz, street cars and monument
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    Luisenplatz could be called Darmstadt's “heart”. The square is free of car traffic since many years. However, it is still the main public transport junction in town, because most of the street cars stop here, hence it is ideal to change street car lines. Usually it is crammed with people, street trains and busses and non-locals should be extra careful not to be run over by one the busses or street cards (and yes, I am serious here).

    The name of this square derives from Princess Louise, wife of Grand Duke Ludwig I of Hesse. The monument in the middle of the square was erected in honour of Ludwig I, but only in 1844, after his death. Darmstadt locals call the monument affectionately “Langer Lui” (referring to the tall monument; lang = long, tall).

    Slightly older is the collegiate building on the northern part of the square (of 1780).
    Like the majority of the town centre it was destroyed in WWII, but rebuilt according to the original. Today it houses the regional council.

    Directions:
    You can't miss it; it is where all street car lines stop and cross. It is visible from almost anywhere, especially when approaching the city from the west (= from the motorway).

    Location of Luisenplatz on Google Maps

    (No website link. Sadly, Darmstadt City Marketing changes its website once every year and removed the English part already many years ago).

    © Ingrid D., 2006; update October 2013: wording only.

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    Don't miss a side trip to Bergstrasse

    by Trekki Updated Oct 3, 2013

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    Auerbach Castle, Bergstra��e
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    Since I am occupied with other pages, I didn’t take the time to write about the many charming villages south of Darmstadt, along Bergstrasse.

    But two VTers, namely @Christine.j and @BrendaReed have written about the Nature Park Bergstrasse-Odenwald with many suggestions about towns and other sights to see in this region south of Darmstadt.

    Among others, Christine suggests Auerbacher Schloß (a castle) and the falconry, Fürstenlager (summer residence of the dukes), Weinheim, Ladenburg, Schrissheim and Viernheim.

    In addition to the region’s description, Brenda has two further pages about the Bergstraße villages of Seeheim-Jugenheim and Heppenheim.

    If you happen to be in the area during spring, make sure to visit Bergstraße. It is famous for excessive spring blossoming, namely almond and cherry trees (see photo 5).

    © Ingrid D.: 2007; update October 2013: wording only.

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    • National/State Park

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    St Ludwigskirche

    by antistar Updated Jun 15, 2013

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    St Ludwigskirche, Darmstadt

    Situated at the end of the wide Wilhelminenstr. boulevard is the stunning St Ludwigskirche, built by the same Georg Moller who was responsible for the grand History House on the other side of town. Its garish pink cylindrical base, topped with a shiny metallic dome, looks completely out of place in the drab suburban surrounds, which work to make the building all the more striking. It was constructed in 1827 and designed to mirror the Pantheon in Rome, containing 28 Corinthian columns, each 15 meters high. Outside the front of the church is the Alice Monument, dedicated to Queen Victoria's daughter, the Grand Duchess Alice.

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    Ludwigsäule

    by antistar Updated Jun 15, 2013

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    Ludwigs��ule, Darmstadt

    Sitting in the centre of the enormous Luisenplatz, the gigantic 33m tall Ludwigsäule dominates the entire square and all the surrounding streets, where it can be seen from a great distance away. The column was built in honour of the first Grand Duke Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhein, a title given to him by Napoleon in 1806. The massive column can even be climbed, and 172 steps to the bronze statue of the Grand Duke at its peak can be accessed on the first Saturday of every month. I guess they keep its access limited to protect it from clambering feet.

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    Darmstadtium

    by antistar Updated Jun 15, 2013
    Darmstadtium, Darmstadt
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    Darmstadt is one of the few cities in the world to have an element named after it: Darmstadtium. So this is a fitting name for its sparkling new building of science and culture. It's a place for music, multimedia, exhibitions, and more. The building is a wonderful piece of architecture, its sharp angled walls of sheer glass incorporate the city around it - blending with the remnants of ancient city walls and reflecting the urban landscape around it.

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    Schlossmuseum

    by antistar Updated Jun 15, 2013

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    Schlossmuseum, Darmstadt
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    In the grand building of the palace's Bell Tower is the Palace's own museum. Its collection shows the history of the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, and includes portraits of the ruling families, furniture from the palace buildings, and paintings of the surrounding countryside.

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    Residenzschloss

    by antistar Updated Jun 15, 2013

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    Residenzschloss, Darmstadt
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    The jumble of buildings of different styles that make up the extensive palace of Darmstadt were built up over a period of 700 years, only to be reduced to ruins by Allied bombing during the war. The buildings have been carefully reconstructed, and while looking a bit grubby and graffiti daubed, they still retain much of the grandeur that they would once have. The buildings contain a museum, in the bell tower, a Renaissance Altschloss that is now a university, and a Baroque Neuschloss that houses the city's library and town archive.

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