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30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall

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The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989. Over in Germany they are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of this event, obviously especially in Berlin, eg https://www.berlin.de/kultur-und-tickets/tipps/30-jahre-mauerfall/

 

I remember how exciting it was even to a 12-year-old, and even from a long way away. I wondered if anyone on this forum had any recollections of the time, or indeed those years just after, the exciting new dawn?

 

The operation of trains across the German-German border was a fascinating exercise too which I am not sure I will ever be able to understand. There must be some folk with interesting photos to share.

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3 hours ago, readingtype said:

The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989. Over in Germany they are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of this event, obviously especially in Berlin, eg https://www.berlin.de/kultur-und-tickets/tipps/30-jahre-mauerfall/

 

I remember how exciting it was even to a 12-year-old, and even from a long way away. I wondered if anyone on this forum had any recollections of the time, or indeed those years just after, the exciting new dawn?

 

The operation of trains across the German-German border was a fascinating exercise too which I am not sure I will ever be able to understand. There must be some folk with interesting photos to share.

Hi,

 

I had just started a tour at Gatow, it was to be my last and happiest.

 

Went back last August and enjoyed every minute with a chum from BRIXMIS taking a guided wander around Wünsdorf.

 

JB

Edited by Jack Benson

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I was at RAF Leuchars calibrating some radar test equipment,  I watched the wall come down in the T Bar there. 

The wall falling followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union,  effectively lost me a job,  though I saw it coming and took the job in Saudi.  When I went out 1000 people worked in our factory,  my last trip there 2.security guards and my boss doing the shut down.. 

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I visited Berlin with my mate back in 1990, a few months after the wall was torn down. We went by car, Wigan to Hull, North Sea Ferries to Rotterdam and a long drive to Berlin.

 

Back then at the border with the old East Germany you drove straight through the unmanned large checkpoint area before they demolished them. From then on you knew instantly you were there - the roads were a bit rough, unkempt mucky buildings etc, Trabants everywhere. We stayed at a nice B&B in West Berlin and walked the city. Bits of the wall still remained and I have a piece as a souvenir. East Berlin centre was nice and modern, but walk out of the centre a bit and it was dire - rows of gaunt blocks of flats, Trabants spewing toxic fumes etc - BUT the people were fantastic especially in the east - and smiles everywhere back then - We called in a couple of bars in the eastern sector for a few beers - each had a  holiday atmosphere. There were many stalls selling East German military gear etc - not for me though - looking for a model shop !!.

 

We then drove south to Munich and Bavaria, then on  to Trier, a truly different world. I really enjoyed that holiday.

 

Brit15

 

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53 minutes ago, APOLLO said:

There were many stalls selling East German military gear etc - not for me though - looking for a model shop !!.

 

In the early 1970s, there was one near the cross of Uhlandstrasse and the Ku'damm. Prices were eye-watering, though! (That information is well past its use-by date, isn't it?:lol:)

Edited by pH
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Eisenbahn Kurier DVDs have a selection of programmes which cover the changeover and the opening up of the wall

They're available through Platform 5 publications but bear in mind they're in German.Ive bought a load of them.

Here's some that will be of interest:-

8158 Verkehrsknoten Berlin (Transport Hub)History of Berlin

8243 Interzonenzuge  Interzone trains operation of services

8318 Grenzenlos Uber Deutschen Schienen. Frontier Posts over German Rails ( Pre war  Germany)

8325 Die DR  zur wende The DR during the change

These  four give you a basic starting set but there are more ,many duplicating material from above.

Hope this is of interest

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It all seems so long ago.

It was interesting in the month or so leading up to the event to get updates of the evenings events by phone and then to hear the BBC version on the late evening news. We would get the news from a close friend of Kurt Masur the conductor who was a leading light in the protests in Leipzig.

The irony is that today there are advantages in having kept a DDR passport and nationality.

I better not mention what has caused that situation to come about.

SWMBO is much better off now than some of her friends who escaped, or even those who were born and brought up in the west and now live in the UK.

I remember shortly after the wall came down being picked up at the airport by a friend in a Trabi. Driving through West Berlin was hilarious as I had to change gear and she would call out for me to do so. The funny thing is that she is coming to London next week, having just sold her house for a sum that would have been beyond belief thirty years ago.

As for the military gear, you could pick up a BR 52 Kreigslok for around 5kDM, but you needed to go to the Russian border to collect it.

Bernard

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During a visit to Berlin in September 2018 I came across this marker nameplate and stone line across Leipziger Platz, delineating the former path of the wall in this part of the city.

1267792941_BerlinerMauermarkerLeipzigerPlatzBerlin17092018-RMweb.jpg.557be79a37031cc9d197f1b8a69d16bb.jpg

 

944392333_LineofBerlinWallLeipzigerPlatzBerlin170920181-RMweb.jpg.15d280b4d26fa1c5c5af6a024a0a76fa.jpg

 

73716159_LineofBerlinWallLeipzigerPlatzBerlin170920182-RMweb.jpg.400b0d0d75b56e5d4967b48d3fd60556.jpg

 

To maintain a railway connection for this post - the corporate headquarters of Deutsche Bahn is 100 metres west from this spot in a large modern office block at Potsdamer Platz. 

 

 

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Amazing scenes when the news was interrupted with pictures no one could really believe.  Having crossed into the DDR in 1978, it seemed unthinkable that the Wall would be pulled down just a few years later.

 

Those were the days of visas, petrol coupons, autobahns off-limits to the ordinary folk, exchange controls and pre-booked overnight stays (we were camping).  People were friendly, if slightly reticent of speaking to Westerners and were fascinated by a car with a steering wheel on the wrong side.

 

Driving round Berlin was a strange experience.  Take a wrong turning and find that the road was a dead-end where it had been bisected by the wall.  

 

Going back soon after unification, it was quite poignant to see places where the Wall (and the death strip in the middle) ran right at the back of houses.  Worth visiting the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and to read the colourful accounts of those who managed to cross over.

 

 

5 hours ago, pH said:

 

In the early 1970s, there was one near the cross of Uhlandstrasse and the Ku'damm. Prices were eye-watering, though! (That information is well past its use-by date, isn't it?https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/emoticons/default_laugh.png)

I can’t remember the location, but I found a model shop somewhere in Berlin.  Prices were modest and I came away with various Piko locomotives and rolling stock including an 01.05 Pacific, G8, E44 electric, br 120 (M62) diesel and a Czech M131 railbus.

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9 hours ago, EddieB said:

 Having crossed into the DDR in 1978, it seemed unthinkable that the Wall would be pulled down just a few years later.

 

Those were the days of visas, petrol coupons, autobahns off-limits to the ordinary folk, exchange controls and pre-booked overnight stays (we were camping).  People were friendly, if slightly reticent of speaking to Westerners and were fascinated by a car with a steering wheel on the wrong side.

 

 

Before the British Embassy re-opened in Berlin, that must be around 1973, paperwork regarding travel was even more controlled. 

At times I was issued with some very unusual visa documents due to where certain relatives lived to enable me to visit them. 

I had done a job where I had been paid in Ost Marks and Tottenham Hotspur were playing Locomotive Leipzig so I went out to celebrate with my brother in law. We did not go to the match but went to the local pub. There was nothing reticent about the local fans I can assure you. There were shortages of most things but never any shortage of drink.

Happy days.

Bernard

 

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Over the years I've made a number of trips to Berlin. Back around 1980 I was working for European Asian Bank in Hamburg and was sent off to spend a weekend in West Berlin with an afternoon coach trip to East Berlin via Check Point Charlie. During the course of the weekend took some pictures from both sides of the wall. Most scary thing was taking off from West Berlin on the Sunday evening, looking out of the window and seeing the complete ring of searchlights around West Berlin.

 

Next trip to Berlin was in the late 1990s when I hoped to revisit some of the places I saw on my first visit but didn't manage to see much as I had spent nearly two days and nights flying from Hawaii to Berlin via Minneapolis (with 7 hour layover) and Amsterdam and, as a result, felt like a zombie not having had much sleep. Did manage to revisit Check Point Charlie as was staying at the Hilton Hotel just round the corner (on the east side) from the check point.

 

Last trip to Berlin was just over three years ago when I went back much better prepared taking with me many of the pictures I had taken on my first visit. Spent a very interesting morning at the Berlin Wall Memorial and got chatting with one of the staff who hailed from the East. Showed her all my pictures and she was able to identify where all the pictures were taken. We got talking and asked her what the biggest change had been for her after the fall of the Wall to which she replied "the freedom to do things that she wants to do".

 

The rest of the day was spent visiting all the places that I saw on my first trip and trying to do some "then and now" pictures. 

 

Keith

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2 hours ago, Bernard Lamb said:

Before the British Embassy re-opened in Berlin, that must be around 1973, paperwork regarding travel was even more controlled. 

At times I was issued with some very unusual visa documents due to where certain relatives lived to enable me to visit them. 

I had done a job where I had been paid in Ost Marks and Tottenham Hotspur were playing Locomotive Leipzig so I went out to celebrate with my brother in law. We did not go to the match but went to the local pub. There was nothing reticent about the local fans I can assure you. There were shortages of most things but never any shortage of drink.

Happy days.

Bernard

 

It would be '73, I think. A school friend was going out with a senior British diplomat's daughter, and spent some time there. What amused me was their stories of borrowing a car, in order to have some privacy; every time they started to go anywhere, they'd notice a Stasi car following them. This, in turn, would be followed by another vehicle, belonging to Embassy security.

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1 minute ago, Fat Controller said:

It would be '73, I think. A school friend was going out with a senior British diplomat's daughter, and spent some time there. What amused me was their stories of borrowing a car, in order to have some privacy; every time they started to go anywhere, they'd notice a Stasi car following them. This, in turn, would be followed by another vehicle, belonging to Embassy security.

That sounds about right.

I walked into the Embassy a week or so after it had opened and was greeted by the chap on the desk saying "Good afternoon Mr Lamb."

Everybody was followed at all times. By both sides.

I was told that there were about ten UK citizens with family connections in the east at that time so keeping tracks on us was not too difficult.

I did have one German friend who was under suspicion and found out after unification that the Stasi had rented a flat over the road from his flat and had him under constant supervision.

Bernard

 

 

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Thanks for all these recollections. I guess the vast majority of foreign visitors only got to see Berlin, and that train travel wasn't a feature. I believe that 'gricing' in East Germany was also popular with Brits though, what with all those steam engines about the place. I think that focused on the area around Saalfeld, a very long way from Berlin of course and with entirely different geography. Did anyone go there, and were they too carefully watched? Photography was presumably banned as the railway had such strategic importance.

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Strangely enough photographing steam was apparently a regular thing .There's a DVD titled Steam to the Borders which was a record of a British Group going round the various narrow gauge lines by bus just before the wall came down.

I've seen film of the End of West German steam at  Rheine in 1977.On one of the Special trains a group have a load of photos--- of East German Steam!

I know someone who visited Saalfeld on a number of occasions.

I think the best one was when a group in West Berlin organised a charter within West Berlin.The Reichsbahn sent 18-201 and some of the latest double deckers and that was only weeks before the wall came down!

I think the need to acquire hard currency meant even railway enthusiasts were catered for to the extent of making a film titled Traktion mit Tradition showing railfans filming a train and then showing examples of the various  Locomotives

There was also the production of model trains of HO and TT gauges- Piko,Schicht,Tillig and Berliner Bahn being noteworthy.

 

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1 hour ago, readingtype said:

Thanks for all these recollections. I guess the vast majority of foreign visitors only got to see Berlin, and that train travel wasn't a feature. I believe that 'gricing' in East Germany was also popular with Brits though, what with all those steam engines about the place. I think that focused on the area around Saalfeld, a very long way from Berlin of course and with entirely different geography. Did anyone go there, and were they too carefully watched? Photography was presumably banned as the railway had such strategic importance.

I travelled by train quite frequently. Mainly in the Leipzig area.

The family still have a weekend house near Beucha Ost. This was on the line to Trebsen. This was cut back to Brandis after reunification and has now been closed from the junction. In the 1970s this was operated by the infamous piglet carriers. They made Pacers seem advanced. I was too late for steam there.

The main lines from Belin to Leipzig and Dresden were still steam operated when I first used them with original 01s on the Dresden line and 01 5s on Leipzig trains. Even after the withdrawal of most steam the odd 01 5 could still be seen in Leipzig.

I got as far as Colditz by train before the line closed a few times and on the first visit it was my only trip behind a P8 so that puts it about 1970.

I never went to Saalfeld but did see long double headed freights heading south east from Dresden alongside the Elbe.

There was still steam on local freight services around Leipzig until quite a late date, in particular near an industrial estate known as Elster, with traffic on the road having to stop while wagons were shunted into works sidings.

My elder brother in law lives in the north and there is the remains of a narrow gauge line in his garden. This was built for extracting gravel to use in the construction of the U Boat pens. A neighbour actually lives in the old station building and has preserved much of the interior including the signalling equipment. 

I tended not to carry a camera in public. Cycling through the Soviet air base at Brandis with a nephew, as I tended to do, it was probably a good policy. In general it was a case as in many other parts of the world of just taking care what you pointed your camera at.

Bernard 

 

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I was lucky enough to visit Berlin in the mid-1980's using the British Military Train. This ran daily between Braunschweig (Brunswick) and Berlin Charlottenburg station, even during the Berlin blockade.

 

Unfortunately, photography was forbidden from the train. The American Military Train had its windows covered up because its users were a bit 'camera happy'. There was a French Military Train also, I believe.

 

The train did pass a steam shed, and a couple of steam hauled freight trains, but as I was travelling with army officers and senior civil servants, I just had to sit calmly.

 

The on-train catering was supplied by staff of the Wagon-Lits Pullman company, I believe.

 

There was a lot of pomp and ceremony at the two border crossings (see photo), but we could not leave our seats on the train except when called to the dining car.

 

 

4913174066_aa5f3f8e42_b.jpg

 

 

 

 

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Even by 1978 (the year after steam finished in the West) photography was generally tolerated in the East, due in large part to the number of enthusiasts crossing over from the West.  They did seem to concentrate on Saalfeld, which I visited then (and shed-bashed shortly after unification), where there was a much greater chance of getting in each other’s way than into trouble with the authorities.  Saalfeld was about my last stop on that trip, and seemed strange having come from other places with steam activity (Berlin, Leipzig, Harz) without seeing other photographers, but without hassle (though I doubt our moves weren’t followed and recorded).  In fact, the first other person I encountered taking photos was on the penultimate day, a Dutchman sharing in the sight of a class 65 at Altenburg.

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I went on a trip to the DDR with my Father back in 1981. By that stage, the DDR Tourist Authority ( was it DER Reiseburo?) were running their own railway enthusiast trips and we partook in one of those, which started in Berlin and finished up in Dresden, via the Harz and Saalfeld. We extended the trip by a few days to cover Leipzig, Karl Marx Stadt and Potsdam.

Rather a cosmopolitan tour group, from memory, with only one other person from the UK, but others from Denmark, Norway and West Germany.

A photo from that trip shows a rather non-tourist orientated Wernigerode......

81-587.JPG.3baf0f8e4972294eba1672c26ebf0654.JPG

 

Wanted to go back again at some stage, but only managed to pass through to/from Poland in 1985.  Didn't get back to Berlin again until 2001, by which time it had changed rather a lot!

 

 

 

Edited by Johann Marsbar
added photo
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On 08/11/2019 at 09:17, readingtype said:

The operation of trains across the German-German border was a fascinating exercise too which I am not sure I will ever be able to understand. There must be some folk with interesting photos to share.

 

I worked in West Berlin for 6 months 1971-72. I used to see occasional DR (East German) steam working through Berlin Zoo, but I never tried to photograph them. I was seldom in the centre of the city in daylight, as I worked quite far out to the west.

 

I travelled back by train and boat, starting from Berlin (Zoo) to Hannover in 1972. The procedures at the borders were, as you say, fascinating. Complete search of the train, including underneath. The border officials carried portable trays on cords round their necks on which travel documents were placed to be stamped with one or more of a selection of rubber stamps. There were certainly no photographs allowed of border officials, equipment, structures or procedures!

17 hours ago, Bernard Lamb said:

We did not go to the match but went to the local pub. There was nothing reticent about the local fans I can assure you. There were shortages of most things but never any shortage of drink.

 

While we were in West Berlin, a couple of us used to go into East Berlin on the occasional weekend. Sometimes we would use the S-bahn to go as far as we could to villages within the border of East Berlin - there was another 'border' between East Berlin (technically an 'open' city) and East Germany proper. These visits often (!) included visits to pubs, where the locals (including, on one occasion we are sure, a local member of the Stasi) tried to talk to us. However, with our very basic German and their equally basic English, this were not flowing conversations. We could not get them to believe our honest answer to the frequent question "Why have you come here?", which was "Because the beer is cheaper".

12 hours ago, Bernard Lamb said:

I tended not to carry a camera in public. Cycling through the Soviet air base at Brandis with a nephew, as I tended to do, it was probably a good policy. In general it was a case as in many other parts of the world of just taking care what you pointed your camera at.

 

I carried a camera openly in East Berlin but, you're right, you had to be careful what you pointed it at. I once lost a spool of film through carelessness, and I think I was lucky that was all that happened.

11 hours ago, Ian Morgan said:

I was lucky enough to visit Berlin in the mid-1980's using the British Military Train. This ran daily between Braunschweig (Brunswick) and Berlin Charlottenburg station, even during the Berlin blockade.

 

Unfortunately, photography was forbidden from the train. The American Military Train had its windows covered up because its users were a bit 'camera happy'. There was a French Military Train also, I believe.

 

I used to see the American train most days, standing at Lichterfelde (?) while it was loading.

 

I went back to Berlin in 2018 for the first time since 1972. It had changed! I was really surprised at how emotional I felt seeing some places - riding through Checkpoint Charlie on an open-topped bus or walking in Potsdamer Platz, which had been a huge free-fire zone last time I'd seen it.

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22 hours ago, Ian Morgan said:

I was lucky enough to visit Berlin in the mid-1980's using the British Military Train. This ran daily between Braunschweig (Brunswick) and Berlin Charlottenburg station, even during the Berlin blockade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would love to know where your information came from.

I have a copy of the report by Lt. Col. I.K.A. McNaughton, who later went on to hold several positions in the UK rail industry, on the working of military trains in  Europe in the period 1945-1961.

This report was tidied up by David Carpenter and various other people supplied him with additional information.

I knew a man by the name of John Bowman and he was the NCO i/c Grunewald Detachment of the Royal Engineers at the time of the blockade.

According to John there were 4 or 5 rains run after the start of the blockade and then all through traffic ceased.

These trains were double manned by Sappers and West German crews.

There were several DR West locomotives stranded at Grunewald. I have a photo of BR 50 841 in the depot.

One of these was always kept in steam ready for any sudden lifting of the blockade. 

During the blockade military trains only ran from Bielefeld as far as the border station of Helmstedt. 

 

While I am writing.

For a published account of military trains in general in Europe there is a book by Maggie Hurst and Chris Elliott, Show me the way to go home.

I am not sure as to current availability but I got mine some years ago direct from Chris.

Bernard

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6 hours ago, Bernard Lamb said:

I would love to know where your information came from.

 

I was just passing on what I was told - it was probably wrong, or incomplete and it was 35 years ago that I was told it, so I might have mis-remembered.

 

 

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On 09/11/2019 at 13:46, Bernard Lamb said:

That sounds about right.

I walked into the Embassy a week or so after it had opened and was greeted by the chap on the desk saying "Good afternoon Mr Lamb."

Everybody was followed at all times. By both sides.

I was told that there were about ten UK citizens with family connections in the east at that time so keeping tracks on us was not too difficult.

I did have one German friend who was under suspicion and found out after unification that the Stasi had rented a flat over the road from his flat and had him under constant supervision.

Bernard

 

 

With a group  of car club friends we have just left Berlin  this evening having  driven our Trabants from the UK. We took part in a motor cavalcade around the city on Saturday. Complete with full police escort and running red lights. However today was more sobering as we visited the Stasi prison, and separate Stasi Museum. What the stars he did was quite Remarkable, and for all the wrong reasons.

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As I suspected, I'm getting rather jealous of all this derring-do etc. Great stories, thanks to all :-)

 

On 09/11/2019 at 15:32, Ian Morgan said:

There was a lot of pomp and ceremony at the two border crossings (see photo), but we could not leave our seats on the train except when called to the dining car. 

 

Sorry, questions, please forgive me: Dare I ask what was in the briefcase? Is it a diplomatic bag or the key to the dining car? Does 'OC Train' decode as 'Officer Commanding Train' and did they travel with the DR train crew in the Ludmilla?

 

And finally: what need was there to move a trainload each of French, American, and British personnel each day -- did these trains run empty most of the time? Was it just to prove the action was possible, like some kind of international parliamentary train?

 

Cheers

Ben

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2 hours ago, readingtype said:

And finally: what need was there to move a trainload each of French, American, and British personnel each day -- did these trains run empty most of the time? Was it just to prove the action was possible, like some kind of international parliamentary train?

 

Cheers

Ben

After the blockade of Berlin by the Russians in 1948(?), the US, UK and France (as the other three powers that occupied Germany, and separately Berlin) established rights of access from their respective zones into the Berlin enclave. These included air corridors (there was a airfield in each of the zones of Berlin), autobahn, rail routes and, I think, waterways. The rights of access were very carefully protected and exercised. The relationship was strictly among the 4 occupying powers, so that the East German military were ignored in any border formalities.

I travelled on the British Military Train in 1979 on a trip to Berlin and have been trying, unsuccessfully, to find the handout that we were given, showing what we should look out for on the journey. Apart from the point at which we went through the border, the other memory is of travelling very slowly through Magdeburg station. Outside the window, within touching distance, were East German commuters on their way home from work. Inside, in a different world, we were enjoying a silver service High Tea: a surreal experience.  As others have said, there were wooden chocks under the carriage door handles to stop anyone entering from outside.

While we were in Berlin, there was an organised visit into East Berlin. Because the Russians were prone to detaining the bus and generally making things difficult, small children were not allowed to travel on it and so my wife and I tossed a coin for who would go. I ended up holding the baby.

Seeing the new, reunified Berlin is a fantastic experience.  

Best wishes

Eric  

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