Frankfurt, Hessen

Dinner at Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof – Ihr Hotel bei Frankfurt…

Spring is coming, and I’m starting to feel like I should be end my self imposed winter hibernation. I do still worry about Arran, whose lymph nodes are getting big again, but I also know I can’t stay homebound forever. Saturday night, Bill decided to check OpenTable to see if there were any inviting and interesting restaurants to try yesterday. He noticed one we hadn’t yet tried, Restaurant Retter’s at the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof. They had plenty of tables open for a 7:00pm reservation, so Bill booked us. As you can see from the featured photo, it’s a lovely, historic venue!

I didn’t know anything about the Schloss Rettershof before last night’s repast. My German friend, Susanne, decided to look up the castle’s history while we were enjoying dinner. It seems that before the Rettershof became a hotel and restaurant, it had a colorful history that included stints as the European headquarters for the Hare Krishnas, and, for a few years after World War II, a U.S. Army post. Prior to the 20th century, it was a farm. And before that– from the 12th century until 1559, it was a monastery, and home for nuns. On July 3 and 4, 2018, parts of the roof of the nearby riding stable burned down due to a major fire. I saw evidence last night that people still go riding in the area.

The property has had a very colorful past that is well worth reading about, even if it is beyond the scope of today’s blog post. I only wish we could have visited when the sun was out, as even in the darkness, I could see that the Rettershof offers beautiful views. It’s located in the Fischbachtal district of Kelkheim, and very close to Eppstein, which is one of my favorite areas up here near Wiesbaden. I wouldn’t have been at all distressed if we’d found a house in Eppstein, instead of in Breckenheim.

Anyway… on to our actual experiences. ūüėČ

Bill overestimated the amount of time he’d need to get from our house to the Rettershof. Nevertheless, I was delighted that the GPS took us in a direction that, in four years of living up here, we’d never before ventured. I guess COVID lockdowns have a way of putting a damper on exploration. We ended up going through our village, up a hillside, and into a pretty, mountainous area. Or, it was mountainous for this area. Really, it was probably more hilly than mountainous, but it was still a nice change of landscape for us. We live in a valley.

I was pretty hungry when we got to the Rettershof, which was a good thing. We got plenty to eat last night. However, as we pulled up, about 25 minutes before our 7pm reservation, I almost wondered if the place was open. The generously sized parking lot was practically empty. No one was near the entrance of the hotel, although it was lit up. When we walked inside, there was a friendly young woman at the reception desk who greeted us and took our coats. I was immediately enchanted by the sitting area near the reception. I didn’t get a chance to linger, though, because we were immediately ushered to the dining room and invited to take a table. There was one other party there– a family of four, who had the one table near a charming bay window. We took a table for four on the other side of the small dining room, so it was rather private.

I did manage to get a couple of photos of the lobby area before we sat down… I loved the fireplace, and the cozy lighting of the area around it. Too bad this isn’t a dining room, because it was very charming and inviting.

At the top of the stairs are some bedrooms for rent. There is also an extension where newer rooms have been built. I have no idea if anyone was staying at the hotel last night. It didn’t appear to have any guests, but then, it’s not exactly the high season.

There were two very enthusiastic men waiting on us. We got the sense that one might have been from France, and the other seemed to be Spanish. Both spoke German and English, of course, and they were very friendly. The one from France, who had his long dark hair in a bun, thanked us profusely for coming. We sipped glasses of champagne while we looked at the menu, which was pretty limited last night. I got the sense that maybe they limit the menu when they are expecting few guests.

There was a set four course menu, which I didn’t go for because of the presence of truffles… A la carte, we had a choice of Ox with cheese, See Teufel (Angler fish), or Wiener Schnitzel. I didn’t see any vegan or vegetarian options on last night’s menu, but I’m sure they have something… perhaps it was in the regular menu, which I never had a chance to look at, as Bill was selecting a wine and the list was in the one permanent menu they gave us. There was also a choice of two starters– beef tartar with quail egg or beef consomme.

I decided to go with the Angler fish, which a dense fish that reminded me a little of catfish in terms of looks and texture, but tasted more like halibut. Bill went for the Schnitzel. I was surprised he didn’t want the ox, since he usually likes that kind of thing… but he did order the tartar as a starter. I had the consomme, which had sliced pancakes and carrots in it. We also had bread and butter from France, and a lovely and unique red wine that the waiter with the man bun said was “new” to them.

Both waiters were professional, but the one with the man bun was especially memorable. I got a kick out of him, especially when he pronounced the word “dynomite” like “deenomeete”. I think he might have learned new vocabulary last night.

Overall, we really enjoyed the food and the pleasant, yet quirky, wait staff, who were both clearly delighted that we came in for dinner last night. Yes, it would have been nice to have had more of a choice in entrees, but given that we and the other party of four appeared to be their only patrons last night, I can understand why they didn’t stock too much. This definitely wasn’t an inexpensive meal. The check came to 277 euros, which is a lot… and Bill delighted the wait staff by tipping like an American. They were practically bowing to us as we left. ūüėÄ

I would go back to the Retterhof for another meal. Next time, I’d like to do it during the daytime, so I can see how pretty it is. I also suspect that when the weather is warmer and more people patronize the restaurant, the menu expands a bit. But we did enjoy ourselves last night. The castle is a charming venue, and at least last night, the staff was very warm and friendly and were clearly glad to welcome us. We don’t live far away, either, so I could definitely see us venturing out there again.

A little clever marketing about the hotel and restaurant… I’m sure they live up to this if you give them plenty of warning.

I will offer a caveat to those who have mobility issues. The restrooms are located down a flight of stairs and I didn’t see an elevator. In the ladies room, there are several steps up to the toilets. I’m not sure if they have alternative accommodations for people who use wheelchairs.

A parting shot of the wine…

We got home at about 9pm. Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see us again. Arran, in particular, was really wound up and took off running around the house. I was relieved to see it, as two of his lymph nodes are large again. The vet decided to skip chemo last week, and the cancer has responded accordingly. But, in spite of the larger lymph nodes, Arran doesn’t appear to be feeling too badly right now. This is a sign, however, that the cancer is progressing, and we will probably be saying goodbye to him before too much longer.

I really hate this part of having dogs in my life, even though I know it’s necessary. However, I also know from experience that every time I have a dog who is very special and think no one can possibly equal him, I am proven wrong. Every dog we’ve had has been original and special in their own ways, and every one has been unforgettable and uniquely wonderful. So, as much as I hate the thought of saying goodbye to Arran, I also know that when he goes, another opportunity awaits us. And with that opportunity comes new and amazing experiences waiting to happen.

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churches, holidays

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part four

Parma on Liberation Day…

As I mentioned in part three of this series, I chose to stay at our castle location near Parma because I knew there were several places of interest nearby. There’s Parma, Italy, where Parma ham and Parmesan cheese come from, Modena, which is known for wonderful balsamic vinegar, and Bologna, which is just alleged to be a beautiful city with great food and sightseeing. Bill did some research about Bologna and decided not to visit there, because parking was too much of a hassle. I definitely wanted to go to Parma, and Modena was interesting enough for a visit, too.

On the day we visited Parma, which was Monday, April 25th, it was Liberation Day. We did not know it was going to be Liberation Day before we planned our visit. We have a habit of being in different countries on their major holidays. We did the same thing last fall when we visited Wels, Austria. Anyway, Liberation Day was first celebrated in Italy in the year 1946. It was to commemorate the 1945 victory of the Italian resistance to Nazi Germany and the Italian Socialist puppet state. Because it was a holiday, the streets were crowded; some shops were closed; and there was a parade.

We managed to visit Parma’s beautiful cathedral and monastery, followed by lunch at a really cool restaurant where blues were accompanying the delicious food. Below are some photos of our day. Again, masks were required at that time, but as of May 1, 2022, masks are mostly only needed on public transport, in medical settings and nursing homes, and in sports venues, concert halls, or theaters. I note, once again, that Italy is stricter than Germany is right now. One of these days, I’m going to make a video of all the beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe.

A busker entertained us with Bach. He made me cry.

The monastery is located very close by the Parma Duomo. We had to wear FFP2 masks to see the library.

After more walking around, and more photos taken, we found our way to a quiet little plaza where we had lunch at a restaurant called Osteria del Teatro. This was a cute and popular place where excellent blues music paired with really nice local dishes and wines. Old vinyl records were used as placemats!

Below are some more photos from our day in Parma. Some decorations are in honor of the holiday.

By late afternoon, we were ready to go back to the B&B and drink more wine… which we did.

After our wine break, we watched old American shows dubbed into Italian… The Dukes of Hazzard, The A Team, and Walker, Texas Ranger! No wonder I saw so many Confederate battle flags in Italy.

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Sundays

Heavenly hiking at the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

Still chasing waterfalls in the Black Forest!

On May 19th of this year, Bill and I paid a visit to the lovely Burgbach Wasserfall¬†in Bad Rippoldsau. ¬†On that day, we had made tentative plans to also visit the¬†Allerheiligen Wasserf√§lle (All Saints Waterfalls), which I found out about when I read this guy’s blog¬†about waterfalls in Europe. ¬†His post about the Allerheiligen falls led me to believe they weren’t anything special. ¬†I was also thinking they were closer to Bad Rippoldsau than they are. ¬†We couldn’t visit the All Saints falls on May 19th because while we were eating lunch, the sky opened up with rain. ¬†Having now been to the Allerheiligen Wasserf√§lle, I’m pretty glad we chose to visit them on a different day. ¬†The visit was a lot more intense than I was expecting.

We left the house at a few minutes past noon and made the trip to the Black Forest National Park.  The falls are located just north of the village of Oppenau.  As usual, we enjoyed a lovely ride through the Black Forest, past Freudenstadt and Kniebis.  The only thing that made it a little stressful were the many bikers sharing the road with us.  The Black Forest is very beautiful, and it attracts motorcycle enthusiasts in droves.  They can be rather aggressive in their need for speed.  More on that later.

A lot of people had the same idea we did. ¬†We arrived at the falls at about 1:00pm and the first parking lots we encountered were pretty full. ¬†We parked on the street, where there are a number of spots available. ¬†Here’s another hint. ¬†Keep going past those first lots and you will eventually find the main entrance to the waterfalls. ¬†There is also a large, free parking lot there. ¬†On the other hand, if you want to eat before you hike, parking at the first lots will get you close to the very good gasthaus there.

A lovely view of the mountains, meadow, and a war memorial honoring men who died during World War I.

Besides the majestic waterfalls, Allerheiligen is also the site of a ruined monastery, the foundation of which originated in 1192. ¬†Evidently, the site of the monastery was determined by a donkey, which threw off a sack of money in the area. ¬†A wooden chapel was built, and by 1657, it became an abbey. ¬†The Allerheiligen Kloster was at the height of its power during the 18th century, but in 1802,¬†¬†Margrave Karl Friedrich of Baden¬†began a course of secularization. ¬†He dissolved the abbey and took all of its possessions. ¬†The monastery was already damaged by several large fires between 1405 and 1555. ¬†In 1804, there was another fire caused by a bolt of lightening. ¬†It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when people started to tour the Black Forest, that anyone thought to preserve what was left of the ruins. ¬†So many years later, they are still very interesting and kind of majestic in their starkness.

We encountered the ruins first, as they were at the end of the trail we took from our roadside parking spot.  Below are some pictures.

Now you see Bill…

Now you don’t.

This creek eventually turns into the waterfalls…

A more modern church on the hillside. ¬†We didn’t investigate it because frankly, after walking up and down the falls, we were exhausted!

If you like photography, this is a beautiful place to be. ¬†There’s a lot of interesting scenery.

 

The¬†gastst√§tte is conveniently located next to the ruins. ¬†Bill and I arrived just in time to snag a table. The hardworking staff was busy the whole time we were there and no table stayed empty for long. ¬†We sat down next to two tables consisting of two couples with kids. ¬†I’m pretty sure the husband of one couple was German. ¬†Everyone else was very obviously American and spoke loudly enough for everyone to know from where they came. ¬†It made me chuckle.

A very slender and extremely friendly lady took our order.  She spoke some English and was relentlessly chipper.  I admired how much she seemed to enjoy her work.  She was all smiles.  I used to wait tables myself and I can promise that I struggled to smile a lot when I was doing that work.  It was truly a pleasure to be served by her, though.  Not only that, but the food at the restaurant was surprisingly good.

Bill peruses the menu, which was passed to us by a nice guy at the next table.

Bill settled on Schweinebraten, which was served with brown gravy and a mound of delicious mashed potatoes.

I had fresh trout, topped with toasted almonds and served with mashed potatoes. ¬†Those potatoes were off the chain! ¬†They were very buttery and delicious! ¬†It was such a treat! ¬†I don’t remember ever being served mashed potatoes at a German restaurant before, but these would have made my mother proud. ¬†We both enjoyed Weizen beers.

 

The food at the¬†gastst√§tte is typically German. ¬†They do have vegetarian selections and both a children’s menu and a menu for seniors. ¬†We were pretty full after lunch, but I had to try the Black Forest cake. ¬†All told, we spent 46 euros.

We shared a piece. ¬†It was delicious. ¬†Definitely not what you’d find at Busch Gardens in Virginia. ¬†I used to decorate the fake Black Forest Cakes there.¬†

As we were about to leave, a group of bikers sat at the table next to ours. ¬†It was good that we were leaving, since they pulled out their cigarettes and clearly intended to foul the air with smoke. ¬†Sorry… I don’t mind smokers unless I am forced to sit next to them, especially when I’m eating. ¬†But we were on our way to the falls by the time they lit up, so it was all good.¬†¬†

Another shot of the ruins.

They were still busy when we left… and when we came back an hour later. ¬†This restaurant only runs until 6:30pm, but it appears they work all day. ¬†We thought it was well worth the trip.

There is a public restroom. ¬†It’s not the cleanest and the doors have locks on them that require 20 euro cents to open. ¬†I didn’t have to pay, though, because I got one that was left open by someone else.

A small museum with three rooms in it.  If you can read German, you can learn more about the history of the Allerheiligen monastery.

A fountain.

As you walk toward the falls, you encounter a fork.  If you go straight, you will go straight to the waterfalls.  If you bear left, you climb a gentle hill to the war memorial I mentioned earlier and pictured below.

You can unlatch the gate and look at the memorial close up.  We chose not to, which in retrospect was a wise decision.  We had many steps in our future.

You’re not supposed to wade or swim in the creek. ¬†However, we saw plenty of people ignoring these ubiquitous signs. ¬†We even saw one group that were actually wearing bathing suits and in the water. ¬†Not saying you should do it, but I will say that there was no one policing.

The walk to the waterfalls is pleasant, easy, and flat. ¬†You don’t know what’s coming…

¬†At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that we parked at the first parking area we encountered. ¬†I think that was a mistake, even though I wanted to have lunch before we started our hike. ¬†If you start at the top of the falls, you will get tired going down. ¬†Then you will have to turn around and hike back up. ¬†The hike up is a lot more strenuous than the hike down is. ¬†There are seven levels, most of which aren’t steep drops. ¬†However, at the bottom of the system, there are two big falls with many steps to climb up and down. ¬†Keep that in mind if you visit. ¬†Also… do not come to the falls with a stroller or a wheelchair. ¬†This is a moderately difficult walk and requires participants to be able bodied or carried.

Below are photos from the walk down the falls.  It was fairly busy today, so a lot of people were taking pictures.  I think I did a pretty good job of not including most of them in my shots!  It took us about an hour to hike down and back, with another hour or so for a leisurely lunch.  If you have a lot of energy, you could combine this activity with another one.

One of the steep staircases to climb.

And a look at just how far down the mountain you are…

At the end of the falls, as we were approaching the main entrance.

Piles of rocks left by other visitors.

A map of the area.  If you wanted to, you could do a lot of heavy duty hiking here.

This is a picture of the main entrance– seems most people use it.

We turned around and started walking back. ¬†This is a sign warning against winter visits, when the falls are closed. ¬†I would imagine it would be dangerous to walk along the falls when it’s very icy.

A chair?  I sure could have used one.

Another long trip up the stairs!  Good thing I have a strong heart!

Although it didn’t take long to visit the Allerheiligen Wasserf√§lle, it was a challenging walk for Bill and me. ¬†I was alternately panting, sweating, and thanking God I’m still able to do these kinds of activities. ¬†I thought of my mom as I was climbing the steps. ¬†She’s turning 80 in August and can no longer walk like she used to. ¬†She would not have been able to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls here. ¬†On the other hand, we did see a number of very fit seniors visiting this natural wonder. ¬†So I will keep hauling my ass up the hills and taking pictures. ¬†Even if I sometimes grouse at the hard physical work, crowds, and stinging nettle plants, I am never sorry I do these day trips. ¬†I always come away better off for having made the effort to visit.

I was tempted to hike up and down this very short but steep shortcut.  But then I remembered being stung by plants yesterday and decided not to cheat.

One last shot…

¬†Now… earlier in this post, I mentioned the bikers and how they were creating a bit of a hazard on the road to the waterfalls. ¬†Those of you who ride motorcycles should pay close attention. ¬†Bill and I got in the car and started heading home. ¬†My cell phone had absolutely no signal in the area. ¬†While this was initially a nuisance for an Internet addict like me, it actually became what might have been a matter of life or death.

As we were driving along the road between where we parked and where the main entrance to the falls are, we passed a young woman dressed in biker garb. ¬†I noticed that she looked very distraught. ¬†She waved at us to slow down. ¬†As we approached a sharp bend, I could see why she was waving. ¬†There was a small group of bikers on the side of the road, next to the treelined cliff. ¬†A young man stood in the middle of the road and flagged us down. ¬†He motioned for us to lower the window and asked us if we had a “handy” (cell phone). ¬†Bill and I were confused as to what was going on, but the look on his face told us something bad had just happened. ¬†Clearly, he was hoping I had a signal so he could call for help.

I noticed the groups’ bikes were parked nearby and a couple of the men were looking over the edge of the mountain. ¬†I can’t be sure, but it appeared that a very serious accident had just occurred. ¬†Bill and I surmised that perhaps a member of their group had been unable to negotiate the turn and went over. ¬†I don’t know this for sure, though… only that the people in that group appeared to be very upset. ¬†It looked like whatever had happened had only just happened. ¬†Hopefully, whoever came after us was more helpful than we were and no one was either hurt or killed. ¬†But that’s sure the way it looked.

So if you ride a motorcycle, please slow down and be careful, especially on the very curvy mountain roads at high altitudes. ¬†We saw an awful lot of people taking stupid chances today, even if we hadn’t run into this distressed looking group.

Edited to add: ¬†Here’s a news report about the accident. ¬†Our impressions were correct. ¬†Looks like he survived.

Oppenau (ots) – On the county road 5370 between Allerheiligen and Oppenau came on Sunday afternoon at 16:25 clock a 47-year-old motorcyclist alone involved in a right turn to fall. The driver of a group of four slipped over the road after the fall and threw first against a tree on the left lane side and in the sequence down a slope. The man was seriously injured about 50 meters below the road to lie down, his admitted in France two-wheelers crashed about 80 meters in depth. The casualty was hospitalized in a hospital. During the extensive recovery, the county road was closed for about 2 hours. The damage to the bike is around 12,000 euros.

Minutes after we passed the guys on the side of the road, we passed the main entrance.  If we had parked there, we probably would have missed the whole drama.

It was a really beautiful day to visit the waterfalls. ¬†And… I was thanking God we did it in June instead of late July or August! ¬†I was still radiating heat when we got to the car. ¬†By the way… it doesn’t cost anything to visit these falls. ¬†Frankly, I thought they were gorgeous. ¬†Triberg may have Germany’s highest falls, but I think Allerheiligen’s falls are much prettier. ¬†In fact, I also liked them better than the falls at¬†Bad Urach. ¬†If you like waterfalls, I definitely recommend a trip to¬†the Allerheiligen Wasserf√§lle.

Below are just a few photos I took on the way home. ¬†The route took us a different way than we’d ever been before. ¬†Oppenau looks like a really nice town. ¬†I may have to explore there next.

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Sundays

Bluer than blue at Blautopf…

Breathtakingly blue…

Sometime a couple of months ago, a person in our local Facebook group asked where to find a certain “blue lake” near Stuttgart. ¬†A German member of the group supplied the answer to her query. ¬†She was looking for Blautopf¬†(Blue Pot), a beautiful spring in the town of Blaubeuren that feeds into the River Blau and eventually the Danube. ¬†I was curious about Blautopf; I had never heard of it until it was mentioned on Facebook. ¬†Once I saw pictures, I decided Bill and I needed to visit.

Going to Blautopf from Unterjettingen was a bit of a hard sell, though. ¬†The town of Blaubeuren is a somewhat stout drive from where we live. ¬†It’s somewhat close to Ulm. ¬†Since we didn’t plan to bring our dogs, Zane and Arran, with us, it would mean they’d spend several hours home alone. ¬†We had such pretty weather this weekend, though, that I finally wore down Bill’s resolve and off we went. ¬†The drive took about 80 minutes on B28. ¬†Alternatively, we could have gotten there by way of A8. ¬†We also could have brought our dogs with us. ¬†Blautopf is very dog friendly.

On the way to Blautopf, we passed through¬†Pf√§ffingen, the town where Bill and I lived the first time we were in the Stuttgart area. ¬†As we drove through, I noticed a very large man standing on the side of the road with his thumb up. ¬†He was looking at us hopefully. ¬†Alas, even if we were in the habit of picking up hitchhikers, we were in my Mini Cooper, which really accommodates only two adults, despite the presence of a backseat. ¬†I was thinking to myself, “Dude, we’re in a Mini. ¬†Even if we wanted to give you a lift, where would you sit?”

My first view of the town of Blaubeuren, which is very tourist friendly. ¬†There’s lots of parking, although even in late March the town was full of people visiting the spring. ¬†I imagine it gets packed there in the summer.

We stopped by the public WC, where I spotted this cute little poem…

Then we followed the crowd and the blue arrows pointing to the point of interest…

The spring feeds into a mill, which fuels a hammermill.  There is a museum where visitors can see horseshoes being made, among other things.  We stopped in after we gazed at the beautiful water.

The water gets to be about 69 feet deep in the middle.

Here they show how deep the water is at any given time.

The inside of the hammersmith.  We basically just observed all that was going on in there because it was pretty loud and the whole thing was in German anyway.  But we were able to see how the water fueled the machinery and it was well worth the visit.  It was also a cheap attraction.  An adult ticket is 2,50 euros.

It costs nothing to visit Blautopf, probably because it only takes a few minutes to see it. ¬†Those who are feeling energetic can hike up the mountain to get some great views of the charming town. ¬†There are also several museums and a monastery. ¬†If we hadn’t been worried about leaving the dogs for too long, we might have stayed a little bit longer and taken in more of the sights. ¬†Instead, we decided to stop by Gasthof Blautopf- La Locanda for lunch. ¬†That was a good choice. ¬†The food was outstanding.

Bill enjoys the sunshine as we wait for beer.

I love a good Franziskaner.

This particular restaurant has an advantage of being located very close to the spring.  I also noticed that there was a lovely aroma coming from the terrace.  When we sat down, I noticed a guy sitting near us who had ordered pasta.  The tomato sauce smelled so good that I decided I had to have that for lunch.

Bill ordered Spaghetti Principessa, which was spaghetti with olive oil, algae (which sounds weirder than it is), cherry tomatoes, capers, rucola, pine nuts, and very fresh shrimp. ¬†It was delicious! ¬†I wished I’d ordered it. ¬†But I went with the more pedestrian Spaghetti Mediterana.

This was also an excellent dish.  The sauce was made of very fresh tomatoes, basil, and olive oil.  It was topped with Parmesan cheese.  

Service was friendly and the prices were very fair.  Our lunch was under 30 euros before the tip.

The monastery.

A map of the town.

Here are a few more shots I took with my new camera…


A pair of mallards were enjoying the pristine water.

I would definitely recommend Blautopf for a fun day trip from the Stuttgart area. ¬†Although we didn’t do anything more than see the spring and the hammersmith museum, we could have taken the whole day to see other places along the way. ¬†Our route took us past Bad Urach, where there are waterfalls and ruins, Reutlingen, and Tuebingen… all places where one can have lunch and fill up the day with activities. ¬†If you visit during the summer months, you can also stop in nearby Laichingen and see the Tiefenhoehle, which is part of the cave system that forms Blautopf.

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