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Voyages to Antiquity: The Black Sea, from Istanbul to Istanbul

Program Number: 19520RJ
Start and End Dates:
8/29/2014 - 9/13/2014;
Duration: 15 nights
Location: Turkey/Georgia/Russia/Ukraine/Bulgaria
Price starting at: $5,550.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Ocean Cruises
Meals: 40; 14 Breakfasts, 13 Lunches, 13 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt; Gluten Free    

Embark on a voyage that brings to life the intriguing history of the Black Sea. Begin and end in Istanbul, a city of spectacular architecture and mystical atmosphere. Sail to fascinating ports including Batumi, Georgia, celebrated for its lovely botanical gardens; the ancient city of Nessebar, Bulgaria; and the Byzantine beauty of Thessaloniki, Greece.

Activity Particulars

Walking up and downhill, up to two miles per day. Standing up to four hours per day, with breaks; uneven terrain and steep stairs without railings at historic sites.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Istanbul (Turkey), 3 nights; aboard Aegean Odyssey, 11 nights.

Day 1: Overnight flight from the U.S.A.

Days 2-5: Arrival Istanbul (Turkey) / embark Aegean Odyssey:

Discover the architectural treasures of Istanbul, including the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. Explore the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar and enjoy a private boat excursion on the Bosphorus. Lodging: Four-star hotel.

Days 6-7: At Sea / Trabzon:

Enjoy a field trip to the Sumela Monastery, a stunning Greek Orthodox monastery built into a sheer cliff face in the 4th century.

Day 8: Batumi (Georgia):

In this Georgian port city, walk through the seaside Batumi Botanical Gardens, containing over 1,000 varieties of roses and featuring beautiful views.

Days 9-10: At Sea / Constanta (Romania):

Learn about the Greek colony known as Tomis, the oldest city in Romania. The legendary Jason and the Argonauts landed here after finding the Golden Fleece.

Days 11-12: Nessebar (Bulgaria) / At Sea:

Explore Nessebar’s beautiful old town including the Byzantine-style Church of Christ Pantokrator and the Archaeological Museum.

Day 13: Thessaloniki (Greece):

Delve into this city’s Byzantine heritage, including the 5th-century basilica Agios Dimítrios and the Museum of Byzantine Culture.

Day 14: Mount Athos / Kavala (Greece):

Sail past the so-called “Holy Mountain,” actually a long peninsula home to 20 major monasteries, and explore the beautiful Byzantine port town of Kavala.

Day 15: Lemnos (Greece):

Explore the town of Myrina, overlooked by the impressive Kastro castle, a stronghold fought over by the Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans.

Day 15: Istanbul (Turkey) / disembark / departure

Aegean Odyssey

The Aegean Odyssey is a premium-class ship especially rebuilt for sailing along shallow coastlines, among remote islands and into small, uncrowded harbors that larger ocean liners can’t reach. Public areas include several gourmet restaurants, library, Internet center, sweeping sun decks, outdoor pool, gym and spa.

Meals and Lodgings
   Armada Hotel
  Istanbul, Turkey 3 nights
   Aegean Odyssey
  Aegean Odyssey - At Sea, At Sea 11 nights
 Armada Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The 4-star Armada Hotel is located in the historic peninsula of Istanbul, with views of two of the great masterpieces of world architecture; the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The hotel offers modern comfort and convenience discreetly incorporated into the Turkish-inspired architecture, and period engravings throughout the hotel provide an insight into Istanbul's by-gone eras. The name of the Armada Hotel is a tribute to the memory of the renowned Ottoman Admiral Hayrettin Pasha Barbarossa. Located in the heart of the Old City, the hotel is within walking distance of museums, churches and other major attractions.
  Contact info: Ahirkapi Street 24
Istanbul,  34122 Turkey
phone: +90 212 455 44 55
  Room amenities: Each room has a mini bar, hair dryer, bathrobes, telephone, LCD television, safe box, free wireless Internet, 24-hour room service and air conditioning.
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers two restaurants, a bar, lounge, meeting rooms, business center with computers and printers, library, free WIFI Internet access throughout the hotel, laundry service and air conditioning. The rooftop restaurants offer magnificent views of the area.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: N/A Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services if you would like assistance making hotel reservations for additional non-program nights. 1-800-241-1404
  Check in time: 2:00 PM

 Aegean Odyssey
Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: The Aegean Odyssey offers boutique-style cruising at its best. In contrast to the massive vessels cruising to and from major ports, it is a midsized ship adapted for island and coastal cruising. The Aegean Odyssey can visit smaller, less crowded harbors and sail closer to the coast enabling you to really appreciate the magical views.
  Ship Information: Ship’s Tonnage: 11,563 Length: 461 feet Beam: 67 feet Draft: 20.5 feet Cruising Speed: 18 knots Passenger Decks: 7 Stabilizers: 2 Passenger Staterooms/Cabins: 198 Passengers – lower beds: 378 Classification: Lloyd’s Register Society London Ship’s Registration: Malta
  Contact info: Voyages to Antiquity
1800 SE 10th Avenue, Suite 230
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 USA
phone: 877-398-1460
  Room amenities: All cabins are equipped with a flat screen TV, air-conditioning, and personal safe. Particular importance is placed on the standard of bedding in cabins. Luxury bedding, including fine duvets, covers and sheets, ample soft pillows and quality towels can be expected. Also, shampoo, bath and shower gel, soap, and shower cap are provided. Your cabin steward is always available. Cabins and suites feature outlets with 220 voltage, using the “European” two round pin plug. Hair dryers are provided in your cabin and electric rollers, curling irons, electric shavers and other small appliances can be used in your cabin. For safety reasons, travel irons are not allowed.
  Facility amenities: Dining: Aegean Odyssey offers many dining facilities: The Marco Polo Restaurant is the ship's more formal restaurant, providing casual country-club elegance for lunch or dinner; The Terrace Cafe offers a combination of indoor and outdoor seating where you can indulge in breakfast, lunch and dinner from the grill or the sumptuous daily buffet. In the evenings, enjoy breathtaking views over dinner at Tapas on the Terrace. *There is a complimentary choice of wine, beer, or soft drinks with your evening meal. There will be a string trio, pianist and casual dancing before and after dinner. You may also wish to partake in afternoon tea, served in the Observation Lounge or enjoy an evening snack and cocktail, available in the Lido and Rendezvous bars. A limited room service menu is available. Special Diets: Please advise us at the time of booking of any special dietary requirements. The ship can usually meet most general requests such as those made with an air carrier; however, this cannot always be guaranteed. Services: Library; outdoor pool; spa; health center, saunas, massage and beauty treatment rooms and early morning yoga on the Lido Deck; elevators; beauty salon; medical center; laundry and pressing services (order form and laundry bag is provided in cabin); lecture theater and cinema and on board shop. Internet: The Internet center (open 24 hours and a charge of $18 for 4 non-consecutive hours is applied, wireless available in reception area). PLEASE NOTE: Due to the nature of satellite connectivity on board a ship, the internet connection is slow, erractic and may be unavailable at times.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Istanbul, Turkey. Meet at 6:00 PM in the hotel lobby. You will be staying at Armada Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
Istanbul, Turkey. Program ends after breakfast on the last day. You will be staying at Aegean Odyssey the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. The Voyages to Antiquity Guest Registration Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Istanbul
  Nearest city or town:  In town
  Nearest airport:  Atatürk International Airport
  Transportation to site: The Armada Hotel is located about 10 miles from the airport. Taxi ride to the hotel from the airport costs approx. 45 Turkish Liras (approx. $30) and takes roughly 30 minutes. Alternatively, to book a private transfer ($65), please contact
  From End of Program
  Location:  Aegean Odyssey - At Sea
  Transportation from site: The Aegean Odyssey will provide transfers to the Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST).
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departures
(Friday, August 29)
 In Transit: Depart US/Canada on international overnight flight.

Day 2: Welcome
(Saturday, August 30)
 Afternoon: Arrival at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport (IST). Meet group outside of customs. Transfer to the Armada Hotel. Welcome Orientation at 6:00 PM in hotel lobby.
 Dinner: Dinner in hotel dining room.
Accommodations: Armada Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Istanbul, Turkey
(Sunday, August 31)

Note: The excursions in Istanbul involve significant walking. As we will be visiting religious sites, please no shorts or sleeveless shirts. Ladies may be asked to cover their heads.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel dining room.
 Morning: Start the day by visiting the amazing church of Hagia Sophia, possibly the most important architectural monument in the city, standing gracefully since 537 AD. Field trip to the Hippodrome, the civic center of ancient Constantinople, where chariot races were run between the four teams of Blues, Greens, Whites and Reds. Then visit the 17th century Blue Mosque, world renowned for its exquisite Iznik tiles surrounding the interior of this wonderful mosque.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: In the afternoon explore the beautiful Underground Cisterns, built by the illustrious Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532 AD to store water underground. Visit the award winning Archaeology Museum to examine an outstanding collection of artifacts spanning across millennia including the magnificent Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Armada Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Istanbul, Turkey
(Monday, September 1)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel dining room.
 Morning: Start the day by exploring the opulent Topkapi Palace including the Imperial Harem. The Topkapi Palace was the seat of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years and a great testimony to the wealth and power of the Ottoman Empire.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: In the afternoon, visit the Chora Church/Kariye Museum to behold its exquisite mosaics and frescoes dating from the 14th century, a period of Byzantine reawakening in the arts.
 Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.
Accommodations: Armada Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Istanbul, Turkey - Embark the Aegean Odyssey
(Tuesday, September 2)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel dining room.
 Morning: We embark on a private cruise on the Bosphorus to explore the stunning palaces, mansions, and fortresses dotted along the Asian and European shores of this marvelous strait. We visit the Rustem Pasha Mosque, built by the famous architect Sinan, a small but gem-like mosque demonstrating the most stunning examples of 16th century Iznik tiles.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Spend the rest of the day visiting the Spice Bazaar, where exotic aromas capture visitors upon entering, and the Grand Bazaar with its maze-like streets and alleys and 4,000 shops! Embark the Aegean Odyssey in the late afternoon and depart for Trabzon. Late afternoon Road Scholar orientation to the ship in the "Observation Lounge."
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Cruising the Southern Coast of the Black Sea
(Wednesday, September 3)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: At sea. Treat yourself to one of many spa services offered by the ship. Attend a lecture given by a shipboard guest speaker.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: At sea. Enjoy the Observation Deck if the weather is nice, or dive into a good book from the ship's library as the ship makes it way to Trabzon. Attend a talk by your Road Scholar Group Leader.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Trabzon, Turkey
(Thursday, September 4)

Note: Heavy walking for one or more hours over uneven terrain, with multiple uphill segments.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: A full-day in Trabzon. This morning's field trip will take us to the Sumela monastery. Built high in the mountains in the 4th century, the monastery is a place of astounding natural beauty.
 Lunch: Road Scholar lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, take a coach to Findikli, a small mountain village outside of Trabzon, whose name means "the village with hazelnuts." Travel to a local villa where we will visit the local mosque, meet the imam of the mosque and the mayor of the village, and share tea and coffee with the locals at a coffeehouse. There will be time for a discussion about life in this small Turkish village where hazelnuts are harvested. Return to Trabzon for some free time before re-embarking the ship.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
 Evening: Evening departure for Batumi. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Batumi, Georgia
(Friday, September 5)

Note: The excursion in Batumi involves strenuous walking.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: Founded as a Greek trading colony in the 2nd century BC, Batumi is situated in a charming natural harbor. This morning we will visit the Botanical Gardens, covering 280 acres and containing over 5,000 plant species. Following exploration of the gardens return to port for a walk around the city, including the impressive Piazza Square.
 Lunch: Lunch on board or explore local fare on your own.
 Afternoon: A free afternoon to explore Batumi. You may wish to visit the vibrant market or the Ethnographic Museum.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
 Evening: Evening departure for Sochi. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Sochi, Russia
(Saturday, September 6)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: A short drive through the picturesque tree-lined streets of Sochi brings you to the heart of this fashionable resort city, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Walk along the popular seaside promenade, and then take a field trip to Stalin's summer villa.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: At sea. In the afternoon, we depart for Feodosiya, Ukraine. Attend a talk by your Road Scholar Group Leader.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Sinop, Turkey
(Sunday, September 7)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: Founded in the early 7th century BC, this ancient city was once a thriving port on the Upper Euphrates Valley caravan route. Sites visited include the Hellenistic remains of the Temple of Serapis and the 13th century Alaettin Mosque and its seminary.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: At sea. A free afternoon to relax poolside as the ship sails towards Constanta.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
 Evening: Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Constanta, Romania
(Monday, September 8)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: At sea. Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: The expansive history of this metropolis from antiquity can be traced back for over 2500 years, and legend says that Jason and the Argonauts visited the city, then known as Tomis, after finding the Golden Fleece.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Odessa, Ukraine
(Tuesday, September 9)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: At sea. Stretch your body and mind during early morning yoga.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: Free afternoon for independent exploration of Odessa.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
 Evening: The ship will overnight in Odessa. Attend a shipboard performance.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Odessa, Ukraine
(Wednesday, September 10)

Note: Please dress respectfully entering the cathedral. Women are asked to cover heads. No shorts for men. Photos and video are not allowed inside the Cathedral.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: This morning's excursion in Odessa will begin at Catherine Square and take you along Prymorsky Boulevard starting from the Potemkin Steps and the monument to the Duke de Richelieu - the town’s first mayor - who wanted to make the city as beautiful as his native Paris. Enjoy a guided visit inside the stunning Opera House followed by a short drive to City Garden and a stop at the Preobrazhensky - or 'Transfiguration' - Cathedral.
 Lunch: Road Scholar lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, return to ths ship for an early evening sailing towards Varna, tomorrow's port of call.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
 Evening: Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: Varna, Bulgaria
(Thursday, September 11)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: At sea. Free afternoon to enjoy the wonderful amenities onboard as the ship sails towards Varna.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: In this picturesque city, admire a civilization that preceded Mesopotamia, ancient Greece and Rome. Visit the Roman Baths at Odessus as well as the Ethnography Museum housed in an Ottoman Empire compound.
 Dinner: Dinner on board.
 Evening: Attend a shipboard guest lecture.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15: Nessebur, Bulgaria
(Friday, September 12)

Note: Extensive walking, some uneven terrain and 70 steps. Most sites are not accessible by wheelchair.

 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: Sailing toward Nessebur. Attend a talk by your Road Scholar Group Leader.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: A lunchtime arrival in Nessebur allows us an afternoon to explore the sites of this beautiful old town including the Byzantine-style Church of Christ Pantokrator, the 5th-century Old Metropolitan Church, and the Archaeological Museum. Following the field trip, there will be some free time to meander through the town's quaint maze of cobblestone streets.
 Dinner: Enjoy a late afternoon Road Scholar cocktail party. Farewell Dinner on board.
 Evening: Evening departure for Istanbul. Free time to prepare belongings for disembarkation and departure.
Accommodations: Aegean Odyssey
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16: Istanbul, Turkey / Departures
(Saturday, September 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board.
 Morning: Disembark and transfer to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport (IST) for departures.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

1453, The Holy War For Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West

Author: Roger Crowley

Description: In this well-paced history, Crowley recounts with drama the events surrounding the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks.

A Short History of Byzantium

Author: John Julius Norwich

Description: A richly detailed and evocative history of the span of the great empire from the fourth to the 15th century, brimming with intrigue, palace revolution and treachery.

Ancient Turkey, A Traveller's History

Author: Seton Lloyd

Description: A lively tale of cultures and conquest, from the Hittites to St. Paul, that illuminates the living past of Turkey's archaeological treasures. This classic by Professor Lloyd, first director of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, is now in a 25th anniversary edition.

Black Sea

Author: Neal Ascherson

Description: In this skillful portrait of a region, Ascherson weaves his own travels and impressions with a fascinating account of the Black Sea's history. From ancient mythology to modern politics, he admirably never loses sight of the sea itself.

Borderland, A Journey through the History of Ukraine

Author: Anna Reid

Description: Reid, who was for three years the Kiev correspondent for The Economist, combines first-person reports, interviews and history in this vivid portrait of the region and its people. With chapters on Kiev and Odessa.

Bradt Guide Ukraine

Author: Andrew Evans

Description: This guide in the popular British series features comprehensive practical information and provides a short section on the country's history and culture. With over 30 maps.

Byzantium, The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

Author: Judith Herrin

Description: Herrin captures the glory, accomplishments, personalities, cruelty and import of Byzantium from the foundation of Constantinople to its capture by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Crescent and Star

Author: Stephen Kinzer

Description: This insightful, anecdotal report on contemporary life, culture and politics in Turkey comes from a former New York Times Istanbul bureau chief who is especially attuned to the powerful geographic position of Turkey and its multiple identities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Eyewitness Guide Istanbul

Author: Eyewitness Guides

Description: This superb guide to Istanbul features color photography, dozens of excellent local maps and a district-by-district synopsis of the city's attractions. Handsome, convenient and up-to-date, this is the guide to carry.

Istanbul, Memories and the City

Author: Orhan Pamuk

Description: Nobel Prize-winner Pamuk writes with dazzling grace of the city of his birth, a magical place of crumbling mansions and Ottoman riches.

Noah's Flood, The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event That Changed History

Author: William Ryan, Walter Pitman

Description: Yes, there was a flood! So report the scientist-authors in this vivid account of the geology of the Black Sea. They draw on biblical history, marine geology, archaeology and mythology to demonstrate that the Black Sea was breached by the Mediterranean 7,600 years ago.

Odessa, Genius and Death in a City of Dreams

Author: Charles King

Description: King (Black Sea, The Moldovans) writes with verve not only of the history of this great port city but also of noteworthy personalities, including Alexander Pushkin, Isaac Babel and Nobel Prize-winning biologist Ilya Mechnikov.

Russia, A Concise History

Author: Ronald Hingley

Description: Well-known scholar Hingley sketches Russia's multiple transformations from her illiterate, pagan, Slavic roots to a multi-ethnic empire in this highly readable, well-illustrated brief history.

The Black Sea, A History

Author: Charles King

Description: A brisk history of the region, showing the Black Sea as uniting diverse cultures in the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East.

The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel

Author: Isaac Babel

Description: An authoritative edition of Isaac Babel's powerful short fiction, including his early Red Cavalry Stories and The Odessa Tales.

The Fall of Constantinople 1453

Author: Steven Runciman

Description: A classic, wonderfully written history of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and its consequences. Runciman, a noted British scholar, draws on many sources, both Greek and Muslim, in tracing this fateful time in the history of the city. Originally published in 1965.

The Towers of Trebizond

Author: Rose MacAulay, Jan Morris (Introduction)

Description: Mixing high farce, archaeology, history and lively travel writing, Rose MacAulay's impossibly witty short novel is back in a new edition. Originally published in 1956, MacAulay follows the adventures of English missionaries traipsing across Turkey from Istanbul to Trabzon.

Turkish Reflections, A Biography of a Place

Author: Mary Lee Settle

Description: Settle's captivating travelogue is a richly detailed portrait of contemporary Turkey, its people, monasteries, myths, archaeological treasures and living traditions. Exemplary.

Women in Purple, Rulers of Medieval Byzantium

Author: Judith Herrin

Description: Herrin describes the complex and deeply religious world of Constantinople in the aftermath of Arab conquest, focusing on three Byzantine empresses’ work to restore icons to a prominent position in Eastern Christian worship. An enlightening portrait of three all-powerful women who changed history.

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