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Durham (North Carolina)

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Durham (North Carolina)

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Durham [20] is a city of 228,330 inhabitants in central North Carolina in the United States. It is known best for being home to Duke University, Research Triangle Park, and a thriving health care industry. Durham and the neighboring cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill form the Triangle, sometimes referred to as a Family of Communities.


Durham owes much of its wealth and history to tobacco. Through the second half of the 19th Century, Washington Duke and his family grew from a single farm into American Tobacco, which controlled 90% of all cigarette production for the United States. The Duke family donated money to Trinity College, which in 1924 was renamed Duke University.

In the early 20th Century, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Mechanics & Farmers Bank, and Mutual Savings & Loan were founded in Durham by African-Americans. These prominent companies drew more African-American investment to Durham, to the point that Durham's Parrish Street neighborhood became known as "Black Wall Street." NC Mutual Life continues to this day as the oldest and largest African-American-owned life insurance company in the nation and as a visible part of the Durham skyline.

The last cigarette rolled out of Durham in 2000. Many of the old factory and warehouse structures have been converted into housing, retail, restaurant and office spaces. The city has changed its motto from "City of Tobacco" to "City of Medicine," based on the high concentration of medical practitioners and researchers at Duke and in Research Triangle Park, the Durham County special tax district formed in 1959 to attract high-tech jobs to the area.

There are many great attractions to visit in Durham including: Duke University (which includes the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke Sports Hall of Fame, Nasher Museum of Art, and Duke University Chapel); the Durham Bulls Athletic Park; the Durham Performing Arts Center; the Carolina Theatre; St. Joseph's Performance Hall and the Hayti Heritage Center; the Museum of Life and Science; Patterson Mills Country Store; West Point on the Eno; and three state historic sites including Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum, Bennett Place and Historic Stagville.

Duke University has a unique Gothic architecture. Duke Chapel is a cathedral-like centerpiece that soars 210 feet high on West campus. Sarah P. Duke Gardens is one of the premier public gardens in the U.S. and has more than five miles of walkways and paths. The Nasher Museum of Arts features classical to contemporary works and just hosted the blockbuster exhibit El Greco to Velazquez.

The Durham Bulls are the most popular minor league baseball team in America, due to the enduring popularity of the 1987 movie "Bull Durham," filmed largely at the old Durham Athletic Park. They play now in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park which was designed by the architects of Baltimore's Camden Yards. The Duke University Blue Devils and North Carolina Central Eagles provide lots of opportunity for spectators through their mens and womens sports programs.

Among the historic sites, Bennett Place has the privilege of having hosted the largest troop surrender that ended the Civil War, 17 days after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Duke Homestead features the Duke family's mid 1800s home, tobacco barns and cigarette factory, Historic Stagville, once among the Wouth's largest plantation holdings, features an 18th century house, slave quarters and a unique great barn.


Durham has a liberal [21] trendy arts culture. It is an eclectic blend of the high class with an unusual concentration of four star restaurants (part owing to a strange bit of local family history) to trendy cafés on 9th Street, the independent bookstore "the Regulator" which draws famed authors from former secretary of state Madeline Albright to expert on everything John Hodgeman. You'll find old hippies, bikers and families in generally happy co-existence. The area has a very active gay community which stages both a famed regional film festival and an annual pride march.

Politically the area is dominated by Democratic politics [22] in an otherwise (nationally) Republican leaning state.

Get in

By air

All major American airlines fly into Raleigh-Durham International Airport (IATA: RDU). It is best served by American Airlines and Delta Airlines. These and other airlines provide direct connections to most major hubs, including Charlotte, Atlanta, Washington-Dulles, Freeport (Grand Bahama), Baltimore-Washington, Chicago (Midway and O'Hare), New York (LaGuardia + JFK), Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cancun, and London, among others. Most other major cities are reachable after a single connecting flight.

You can take the #100 from the airport to the Regional Transit Center and then take the #700 to Raleigh.

By train

Amtrak's [23] Carolinian and Piedmont lines stop in Durham. The Carolinian runs once daily north to New York City and south to Charlotte, while the Piedmont runs twice daily between Raleigh and Charlotte. The rail station is at 601 West Main Street downtown, close to the DATA bus system's new downtown terminal and in a historic and newly renovated building that once served as a tobacco warehouse.

By bus

Inter-city buses arrive and depart Durham from the Durham Station Transportation Center, [24] 515 W Pettigrew St, near the Amtrak station.

Get around

By car

Durham is served by Interstates 40 and 85, and US routes 15, 501 and 70 along with several state routes. "The Durham Freeway" generally refers to NC-147, which connects I-85 and 15/501 in northwest Durham to I-40 and Research Triangle Park in southeast Durham, by way of downtown. If you wish to rent a car, car rental options at the RDU airport are plentiful and range from $20 to $50 per day, with whole-week rentals significantly discounted.

It should be mentioned that like Atlanta's infamous "Peachtree", Durham has a number of synonymous roadways, in some cases miles from each other. This can easily confuse visitors. The most notorious is Chapel Hill Rd/St/Blvd. The road goes from the city's Lakewood and West End neighborhoods to the Chapel Hill border via Shannon Plaza and the fringe of the South Square area. Mostly residential. The St acts as an arterial from downtown through West End, serving as a vibrant thoroughfare for the neighborhoods in between. "The Boulevard" as it is known in the neighborhoods surrounding it, courses from the foot of the Forest Hills neighborhood and bee-lines directly west to Chapel Hill, eventually becoming 15-501. Mainly commercial with lots of big-box retailers and chain restaurants. When in doubt, ask a local!

Parking is plentiful in Durham, even in the more populous areas. Be mindful of parking in residential zones in the city for extended periods without a permit.

By bus

  • Triangle Transit Authority, + 1 919 549-9999, [28]. Routes between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill as well as Research Triangle Park and the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
  • Durham Area Transit Authority, + 1 919 683-DATA, [29]. Routes around the more urban parts of Durham, mostly every half hour.


  • Duke University, [30]
  • Watch a Durham Bulls [31] minor-league baseball game. Tickets are $5 and up.
  • Go watch a Duke men's basketball game if you visit during basketball season. Tickets are hard to get. Your best bet may be between December 15th and January 1st, when students (and some locals) are gone.
  • See an independent film or a play at the historic Carolina Theatre [32].
  • See the largest collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar at the Duke Lemur Center [33]. Tours are by appointment only. Scheduling your tour at least two weeks in advance is recommended, but they can sometimes accommodate last-minute additions.
  • See world-class art at the Nasher Museum of Art [34] at Duke University, located at the corner of Anderson and Duke University Roads. Don't miss the giant face-mask.
  • Museum of Life and Science, 433 W. Murray Ave (, 919-220-5429, [1]. 10-5. Spend a day with kids exploring the many interactive exhibits here. Space vehicles, farm animals, playground, drum area, physics display, maps and globes, butterfly house, bugs!, and now with bears and lemurs. $10.85.
  • Check out the local art scene during Durham's Third Friday Art Walk [35], often featuring live music and a myriad of food trucks, in addition to open studios and galleries throughout downtown.
  • Listen to live music at The Pinhook [36], Casbah [37], Motorco [38] Broad Street Cafe [39], Historic American Tobacco Campus [40] or other local venues (the [41] Independent Weekly is a good source of local happenings.
  • Watch a local live theater performance at Common Ground Theatre [42] or Manbites Dog Theater [43].
  • Bennett Place, 4409 Bennett Memorial Rd., 919-383-4345, [2]. 9-5 Tues-Sat.. This simple farmhouse was situated between Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's headquarters in Greensboro, and Union Gen. William T. Sherman's headquarters in Raleigh. In April 1865, the two commanders met at the Bennett Place, where they signed surrender papers for Southern armies in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. It was the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War.
  • Historic Stagville, 5828 Old Oxford Highway, 919-620-0120, [3]. 10-4 Tues-Sat.. Comprises the remains of North Carolina's largest pre-Civil War plantation and one of the South's largest. It once belonged to the Bennehan-Cameron family, whose combined holdings totaled approximately 900 slaves and almost 30,000 acres by 1860. Today, Stagville consists of 71 acres, on three tracts. On this land stand the late 18th-century Bennehan House, four rare slave houses, a pre-Revolutionary War farmer's house, a huge timber framed barn built by skilled slave craftsmen, and the Bennehan Family cemetery. Free.


  • Go for a walk in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens [44].
  • See a world-class performance, including touring Broadway shows, at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC). Ticket prices range from $30-$120 depending on the show. Buy in advance. [45]
  • Explore the Duke Forest [46].
  • Go hiking or have a picnic at Eno River State Park [47] or West Point on the Eno. West Point has an old-fashioned corn mill that still sells fresh cornmeal.
  • Bike or roller-blade on the American Tobacco Trail. It's a paved-over railway line that extends from downtown Durham, near the ball park all the way to Raleigh. One section is not complete yet, so you may be stuck on Highway 54 unable to cross I-40 unless you bike on the roads. It is 7 miles from downtown Durham to the end of the trail at I-40 and Hway 54 junction.
  • Attend one of the renowned annual festivals. Each April is the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival [48], the country's largest such festival, and each summer is the country's largest contemporary dance festival, American Dance Festival [49].
  • Check out Ninth Street, a pedestrian friendly street with a variety of eating, shopping, and entertainment options. [50].
  • Play on many different Golf courses from Hillandale Golf [51] to Willowhaven to the Duke University Golf Club among many more.


  • The Streets at Southpoint, off of Interstate 40, [52]. The largest and most varied mall in the area, if not the whole state. It mixes indoor and outdoor shopping and dining, in a setting that tries to recapture the spirit of old downtown Durham.
  • Northgate Mall, off of Interstate 85, [53]. One of the nation's last family-owned malls.
  • Brightleaf Square, just west of downtown Durham, is built in a restored tobacco warehouse. It houses boutique shops and several nationally-renowned restaurants.
  • Ninth Street, near the Duke campus, has boutique stores catering to a college crowd. Look for bookstores, clothing stores, an art gallery or two, and an upscale toy store.
  • Grandfather Clocks (The Clock Depot in Durham), 3750 Chapel Hill Blvd ((Old South Square Area)), ☎ 919-402-8714, [39]. 10:00 - 6:00. Family owned clock shop in Durham featuring new Grandfather Clocks.


Durham is a terrific city to eat in, and if you search around enough, you'll find no need to go to our friends in nearby Chapel Hill or Raleigh to cater to your tastes. From time-tested burger shacks to upscale eateries on par with Atlanta and Washington, it's easy to find unique flavors all over the city. There's an especially good concentration of remarkable eats around the Duke and Research Triangle Park areas, specifically 9th St/Brightleaf for the former and South Sq/Southpoint/54 for the latter.

  • Ox and Rabbit Soda & Sundries, 732 9th St Durham (On 9th Street.), (919) 286-7850. 10-6. A drug-store turned boutique shop, Ox and Rabbit kept the drug store counter and serves old fashion style Sodas, Shakes, and Malts. In traditional style, a soda jerk mixes syrups, ice, and carbonated water right in front of you for a delicious throw back to past times.


  • Bahn's Cuisine, 750 9th St, + 1 919 286-5073. Most of the week this is an average Chinese takeout place; however, on Wednesday and Saturday they serve Vietnamese home cooking and soups. A local hangout since 1985. The locals can tell you're "not from around here" if you order Chinese on those days. There are both vegetarian and vegan plates. The "#8 Vegetarian plate" of fried tofu and a vegetable roll is the most popular dish on Saturdays and to a lesser degree on Mondays. The "Pork Bun" is a good choice for small children as is the Satay Chicken (they'll frequently make adapted portions for children). It is cash only. Plates and sides are $2-$6.
  • Bean Traders Coffee, 714 9th St, Durham, + 1 919 286-6087. A locally owned and operated chain with 3 stores (2 in Durham, 1 in Chapel Hill) which as the name seems to intonate is also a coffee buyer/distributor of the "Bean Traders" brand of whole sale coffee beans. The coffee is excellent and the atmosphere relaxed and causal (2 stories of it). Cookies and baked goods are also for sale, but better desserts can be found next door at Francesca's. Wireless access is provided.
  • Cosmic Cantina, 1920 1/2 Perry St, + 1 919 286-1875. A Duke hangout with cheap California-style burritos, cheap beer, and quick service. Entrees, if they can be called that, range from $2-$6, beer is $2, soda is $1. Cosmic is open late, generally until 4AM. Durham is home to the original Cosmic Cantina, which can also now be found in Chapel Hill and Manhattan.
  • Elmo's Diner, Ninth Street, [54]. Serves the best breakfast in Durham, as well as good comfort food and diner fare for lunch and dinner. Grab a table or sit at the bar. You may have to wait a bit on weekend mornings, but Elmo's makes coffee and newspapers available to help pass the time.
  • Francesca's Dessert Cafe, 706-B Ninth Street, [55], + 1 919 286-4177. It is known for its own gelato style ice cream with many flavors (made on location) and varieties as well as its sorbetto (also made on location) in addition to its baked goods. In addition it also has soy varieties of its ice cream. The coffee is decent (counter culture brand) but a better cup can be had next door at "Bean Traders". All desserts are under $10.
  • Loco Pops, 2600 Hillsborough Rd. Serves gourmet popsicles in a variety of unusual, Mexican-inspired flavors. Try the Mexican chocolate or the mojito. Each popsicle is $1-$2.
  • The Mad Hatter's Bake Shop, [56]. A local bakery that has recently branched out into full dinner fare. Their dinners are as good as (and more creative than) their cakes and cookies. Entrees tend to be $6-$8, and many are healthy and vegetarian-friendly.
  • The Original Q Shack, 2510 University Drive. They serve traditional NC barbecue, chicken, and beef sausage. Choice of side dishes include onion rings, mac and cheese, fried okra, deviled eggs, french fries, and hush puppies. It is a pleasant, informal dining experience with both indoor and outdoor seating. Price range is $6-$12.
  • Torero's, [57]. Has four restaurants in Durham and sells above-average Americanized Mexican cuisine, with most entrees $6-$8.
  • Wimpy's Grill, 617 Hicks St, + 1 919 286-4380. A walk-up lunch counter (no seating) that serves some of the best hamburgers, peach cobbler, and chocolate cake in Durham. Skip the chain restaurants, and support a local mom-and-pop joint. Weekdays only, open until 2:30PM. Very popular with locals.
  • Xiloa, 748 9th St, +1 919 286-1430. A very different kind of Caribbean/Nicaraguan/Southwestern mix of delicious fare. Try their Refrescos (a type of non-alcoholic drink, generally fruit-based), Indian tacos and nacatamales.
  • Durham also has plenty of fast-food restaurants, with a particularly high concentration on Hillsborough Road. Try the Dog House (4 locations, ask around) and Cook-Out (Hillsborough Rd, N Duke St, Miami Blvd locations) especially.


  • blu seafood and bar 2002 Hillsborough Rd, + 1 919 286.9777. [58] Hours are 5 pm to 10 p.m. A casual, yet upscale restaurant focusing on regional and global classics with fresh fish. Price $$.
  • Bullock's, [59]. A local tradition, serving eastern-North Carolina BBQ, sweet tea, hush puppies, and plenty of fried vegetables. Go "family style" for about $9 and eat a bit of everything. Note that eastern-NC BBQ is dry and is cooked with vinegar, and may not be what outsiders are used to. Bullock's is often crowded, but the line moves fast. Bullock's is cash only and closes at 8PM.
  • Cinelli's Ristorante & Pizzeria of Durham, 607 Broad Street, + 1 919 416-4554, [60]. There are several Cinelli's in the area, however Gaitano "Guy" Cinelli's is the best. Cinelli's pizza is some of the best outside of New York. Highly recommended is the signature Grandma's pizza. In addition to the excellent pies, Cinelli's offers a full range of traditional Italian fare. Large pizzas are about $20, and traditional Italian entrees range from $10-$15.
  • Guglhupf Guglhupf Bakery & Pâtisserie , 2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, +1 919 401.2600, [61]. Eat great German fare and baked goods.
  • Piedmont, 401 Foster Street, + 1 919 430-0261, [62]. Italian and French country food, emphasizing local produce in menu. Limited lunch menu, but decent dinner menu. Lunch ranges from $4-$9 and dinner $4-$17.


  • Chamas churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse, 905 West Main St. (in Brightleaf Square downtown), + 1 919 682-1309. The restaurant features an extensive buffet of salads, cheeses, seafood, vegetables and international hot dishes. Gauchos make their rounds among the tables continuously serving diners unlimited cuts of meat such as beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. Fried bananas and mashed potatoes are also served to each table. Reservations suggested.
  • Four Square, 2701 Chapel Hill Rd (at Pickett), + 1 919 401-9877. Not far from Duke University and the Lakewood neighborhood, presents superlative contemporary European and American flavors in an incredible early 20th century Victorian mansion. Completely out of place in its working-class neighborhood, it is an experience in every sense. Very romantic. Reservations strongly suggested.
  • Metro 8 Streakhouse, 746 9th St, +1 919 416 1700. Upscale Argentinian steakhouse. Unusually great salad and steak with great service and a romantic atmosphere.
  • Nikos Taverna, 905 West Main St (in historic Brightleaf Square downtown), + 1 919 682-0043. Has been serving upscale Greek cuisine in their modern, loft-like space since the 1980s. Great for lunch. Reservations recommended.
  • Nana's, 2514 University Dr (at James St), + 1 919 493-8545. Serves upscale and innovative New American fare in their warm and quiet space tucked into the city's lovely Rockwood neighborhood. Reservations recommended.
  • Papas Grille, 1821 Hillandale Rd (in Loehmann's Plaza (near I-85 & Hillandale Rd)), + 1 919 383-8502. Serves terrific Mediterranean and American-inspired dishes in a cozy but no-frills upscale environment. Entrees around $20-30. Reservations recommended.
  • Pop's, in downtown Durham, [63]. Tasty, creative Italian dishes and pizzas. Most entrees are $10-$19.,,

Other higher-end standbys and new additions to the city's burgeoning culinary scene include Parizade' (Erwin Square, near 9th St), "Vin Rouge (on 9th and Markham), and Rue Cler (downtown, on East Chapel Hill St.).


  • Shooters II Saloon (behind Brightleaf Square), 827 W Morgan St. A wild-west themed bar and dance club popular with the college crowd, Shooters is famous for its mechanical bull and dancing cage. It is easy to find cheap drink specials and some new friends. Shooters is most frequented on weekend nights after 10PM.
  • Satisfaction, 905 W. Main St (Brightleaf Square), + 1 919 682-7397. A popular Duke hangout, serving a solid selection of beer and mixed drinks. Satisfaction has plenty of TVs, usually showing sports; they are quite busy when Duke basketball is on.
  • Dain's Place, 9th Street. A non-smoking bar with many types of beers. It draws more the post-grad and 25-35 crowd. Great burgers and also an unusually good salad.

Additionally, there are some nice bars around Duke's east campus, centered around the 9th St area and Brightleaf Square. Check out The Green Room (pool hall), George's (lounge), Federal and James Joyce for a diverse and mellow crowd.


  • Comfort Inn, 4507 NC 55/Apex Hwy, (919) 361-2656, [4]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12PM. Offers guests an exercise room and a business center.
  • Comfort Inn Medical Park, 1816 Hillandale Road, (919) 471-6100, [5]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12PM. Offers guests free shuttle service and a small meeting room.
  • Comfort Suites Raleigh Durham Airport/RTP, 5219 Page Road, (919) 314-1200, [6]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12PM. Located by the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
  • Doubletree Guest Suites Raleigh/Durham, 2515 Meridian Parkway, +1 919-361-4660, [7]. All-suite atrium hotel located lakeside near Research Triangle Park and ten minutes from the airport. Rooms feature refrigerator, microwave, and wetbar area.
  • Duke Tower Hotel & Condominiums, 807 W. Trinity Ave, +1 919 687-4444 (fax: +1 919 683-1215), [8].
  • Hotel Indigo Raleigh Durham Airport at RTP, 151 Tatum Dr., 919-474-3000, [9].
  • The Durham Marriott, + 1 919 768-6000. The people there are friendly and provide great service. They have a shuttle to take you up to a five mile diameter from the hotel which gets you to most places in town. Ask for the 8th floor rooms facing west.
  • Millennium Hotel Durham, 2800 Campus Walk Ave, +1 919 383-8575, [10]. Accommodations, meeting space, and dining venues about a mile from Duke University.
  • Quality Inn & Suites, 3710 Hillsborough Road, +1 919-382-3388 Fax: 919-382-9298, [11]. Pet-friendly, free breakfast.
  • Sleep Inn, 5208 Page Rd I-40 & Page Rd, +1 919-993-3393 Fax: 919-314-1401, [12]. A Pet Friendly hotel which offers free airport transportation.
  • SpringHill Suites, 5310 McFarland Drive, 919-403-1111, [13].
  • Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, 3001 Cameron Blvd., (919) 490-0999, [14].
  • Wyndham Garden Hotel, 4620 South Miami Blvd, + 1 919 941-6066 (fax: + 1 919 941-6363), [15].
  • Arrowhead Inn, 106 Mason Rd., (919) 477-8430, [16]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. 9 room luxury inn on 6 acres featuring fireplaces, 6 jacuzzi rooms, free Wi-Fi, daily breakfasts, private cottage, and made to order dinners. $150-$325.
  • Courtyard Durham Research Triangle Park, 301 Residence Inn Boulevard, 1-919-484-2900, [17]. Durham, NC hotel located minutes from Research Triangle Park (RTP). 117 rooms and 6 suites. Complimentary parking and Internet access. (35.903883,-78.89643)
  • Residence Inn Durham Research Triangle Park, 201 Residence Inn Blvd., 919-361-1266, [18]. Located just 2 miles from the 7,000 acre Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in the United States with over 100 research and development companies. The hotel is near North Carolina Central University is just minutes away from Durham and Cary businesses, shops and restaurants (35.903463,-78.897701)
  • Marriott at Research Triangle Park, 4700 Gaurdian Drive, Durham, North Carolina 27703, 1-919-941-6200, [19]. checkin: 4:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 PM. Located in the heart of Research Triangle Park and conveniently located near Raleigh Durham Airport (RDU); offers complimentary shuttle service to/from airport. Enjoy the heated indoor pool and 24 our fitness center.

Stay safe

Statistically crime in Durham is on par with other Southern cities its size. Most areas of the city are safe, including the areas around Duke and most of the outskirts of the city. The areas immediately around downtown (stretching a few miles east and south of downtown) are not always well lit or well patrolled. Basic rule of thumb – use common sense like you would anywhere else: use caution at night, avoid walking alone, lock your car, and remove valuables when parking. Most violent crimes in Durham, while not particularly frequent, are drug related or domestic and by avoiding the drug trade one can avoid these issues [64].

The police are generally quite helpful, friendly and understanding. Don't hesitate to call them if you're feeling uneasy or threatened. There is very low tolerance for drinking and driving, however, and of late checkpoints have sprung up on both main and secondary roads.

Medical Care

For Medical Care, Durham has a large supply of physicians, and is also known as the "City of Medicine"

Duke University Medical Center "2301 Erwin Road", " + (919) 684-8111". Duke University Medical center is a Solucient Top 100 Hospital, and named one of America's Best Hospitals by US News and World Report, is in Durham.

Get out

  • Chapel Hill, about 8 miles from Durham, is home to the University of North Carolina (UNC-CH). Chapel Hill has many good restaurants and bars on Franklin Street, adjacent to the UNC campus.
  • Raleigh, about 21 miles away, the state capital. Raleigh has North Carolina State University; the state museums of art, history, and science; and the state symphony and ballet.

Routes through Durham
GreensboroHillsborough  W noframe E  PetersburgEND

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