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Thread: Pictures from Kraków

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    Pictures from Kraków

    Back in Watchuseek days, I responded to a request to post some pictures of my trips to Kraków. I had only bought a camera to take pictures of watches for forums, but I quite enjoyed capturing things that caught my eye as I walked about the city, and I carried on doing it for several years. The only thing I didn't like was carrying a camera, even if it was only a pocket camera, so eventually I stopped. These days, I leave the camera at home.

    I came across the pictures while cleaning up my hard drive. They were quite well received at the time, so I thought I'd collect them together and post them here. I've lost a few, but also found others that were never posted. They were taken between 2004 and 2013 and are in approximate chronological order. After the Kraków pictures there will be some more from Nowa Huta.

    I'll upload them in batches (could take a day or two) and then open the thread when I'm done.

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    1. A door in Kazimierz. Kazimierz is to the south of the Old Town and was Kraków’s Jewish district. Kazimierz is named after King Kazimierz III who founded it in the 14th Century.



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    2. Mitoraj sculpture in the Rynek (Rynek Główny or Main Market Square). Igor Mitoraj studied in Kraków and this was part of a temporary exhibition. One sculpture remains permanently in the Rynek.



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    3. Karol Wojtyła, ‘The Polish Pope’. The picture is hanging on the wall of the Bishop’s Palace, where Wojtyła once lived, and where he stayed when visiting Kraków as Pope. The picture was constructed from passport photos of the faithful shortly after Wojtyła’s death in 2005.



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    4. R.I.P. Jarek Śmietana. A fine jazz guitarist and a very nice man. He suffered a brain tumour and died in 2013. He’s buried in the Avenue of the Meritorious in the Rakowicki cemetery. That’s Larry Coryell in the back seat, but you’ll have to take my word for that. Śmietana was a notable Kraków character and his early death was a true loss to the city. I pause at his grave when walking through Rakowicki.



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    5. The Metropolitan restaurant, now sadly no more. I was taking a casual snap when who should pass but my favourite carriage driver. He was a rogueishly good-looking bloke who would charm young female tourists into his carriage, and then flick the whip and drive off smartly before they had fully settled into their seats. Yelps and laughter from the back, a big grin across the carriage driver’s face. Actually, he was a bit of a hooligan, scattering pedestrians as he sped across the cobbles. I haven’t seen him in a long time. Kraków wasn’t going to keep him once there were bigger fish to fry elsewhere in Europe.



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    6. Collegium Maius. Copernicus studied here, in these very buildings, which date back to the 14th Century. The Jagiellonian University, of which Collegium Maius is a part, is one of the oldest universities in Europe. Copernicus was a Pole, better known in his homeland as Mikołaj Kopernik.



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    7. Stalowe Magnolie (Steel Magnolias). Music bar with very attractive waitresses. No matter the time outside, it was always ‘one Martini past midnight’ in Stalowe Magnolie. I’m a little too old for it now, but have happy memories...



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    8. Violin maker (Stanisław Kurkowski). His work bench is in the window where the light is best.



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    9. Jan ‘Ptaszyn’ Wróblewski . Sometimes it’s a privilege to see a musician, and so it was with Wróblewski . He appears in the cult classic documentary ‘Jazz On A Summer’s Day’, filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958. He’s nearly eighty now, but he’s a masterful, world-class player.



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    10. Wawel. The Wawel is a fortified complex on a hill above the river. Amongst other things, it contains a Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral. Kraków was once the capital of Poland and mediaeval kings are buried here. During WWII it was the residence of the Nazi Governor, Hans Frank. There are tunnels and a cave in Wawel hill. At different points in history, the cave played host to a pub and a brothel. It was also the home of the dragon Krak, providing Kraków with its mythical foundation story.

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    11. Boy in Park Krakowski. It was a blisteringly hot day and I had got a bit lost taking a random route across the city. I was tempted to join him.



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    12. Awaiting renovation. There were once many crumbling buildings in Kazimierz. The owners had probably died in the Holocaust, but they or their families might return to reclaim them or seek reparation. There was little incentive to care for the properties in the meantime. Ownership issues have been resolved in recent years, but I’m sure there are still many outstanding. This building has now been renovated. Kazimierz has lost a little of its time-capsule mystery, but that is very far from the point.



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    13. Collegium Maius.



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    14. Soviet war memorial in the military section of the Rakowicki cemetery. The cemetery is a short walk from our apartment and you will see that I have taken a good few photographs in Rakowicki.



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    15. The Adam Mickiewicz Monument and St. Mary’s Basilica in the Rynek. Mickiewicz is Poland’s national poet. He spent many years in exile when Poland was partitioned by Prussia, Russia and Austria. The Partitions removed Poland from the map of Europe for 123 years. His epic poem ‘Pan Tadeusz’ is a powerful lament to Poland’s suffering and is taught in Polish schools.



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    16. Rakowicki cemetery.



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    17. Rakowicki cemetery.



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    18. The Bronisław Chromy Sculpture Park. The park is a few miles outside Kraków and you can easily spend half a day there, wandering amongst Cromy’s sculptures. The girl was twisting her hands this way and that, mimicking the hands coming out of the ground.



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    19. The Planty (Plantation). The Planty is a park encircling the Old Town. It was formed by filling in the moat that lay beneath the city walls. Most of the old walls and gates are gone, but this one, the Florian Gate, remains. The Barbakan is just to the right, but I don’t seem to have photographed it. The Planty serves as a pedestrian ring road for the Old Town and can be a quicker way of getting around than the streets. It’s a Sunday custom to simply stroll around it, pausing here and there at kiosks and cafés.



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    And how it looked before the moat was filled.

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    20. Awaiting renovation.



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    21. Szkieletor (Skeletor - a nickname). Started in the 1970s but never finished, it stands as a monument to the inefficient political system of the time. There have been a number of proposals for finishing it or knocking it down but nothing seems to happen. It’s Kraków’s tallest building. I like it just as it is, acting as a billboard. This particular billboard advertises a film about Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Catholic priest associated with the Solidarity movement. He was murdered in 1984 by three internal security agents. The agents were jailed but later released in a general amnesty as the old system collapsed.



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    22. Plac Wolnica in the Christian bit of Kazimierz. The violin maker (see 8) has his workshop on the right of the square.



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    23. The courtyard of Corpus Christi Basilica - the church in the photo above.



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    24. Winter clothing - old style and new style.



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    25. Szeroka. The former market-place of Jewish Kazimierz. There are three synagogues, two of which are active. One is visible at the far end, one on the right. The Remuh synagogue, on the right, has a walled graveyard containing the grave of Rabbi Moses Isserles who codified the customs and traditions of Ashkenazi Jews in the sixteenth century. His grave receives visitors from all over the world. More prosaically, the building beyond the red building was the birthplace of Helena Rubinstein. I was told, but can’t remember who by, that Rubinstein didn’t readily acknowledge her Szeroka roots because it would have revealed that she came from a very humble background. She might not be delighted to know that the red building is now a hotel named after her. Szeroka featured heavily in Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ which was filmed on location in Kazimierz and the Płaszów labour camp. Spielberg would have to do more set dressing today than he did back in the early nineties, when Kazimierz looked pretty much as it did after the Jews were marched across the bridge to the ghetto in Podgorze.



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    26. Wawel in snow.



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    27. Norbertine Monastery, founded in 1148. I don’t know who the Norberts were.



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    28. Photographing a photographer.



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    29. Girl on a bike.

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    30. Galeria Krakowska. Places like this didn’t exist when we first visited Kraków. Arguably, there are now too many of them, threatening the small specialist shops that are one of the delights of the city. The ‘find your place in Europe’ mural was probably no accidental piece of design. ‘Europe’ can mean two things - the political Europe of the European Union and the geographical Europe that runs from the Atlantic to the Urals, deep into Russia. Don’t tell a Pole he’s from Eastern Europe, he’s from Central Europe. Don’t talk about Poland becoming a part of Europe in 2004, Poland is the Heart of Europe, always has been - everybody knows that. And the Poles are right. Brits are probably the champions of dubious European geography - we travel to Europe, even though we live there.



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    31. No escaping Clarkson. Or Clarksona, as the Poles would have it. This was actually my awakening to the fact that Clarkson and Top Gear were known outside Britain.



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    32. Lena Romul at Piec Art jazz club. I hadn’t heard of her but she was good.



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    33. The Opera House, but we go there for ballet. It’s about 500 yards from our apartment, and that’s a Mitoraj sculpture on the forecourt.



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    34. Planty in the rain.



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    35. Old woman in the snow.



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    36. Old woman and dog in the snow.



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    37. The Church of St. Adalbert in the Rynek. There’s been a St. Adalbert’s here for a thousand years, and the lower walls of the present church go back to that time. It used to be taller, the surface of the Rynek having grown higher around it. The entrance is in a stairwell, one storey down.



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    38. Father and daughter in the Planty.



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    39. Homeward-bound and homeless in the Planty.

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    40. St. Adalbert’s again.



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    41. Three new flavours. One advantage of socialism was the low incidence of advertising and the unfettered views of buildings. That’s the railway station in the background. It’s empty at the moment, the platforms and concourses having moved underground. And unless you know the station well, you’ll find it very hard to leave it without going through the shopping centre.



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    42. Night-time oasis.



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    43. Blurred. Or Impressionist.



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    44. Old lady in tunnel. Actually, it’s not a tunnel and it’s not as bleak as it looks. The first floor of this building is jettied over the pavement, and the arches on the right give way to the road. It has also been renovated since this photo was taken, with friendlier lighting, refinished surfaces and bijoux shops on the left.



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    45. Korona Hotel in Podgorze. The Podgorze district is on the southern bank of the Wisła (Vistula) river that runs through Kraków. It was once a separate town, with its own Market Square, Town Hall, etc. A large section of Podgorze was walled off to form the Jewish Ghetto in WW11. Oscar Schindler’s factory was in Podgorze. The factory was essentially unchanged until a few years ago when it was significantly adapted to house a holocaust museum. Podgorze is experiencing some regeneration, but I like the slightly shabby ordinariness of the place. The Korona Hotel, a socialist-era building, has become a billboard, here advertising ‘easy’ loans.



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    46. Słowacki Theatre.



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    47. Rakowicki cemetery, and one of the finest pieces of funerary sculpture. She’s about six feet tall.



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    48. Street performer. There are many, and this one goes into a flurry of inspiration and writing if you drop a coin into his cup.



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    49. Beggar and pigeon.

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    50. Bride at Wawel. She didn’t get married here, but the photographer is looking for a suitable photo location. Brides pop up all over Kraków, and in the unlikeliest of places. I’ve seen them splashing through muddy puddles, I’ve seen them crashing through undergrowth to get to a little bower, I’ve seen them amongst the pots and pans of a flea-market. Once, I saw one in a tree.



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    51. A character I don’t see any more. I only saw him on the benches looking at the horses. Never saw him on his way to the Rynek, never saw him leaving it. I hope he’s all right.



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    52. They’re not leaning against the wall randomly; they’re there for the chakra. St. Gereon’s chapel is behind the wall. The chapel lies between the castle and the Cathedral and is a remnant of an 11th century church that no longer exists. It’s a bit of ‘lost Wawel’ that doesn’t fit the current layout and isn’t open to the public. The chakra stone lies under the chapel and is one of the seven main energy centres of the Earth. The Wawel authorities aren’t keen on the chakra and frequently obstruct the wall. It makes no difference. I don’t think I have been to Wawel without seeing people against the wall. It’s important to touch it with your head, back, hands and heels. Absolute bollocks, of course.


    Oh, hang on...


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    53. Sukiennice (Cloth Hall). This is the lower floor of the large Renaissance building in the middle of the Market Square. Kraków was on a major trading route and just about everything was traded here, from oriental silks to salt from the nearby mine at Wieliczka. These days it’s craft goods and souvenirs.



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    54. A long-time stall-holder, now retired.



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    55. Gallery of Polish Art on the upper floor of the Sukiennice. The gallery attendant was wearing soft-soled shoes and was amusing himself by skating across the highly-polished floor. I saw him go from left to right and waited for him to come back.



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    56. An old man appears with flowers.



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    57. Eastern side of the Market Square from Sukiennice balcony.

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    58. Museum below the Market Square. I mentioned that the height of the market square has risen over the centuries. The original ground floors of some of the surrounding buildings are now cellars and an older market square, complete with walls, pavements and artefacts, was preserved under the current market square. An archaeological excavation in 2005 was turned into a museum. You enter through a mist and follow a trail through time.



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    59. Walking over dead people.



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    60. Rynek.



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    61. Rynek.



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    62. Jazz in a 14th century cellar. This is Jazz Club U Muniaka. I’ve never managed to take a decent picture of Janusz Muniak, the part-owner. Muniak is a bit of a legend, a father-figure in Polish jazz, and I’ve grown fond of him over the years. Nigel Kennedy, enfant-terrible of the classical violin, lives nearby (for half of the year) and comes in to play. After-gig sessions with Nigel can seriously disrupt your sleep-pattern... It’s twenty years since I first descended into Muniak’s and it gives me a good warm feeling going down the stairs.



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    Here's Muniak, picture purloined from the internet.



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    63. Policja. Treat with respect.



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    64. Rotunda in Plac Nowy. The Rotunda was a ritual slaughterhouse and Plac Nowy was once Plac Żydowski (Jewish Square). Plac Nowy is now the heart of bohemian Kazimierz and a dozen traders sell zapiekanki (a sort of bread pizza) from the hatches. Plac Nowy has a vegetable market, junk market and a clothes market on Sunday. The bars come alive at night, some candle-lit and shabby-atmospheric, some a bit ritzier. There are no closing hours as such, and you can very easily lose track of time. The city authorities keep threatening to smarten the place up but that would kill it. The nightlife developed accidentally when people opened unregulated bars in broken-down buildings and that rickety spirit is essential to its character. I was generally too busy drinking to take photos of the bars, and it would have been a decidedly uncool thing to do.



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    65. Funky craft shop in Kazimierz. There are many, mostly on ul. Józefa. The car is a Polski Fiat 126, nicknamed a ‘Maluch’ (toddler). The Maluch was the commonest car on the road when we first started visiting Kraków, a remarkable number carrying four large ladies in fur coats and fur hats. They probably relied on a nifty breakdown service, especially useful in winter. If your car won’t start you call a taxi. The taxi-driver jump-starts your car and charges you for the journey he’s just made. Brilliant.



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    66. Chess players by the river, one in a cycle helmet.

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    67. Mystery woman.



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    68. Rakowicki cemetery.



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    69. Rakowicki cemetery.



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    70. Rakowicki cemetery. A professor from the Fine Art Academy. Also a photographer, architect and mountaineer. He had an international reputation as a photographer , but isn’t in the ‘Meritorious’ part of the cemetery.



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    71. Vis-ŕ-Vis bar. As a tourist guide says: ‘a timeless local favourite happy to tell foreigners to piss off while indulging pensioned Polish drunkards until their heads hit the beermat’. The statue is of Piotr Skrzynecki, director and impresario of a famous satirical cabaret held in the cellars below. Composer Zbigniew Preisner commissioned the statue after Skrzynecki’s death, and many habitués of the bar are artists, writers, actors and film-makers. For many years the barman was poet Marek Wawrzyński.



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    72. Sometimes I can’t help myself.



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    73. Mitoraj sculpture in the Rynek.



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    74. Student. Probably.



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    75. Bric-a-brac.



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    76. Tourist family.

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    77. Reflections of a bagel seller. Or strictly-speaking an obwarzanek seller. The obwarzanek, or Kraków bagel, is an ancestor of the bagel. Both originate from Poland. The Kraków bagel is protected by the EU on its Traditional Foods List and can’t be made anywhere other than Kraków. 200,000 are produced daily and they have a shelf-life of three hours after leaving the oven.



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    78. Fun for the kiddies in Podgorze.



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    79. Pola Negri poster in Podgorze. Pola Negri was a Polish actress who became a star of silent movies in America. She had affairs with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. She turned down the role of Norma Desmond in the film Sunset Boulevard which went to Gloria Swanson.



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    80. A wedding in Podgorze. Guests arrive.



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    81. After the wedding. A girl plays Baroque music on the violin. Plays it very well, too.



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    82. Line up to kiss the bride, and shake the bridegroom’s hand.



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    83. “What a cracker, you lucky old dog.”



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    84. “Too old.” “And too thin.”



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    85. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

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