Destinations

10 Free Things to Do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the liberal and artistic cultural hotspot, surrounded by its ring of canals where modern amenities meet heritage gabled facades, features on most young Europe travellers’ bucket list. Let us accept that the city can get expensive. So here is a list of ten free experiences you should not miss when in the city on a budget.

 

1. VISIT THE ICONIC DAM SQUARE AND REMBRANDT SQUARE

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No trip to Amsterdam can be complete without visiting Dam Square. This historic town square is surrounded by the Royal Palace, Nieuwe Kerk, De Bijenkorf with the Nationaal Monument dominating the scene. Always filled with tourists, the square is bustling with street performers, bike riders, trams and buses passing by the busy main road and lots of pigeons. You can sit on the benches and soak in the cheerful atmosphere and admire the majestic buildings surrounding you. If you are visiting during Open Tower Day then you can climb up the towers of important monuments around this area for free. A ten minute walk will lead you to Rembrandtplein, which is another busy square with a 3D installation of the Dutch master Rembrandt's most famous work, The Night Watch and a statue of Rembrandt himself. Take photos with the statues and then grab a beer at any of the bars around the area with outdoor seating so that you can enjoy the view and watch people passing by.

2. TAKE A WALK AROUND MUSEUMPLEIN, VISIT RIJKSMUSEUM GARDEN AND TAKE A PHOTO AT THE 'I AMSTERDAM' SIGN

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The Museumplein is a piece of green, surrounding all of Amsterdam's most famous museums like Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. Take a walk around it and witness the magnificent structures, leading to the pretty Rijksmuseum Garden. Entry to the museum may be expensive but the beautiful garden, with old statues and colourful tulips, is free. Spend some time relaxing in the garden after which you can visit the famous I Amsterdam sign. It is always filled with tourists, so if you want a great photo, visit early. If you want a little bite and a drink afterwards visit affordable Cafe-Bistro Hansel and Gretel which is a 2 minutes’ walk.

3. RELAX AT THE VONDELPARK

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A main attraction of dining during summer can be outdoor seating, but you may not wish to spend to much money of Amsterdam’s bars and restaurants. If you’d like to have a similar experience, buy some beers and sandwiches from Albert Heijn at less than half the price and go to Vondelpark. It is a piece of heaven amidst the busy city. A huge stretch of greenery, with beautiful canals and ponds, filled with ducks, flowers and shady trees, it offers an unbeatable place for relaxation. If you are in the mood, it can also be a safe place to smoke a joint (because, well, Amsterdam). The park has an Open Air Theatre where you can catch live music and dance performances for free. The places which sell drinks and food inside the park gets super crowded, so bring your own food and drinks from outside to avoid standing in the queue. If you are visiting during The King's Day, 27th April, you can witness a flea market arranged exclusively by children at the park.

4. TAKE A TOUR OF THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT

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The most fun way to spend your time after sun down is a trip to the Red Light District. In the morning the area is just like any other neighbourhood in Amsterdam with pretty houses by the canals and flower-adorned bridges but at night it transforms itself to a happening and vibrant party place. Walk through the De Wallen area and prepare to be mesmerised by the neon lit windows, and the ladies behind them. Don't only walk by the main road; visit all the tiny alleys too. But refrain from taking photos or selfies with the girls, as this is a strict no-no. The area remains crowded with cheerful young tourists and it is really fun to sit at one of the bars and grab a beer. The Black Tiger is a great place which serves beer at a reasonable price. If you are hungry, there are lots of Doner shops open until late night. Also there are dozens of adult shops which are cool to visit. The enormous Oude Kerk, Amsterdam's oldest building is situated here which looks strikingly beautiful at night. The area is really safe in the evening but beware of pickpockets as the roads can get crowded.

5. VISIT ALBERT CUYP MARKET

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The Albert Cuyp Market is more than a hundred years old street market in the de Pijp area of Amsterdam. The market is open six days a week from Monday to Saturday 9am-5pm. The whole road (Albert Cuypstraat) is pedestrian only, with stalls set up on both sides of the road. The products which are sold here include fresh seafood, vegetables, fruits, flowers, plants, different kinds of cheese, clothes, electronic goods etc. You can also find all kinds of proper shops here ranging from ones selling exotic spices, wooden furniture, glasses to leather goods, wigs and typical tourist souvenirs. There is a variety of bars and cafes surrounding the area which mostly have outdoor seating and is always busy during market hours. Several food stalls selling Dutch herring, fresh seafood, fries, spring rolls, and sweets like Baklava are also prominent. If you are there on a sunny day don't forget to try ice-cream from Ijscuypje for €1.5 per scoop. The famous Dutch Stroopwafels are prepared fresh here. The Original Stroopwafels is the spot to grab one. They come in regular, chocolate or super flavour and are pressed in front of your eyes and given to you to enjoy crisp and warm.

6. TAKE THE FREE FERRY ACROSS RIVER IJ TO NDSM

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The NDSM is a former shipyard which has been converted to a hub of culture and art. The whole industrial area is covered with the coolest of graffiti. The area hosts different festivals, exhibitions, parties, performances etc. including IJHallen which is Europe's biggest flea market selling vintage furniture, lamps, clothes, different types of toys, second hand goods, decorations etc. To reach the NDSM wharf you need to go to the backside of the Amsterdam Centraal Station, and from there take ferry 905 or 906 to your destination. The ride is 15 minutes long and is absolutely free. You can also take your bike aboard the ferry. You can spot a half-submerged Zulu V class submarine while approaching the NDSM. Other water-vessels and a floating pancake boat hotel can also be seen. Once you reach the side of IJ you can see a visible difference in appearance of the city. Amsterdam Noord is totally different from its city centre. There is the cool NoorderlichtCafe, just beside the pier, should you feel you are in need of a drink.

7. VISIT THE FLOATING FLOWER MARKET

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The Bloemenmarkt is the world's only floating flower market. It is situated on the Singel canal in between Muntplein and Koningsplein. The market invites you with a sight of colourful, vibrant fresh cut flowers and the beautiful smell refreshes your senses. You can find a variety of flowers like tulips, roses, orchids. Also bulbs, seeds and bonsais are sold. Take a walk around the numerous shops. Even if you don't intend to buy any flowers, the busy, cheerful atmosphere of the place makes it a must visit.  If you decide to take a few bulbs or seeds home, do first check whether your country's customs allows you to do so.  There are lots of cheese shops in the area and you get to taste the delicious cheeses for free. You can also spot souvenir shops here, in case you want to buy some small presents.

8. TAKE A WALK DOWN THE 9 STREETS AND KALVERSTRAAT

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If you love shopping, love to browse shops or like to peer into the window of a gorgeous antique store displaying rare showpieces, antique watches, tribal arts and crafts, modern art galleries displaying paintings on their windows, jewellery stores showcasing brightly coloured precious stone studded necklaces and rings, or just simply walk into fashion stores and check out their collections, the nine streets are the coolest places to do so. There are designer shops, speciality stores, quaint little cafes all scattered around these quirky streets. A walk down these cosy streets, are bound to cheer you up.

The Kalverstraat is another long busy shopping street nearby with all major fashion brands and retail stores from high end to budget. And it is a real fun experience to walk the stretch and look around or possibly indulge in some retail therapy. The Kalvertoren is a glass and steel shopping centre located here, on the top floor of which, is the Cafe Blue which provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the city.

9. VISIT THE ILLUMINATED MAGERE BRUG AT NIGHT

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The Magere Brug or the Skinny Bridge is a bridge over the Amstel River, and it is perfect for a romantic stroll at night. It connects the banks at Kerkstraat between the Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. It is a bike and pedestrian only bridge. Whenever a tall vessel approaches it, the bridge can be raised to allow passage. It is brilliantly illuminated at night and looks to be straight out of a picture. You can take really cool photos here, but beware of bikes speeding past. It is no doubt beautiful in the morning too, but turns quite magical at night.

10. SPEND TIME AT GOATFARM RIDAMMERHOEVE IN THE AMSTERDAM FOREST

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The Amsterdam forest is a huge landscaped park where you can enjoy long walks through the woods amidst unadulterated nature. In the middle of this beautiful park is a hidden gem: a petting zoo where you can see goats, lambs, chickens, pigs, cows and horses. The main attraction is the little, white, fluffy baby goats that you can pet, feed milk from bottles and groom. There are also big white goats whom you can feed grains. It is a fully functioning farm which enables you to learn a lot about animal husbandry. There is a section outside the barn where the younger goats come out to play with you. They are really energetic and lively which makes this attraction a fun place to visit. You can also relax sitting outside with a cup of hot chocolate or goat milk ice-cream. Apart from the goat farm, the forest itself is rather beautiful. It has large water bodies where people can go rowing and swimming. Some parts have beautiful cherry blossom trees and a section of the forest is home to Scottish Highlanders!

 

Written by: Rumela Gupta

6 Places to Visit in New York City - and what to do while you're there

The Big Apple. The city so great they named it twice. New York, New York.

Made up of 5 boroughs, this city is captivating and inspiring. You’ll find restaurants, cafes and bars that offer unique experiences and the perfect Instagram opportunity. You’ll find hidden areas in Central Park and priceless works of art along Museum Mile. We’ve put together a go-to list of must-see sights for your next trip to New York City, including some hidden gems to see while you’re in certain areas!

 

1. THE HIGH LINE

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Opened in 2009, The High Line (or High Line Park) is an elevated park running along an old section of the New York Central Railroad line. At 1.45 miles long, it is fully lined by greenery, outdoor art and gorgeous city views. The High Line will give you an area to overlook the lower west side of Manhattan, all while providing areas to sit and enjoy a truly different look of the city.

While you’re there, walk down the steps and stop by the Chelsea Market for some fabulous food, yummy treats, and maybe even some live music. Chelsea is also home to some of the most renown art galleries, most with free admission. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a Thursday night, there may be a few gallery openings, so check beforehand!

 

2. MUSEUM MILE

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Attention art lovers: we have the place for you. Located on 5th Ave, from 82nd to 105th street, Museum Mile provides unlimited options for all things art. Including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Academy Museum, Neue Galleria, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Cooper Pewit, National Design Museum, and El Museo del Barrio, Museum Mile will ensure that you never run out of choices. Do your research before to see which museums hold the art you’d like to see, because if you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time, you may even get free admission! Every June, Museum Mile Festival offers a night of free admission to most of the museums on Museum Mile and an artistic festival that lines 5th Ave.

Are you more into the history part of art history? While you’re there, you have the option to walk straight through Central Park to the west side where you’ll find the American Museum of Natural History.

 

3. TIMES SQUARE

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From street performances to protests, this commercialized tourist haven hosts some of the most artistically driven sights of the city. Local New-Yorkers may avoid this area at all costs, but it does have some must-see sights: the iconic intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, the site of the New Year’s ball drop, the notable red steps above the TKTS ticket booth, famous stores and restaurants, and Broadway’s historic theaters, to name a few. Pro tip: You should definitely try to see a Broadway show while you’re here - if it’s not in the budget, most of the main shows have a raffle for tickets. Show up a few hours early to put your name into the raffle, and you may win two free tickets to a show like Hamilton or the Book of Mormon!

While you’re there, stop into Stardust Diner for a meal or a milkshake while aspiring Broadway performers sing classic hits to you. It’s the cheapest “almost Broadway” show you’ll see! If you’re looking for a fun and interactive way to break up your day, head down the street to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum or Ripley’s: Believe It or Not Museum.

 

4. GRAND CENTRAL STATION

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If you take the train into the East side of Manhattan, you’ll most likely stop out at Grand Central Station, as this iconic landmark welcomes millions of commuters each week. And it isn’t called “grand” for no reason - Grand Central Station is an architectural revelation, with a blue-green cathedral ceiling in the main concourse giving you a view of the nighttime sky. You will also find office spaces, restaurants, and maybe a few secret areas…

While you’re there, check out one of the Grand Central Station mysteries: Whispering Gallery. An ordinary looking archway located in front of the Oyster Bar & Restaurant bears quite the secret. The architecture creates an acoustic wonder: when two people stand at diagonal arches and whisper, they can hear what the other said perfectly as if they were standing right next to each other!

 

5. CENTRAL PARK

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Yes, you’ve seen the opening span of Central Park at the beginning of most rom-coms, but it’s definitely worth the time to see all that the treetops cover. It’s perfect for a walk or run, a picnic while you people-watch, or a romantic boat ride on the Lake. Listen to the saxophone players or have your caricature drawn by an artist lining the gravel pathways throughout the park.

While you’re there, visit the Alice in Wonderland statue that was originally commissioned for the children of NYC. Also, be sure to take a moment to check the benches that you walk by - some of them have been commissioned by New Yorkers that condense their love stories into small quotes that have been transcribed onto plaques on the backs of the bench. Wander around the paths until you walk up to the Central Park Zoo to spot some sea lions, penguins, monkeys and more!

 

6. ROCKEFELLER CENTER

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An expansive area made up of 19 buildings between 48th and 51st Street, facing 5th Ave, this Art Deco-inspired complex is home to Saturday Night Live, the Today Show taping, the famous Christmas tree lighting, a winter ice-skating rink, and many more iconic attractions. It’s an area to mark on your list, especially if you’re visiting during winter. Just make sure you bundle up!

While you’re there, head to the tallest building in the plaza - 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or 30 Rock for short. It is home of NBC, so if you’re lucky, you might get tickets to see a live recording of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Seth Meyers or even Saturday Night Live. On the 70th-floor, you’ll find “Top of the Rock,” an observation deck with views of Central Park and the Empire State Building. It costs $39, but it may be one of the best views you come across in New York City, so don’t miss out!

10 Things To Do in SYDNEY for the Outdoors Type

Only have limited time in Sydney on your trip and want to make the most of the outdoors? Check out the below - 10 things to do when outside in and around Sydney!

1. Harbour Bridge Climb

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You all know the Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the most iconic landmarks in Sydney with its amazing arching iron structure boldly taking your eye away from everything but itself. You can drive over it, walk over it and even climb over it! Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is definitely an activity to add to the list. It has different times throughout the day for you to experience the spectacular views over Sydney’s city skyline and sparkling harbour.

The twilight session is one of the best times to head up the bridge as you get to enjoy the sunshine during the climb up, watch the sunset from the top and enjoy the stunning city lights on the descent. You also get your picture taken at the top, which you can purchase once you get back to the bottom. Such a cool keepsake!

2. Bronte to Bondi Coastal Walk

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Sydney has some of the best beaches in the world and this is a fantastic way to take in the breathtaking landscape views from beach level and above on the cliffs. You can either go from Bondi to Bronte or Bronte to Bondi, it doesn’t matter! Either way there are fantastic cafes on either end where you can have a post walk smoothie or coffee.

The walk takes you around through Tamarama Beach and along winding paths along the cliff faces. If you go around October/November an event called Sculpture by the Sea will be on where local artists create a masterpiece and have it on display along the walk. A very cool event to see and each year shows different art pieces that will blow you away.

3. Ferry Ride from Circular Quay to Manly

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Ferries are a very popular mode of transport for commuters to get to and from work but its also a beautiful way of taking in Sydney’s Harbour with amazing houses, boats and little coves along the way. See if you can spot the Prime Minister’s house!

Anytime of day is great to get on the ferry but if you are a sunset fanatic, you can get amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House with the spectacular colours pink, orange and yellow dancing across the sky.

4. Go Surfing 

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Always wanted to learn surfing, to be one of the cool guys sitting on their boards out in the ocean waiting for the mother wave? Or love being out in the surf for hours on end during summer? As mentioned already Sydney has some of the best beaches in the world and many of these are fantastic for surfing. The most common beaches for surfing in Sydney include Manly, Bondi, Curl Curl, and Freshwater beach.

If you want to learn how to surf the following beaches are the best; Palm beach, Long Reef beach (part of Dee Why), Manly beach and Bondi beach. There are surf schools everywhere eagerly waiting to show you the ropes…or should I say waves!

5. Visit Taronga Zoo

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Take a ferry from Circular Quay across to Taronga Zoo for the day. This amazing zoo has a large variety of animals from Australia & around the world and they are just waiting for you to stop by and say hello. If you want to splurge on your trip to the zoo you can actually stay overnight in their awesome package ‘Roar and Snore’.

Included in the roar and snore package is a night safari, getting you up close & personal with some friendly creatures and a beautiful dinner/breakfast. Waking up in your own private tent with a view over the city is a pretty cool experience to be a part of.

6. Go White Water Rafting

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Yes you can go whitewater rafting in Sydney! Located in Penrith at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games site, you can whitewater raft or kayak in the only man-made river of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Available from September to June, jump on the guided rafting for 90 minutes and try your best to stay afloat! An awesome day out when it is sunny and hot…just what you expect from an Australian Summer.

7. Hire a bike

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There are various bike rentals dotted all over the city available for hire to ride anywhere you want but one place in particular that is a treat to ride through is Centennial Parklands, only 4kms from the city centre.

Centennial Parklands has approximately 3kms of cycling path for you to enjoy, (don’t worry it is all mostly flat). You will be greeted by other cyclists, runners and families out on their daily walks enjoying the ponds, beautiful flowerbeds and an array of birds and wild ducks. If you get thirsty on your cycle there is a café where you can grab a coffee or cold beverage, maybe even a slice of yummy banana bread.

8. Kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Pittwater

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For the best kayak or paddleboard experience head to Pittwater, at the edge of the Ku-ring-gai National Park, only 40 minutes from Sydney’s centre. You can choose the right type of kayak or SUP (stand-up paddleboard) to suit your needs and also how long you want to hire it for with various options available to you.

An awesome aspect about hiring here is that the water is still and best suited for these types of activities. You also get given a map to help you maneuver your way through the waterways, and to help you get back to the hire shed!

9. Have a picnic in Hyde Park

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Who doesn’t love a picnic! Head to the local supermarket and grab all your favourites, including a picnic blanket, and head to Hyde Park, Australia’s oldest Park. Located right in the city, Hyde Park boasts beautiful big shady trees, stunning water features and acres of lush grass perfect for setting up your picnic.

A great spot for people watching, you will see people commuting to and from work, sunbathing in their lunch breaks and tourists marvelling at the amazing greenery and memorial statues that surround them. Take your book, your snacks and don’t forget your sunnies! 

10. Take a bush walk through Wentworth Falls (Blue Mountains)

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Wentworth Falls is located in the Blue Mountains, approximately 1.5 hours from Sydney’s centre. If you love hiking you will love the great walking paths and the stunning waterfalls. Two paths will give you the best views of  the waterfalls and they are Weeping Rock and Fletchers lookout so these are a definite must on your trip. Make sure to take water and some snacks!

---> Courtesy of Hannah Pigram @thetravellingaus <---

To discover more recommendations according to young travellers…

Top 8: Must visit destinations in Australia (for under 30’s)

SYDNEY

Sydney

Home to the Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach, Sydney is an obvious must-see for the young traveller. However, there is more to Australia’s biggest city that just it’s sightseeing opportunities. From the hustle and bustle of the city, to its beautiful beaches and trendy suburbs, there’s certainly something to keep everyone entertained.

MELBOURNE

Melbourne

Melbourne is widely regarded as Australia’s coolest city - renowned for being the nation’s artistic, musical and sporting capital. The city is bustling with live music, laneways, graffiti, great cafes and bars, while it’s outer suburbs have unique and intriguing characters of their own.

BYRON BAY

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Byron is the quintessential Australian beach town, with its chilled out vibe and beautiful beaches. However, it's not all hippies and perfect waves; once the sun sets, the town turns into a party paradise, with revellers hopping between the fun bars and clubs the town has on offer. 

ULURU

Uluru

If you are looking for a uniquely Australian cultural experience, visiting the natural wonder that is Uluru is a must. Situated in the heart of Australia’s outback, Uluru and the surrounding desert is unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to learn about Australia’s indigenous people and their culture. While a stark contrast from Australia’s coastal cities, a trip to Uluru is important if you want to begin to understand what Australia is truly about.

AIRLIE BEACH

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Your ticket to the incomprehensible beauty of the Whitsunday Islands. While Airlie Beach is a breathtakingly beautiful place (and party town in its own right), the party cruises around the Whitsundays are the real draw card for young people. The Whitsunday Islands are literally picture perfect - one of its beaches (Whitehaven Beach) is the world’s most photographed.

CAIRNS

Cairns

Cairns has some of the best nightlife in all of Australia, especially for the backpacker or traveller on a budget. But most importantly the town is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. If you don’t mind the odd scuba dive and snorkel, this is a no brainer.

SURFERS PARADISE

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With it’s high-rise building overlooking long stretches of surf beaches, bars and clubs, Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast is an extremely popular holiday destination with local Australians and tourists alike. During the day people flock to the beaches but, when the sun goes down, they descend on the area’s notorious nightclub district. ‘Surfer’s’ nightlife isn’t the classiest, but if you’re keen to let your hair down, you’ll be in for one of the biggest nights out Australia has to offer.

FRASER ISLAND

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A popular stop for backpackers, Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island. Most travellers choose to camp and explore this tropical paradise by 4WD. There certainly is plenty to explore, from the island’s eucalyptus forests and walking trails, to it’s hidden freshwater lakes and the infamous Maheno Shipwreck.

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