The Alps are calling, we must go

Old Jan 17th, 2024, 11:51 AM
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The Alps are calling, we must go

We booked this trip back in May. We’d been trying to visit the Dolomites since 2020, first planned for October, then moved to December. The trip had been completely booked and cancelled twice.

Hopefully, the third time would be the charm.

Flights and planning

We decided to spring for Business Class, as we’re getting awfully tired of being squished in coach, and we’d not yet taken our experimental Sept/Oct trip to Switzerland and Italy, where we flew in UA Premium Plus and Swiss Int’l Premium Economy. UA had been a positive experience, Swiss Int’l less so.

So, the minute we found a fare we could live with, we booked ($2,987.95 each).

Our closest international airport is Denver, but we prefer to fly out via Chicago, so we booked as follows from our nearest municipal airport:

COS-ORD

ORD-MUC

MUC-DEN

DEN-COS

Leaving via ORD and returning via DEN turned out to be win-win; outbound from ORD is easy, returning not-so-much. We returned via ORD in October and it took two hours to get to our next flight; we have Global Entry, and were through Customs and Immigration in no time, but had to wait ages for our luggage, scanning of bags for our next flight, and security.

That, and having someone constantly shouting at you from the moment you arrive; get in this line, do this, do that, and the incessant public announcements overhead…it’s an abrupt chaotic return to the US.

Returning via Denver this time was the complete opposite. We were through Customs and Immigration in a flash, our luggage arrived in minutes, and we’d rechecked our bags and cleared security in record time…and this two days after Christmas. It was positively Zen.

We’d booked outbound on ‘the big plane’, a UA Airbus with a three hour layover in Chicago, which would give us extra time to check out the Polaris Lounge. Our only other option on UA is via Skywest’s commuter jets, which we try to avoid due to issues in the past.

But in true UA fashion, a few months after booking they cancelled our flight and moved us to a Skywest Embraer, reducing our layover to one hour and leaving me none-too-happy. We crossed our fingers that they’d switch it back, but they never did.

We usually head to our first destination as soon as we hit the ground, but this time we decided to spend two nights in Munich, which would give us time to recover from jet lag, have dinner at our favorite Munich Indian restaurant, and poke around town.

Most Christmas Markets wouldn’t open until Nov 27, and the few that were open were closed on Nov 26, Totensonntag, Dead Sunday, our only full day in Munich.

I had a little trouble finding apartments in Italy on the usual booking sites, and I was a bit worried about the 30 day cancellation polices if I booked directly, but we solved this by buying their offered insurance.

The 32 night itinerary

Munich, Bavaria, Germany – two nights, Kings’s Hotel First Class, booked on Hotels.com for $292.05 inclusive of what turned out to be a great breakfast

Fulpmes, Stubai Valley, Tyrol, Austria – five nights, apartment booked on Booking.com (658)

Mayrhofen, Zillertal, Tyrol, Austria – five nights, apartment booked on Booking.com (532)

S. Cristina, Val Gardena, South Tyrol, Italy – five nights, apartment booked directly, (510, optional breakfast for 15 each, which we declined.) I also bought insurance for this booking through Europaische for 45 as the establishment has a 30 day cancellation policy

San Candido/Innichen, Val Pusteria, South Tyrol, Italy - five nights, apartment booked directly, they were offering five nights for the price of four (572). I also bought insurance for this booking through Europaische for 34

Bad Hofgastein, Austria – five nights, apartment booked through Air BNB, $537.64

Salzburg, Austria – five nights, apartment booked through VRBO, 674, paid in advance

We purchased travel insurance through Tin Leg, trip cancellation of $7,000 plus medical, trip interruption, loss or delay, yadda, yadda, ($518). We also now have a year long Dan insurance policy for emergency evacuation.

I researched winter hikes and other things to do in each area, put together our usual travel calendar noting what was happening when in each area during our stay (Advent markets, etc), and then set it all aside until we returned from our Sept/Oct trip.

In November I booked a Christmas Eve concert at the Fortress Hohensalzburg in Salzburg (38 each), and booked Christmas lunch at Imlauer Hotel Pitter (a la carte).

I also booked dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant in Munich for both nights of our stay via The Fork, and then contacted the restaurant directly to confirm the reservations as they never seem to have them when we arrive, but they didn’t respond, which they never do.

Bill researched the train and bus options, downloaded the various transport apps, and purchased a Super Sparpreis Europa train ticket from Munich to Innsbruck in advance at a reduced rate of 43.80 for both. We’d purchase a bus ticket from Innsbruck to Fulpmes when we arrived.

Nov 23 - US Thanksgiving

At the last minute we booked a hotel in downtown Colorado Springs for the night; bad weather was expected and we didn’t want to deal with driving down from our home in the mountains on potentially icy roads the morning of our flight.

We dropped our car at a family member’s house, walked to SIL’s house for Thanksgiving dessert, and then SIL took us back to the hotel for the night, and picked us up the next morning for the short drive to the airport. It worked a treat. The hotel (Hyatt Place) was brand new, quiet and really spacious.

Nov 24 -

The expected storm was pretty tame, but our flight left 45 minutes late due to de-icing. We were worried about the short connection in Chicago that UA had foisted upon us, but we dashed to the gate and made it.

The flight to Munich was pretty bumpy. I wasn’t crazy about the UA Business Class seating on the Dreamliner, I felt confined, which I know sounds weird. The food and service were good, although they ran out of an appetizer by the time they’d reached us in row two! I managed about three hours of sleep, which I can never accomplish in coach.

To be continued...
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 12:32 PM
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Keep going, Mel. I'm looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 03:53 PM
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Looking forward to reading more of your report.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 04:10 PM
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Following along! The Dolomites have been calling us, and we're booked to go back in September. Also looking at Austria for a different trip.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 10:16 PM
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Following along - the Dolomites is one of our favourite regions in all of Italy.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 12:02 AM
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Joining in!
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 06:13 AM
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Nov 25 -

Upon arrival we took the train from the airport to the Hauptbahnhof; we purchased an all-day five zone ticket for €27.80 (Gruppen Tageskarte, good for up to five people, valid until 6 am the next day).

We then walked the 7-10 minutes to the Kings Hotel First Class, which let us check in at 11:30 am. The room was tiny; there was not enough space to lay out our suitcases. The television was huge for such a small space; the shower decent sized. It was comfortable and cozy, but not a place I’d want to spend more than a few nights ($292.05).

Note: Bill loves a big shower, and every single shower on our 32 night trip hit the mark.

After getting settled, we went across the street to an imbiss for kebabs – €16 with a bottle of water and very good.

Then we set out to find Kay’s Champagneria, a place we stumbled upon on previous trips and have fond memories of, but couldn’t remember exactly where it was. It looked as if the department store that houses Kay’s has gone out of business.

Marienplatz was heaving, the Christmas markets due to open the next day. We saw a lot of shops advertising Black Day, presumably the equivalent of our much maligned Black Friday.

The weather was in a bad mood; it was very cold and windy, a wet snow falling; I’d received an ice advisory on my phone. After aimlessly wandering for a few hours, we returned to the hotel for drinks in their warm lobby and then tried to stay awake for our dinner booking.

Later we took a train to Isartor for dinner at our favorite Munich Indian restaurant – Goa. Chicken Jalfrezi for Bill, Paneer Achari for me, rice, garlic naan, sparkling water, and a drink for both - €46 and excellent as usual. Then it was back to the hotel, where we were in bed by 7:30.

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jan 18th, 2024 at 06:18 AM.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 07:47 AM
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Wonderful! Looking forward to this!
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 09:52 AM
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(bookmarks above itinerary; brainstorms new ways to confuse Mel & Bill with a different couple)
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 11:21 AM
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Nov 26 -

The hotel breakfast was great, and included prosecco - always a treat.

It was Totensonntag, Dead Sunday, 32 F and gloomy, which I fully expect in Munich this time of year, but thankfully no longer wet.

I figured everything would be shuttered, but was pleasantly surprised.

We explored Marienplatz, which was gearing up for the Christmas Markets. We wandered over to the Hofbrauhaus, surprised to find it open - and busy. We pulled up a chair, had drinks, and watched the place fill up while listening to the Bavarian tavern music. Bill tried the Winterzwickl, an unfiltered dark winter beer as well as Munchner Weisse, I nursed a glass of Grüner Veltliner (€18). The Hofbrauhaus was very lively on this Sunday of the Dead.


Wandering Munich

Munich

Christmas Markets the day before opening

Munich

Munich

Hofbrauhaus

Near Hofbrauhaus

Munich

We wandered some more, eventually ending up at Restaurant Shapeau in Hotel Torbrau, where Bill tried - and rather liked - his first Lillet Wild Berry (€19.10).

Then it was back to Goa, which wasn’t as busy as it had been the previous night. We shared an excellent onion bhaji, Bill had the Kadai Chicken, me the Kadai Paneer (which paled in comparison to the Paneer Achari), rice, garlic naan and sparkling water - €40.60.

We’d planned to walk the 30 minutes back to the hotel, but it was dark and we couldn’t use street view on Google maps, so we took the S-Bahn - €3.70 for both.



To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jan 18th, 2024 at 11:29 AM.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 11:36 AM
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I see we stayed a 3 min walk from Goa restaurant last June, Mel.
We had dined well with half board in south Tirol, but were craving something spicy by then.
Being final night though, we just staggered to the nearest little Italian place.

That is a fabulous night time shot!
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 12:06 PM
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Thanks Adelaidean!
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Old Jan 19th, 2024, 06:12 AM
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Nov 27 -

I must have been tired, because I did something I never do - slept until nine. Bill finally woke me up and we had to rush a bit - breakfast, shower, check-out and walk to the Hauptbahnhof to catch the 11:32 train to Fulpmes, Austria. We used the Super Sparpreis Europa train ticket we’d purchased in advance from Munich to Innsbruck (€43.80 for both, day of travel it was €91).

The train to Innsbruck via Kufstein and Worgl, took about 1:45 and was busy. Our seats showed no reservation, yet a woman came along and said I was sitting in her seat, said she’d reserved online. A passenger occupying the seat across from me moved to accommodate her, so we’re not sure which seat was reserved; it was confusing. We’ve traveled within Austria previously, but not extensively; this trip would prove to be a learning experience.

Bill had downloaded the ÖBB and VVT apps on his phone and he took care of checking schedules and booking our train and bus tickets as we traveled. Being used to the wonderful SBB app (Switzerland) he found the ÖBB (train) and VVT (bus) apps lacking; they don’t play well together; he often had to buy multiple tickets for a single journey.

He also had to refer to online maps to find the names of stops before he could enter them into the ÖBB and VVT apps. The PC (laptop) versions were a little better in that regard, but still had their own issues.

He’d also downloaded the Sud Tirol app for Italy, which was better than the other two in finding and checking schedules, but couldn't be used to book and pay for tickets online.

When we arrived in Innsbruck we saw our bus (590A). We asked the bus driver “Fulpmes”? He said no and pointed to another bus - this didn’t feel right, so Bill pulled up the bus route and showed him the spelling of Fulpmes - which unsurprisingly we’d mispronounced; evidently it’s pronounced Fullp-mees or Fullp-mess – with a very soft p; we heard both.

The driver then confirmed it was the right bus after all and we bought tickets from him - €6.70 each, €5.50 if purchased online.

With the drive underway, the bus got more and more busy and was soon standing room only; we couldn’t see the bus stops we passed; there were no display boards or announcements made. Bill tried to follow along on Google Maps. A man sitting across the aisle overheard us and told us he’d let us know when to get off - bless him. Some 30 minutes later we were getting off at the Ortmistte/Hypo stop in Fulpmes.

Lots of snow here; we walked some 8-10 minutes uphill, passing a horse stable and arriving at our apartment; the owner greeting us and asking if we spoke German, “Nein”. She kept talking and we miraculously understood that her English speaking son would come by later.

Nice place this, spacious, clean and comfortable. There were two bedrooms, the second up a steep set of stairs which we didn’t use. Our only complaint was the low bed, which required deep knee bends to get in and out and had a rather big crater in the mattress on one side; probably time for a new one (658).

We walked down to town to pick up provisions at Spar (loving the non-Swiss prices!) and got cash from the ATM to pay for the apartment.

Later we went out to explore, calling into the nearby 4* Alpin Resort Staubaier Hof which was nicely decorated for the holidays.


Fulpmes

We had a nice Austrian Zweigelt (red wine) in their cozy bar area. I’ve since read their hotel reviews, surprised to find many of them negative.

Later we walked down to Pizzeria Casanova where we shared a Caprese salad (€9.50), a Salami pizza (€10.50) and more Zweigelt (€14), followed by affogatos (€3.50 each). All very good. The food and drink fest was underway.

Then it was back to the apartment to crash.


Fulpmes

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jan 19th, 2024 at 06:14 AM.
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Old Jan 19th, 2024, 01:34 PM
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Nov 28 -

It was snowing as we walked down to the tourist office (which is located uphill by the church, instead of lower in town as one might expect). We wanted to confirm what we already suspected, that only the Stubai Glacier cable car was operating; which happened to be the one we were most interested in. Note: The Stubai Glacier website indicates that the viewing platform is open 365 days a year…read on.

We decided we’d try to visit tomorrow due to today’s crummy weather. We were told at the tourist office that we could get guest cards from our accommodation owner, although I’d asked her months ago if they were included with the accommodation - and was told no - twice.

We popped into Backerei Premm for coffee and a disappointing pastry - €10.60. Then it was back to the apartment to ask about guest cards for a third time - which the owner’s son gave to us without issue - making us wonder what the previous two negative responses had been about. With guest cards, we were eligible for free bus transportation and discounts on cable cars - a wonderful thing indeed.


Fulpmes

Fulpmes

Fulpmes

We walked up to the Slick 2000 cable station to begin the walk to Neustift; advertised as a panoramic walk. It overlooks the valley which is more developed and industrial-looking than we’d expected.


Walk to Neustift

The day was gloomy and grey; the trail paved and fairly level, but long. We reached Neustift in 2:20, unsure of the mileage as Google Fit shat itself (and continued to do so for the entire trip - time to find a new walking app…suggestions?).

Once in Neustift we wandered, visited the parish church of St George and popped into the only open restaurant we could find, the near deserted Dorf Café. We shared Flammkuchen and Topfenstrudel, all good, except for the cold red wine (€20.40).


Parish Church of St George Neustift

Neustift

We took the bus back to Fulpmes, dropped of Bill’s backpack, and then went down the hill to the closest bus stop to catch the 4:45 bus to Innsbruck, free as far as Schonberg with the guest card, €3.30 each from there, booked via the VVT app. We weren’t sure which to show to the bus driver, so we just showed the guest card on the way to Innsbruck, and the paid ticket on the return - neither bus driver paid much attention.

From the Innsbruck train/bus station we took a meandering walk to Old Town, dodging some major construction work, lots of huge holes in the street (Fulpmes had a lot of road work as well), it was a bit of an obstacle course.

The Christmas Markets were in full swing. We located Markethalle and our favorite wine bar the tiny Vinum.in. It was full, but we found two vacant seats along the window. We enjoyed a few drops, then went out into the cold to find some food. The Christmas Market was pretty mellow this early in the season; it was snowing, adding to the holiday atmosphere.


Markethalle, Innsbruck

Christmas Market, Innsbruck

Christmas Market, Innsbruck

Christmas Market, Innsbruck

Christmas Market, Innsbruck

We shared a kartoffelspieß, a spiraled fried potato on a stick (€6) and shared a wurst with cheese on a roll (€6). Then we walked back to the bahnhof and took the 9:05 pm bus back to Fulpmes, €3.30 each; now cold and snowing.


Innsbruck

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jan 19th, 2024 at 01:39 PM.
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Old Jan 19th, 2024, 11:44 PM
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Looks so charming! I’ve never had a cold Christmas, so I’m loving these photos.
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 06:37 AM
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Thanks for reading Adelaidean - you need a cold Christmas at least once in your lifetime! I never could get used to the hot Christmases in Australia and Indonesia, or the non-existant Christmases in the Middle East.
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 08:01 AM
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Nov 29 -

We woke to this advisory - “Potential Disruption due to extreme low temperatures”, which brought back memories of our Christmas trip to the Salzkammergut a few years ago when I thought I’d freeze to death (and I generally like the cold).

But the sky was a beautiful blue, so we put on every warm piece of clothing we brought with us and took the bus from Fulpmes to the end of the line in the Stubai Valley, home to Austria’s biggest glacier ski resort, a ride of about 45 minutes, free with guest card.

https://www.stubaier-gletscher.com/

We got off the bus at Talstation Gamsgarten and took the cable car up to Mittelstation Fernau, then changed to the cable car up to Gamsgarten. It was windy; the cable car was swinging, which made me nervous. As we climbed, we could see another larger cable car running alongside us.



Once at Gamsgarten, we were confused on how to get to the Top of Tyrol. We sought out help and were told to go back down to Mittelstation Fernau and then take the “big cable car” (Eisgrat) up to the restaurant, and then change to another, smaller cable car which would take us to the top.


Gamsgarten

Gamsgarten

Gamsgarten - got snow?

So we did, this smaller cable car also swinging around in the wind. I was worried they’d close the cable cars and we’d be stuck at the top. Soon we were at the Top of Tyrol at an elevation of 3,210 meters (10,528 feet), where we proceeded to freeze our butts off; -19F with the wind chill.

The viewing platform, which extends nine meters over the rocks and provides panoramic views of some 109 three thousand meter peaks was closed due to wind and a s**tload of snow; we'll just have to take their word for it and come back at a more hospitable time of year.

Onboard the Eisgrat cable car

Eisgrat cable car

Top of Tyrol

Top of Tyrol viewing platform (closed!)

Top of Tyrol

God Almighty, it was frigid up there, with snow flying off the peaks in all directions - and yet - there were hundreds of skiers. These Austrians are tough! Our day ticket included unlimited rides on lifts to all three mountain stations, but not all lifts were open - (€35.50 for me, €28.40 for Bill).

The ski area touts guaranteed snow from October through May, 108 km of ski pistes, 26 lifts and cable cars, eight restaurants and huts, and even escalators, which impressed my skiing spouse to no end.

Our hopes of getting in a bit of winter hiking were completely destroyed...all I wanted was a bowl of hot soup and to look at the winter wonderland from INSIDE.

I read later that there’s a restaurant (Jochdohle), at the very top near the viewing platform; we saw a building down below and to our right, which I now think was the restaurant. The cable car left us in an enclosed viewing area, and the wind was so cold and fierce that I didn’t want to leave the enclosure to explore.


Top of Tyrol - looking down at Jochdohle restaurant (I think)

We backtracked to Eisgrat mountain station and had a pretty good lunch at Berg Restaurant Eisgrat, a self-service restaurant with some 400 seats - cheese soup, cheese strudel with vanilla sauce, bread, sausage stick, prosecco, beer - €40.70. In the few days we’d been in Austria, we’d noticed that waffles as dessert seem to be quite popular.

I’m not sure what surprised me most, the sheer size of the place or how well skiers in Austria are looked after. It felt like a whole city up here. I’ve been to many ski resorts in Europe, but this one really stood out.


Berg Restaurant Eisgrat

Eisgrat

After lunch we took the cable car back down to Talstation Eisgrat, and boarded the very busy bus back to Fulpmes.


Eisgrat cable car


In retrospect, we should have just gotten off the bus at Talstation Eisgrat when we arrived, which would have taken us directly to the second cable car that leads up to Top of Tyrol. The back of our tickets showed a diagram of the various cable cars, but we’d failed to look. Oops.


Back in Fulpmes the sun was shining; it’d been a beautiful, albeit very cold, day.


Fulpmes

Fulpmes

To be continued…

Last edited by Melnq8; Jan 20th, 2024 at 08:14 AM.
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 09:36 AM
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Very beautiful winter pictures, Mel! The Christmas market in Innsbruck looks charming.

That Eisgrat restaurant is impressive, but to be frank - I prefer the cosy small mountain huts.

Keep it coming, it's fun to read as always
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 03:32 PM
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The Alps look stunning. Other than Munich and Salzburg, all the places you've visited are new to me. Thanks for giving me hiking ideas.
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 04:12 PM
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Ingo - I do too, but I was really surprised at the sheer size of some of the ski areas we visited on this trip, as well as their amenities. Skiers are really looked after there, as are pedestrians and families. It's so different to some of the ski areas here in Colorado, which have poor amenties, lousy over-priced food and don't even allow pedestrians, let alone welcome them - all while charging a small fortune for lift passes.

Thanks for reading trippplanner!
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