History Grand Hotel Royal

Grand Hotel Royal

The man with the sign ‘Grand Hotel Royal’ awaits me on the platform at Keleti station. He takes my bags and me to the hotel. The doorman opens the car. Arrived – home. Tamás Ungár, the chief concierge greets from the concierge box, the reception produces my keycard. Bell captain József Rácz sends my luggage upstairs. Arrived. Checked-in. Back home While collecting my breakfast, I read newspapers and E-mails on a sort of terrace overlooking the lobby. The reception is busy checking guests in and out. A photographer tries to persuade a model to pose for the Hungarian edition of Vogue and a friendly waitress asks me if I’d like some more fresh orange juice. There never was a better time to visit the Grand Hotel Royal. Hungary has finally returned into the arms of Europe, Budapest is sparkling and shining as it used to a hundred years ago, the hotel has been saved and reopened by Alfred Pisani, the far-sighted owner of Corinthia hotels, and tourism is booming. Andreas Augustin

The blurb of my book about this hotel reads: "The Grand Hotel Royal opened in 1896 as the largest hotel on the continent: 350 rooms, numerous restaurants, a palatial Royal ballroom, telephones in every room, electricity supplying the entire building, 'rising rooms', powered by steam engines and reaching all floors. Next door laid a superb spa. In the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the ‘Royal’ became the melting pot of the world of yesterday. Here Hungarians saw the first;moving Lumire pictures, sipped their first five o'clock high tea; and rubbed shoulders with the international visitors of the great jubilee exhibition of 1896. It was the home to all leading Hungarian artists Surrounded by theatres and close to the Royal Opera House, its guest list includes the greatest dancers, singers and opera divas. Mario del Monaco, Anna Moffo, Gilbert Becaud, James King, Jenõ Heltai, Berczi Karlovszky, József Rippl-Rónai, Vaslav Nijinsky, Cleo de Merode, Max Linder, Valdemar Psilander, Asta Nielsen, Serge Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, Gyula Krúdy, Sándor Bródy, Imre Kálmán, Béla Bartók, Franz Lehár, Zoltan Kodály, Sándor Ferenczi, Paul Abraham, Josephine Baker, Ference Molnár, Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde and so many others spent a significant moment or an important part of their life at the Royal. In the 1920s Károly Gundel was its feted restaurateur, during the 1960s it became the unofficial ‘academy’ for everybody who wanted to become a successful hotelier. Reopened in 2002, the Grand Hotel Royal is a sparkling star among the grand hotels of Europe. This book accompanies the hotel from its very first day at the height of the glittering Fin-de-siècle over one hundred years into the third millennium."

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1896, 1 May: The hotel opened on 1 May 1896, the day of the opening of the ‘Grand Millennium Exhibition’. A lovely little passport holder was handed to each arriving customer. It advertised the ‘largest house of the capital, with 350 rooms, 100 rooms with bathroom, all others with running hot and cold water. Separated apartments. The hotel is equipped with all modern comfort. Local and ‘inter-urban’ telephone lines in all rooms. Centrally located in close proximity to all theatres and sights. First class highly reputed restaurant, café, pastry shop, ticket office, bank, money-changer, post- and telegraph office at the hotel’.

28 December 2002 reopening of the hotel after extensive renovaiton (read also Legendary Stories) 30 April 2003 (exactly 107 years after its first opening) the Grand Hotel Royal was declared ‘officially open’ by the President of Hungary Ferenc Mádl, in the presence of the President of Malta, Guido de Marco. The press noted: ‘The re-opening was marked notably by a gala dinner in the hotel’s carefully restored grand ballroom, reminiscent of the city’s glittering social life of the late 19th century. Within Hungary, the re-opening of the Grand Hotel Royal was hailed as a major milestone for Budapest’s continued revival.’ In September 2003 German Cornelia Kausch became general manager of the hotel. In 2005 Adrian Ellis came to the helm of the Grand Hotel Royal. He arrived from another grand dame of hospitality, the Bristol in Warsaw. Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal was voted the ‘Best five star hotel in Hungary for 2003’, has won a title ‘Best Hotel Architecture in Europe’ in 2004 (the year Hungary became a full-scale member of the European Union) and was awarded ‘Best Five Star Hotel’, ‘Best Hotel Conference Facilities’, and its Rickshaw Restaurant & Sushi Bar as ‘Best East-Asian Restaurant’ in the city of Budapest. In June 2006 the Royal Spa – first opened in 1886 – restored to its original splendour returned with the latest state-of-the-art facilities (see Body, Mind and Soul)

Among the many famous guests who have graced the hotel are Josephine Baker, Franz Lehár, Vaslav Nijinsky, the principal dancer of Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes until 1914, and Cleo de Merode, the fascinating beauty who bewitched King Leopold of Belgium.

An excerpt of the hotel's fabulous guest list includes:
(Edited by Carola Augustin, famoushotels.org)

 Official Guests:

Ahern Bertie
    PM of Ireland (1997–2008)
Akhmetov Daniel    
    PM of Kazakhstan (2003–2007)
Amato Giuliano    
    PM of Italy 2000–2001
De Marco Guido    
    President of Malta (1999–2004)
Göncz Árpád    
    President of Hungary (1990–2000)
Gonzi Lawrence    
    PM of Malta (2004–)
Gorbachev Mikhail    
    President of SU (1990–1991)
Juncker Jean-Claude    
    PM of Luxembourg (1995–)
Mádl Ferenc
    President of Hungary (2000–2005)
Nastase Adrian
    PM of Romania (2000–2004)
Schröder Gerhard    
    German Chancellor (1998–2005)

And Legendary Guests:

Abraham Paul?    Hungarian composer
Ady Endre?    Hungarian poet
Albach-Retty Wolf?    Austrian actor
Alpár Gitta?    Hungarian soprano
Anderson Wes?    American film director
Andrássy Count Gyula?    Hungarian politician
Anka Paul?    Canadian singer
Aragall Giacomo ?    Spanish tenor
Aragon Louis?    French poet and writer
Arna Lissi?    German actress
Bad Boys Blue?    Multinational pop group
Baker Josephine?    American-French dancer
Ballista Gigi?    Italian actor
Bamber David?    British actor
Bana Eric?    Australian actor and comedian
Banky Vilma?    Hungarian actress
Bardini Gaetano?    Italian tenor
Barnard Christiaan?    South African cardic surgeon
Bartók Béla?    Hungarian composer and pianist
Basch Árpád?    Hungarian painter and graphic artist
Bates Alan?    British actor
Bécaud Gilbert?    French chanson singer and actor
Beckham David?    British football player
Benson George?    American jazz guittarist and singer
Benzi Roberto?    French conductor
Bergonzi Carlo?    Italian tenor
Berkoff Steven?    British actor, wiriter and director
Bill Haley’s Comets?    American Rock’n’Roll band
Bogarde Dirk?    British actor
Bolshoi Ballet?    Russian classical ballet company
Boskovsky Willi?    Austrian violinist and conductor
Both Ményhert ?    Hungarian painter
Brodszky Nicholas?    Russian composer
Bródy Sándor?    Hungarian writer and journalist,
Brown Georgia?    British singer and actress
Buzanszky Jenö?    Hungarian soccer „golden eleven“
Carelli Gabor?    Hungarian tenor
Carreras Jose?    Spanish tenor
Chaliapin Feodor Ivanovich?    Russian bass
Christoff Boris?    Bulgarian bass
Chuhraj Grigorij?    Russian film director
Cirque du Soleil?    Canadian artistic group
Clapton Eric?    British guitar player and singer
Cottret Jean-Paul?    French rallye-copilot
Csáth Géza?    Hungarian writer and music critic
Csézy Erzsébet?    Hungarian singer EU Song Contest
Dagover Lil?    German actress
Darvas Lili?    Hungarian-American actress
Davis Collin?    British conductor
De Mérode Cléo?    French ballet dancer
Deep Purple?    British rock band
Del Monaco Mario?    Italian tenor
Deneuve Catherine?    French actress
Depardieu Gérard?    French actor
Destinn Emmy?    Czech soprano
Di Grassi Lucas?    Brazilian F1 racing driver
Diaghilev Sergei?    Russian ballet impresario
Dolly Sisters Rosie and Jenny?    Hungarian dancers
Dorange Rachel?    French woman riding her horse through Europe in 1927/8
Doráti Antal?    Hungarian-US composer/conductor
Dr. Alban, Alban Uzoma Nwapa?    Swedish-Nigerian musician
Dreyfuss Richard?    American actor
Dudits Andor?    Hungarian painter
Durieux Tilla?    Austrian actress
Egoyan Atom?    Canadian-Armenian-Egyptian  director, producer and actor
Eisenhut Ferencz?    Hungarian painter
Elena Obraztsova?    Russian mezzo-soprano
Endresz György?    Hungarian pilot
Esterházy Count Móric?    Hungarian politician
FC Liverpool?    British football team
Fényes László?    Hungarian writer
Fenyö Miksa?    Hungarian writer
Ferenczi Sándor?    Hungarian psychoanalyst
Firth Colin?    British actor
Fitzgerald Ella?    American jazz singer
Follett Ken ?    Welsh author
Frankenheimer John ?    American film director
Fritsch Willy?    German actor
Fröhlich Gustav?    German actor and director
Gahan Dave?    British pop singer
Galway James?    Irish flautist
Garrett Kenny?    American jazz saxophonist
Gedda Nicolai?    Swedish tenor
Gielgud Maina?    British ballet dancer
Gipsy Kings?    French-Spanish music group
Glock Timo?    German F1 racing driver
Gobbi Tito?    Italian baritone
Golden Gate Orchestra?    American music band
Granger Holliday?    British actress
Gréco Juliette?    French actress
Griffith Hugh Emrys?    Welsh actor
Grock?    Swiss ‘king of clowns’ alias Adrien Wettach
Grosics Gyula?    Hungarian goal keeper ‘golden eleven’
Guilbert Yvette?    French actress
Gusztá Bandi     Austro-Hungarian artist
Habermann Anna-Maria?    Italian-Hungarian writer
Halis Keriman?    Turkish Miss Universe
Halmi Artur Lajos?    Hungarian painter
Hancock Herbie?    American pianist
Hartman Elisabeth?    American actress
Hegedüs László?    Hungarian designer of banknotes
Heltai Jenö?    Hungarian writer and theatre director
Hörbiger Paul?    Austrian actor
Holm Ian?    English actor
Hunyadi Sándor?    Hungarian journalist and writer
Illés Eugen (Jenö)?    Hungarian film director
Innocent Ferenc?    Hungarian painter
Ipoly Sándor?    Hungarian painter
Iváni-Grünwald Béla?    Hungarian painter
Jacobi Derek?    British actor and director
Jacobi Derek?    British actor and director
Jannings Emil?    German actor
Jeritza Maria?    Austrian soprano
Journet Marcel?    French bass/baritone
Jovanotti, Lorenzo Cherubini?    Italian singer
Kabaivanska Raina?    Bulgarian soprano
Kallós Ede?    Hungarian sculptor
Kálmán Emmerich / Imre?    Hungarian composer
Kálmán Jenö?    Hungarian writer  
Kalmar Tibor?    Hungarian musician
Karlovszky Berczi?    Hungarian painter
Karvaly József?    Hungarian painter
Kertész István?    Hungarian conductor
Khachaturian Aram?    Russian-Armenian composer
Kiepura Jan?    Polish tenor
King James?    American tenor
Kobayashi Ken-Ichiro?    Japanese conductor and composer
Kodály Zoltán?    Hungarian composer
Környei Béla?    Hungarian tenor
Konstantin Leopoldine?    Austrian actress
Kool & The Gang?    American music band
Korda Alexander?    Hungarian-British film producer/director
Kosztolanyi Dezö?    Hungarian poet and writer
Kosztolányi Kann Gyula?    Hungarian painter and architect
Kovács Ákos?    Hungarian pop-singer, songwriter
Krúdy Gyula?    Hungarian writer
Krug Wilfried?    German tenor
La Rocque Rod?    American actor
Lajtai Lajos?    Hungarian-Swedish composer
Lauri-Volpi Giacomo?    Italian tenor
Lee Christopher?    British actor
Lehár Franz?    Austrian-Hungarian composer
Leuer Hubert?    Austrian tenor
Ligeti Miklós?    Hugarian sculptor and artist
Lindberg Helge?    Finnish baritone
Linder Max?    French actor, director, pioneer  of silent movie comedy
Lingen Theo?    German actor and director
Lipinskaja Dela?    Russian-German cabaret star
Lloyd-Webber Andrew?    British composer of musicals
Lorand Edith?    Hungarian violinist
Ludwig Christa?    German mezzo-soprano
Madsen Michael?    American actor, poet, photographer
Magyar-Mannheimer Gusztáv?    Hungarian painter, illustrator
Márkus László?    Hungarian actor  
Martin Ricky?    Puerto Rican pop singer
Matthäus Lothar?    German football player and coach
Maybury John?    British filmmaker
McCormack Catherine?    British actress
McDonald Malcolm?    Scottish aristocrat and traveller
McFerrin Bobby ?    American vocalist and conductor
Mendes Sérgio?    Brazilian pianist and composer
Menuhin Yehudi?    American violinist
Mercier Michèle ?    French actress
Mirren Helen?    British actress
Moffo Anna?    Italian-American soprano
Moissi Alexander?    Austrian actor
Molnár Ferenc?    Hungarian dramatist and novelist
Monaco Mario del?    Italian tenor
Moore Kenneth?    British actor  
Moravia Alberto?    Italian novelist
Moser Hans?    Austrian actor
Mosjukin Ivan?    Russian actor
Motörhead?    British heavy metal band
Müller Michael?    German comedian and actor
Muti Ricardo?    Italian conductor
Nagy Lajos?    Hungarian journalist and satirist
Németh Mària?    Hungarian soprano
Nero Franco?    Italian actor
Nielsen Asta?    Danish actress
Nijinsky Vaslav?    Russian dancer and choreographer
Obraztsova Elena Vassilijevna?    Russian mezzo-soprano
Oistrakh David?    Russian violinist
Olgyay Ferenc?    Hungarian painter
Orska Maria?    Russian actress
Osvát Ernö?    Hungarian writer, editor and intellectual
Owen Michael James?    British football player
Pálfi Balázs     Hungarian artist
Pavarotti Luciano?    Italian tenor
Peterhansel Stephane?    French rallye racing driver
Piel Harry?    German actor, producer and director
Pink, Alecia Moore?    American pop singer
Plushenko Evgeni?    Russian figure scater
Poll Hugó?    Hungarian painter
Potts Paul?    British tenor
Pryce Jonathan?    Welsh actor
Psilander Valdemar?    Danish silent film actor
Puskás Ference?    Hungarian football player
Rajkin Arkagyij?    Russian comedian, actor and director
Rampal Jean-Pierre Louis?    French flautist
Real Madrid?    Spanish football club
Regöczy Krisztina?    Hungarian ice dancer and figure skater
Reinhardt Max?    Austrian theatre director
Reno Jean?    French actor
Rethberg Elisabeth?    German soprano
Richter Sviatoslav ?    Russian pianist
Rippl-Rónai József ?    Hungarian painter
Robins Pennell Elizabeth?    American writer and traveller
Rossellini Isabella?    Italian actress, producer and author
Rossi Lemeni Nicola?    Italian-Russian baritone
Rush Geoffrey?    Australian actor
Salvi Margharita?    Italian soprano
Scharwenka Franz?    Austrian actor
Schlusnus Heinrich?    German baritone
Schneider Magda?    German actress
Schwarz Lilly and Emmy?    Austrian singing piano-duo
Schwarzkopf Elisabeth?    German-British soprano
Scott Ridley?    British film director and producer
Scotto Renata?    Italian soprano
Silveri Paolo?    Italian baritone
Simon Böszi?    Hungarian Miss Europe
Sinclair Joplin British travel writer
Snoop Dogg,  American rapper, singer and producer
Solti Georg?    Hungarian conductor
Stravinsky Igor?    Russian composer, pianist and conductor
Susa Charlotte?    German actress
Sutherland Donald?    Canadian actor
Sutherland Joan?    Australian soprano
Szakall Szöke?    Hungarian actor, author
Szép Ernö?    Hungarian poet, writer and journalist
Szlány Lajos?    Hungarian painter
Tereshkova Valentina?    Russian cosmonaut, first woman in space
Tikaram Tanita?    British pop-folksinger
Tolnay Ákos?    Hungarian painter
Tornai Gyula?    Hungarian painter
Tot Amerigo ?    Hungarian sculptor
Tynes Margaret ?    American jazz and opera singer
Upor Tibor?    Hungarian stage designer
Vaszary János?    Hungarian painter
Vaya Con Dios?    Belgian music band
Vibert Ronan?    British actor
Virtanen Mikko?    Finnish champion in ice skating
Wajda Andzej?    Polish film director, producer  and screen writer
Warner David?    British actor
Wegener Paul?    German actor, director, producer and author
Werbezirk Gisela?    Austrian actress
White Carol?    British actress
Wiesel Eli?    American ( Romanian-Jewish)  writer and Nobel Laureate
Windgassen Wolfgang?    German tenor
Wong Anna May?    American-Chinese actress
Zeani Virginia?    Romanian soprano
Zichy Count Aladár?    Hungarian aristocrat and politician
Zidane Zinedine?    French football player
Zsolt Béla?    Hungarian author

image A News Year's Party at the Grand Hotel Royal --------------------- image Tibor Meskál’s (he worked here in 1961 - today he offers his knowlegde to the younger generation - see above!) faith in the Grand Hotel has never dimmed. On 9 September 1999 he started a club (Grand Hotel Royal É.T.E.K. Éttermesek Társaságának Egyesületi Klubja), nicknamed the ‘Royalists’ during a party held in the ruins of the hotel, triggering off important charities for former members of staff in need and other social activities. Although the start of reconstruction work was still a long way off everybody had confidence in the new development. Former managers and employees attended the party, among them George Kalmár, the long-term head concierge who worked at the hotel from 1961 to 1991. ********* Artist József Rippl-Rónai complained that it was difficult to find an appropriate space to exhibit his paintings. The hotel manager, Gyula Várady, swiftly came up with an offer of a free room at the Royal for the duration of his first exhibition. Today his paintings sell for thousands of Euros. ********** In 1996 the Corinthia Group, a hotel company from the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, managed by its charismatic and energetic owner Alfred Pisani acquired the Hotel Aquincum in Budapest. Soon after the conclusion of this sale, the group’s local legal advisor Dr. Laszló Czeglédi mentioned that there was another interesting hotel for sale: the Grand Hotel Royal. Some nine months later, as attempts by other bidders to acquire this property were all unsuccessful, the legal advisor reverted back with the same opportunity. Ultimately, on a third occasion, and specifically on 3rd March 1999, Pisani decided to bid, and with a deadline of three weeks, mustered all the resources, architectural and financial, to make a presentation and submitted an offer. The Corinthia Group was eventually awarded the tender. In 2001 the Mayor of Budapest, Dr Gábor Demszky presided over a ceremony of the laying of a foundation stone containing a time capsule to mark the commencement of works. The structure of the building was over 100 years old, twice destroyed by devastating fires, twice rebuilt cheaply. The only solution was to rebuild the whole house. But the historical façade was listed and protected, as was the great ballroom, one of the most splendid halls of its kind in Europe. In total 59,000 square metres of construction, essentially entailing the total redevelopment of the historic Grand Hotel Royal, were waiting. In the course of restoration, the utmost care had to be taken to recreate the original atmosphere of the Royal. Traditional architecture and modern style were blended to achieve a unique harmony. Chief architect Miklós Marosi (KÖZTI Plc.) suggested that it would be a good idea to reinstall the cour d’ honneur system (the two courtyards), meticulously renovate the ballroom and restore the long forgotten pool, the Grand Hotel’s own spa. ****** image Tibor Meskál’s (he worked here in 1961 - today he offers his knowlegde to the younger generation - see above!) faith in the Grand Hotel has never dimmed. On 9 September 1999 he started a club (Grand Hotel Royal É.T.E.K. Éttermesek Társaságának Egyesületi Klubja), nicknamed the ‘Royalists’ during a party held in the ruins of the hotel, triggering off important charities for former members of staff in need and other social activities. Although the start of reconstruction work was still a long way off everybody had confidence in the new development. Former managers and employees attended the party, among them George Kalmár, the long-term head concierge who worked at the hotel from 1961 to 1991. ********* 17 November 2002, 320 loyal shareholders of the Corinthia Group’s public company (IHI) and their guests travelled to Budapest on a chartered airbus. They were the first guests to be accommodated at the new five-star ‘Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal’. A proud Alfred Pisani, chairman and chief executive of IHI addressed his guests at a gala dinner in the magnificently restored 19th century ballroom. It was the first activity the ballroom had seen for decades. Many more such occasions would follow. *********** In 2001, a new hotel was born or, rather, the Grand Hotel Royal was back in place. ‘I have never ever received so much attention and requests for a presentation as I did with the Grand Hotel Royal,’ Brigitte Gruber recalls from her first year at the hotel as director of sales and marketing. ‘At all trade shows, the ITB in Berlin or the World Travel Market in London, people were queuing to see our product. The current director of sales, Tamás Fazekas points out: ‘It is of course this unique combination of a perfectly renovated historic hotel with a sensational conference centre, that makes selling it so easy.’ ******* Gabor Flesch, the front office manager – while arranging a booking for star tenor Luciano Pavarotti – recalls the opening time: ‘We really opened for business on 28 December 2002. It was the time when we were fighting bugs in our new computer system Opera. Talking about opera: Andrew Lloyd Webber was in Budapest to present his Phantom of the Opera movie at that time. He stayed with us.’ ******** In 2002/2003, 320 employees and 160 ‘casuals’ were needed to get the big hotel rolling again, later this number was reduced to 280, recalls human resources manager Rèka Dömötör, who motivates her staff with the Corinthia Count On Me recognition programme. A graduate of IMC, International Management Centre Krems, Austria, Daniel Szelényi, even chose the hotel as a subject of his master thesis: ‘The competitive advantage of the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal’. ********* Fourteen leading statesmen from five continents, including the Presidents of South Africa and Chile, and the Prime Ministers of Britain, Hungary, New Zealand, Romania and Sweden gathered for the sixth Progressive Governance summit in the Valletta Conference Room, meeting with over 150 leading strategists, policy makers and politicians. The event was inaugurated by Hungarian Prime Minister Mr Ferenc Gyurcsany while sessions were chaired by EU Commissioner-designate Peter Mandelson and former French Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Rock stars such as Deep Purple or Eric Clapton choose the Royal. ********

Several local prodctions. Today the hotel is the chosen set for fashion shots and commercials.

Glueck, E.J. (1896-1899) Schmitt, Ch. (1899-1902)
and more recently
Barsby, Robert (1999-2003)
Bergmann, Sigy (2003)
Woodward, David,
Cornelia Kausch,
Zoltan Geher

414 Rooms
20 Suites

2 Ambassador Suites, 1 Presidential Suite

Rickshaw Restaurant ------ Sushi Bar (currently closed) ------ Brasserie Royale (main restaurant) ------ Bistro Royal Royal Kávéhá ------ Le Bar Royal

Swirl around the ballroom, relax at the historic spa, feast on a Dobos Torte (cake) at the Royal Cafe, have dinner at the Bistor and ask waiter Andrasz to serve you the preferred Merlot wine of Andreas Augustin. Below: the Bar of the Royal in the 1920s. Magnificent Ballroom and, last but not least: 2500 sqm. of Conference Space

The royal spa dates back to 1886. With direct access from Erzsébet Boulevard and from all floors of the hotel itself, it offers over 1,000 square metres of vitality, tranquillity and well-being. The 15 metre swimming pool is back in place, while saunas, steam baths and jacuzzis heat, steam and bubble. Or you can flex your muscles in the fitness room before heading for a tropical rain shower. If you are in the mood, Niagara bathtubs, mud and seaweed baths as well as a variety of therapeutic and massage treatments will soothe your stressed body – your mind will follow.

The Grand Ball Room is the most authentic historical venue in a Hungarian 5-star hotel.

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Our Select Member Hotel

Grand Hotel Royal
Country: Hungary
City: Budapest
Opening date: 1896

Note from the Host

General Manager

Thomas Fischer


Hotel Manager: Zoltan Geher

Coordinates

Erzsebet krt. 43-49
1073 Hungary, Budapest

Tel: +36-1-479-4000
Fax: +36-1-479-4333

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