Top Ten Spanish Attractions

Top Ten Spanish Attractions

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       Spain is a sovereign state and a member of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the northwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. Furthermore, the town of Llívia is a Spanish exclave situated inside French territory. With an area of 504,030 square km (194,610 square mi), it is the 2nd largest country in Western Europe and the European Union after France, and the 4th largest country in Europe after Russia, Ukraine and France. Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences since prehistoric times and through to its dawn as a country. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the reconquest, or Reconquista, of the Iberian peninsula in 1492. Conversely, it has been an important source of influence to other regions, chiefly during the modern era, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 500 million Spanish speakers today, making it the world’s 2nd most spoken first language. Spain is a democracy organized in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a developed country with the 12th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP, and very high living standards, including the 10th highest quality of life index rating in the world, as of 2005.

  1. Barcelona
    Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the 2nd largest city in Spain, after Madrid, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of 101.4 square km (39 square mi). The urban area of Barcelona extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of between 4,200,000 and 4,500,000 within an area of 803 square km (310 square mi), being the 6th most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, the Ruhr, Madrid and Milan. It is also Europe’s largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea. Barcelona is today one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, trade fair/exhibitions and cultural-sports centers, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. Barcelona is Europe’s 4th best business city and fastest improving European city. One of Europe’s principal Mediterranean ports can be found here as well as Barcelona international airport, which handles above 34 million passengers per year. Barcelona is the 16th most-visited city in the world and the 4th most visited in Europe after Paris, London and Rome, with several million tourists every year. Barcelona is the 14th most “livable city” in the world according to lifestyle magazine Monocle. It is the 4th richest city by GDP in the European Union and 35th in the world. The city is Europe’s 3rd and one of the world’s most successful as a city brand, both in terms of reputation and assets. Barcelona is the 7th most important fashion capital in the world. Barcelona, among world centers of commerce takes 2nd place in economic stability. Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona became one of the most important cities of the Crown of Aragon. Besieged several times during its history, Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural center and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean is located in Barcelona. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions, including the 1888 Exposición Universal de Barcelona, the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition (Expo 1929), the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures, and the 2004 World Urban Forum.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten Cities with the Highest Quality of Living, Museums and Galleries, Top Ten Architectural Works by Antoni Gaudí, Top Ten Architectural Works by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Top Ten Fashion Cities, Top Ten Basilicas, Top Ten Cathedrals, Top Ten Opera Houses,,
  2. Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain
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    The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family), commonly known as the Sagrada Família, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Though construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950’s. Construction passed the mid-point in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death. The basilica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona, over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s cathedral, over Gaudí’s design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí’s death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain’s high-speed train could disturb its stability. Describing Sagrada Familia, art Critic Rainer Zerbst said “it is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art” and Paul Goldberger called it ‘the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.’
    Links: Top Ten Basilicas, Top Ten Architectural Works by Antoni Gaudí, Top Ten Churches, Top Ten Dome Interiors,,
  3. Madrid
    Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the 3rd largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the 3rd largest in the European Union after London and Paris. The city spans a total of 604.3 square km (233.3 square mi). The city is located on the Manzanares River in the center of both the country and the Community of Madrid (which comprises the city of Madrid, its conurbation and extended suburbs and villages); this community is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political center of Spain. The current mayor is Ana Botella from the People’s Party (PP). Madrid urban agglomeration has the 3rd largest GDP in the European Union and its influences in politics, education, entertainment, environment, media, fashion, science, culture and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. Due to its economic output, high standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial center of Southern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula; it hosts the head offices of the vast majority of the major Spanish companies, such as Telefónica and Repsol YPF. Madrid is the most touristic city of Spain, the 4th most touristic of the continent, and is the 10th most livable city in the world according to Monocle magazine, in its 2010 index. Madrid also ranks among the 12 greenest European cities in 2010. Madrid is currently bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Madrid houses the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), belonging to the United Nations Organization (UN), the SEGIB and the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI). It also hosts major international institutions regulators of Spanish: the Standing Committee of the Association of Spanish Language Academies, headquarters of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), the Cervantes Institute and the Foundation of Urgent Spanish (Fundéu). Madrid organizes fairs as FITUR, Madrid Fusión, ARCO, SIMO TCI, the “Salón del Automóvil” and the Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week. While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Teatro Real (Royal theatre) with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the 19th century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; an archaeological museum; and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, housed in the renovated Villahermosa Palace.
    Links: Museums and Galleries, Temples, Sculptures,,
  4. Seville
    Seville is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville, Spain. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of 7 m (23 ft.) above sea level. The inhabitants of the city are known as sevillanos or hispalenses, following the Roman name of the city, Hispalis. The population of the city of Seville was 703,021 (2011), ranking as the 4th largest city of Spain. The population of the metropolitan area (urban area plus satellite towns) was 1,508,605 (2010).
    Links: Museums and Galleries, Top Ten Spanish Museums, Top Ten Bridges, Top Ten Tombs,,
  5. Ibiza
    Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean Sea 79 km off the coast of the city of Valencia in Spain. It is the 3rd largest of the Balearic Islands, an autonomous community of Spain. With Formentera, it is one of the two Pine Islands or Pityuses. Its largest cities are Ibiza Town, Santa Eulària des Riu and Sant Antoni de Portmany. Its highest point, called Sa Talaiassa (or Sa Talaia), is 475 m/1,558 ft. above sea level. The island is well known for its summer club parties which attract large numbers of tourists, but the island and the Spanish Tourist Office have been working in order to promote more family-oriented tourism. Though some dispute the island’s ability to attract higher income families in large numbers, the island is keen to dispel its image as merely a destination for young clubbers. Noted clubs include Space, Pacha, Privilege (ex Ku), Amnesia, DC10, Eden and Es Paradis. Probably the most famous bar on the island is Café del Mar. This bar is significantly connected with the music genre of chill-out music. The other notable player in the entertainment world in recent years has been Ibiza Rocks who feature more live acts than the established clubs. The brand now runs the most famous youth hotel on the island, Ibiza Rocks Hotel. Ibiza is also home to the legendary “port” in the district of Ibiza, a popular stop for many tourists.
    Links: Islands, Top 100 Clubs, Top 100 European Clubs, Top Ten Spanish Clubs, Top Ten 420 Destinations, Top Ten Pools,,
  6. València
    València is the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia and the 3rd largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, with a population of 809,267 within its administrative limits on a land area of 134.6 square km (52 square mi). It is the 15th most populous municipality in the European Union. The urban area of Valencia extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of between 1,175,000 and 1,564,145. The climate for business improved markedly in Valencia during the recent period of rapid economic growth in Spain with concurrent development and expansion of telecommunications and transport. Valencia is the 29th fastest improving European city; its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science and the arts contributes to its status as one of the world’s “Gamma” rank global cities. Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC. The city is situated on the banks of the Turia, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, fronting the Gulf of Valencia of Mediterranean Sea. Its historic center is one of the largest in Spain, with approximately 169 acres; this heritage of ancient monuments, diverse scenic sites and cultural attractions makes Valencia one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations for Spaniards and world travelers alike. Among its most representative monuments are the Valencia Cathedral, the Torres de Serranos, the Torres de Quart, the Llotja de la Seda, and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences), an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela. The Museu de Belles Arts de València houses a large collection of paintings from the 14th-18th centuries, including works by Velázquez, El Greco and Goya, also an important series of engravings by Piranesi. The Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (Valencian Institute of Modern Art) offers both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art and photography. Valencia is integrated into an industrial area on the Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast). Its main festival, the Falles, is known worldwide, while the traditional Spanish dish, paella, originated here.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by El Greco, Top Ten Paintings by Diego Velázquez, Top Ten Paintings by Francisco Goya,,
  7. Córdoba
           Córdoba is a city in Andalusia, southern Spain. An Iberian and Roman city in ancient times, in the Middle Ages it became the capital of an Islamic caliphate. The old town contains numerous architectural reminders of when Corduba was the capital of Hispania Ulterior during the Roman Republic and capital of Hispania Baetica during the Roman Empire; and when Qurṭuba was the capital of the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba, including most of the Iberian Peninsula. It has been estimated that in the 10th century and beginning of the 11th century, Córdoba was the most populous city in the world and during these centuries became the intellectual center of Europe. Today it is a moderately-sized modern city with a population of 325,453 (2008).
    Links: Top Ten Mosques, Top Ten Churches, Top Ten Fountains,,_Spain,
  8. Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James
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           Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain. The city’s Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James.
    Links: Top Ten Pilgrimages, Top Ten Cathedrals,,
  9. Salamanca
    Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to the teaching of the Spanish language. Salamanca supplies 16% of Spain’s market and attracts thousands of international students, generating a diverse multicultural environment. It is situated approximately 200 km (120 mi) west of Madrid and 80 km (50 mi) east of the Portuguese border. The University of Salamanca, which was founded in 1218, is the oldest university in Spain and the 3rd oldest western university. With its 30,000 students, the university is, together with tourism, the economic engine of the city. Salamanca is the capital of the province of Salamanca, which belongs to the autonomous community of Castile and León (Castilla y León). With a metropolitan population around 192,000 it is the 2nd most populated urban area in Castile and León, after Valladolid (369,000), and closely followed by Leon (187,000) and Burgos (176,000).
    Links: Museums and Galleries, Top Ten Spanish Museums,,
  10. Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
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           The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a historical residence of the king of Spain, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 45 km (28 mi) northwest of Madrid. It is one of the Spanish royal sites and functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum and school. It is also known shorthand as El Escorial or the Escorial. The Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal monastery itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat about 5 km away. These sites have a dual nature; that is to say, during the 16th and 17th centuries, they were places in which the power of the Spanish monarchy and the ecclesiastical predominance of the Roman Catholic religion in Spain found a common architectural manifestation. El Escorial was, at once, a monastery and a Spanish royal palace. Originally a property of the Hieronymite monks, it is now a monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine. Philip II of Spain, reacting to the Protestant Reformation sweeping through Europe during the 16th century, devoted much of his lengthy reign (1556–1598) and much of his seemingly inexhaustible supply of New World gold to stemming the Protestant tide. His protracted efforts were, in the long run, partly successful; however, the same counter-reformational impulse had a much more benign expression 30 years earlier in Philip’s decision to build the complex at El Escorial. Philip engaged the Spanish architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, to be his collaborator in the design of El Escorial. Juan Bautista had spent the greater part of his career in Rome, where he had worked on the basilica of St. Peter’s, and in Naples, where he had served the king’s viceroy, whose recommendation brought him to the king’s attention. Philip appointed him architect-royal in 1559, and together they designed El Escorial as a monument to Spain’s role as a center of the Christian world.
    Links: Museums and Galleries, Monasteries, Palaces, Top Ten Libraries, Top Ten Dome Interiors,,
  11. The Running of the Bulls, Pamplona
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           The Running of the is a practice that involves running in front of a small group (typically a dozen) of bulls that have been let loose, on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town’s streets. The most famous running of the bulls is that of the seven-day festival of Sanfermines in honor of San Fermín in Pamplona, although they are held in towns and villages across Spain, Portugal, and in some cities in Mexico, Mesquite, Nevada and southern France, during the summer. Unlike bullfights, which are performed by professionals, anyone older than 18 may participate in an encierro. The purpose of this event was in origin to transport the bulls from the off-site corrals where they had spent the night, to the bullring where they would be killed in the evening. Youngsters would jump among them to show off their bravado. Spanish lore says the true origin began in North-eastern Spain during the early 14th century. While transporting cattle in order to sell at the market, men would attempt to speed the process by hurrying their cattle using tactics of fear and excitement. After years of this practice, the transportation and hurrying began to turn into a competition, as young adults would attempt to race in front of the bulls and make it safely to their pens without being overtaken. When the popularity of this practice increased and was noticed more and more by the expanding population of Spanish cities, a tradition was created and stands to this day.
    Links: Top 100 Events of the Year,,
  12. Altamira Cave and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain (16,500–12,000 BC)
    Altamira Cave and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern SpainAltamira Cave and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain1Altamira Cave and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain2
           Considered by many as the “Sistine Chapel” of Cave Art, Considered by many as the “Sistine Chapel” of Cave Art, Altamira (Spanish for ‘high view’) is a cave in Spain famous for its Upper Paleolithic cave paintings featuring drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands. Its special relevance comes from the fact it was the first cave in which prehistoric cave paintings were discovered, leading to a controversy during the late 19th century because many people did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. It is located near the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain, 30 km west of the city of Santander. The cave with its paintings has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
    Links: Cave PaintingsTop 100 Spanish Paintings,,,
  13. Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada
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           Alhambra, “the red fortress,” is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. It was constructed during the mid-14th century by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada in al-Andalus, occupying the top of the hill of the Assabica on the southeastern border of the city of Granada. The Alhambra’s Moorish palaces were built for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and its court, of the Nasrid dynasty. After the Reconquista by the Reyes Católicos (“Catholic Monarchs”) in 1492, some portions were used by the Christian rulers. The Palace of Charles V, built by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1527, was inserted in the Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was “discovered” in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers, with restorations commencing. It is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country’s most significant and well known Islamic architecture, together with 16th century and later Christian building and garden interventions.
    Links: Palaces, Top Ten Forts, Top Ten Fountains,,,,
  14. Toledo
           Toledo is a municipality located in central Spain, 70 km south of Madrid.  It contains extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures, as well as the place where harsh religious persecutions were held against the Jews. Many famous people and artists were born or lived in Toledo, including Al-Zarqali, Garcilaso de la Vega, Eleanor of Toledo, Alfonso X and El Greco. It was also the place of important historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. As of 2010, the city has a population of 82,489 and an area of 232.1 square km (89.6 square mi).
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by El Greco, Top Ten Astronomers, Poets, Top Ten Clock Towers,,_Spain,
  15. Segovia
           Segovia is a city in Spain, the capital of Segovia Province in the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is situated north of Madrid, 30 minutes by high speed train. The municipality counts some 55,500 inhabitants.
    Links: Churches, Top Ten Cathedrals, Castles, Sculptures, Top Ten Gardens,,
  16. Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon
    Mudéjar Architecture of AragonMudéjar Architecture of Aragon1Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon2Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon3Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon4Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon5
           Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon is an aesthetic trend in the Mudéjar style, which is centered in Aragon (Spain). The chronology of the Aragonese Mudejar occupies 12th to the 17th century and includes more than 100 architectural monuments located predominantly in the valleys of the Ebro, Jalón and Jiloca. In this area there was a large population of Muslim origin, although many of them were nominally Christian. Described as Mudejar or Morisco, they kept their workshops and craft traditions and rarely used stone as building material. The first manifestations of Aragonese Mudejar have two origins: on the one hand, a palatial architecture linked to the monarchy, which amends and extends the Aljafería Palace maintaining Islamic ornamental tradition, and on the other hand, a tradition which develops Romanesque architecture using brickwork rather than masonry construction and which often displays Hispanic-rooted ornamental tracery. Examples of the latter type of mudejar architecture can be seen in churches in Daroca, which were started in stone and finished off in the 13th century with Mudejar brick panels. From the construction point of view, the Mudejar architecture in Aragon preferably adopts functional schemes of Cistercian Gothic, but with some differences. Buttresses are often absent, especially in the apses which characteristically have an octagonal plan with thick walls that can hold the thrust from the roof and which provide space to highlight brick decorations. On the other hand, buttresses are often a feature of the naves, where they may be topped by turrets, as in the style of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. There may be side chapels which are not obvious from the exterior. Churches in neighborhoods (such as San Pablo of Zaragoza) or small towns do not usually have aisles, but locations for additional altars are provided by chapels between the nave buttresses. It is common for these side chapels to have a closed gallery or ándite (walkway), with windows looking to the outside and inside of the building. This constitution is called a church-fortress, and his prototype could be the church of Montalbán. Typically the bell towers show extraordinary ornamental development, the structure is inherited from the islamic minaret: quadrangular with central pier whose spaces are filled via a staircase approximation vaults, as in the Almohad minarets. On this body stood the tower, usually polygonal. There are also examples of octagonal towers.
    Links: Palaces, Top Ten Basilicas, Top Ten Churches, Top Ten European Churches,,
  17. Alcalá de Henares
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           Alcalá de Henares, meaning Citadel on the river Henares, is a Spanish city and one of the first bishoprics founded in Spain. Located in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, 35 km northeast of the city of Madrid, at an altitude of 588 m (1929 ft.) above sea level, it has a population of around 200,000, the 2nd largest of the region after the Spanish capital itself. The city is generally known simply as “Alcalá,” but “de Henares” is often appended to differentiate it from a dozen cities sharing the name Alcalá. The Latin name, Complutum, is sometimes used also and the city is capital of its namesake region, Comarca de Alcalá.
    Links: Sculptures, Top Ten Spanish Restaurants,
  18. Burgos Cathedral
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           The Burgos Cathedral is a Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral in Burgos, Spain. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is famous for its vast size and unique architecture. Its construction began in 1221 and it was in use as a church nine years later but work continued off and on until 1567. It was primarily built in the French Gothic style although Renaissance style works were added in the 15th and 16th centuries.
    Links: Top Ten Cathedrals,,
  19. Ávila
           Ávila is a Spanish city located in the autonomous community of Castile and León, capital of the province of the same name. “Ávila de los Caballeros” is an honorific title of the city and others are “Ávila del Rey” and “Ávila de los Leales” which are all present in the flag of the city. The city is notable for having complete medieval city walls which were built in the Romanesque style. It is also one of the cities with the highest number of Romanesque churches, Gothic churches and catering establishments in relation to the number of its inhabitants. It is known by many as the city of “Pebbles and Saints.” The writer José Martínez Ruiz Azorín, after writing The Castilian Soul, said it was “perhaps the most 16th century city of Spain.”
  20. Links: Top Ten Spanish Hotels, Top Ten Spanish Restaurants,,

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