Taking My Time On Andros Island

Andros Island
Andros Island
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Introducing Andros

I have always found there to be something so exciting about boarding an early morning ferry. When it’s bound for an island I have never visited, in the heart of the Aegean Sea, it makes it that extra bit special! Last year I embarked on a Greek Island-hopping adventure and my excitement levels were off the scale! I had been very kindly invited to discover three of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos, Mykonos and my first port of call, Andros.

A little pre-trip homework had told me that Andros was considered to be how Greece used to be. It was authentic and charming with great food, the friendliest of people and naturally beautiful but without the crowds. I could not wait, so for a change, I was super organised and took a flight to Athens and spent the night just a stone’s throw from the Port of Rafina from where I was to pick up the early “red eye” ferry to Andros the following morning.

Rafina Port to Andros Island

Rafina Port is quite a busy little place and one of three main ports in Athens – there is Piraeus, Lavrion and Rafina. The Port of Rafina has plenty of cafes, restaurants and even a little fish market. I made my way to the ticket office from where I was to check in. There are two types of ferries – slow and fast. I was on a slow ferry called…wait for it… “Fast Ferries”.

I hastily lugged my bag across the port and along the iron ramp, before climbing the steep steps and up onto deck to watch as we sailed away. The passengers on board ranged from locals with cats in pet transporters to workers and holidaymakers. I soon found myself talking to a couple of very nice ladies. Sarina and Tracey were part of an 80-strong group tour on an island-hopping tour from Toronto. We shared stories and when passing over my business card, Sarina asked for my autograph …. well, there you go …. it took until the age of 54 and in the middle of the Aegean Sea for that to happen. From small acorns and all that.

Welcome To Andros

After a journey of some 37 nautical miles, taking less than 2 hours, I arrived at the Andros port of Gavrio which receives regular connections from Rafina. There are two other ports on Andros. There is Batsi Port, which welcomes mainly private boats and Chora Port also for private boats and fishing vessels.

I was greeted by Fotis from “Explore Andros” one of my guides for my stay here on Andros. Fotis had worked in Athens for some years, but the pull of his homeland drew him back to Andros where he delights in showcasing this special island to holidaymakers and the occasional British Blogger!

Fotis explained that Andros is the northernmost island of the Cyclades and the second largest after Naxos. The Port of Gavrio is on the west coast of Andros and we would be taking a 45-minute road trip south then cutting across the island to our home for the next few days, Chora, the capital of Andros.

It was at this moment I realised that Chora is not unique. Well, not by name, as it appears that many islands in the Cyclades have a town called Chora. A little confusing but fascinating. Either way, I was looking forward to my visit to this Chora.  

Geography of Andros

As we left the bustling port of Gavrio behind we were soon enjoying the scenery of Andros. With its pristine beaches, charming villages, and rich cultural heritage, at first glance, Andros mesmerizes with its diverse landscape, boasting rugged mountains, and lush valleys, that provide a stunning backdrop to the island’s coastal towns and villages. The scent of citrus groves (their lemons are enormous!), herbs and wildflowers was remarkable and a memory that will linger longer when I think of my time in Andros. Thinking back to my time living on Corsica that island too had its fragrant smell of the maquis. I need to “sniff” these islands out more on my travels.

As Fotis calmly drove us across the island he expertly highlighted some of the key geographical elements associated with the island. Profitis Ilias is the highest peak on Andros and just 997 metres. I later learned that the highest peak on the Island of Naxos is 1003 metres. As you can imagine there is much fun – our island is taller than yours – about the difference of 6 metres. Size matters in the Cyclades!

History of Andros

With a history dating back thousands of years, Andros Island has been shaped by a rich tapestry of civilizations and cultures. From its ancient roots as a centre of Cycladic civilization to its prominence during the Venetian era, Andros has played a significant role in the Aegean region.

Over the centuries, the island has been inhabited by various peoples, including Greeks, Venetians, and Ottomans, each leaving their mark on its landscape and culture.

Today, Andros stands as a testament to its storied past, with archaeological sites, medieval castles, and traditional villages preserving its heritage for future generations to explore.

In modern times Andros became very prosperous and was known as a centre for commercial shipping. The maritime history of the island is strong and can be witnessed in many locations around the island. Over the past couple of decades, the island has started to develop its tourism industry however it is doing so with the utmost care so as not to damage both the appearance and culture of the island.  One such example is that no buildings over a couple of floors are permitted – I liked that as it means no high-rise, mass tourism hotel chains are likely to move in…at least for the foreseeable future.

Chora Town, Andros Island

For those seeking a taste of authentic Greek life, Andros’ charming villages offer a glimpse into traditional island living. None capture your heart quite as much as Chora, the island’s main town.

Its Neoclassical and Cycladic buildings, labyrinthine streets, whitewashed buildings, and bustling squares are where locals gather to enjoy coffee or ouzo. Take a walk through the narrow alleys lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and tavernas serving fresh seafood and traditional Greek cuisine.

On arrival, Fotis and I did just that, we went for a wander, like two old school friends reflecting on life. The route took us through the peninsula on which the town was built. The main street is called Agora, and after passing the occasional Mulberry Tree we finally reached the end of Chora and a large open square known as the Riva. Standing alone in the middle of the square is the monument to “The Unknown Sailor”. This stunning sculpture symbolises the Naval History of Andros and honours all those who lost their lives at sea.

From the square, we took the short sloping path to the Kamara which is an arch bridge that connects the square to one of the most iconic attractions in Chora, the Agios Nikolaos Fortress. If you want to get onto the ruins of the fortress, then you need to scale the arch which is not for the faint-hearted! It is steep and a little scary so be careful. It was at this moment that my guide Fotis uttered the words that were to stay with me throughout my stay on Andros. As I reached for each ledge to pull myself up, he calmly told me to “take your time”. This was to prove a valuable and worthwhile piece of advice that came up again and again. It made me smile and if anyone says that to me now, I think of Andros Island where nothing is too hurried in life – that is good!

Dating back to the Venetian era, the fortress stands as a testament to the island’s strategic importance throughout history and offers panoramic views of the town and the sea beyond. It was built during the 13th century however it was largely destroyed in 1943 during World War II.

Beyond the Fortress is in my opinion the symbol of the island and without doubt the most stunning lighthouse I have ever seen. The Tourlitis Lighthouse was constructed in 1887 and is the only lighthouse in Europe, that is built on a rock, in the sea. Its design and form which to me resembled a corkscrew, are just breathtaking.  

Elsewhere in Chora, visitors will discover a wealth of cultural treasures, including the Archaeological Museum of Andros. Housed in a neoclassical building, the museum showcases items spanning thousands of years, from ancient pottery and sculptures to Byzantine icons and Venetian-era artefacts, providing insight into the island’s rich history and heritage.

For art enthusiasts, the Museum of Contemporary Art offers a modern contrast to Chora’s traditional architecture. Housed in a renovated mansion, the museum features rotating exhibitions of Greek and international contemporary art, showcasing the creativity and innovation of modern artists.

Chora is also home to several impressive churches and chapels, each with its own unique architecture and religious significance. The Panagia Thalassini, or Church of the Virgin Mary of the Sea, is particularly noteworthy for its stunning seaside location and intricate marble carvings.

In addition to its cultural attractions, Chora offers ample opportunities for shopping, dining, and strolls. The town’s bustling main square, Plateia Miaouli, is lined with charming cafes, tavernas, and boutique shops, where visitors can sample local delicacies, sip traditional Greek coffee, and browse for souvenirs.

On our way back from the lighthouse Fotis, who seemed to know everyone on the island, bumped into a delightful lady called Mary. She is a British expat living in Andros and first visited in 1988. Today she is known as the cat lady of Andros. Mary through the goodness of her heart spends time dedicated to looking after about a dozen cats that live in Chora. Thankfully you will find that the locals also like the cats so it’s not as harrowing a task as some kind people take on in other parts of the world. I was to meet up with Mary again later in my stay!

As evening falls, Chora comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene, with bars and tavernas offering live music, traditional dance performances, and festive gatherings late into the night. If you are looking for a great start to the day head to the Lithi Bar which serves up a mouthwatering breakfast called Shakshuka which is comprised of Tomato, Toast, Eggs, peppers and Chilli. In the evening, the Neo Bar which has been built within an old slaughterhouse, may not at first appeal but when you go it’s very cool and full of character. The cocktails are superb, locals friendly and they even serve up tasty pizzas!

Whether exploring its historic landmarks, admiring its architectural beauty, or simply soaking in the atmosphere of its lively streets, Chora invites visitors to experience the timeless allure of Andros Island.

Pythara Waterfall

Back in the car, it was time for Fotis to introduce me to some of the local attractions away from Chora. We were off on another walk – nothing too strenuous mind as after all I had just been mountaineering up a steep-sided stone arch. We were to take our time!

Just 15 minutes from Chora and tucked away amidst lush greenery and rugged terrain, we embarked on a scenic but moderately challenging hike through verdant forests, following winding trails that lead to the cascading waters of Pythara.

As the waterfall comes into view, its graceful descent into a crystalline pool below captivates the senses. All around there was wildlife from insects to butterflies and frogs to birds. It was a wonderful introduction to the nature of Andros.

Apoikia Village

From Pythara we visited the little village of Apoikia. This sleepy little retreat features traditional architecture, winding stone-paved streets, narrow alleys, adorned with blooming bougainvillaea and stunning vistas of scenic countryside and rolling hills.

One of the village’s highlights is the Tower of Apoikia, a well-preserved medieval tower. Locals come to Apoikia as it is the source of the mineral water “Sariza”, which is famous for its healing properties. Fotis advised it was taken by those who suffer from kidney stones. I took a few slurps for good measure, and we were once again on our way!

Hiking Trails

It was here in Apoikia that I first noticed the numbered routes that are prevalent throughout the island. Andros is a hiker’s dream and it’s worth getting a map from the local tourist office in Chora which details each in order of length, time, and difficulty.  

Throughout my stay, I bumped into many hikers all of whom were waxing lyrical about the simplicity of a hiking holiday in Andros not to mention the breathtaking beauty.

Saint Marina Monastery, Apoikia

Perched atop a verdant hillside overlooking the azure Aegean Sea, the Saint Marina Monastery stands as a beacon of spiritual serenity on Andros Island. Dating back centuries, this sacred site is dedicated to Saint Marina, a revered figure in Orthodox Christianity.

Visitors can explore the monastery’s ancient stone walls, Byzantine frescoes, and ornate iconography, immersing themselves in the timeless beauty and tranquillity of this sacred space. With its breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and its profound sense of peace, the Saint Marina Monastery offers a glimpse into the rich religious heritage of Andros, making it a must-visit destination for spiritual seekers and history enthusiasts alike.

Dinner at Endochora Restaurant

In the evening I was hosted by Christos the owner of Explore Andros at the Endochora Restaurant which is located in the heart of the main street of Agora in Chora.

This typical Andros restaurant was perfect with a wide choice of seafood dishes including Sea Bass, Octopus, and Calamari plus various other Meat, pasta and salad options. The main courses started from 11.50 euros for a Risotto. The range of desserts was equally impressive including Soumada, an almond-flavoured panna cotta and a chocolate and olive oil fondant. Beers started at 3 euros and a bottle of wine was from 10 euros.  

After my first day on Andros Island, I felt strangely at home. I was relaxed, had met lovely people, tasted great food and was excited for the adventures ahead.

Achla River Walk

My second day in Andros was to involve another hike, this time along the Achla River, but this time a little harder but with the same goal, to enjoy the magnificent nature that the island has to offer.

Fotis took a day out from scaring me and so today I was guided by Argie. Now Argie is the type of guy that if you were lost in the Amazon, you would want him by your side. He was as fit as a butcher’s dog and as strong as an ox. He was also a previous contestant in the Camel Trophy which, if you are of a certain age you may remember, was an extreme event back in the 80s and 90s for 4X4 vehicles across all corners of the globe. I liked Argie – he was a real man’s man.

We met at the delightful Fresco Juice & Salad Bar on the main street in Chora along with a couple of Belgium ladies, Greta, and Ellen, who were on holiday and seeking adventure. Argie gave us some instructions about our walk which was to take us along the banks of the river to the mystical Gerolimni pool where during the peak season people congregate to swim, relax, and enjoy nature. As an avid wildlife lover, I was keen to know what animals we might meet on route and was promptly told to look for Golden Eagles, Hawks, Frogs, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Snakes. The latter got our attention, but Argie confidently stated that there was just a 1% chance of seeing a snake.

With mosquito spray slapped all over, we headed out into the bush. After just five minutes one of our Belgium ladies stopped in her tracks. Sure enough that 1% chance came in as there before us was “Sid” the 5-foot-long Caspian Whipsnake sunbathing across a footbridge. Our man Argie stepped in and slowly caressed him out of the way with a stick so that we could continue our hike. It was all such fun. Honestly, I loved it!

As the morning ensued Argie expertly showcased much of the island’s nature from herbs and wildlife to the trees and rock formations that had been carved through centuries of water flowing from up high in the Andros mountains.

The Gerolimni Pool was indeed magical. As we sat on enormous stone slabs, listened to the roar of the waterfall, staring into crystal clear water, we shared stories of adventures from yesteryear. It was a very special morning and one where I fell in love with Andros…. This is indeed the real Greece and long may it stay that way!

Our journey back involved another sizable snake – son of Sid I reckon…. now did Argie say 1%? I repeat…it was such a great morning! 

We dropped the Belgium ladies back in town and Argie and headed for lunch in the gorgeous Gialia Seafood Restaurant in Stenies. As chance would have it, we bumped into another Belgium couple who were on the island due to their love of hiking. Argie had taken them out the previous day, so we enjoyed a lovely lunch together.

Neiborio & Paraporti Beaches

After lunch, I asked Argie to drop me on the outskirts of Chora so that I could walk along the main Neiborio Beach which is to the west of the Chora peninsula.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk the length of this sandy attractive beach which is backed by a road and a line of shady trees under which numerous cafes and restaurants reside. With the words of my guide Fotis ringing in my ears, I decided to “Take My Time” and duly purchased a cool drink and watched life go by. This beach is perfect for families of all ages and the beach has areas with loungers and showers. The Andros Nautical Club is also based here.

On the east side of the peninsula is Paraporti Beach. This beach is beautiful but it is exposed to the northern winds which make for strong undercurrents. It is for strong swimmers and perhaps not so recommended for families as Neimporio.

Zairis Patisserie, Messaria

My final full day was back with Fotis who collected me from my hotel for another day of adventure. The good news was that it was to start in a patisserie and end in a vineyard – now that’s my kind of day trip! I would certainly be taking my time!

The Zairis Patisserie is located on the outskirts of Chora in Messaria. This culinary gem is known for its delectable pastries and warm hospitality. Established decades ago, by Adamantios Zairis, this charming patisserie has been delighting locals and visitors alike with its exquisite selection of traditional Greek desserts, ice creams and baked goods.

Stepping into Zairis Patisserie is like entering a sweet haven filled with the irresistible aroma of freshly baked treats. From flaky baklava and creamy galaktoboureko to decadent chocolate cakes and delicate pastries filled with seasonal fruits, every creation is a work of art.

But perhaps the most delightful aspect of Zairis Patisserie is the warm hospitality extended by its friendly staff, who welcome guests with genuine smiles and personalized service. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a regular patron, you’ll be treated like family from the moment you walk through the door.

I was invited into the kitchen where I met the kind and welcoming owner and baker extraordinaire, Leonidas Zairis along with some young apprentices learning the craft! Leonidas was a lovely man who took over the business from his father in 1995. He was deeply passionate not only about the family business but also about passing on his knowledge and skills to the would-be bakers of the future. It was truly inspiring to witness that first-hand.

I left with perhaps the tastiest sweet treat I have enjoyed in many years. I love almonds, so the handmade Amigdalota which are egg-shaped, covered in fine icing sugar and filled with a soft almond filling were just heaven! The Kalsounia is another similar treat. If you are planning to take something home from Andros then a box of either of these is a must!

For a taste of authentic Greek pastry-making tradition and a truly memorable culinary experience, be sure to visit Zairis Patisserie in Messaria during your stay on the captivating island of Andros.

Menites Village

With a belly full of Amigdalota we hit the road. Along the way, we stopped by the picturesque village of Menites.  Set amongst lush greenery this hidden gem is known for its traditional Cycladic architecture, whitewashed houses, colourful flowers, narrow cobblestone streets, and charming squares shaded by ancient trees.

One of the village’s highlights is its natural springs, which have been a vital water source for centuries and are said to possess healing properties. Visitors can relax by the springs, enjoying the serene ambience and refreshing coolness of the crystal-clear waters.

Menites is also renowned for its traditional tavernas, where visitors can savour authentic Greek cuisine made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. For those interested in history and culture, Menites boasts several notable landmarks, including the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, a beautiful Orthodox church dating back to the 19th century. Its stunning architecture and intricate frescoes make it a must-visit for history enthusiasts and architecture buffs alike.

Like most of Andros, this area is popular for hiking and exploring. Lush forests, winding trails, and breathtaking viewpoints await those who venture into the countryside surrounding Menites.

Agia Irini Monastery

The Monastery of Agia Irini in Andros was built in 1780 in Apikia, by two brother monks however in 1833 the monastery was dissolved. over the next 100 years the monastery fell into disrepair until in 2006, Captain Eleftherios Polemis bought the land that included the monastery.

Over the next 10 years, Polemis and his family restored and recreated the buildings of the monastery. They have even added a small room that showcases a collection of traditional musical instruments.

On arrival, we were greeted by a lady along with a rather handsome hound dog. This lady used to work for Polemis and since his passing a few years ago she maintains the monastery for visitors as well as groups that flock to the Agia Irini Monastery to seek solace, reflect on faith, and marvel at its timeless beauty.

Panachrantou Monastery

On the island of Andros, you can visit several monasteries dating from the Byzantine period to the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Some, like Agia Irini, have been recently renovated. All of them are of exceptional interest, as they preserve important relics.

I also visited the Panachrantou Monastery and got to view not only the ancient and deeply religious site but also enjoy a coffee and some Turkish delight in the kitchen with some monks. One caught my eye. A gentleman well into his 90s was orchestrating the other monks while feverishly making dinner of flavoured rice stuffed into Zucchini flowers. This was a humbling moment and one I will remember for a long time.

The island is rich in religious history, featuring some excellent hagiographers (a writer of the lives of saints), whose works have been preserved and now decorate various churches on the island. Besides the monasteries, one can also visit old Byzantine churches, such as Taxiarches in Messaria, Melida, Ypsilou, Kimisis Theotokou in Mesathouri and Agios Nikolaos in Korthi.

Korthi Bay

Korthi Bay, nestled on the southeastern coast of Andros Island in Greece, is a picturesque coastal village renowned for its tranquil atmosphere, stunning natural scenery, and traditional charm. Surrounded by verdant hillsides and overlooking the azure waters of the Aegean Sea, Korthi Bay offers visitors a serene retreat away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

The bay boasts a beautiful sandy beach lined with tamarisk trees, providing ample opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, and strolls along the shoreline. With its crystal-clear waters and gentle waves, Korthi Beach is an ideal spot for families, couples, and solo travellers alike to relax and unwind.

For those seeking adventure, Korthi Bay offers a variety of water sports and outdoor activities, including snorkelling, diving, windsurfing, and paddleboarding. The calm waters and favourable wind conditions make it a popular destination for enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Beyond its natural beauty, Korthi Bay is also home to charming tavernas, cafes, and restaurants serving delicious Greek cuisine and freshly caught seafood. Despite some inclement weather, I enjoyed a superb lunch on the covered outside terrace at “Sea Satin Nino” which serves a fine selection of fresh salads, pasta, seafood and local dishes.

Pidima Beach

Fotis asked me if I wanted to visit the beach – hell yes – I loved Andros and only wanted to see more of this fabulous Greek island!  

Just around the corner from Korthi Bay is the little Pidima Beach. It’s a little bit of a treacherous walk to get down to it but they say all the best places are difficult to reach.

This peaceful secluded beach is small and known for its dramatic rock formations and pristine waters. It stands out from other beaches due to the “Old Lady” stone pillar-like structure that comes straight out of the sea before you.

There are various stories and myths about this rock but whichever one you believe, it revolves around an old lady climbing the rock and taking her own life. Not the most uplifting of tales but the view of the rock from the beach kind of makes up for the sad story!

Kourtesis Wine Estate

We left Korthi Bay for our final stop of the day and one I had very much been looking forward to! The Kourtesis Wine Estate in Andros. This is a delightful haven for wine enthusiasts and those seeking a taste of authentic Greek viticulture.

This family-owned winery boasts a rich tradition of winemaking that spans generations. Visitors to the estate are treated to guided tours of the vineyards, where they can stroll through rows of meticulously tended vines and learn about the unique flavours that impart character to the wines.

Wine tastings offer the chance to savour a selection of handcrafted wines, from crisp whites to robust reds, each reflecting the essence of Andros’s fertile soil and Mediterranean climate. With its charming rustic charm and commitment to quality, the Kourtesis Wine Estate offers a truly immersive experience in the art of winemaking on Andros Island.

I would very much recommend a visit. The views are accompanied by superb wines, and a tasty charcuterie board, with bread, tomatoes and oils – my idea of heaven!

Micra Anglia 5* Hotel & Restaurant

That evening Fotis and I went for dinner to reflect on my trip and to chat about life, the universe and anything else that came our way.

We were hosted at the delightful 5* Micra Anglia Boutique Hotel and Restaurant which is local just behind the Agora in Chora. It’s a lovely location from which to enjoy Chora and comes with a small outside pool, beautifully appointed rooms and the most sensational restaurant serving delicious local dishes accompanied by some of the finest wines of the island including those from the Kourtesis Estate.

Whilst I was staying in a lovely typical family-style hotel, this hotel gives visitors, ideally couples or honeymooners, the option for more of a luxury stay. I thought it was good to see this alternative and very much enjoyed both dinner and the hotel.

Animal Magic

It was sadly my final morning on Andros however it was not the end of my excitement! I was meeting with two ladies from the UK who have made their homes on Andros. The time I spent with them in a place called Magic Mountain, was very special, as I learned about the considerable love and dedication they give to looking after some poor and needy animals on Andros.

This last morning was so inspirational that I have written another blog. It would not be doing it justice to include a couple of paragraphs here! Please take a moment to read about my morning meeting with Mary who in her spare time cares for a dozen or so cats in Chora, and Sandy who in 2007 started the Andros Animal Shelter rescuing, caring and rehoming dogs and other animals.

Batsi Town

It was time to leave Andros but en route to Gavrio Port, we took time to pop into Batsi. This popular summer beach haunt is perhaps the busiest on the island in peak season with visitors coming from afar to enjoy sun-soaked days on the very nice beach.

As the sun sets over the Aegean Sea, Batsi comes alive with the sounds of music and laughter. The island’s vibrant nightlife scene offers something for everyone, from cosy seaside tavernas serving local wine and meze to lively beach bars and clubs where revellers dance until the early hours of the morning.

I would love to come back and experience Batsi during the peak season for another taste of Andros.

Where To Stay on Andros Island

During my 4 nights in Andros, I stayed at the charming Anemomiloi Andros Boutique Hotel in Chora, Andros.

Please take a moment to check out my review of the hotel which highlights why, in my opinion, it is a great choice when staying in Chora and for exploring the island.

Final Thoughts on Andros Island

When I first heard about Andros – I was “sold” it by a charismatic, larger-than-life tourism official. He claimed it was an island that delivers authenticity, a friendly welcome, fresh food and incredible nature. One day I will meet him again and thank him, as that is exactly what I got and I loved every moment of my stay!

As Fotis so often told me, I “took my time” to savour this special island, where every corner reveals a new facet of Greek culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion, in Andros you will experience the essence of the Cyclades Islands and an island that you will return to again and again.

Thank You

My thanks to the Municipality of Andros, and their tourism consulting partners for this invitation. Thanks to Christos, Fotis and Argie from Explore Andros for their professional service and the faultless itinerary they put together, not to mention their friendship.

Finally to Mary the Cat Lady and Sandy from the Andros Animal Shelter – as an animal lover I am in awe of their efforts to look after our four-legged friends.

Contact Information

For more information on visiting Andros Island in the Cyclades, Greece contact your local travel agent or specialist tour operator.

For local specialist expertise then please contact the amazing people at Explore Andros.

Till next time…


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