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REVIEW – Aman Sveti Stefan (Montenegro)

Aman Sveti Stefan

Aman Sveti Stefan

Aman Sveti Stefan

  • Location: Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
  • Rate:  €800 per night (with Virtuoso Benefits)
  • Room Type: Cottage
    • Complimentary upgrade from Village Room


Intro


After finally taking the plunge and experiencing my first Aman property at Amanoi in Vietnam, I was instantly hooked.

Everything I’d heard about Aman hotels was true. The quality of the rooms, the abundance of personal space and most of all: the spectacular service. Nothing I’d ever encountered before compared.

I needed another Aman fix, and was very intrigued by something closer to home.

Aman Sveti Stefan stands out, more than anything, for its unique and privileged location on a preserved medieval island, accessible only by a narrow causeway from the mainland.

The hotel is the definition of exclusivity, and is not accessible to the general public, unless they are on a special guided tour or if they hold dinner reservations. As with many Aman properties (especially the earlier ones in the Zecha-era), this hotel has no direct competitors.

There is a One&Only resort nearby, but it is just a modern luxury hotel on the mainland, barely comparable to a private island resort housed in medieval buildings.

 


Booking


All Aman hotels offer Virtuoso benefits, which are usually a variation on the below:

• Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
• Breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests per bedroom
• $100 Resort Credit
• Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

You can make a Virtuoso booking directly online.

The rate and cancellation terms will match Aman.com exactly, AND you get all the above extras thrown in for free.

At the time of booking, I was able to secure a standard room for €2400 for 3 nights, with Virtuoso benefits included.

 


Arrival


The town of Sveti Stefan is close to two international airports: Tivat (TIV) and Podgorica (TGD). Both are around 1 hour away by car.

Another alternative that some people consider is a drive along the coast from Dubrovnik (DBV) in Croatia. I would strongly caution against trying this though, as even pre-COVID, border controls were known to cause wait times of over 3 hours.

We flew direct from London (LGW) to Tivat (TIV) on Montenegro Airlines  – an airline which has since gone into liquidation as a result of COVID. This is a real shame, as direct flights to Montenegro are still something of a rarity from the UK, especially on a full service carrier.

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Our Virtuoso booking included complimentary SUV transfers from the airport. We found the vehicle to be very comfortable, with snacks and water provided. The driver was fluent in English, and was very happy to share a detailed history of the Aman property, as well as information on the surrounding region.

As we entered the town of Sveti Stefan, we caught our first glimpse of the surreal looking Aman property. Every square inch of space seemed to be occupied with precariously perched buildings, peering over cliff edges.

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Aman Sveti Stefan.

A single causeway links the property to the mainland and vehicles cannot cross it. This separation between the hotel and the mainland gives Sveti Stefan island the feel of a Bond Villain’s lair.

On one side of the causeway there is a public beach, which was filled with people when we arrived. On the other side is a private beach, accessible only to hotel guests or those willing to part with €100 to enter. This beach was invariably empty during our stay.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – public beach.

Another private Aman beach lies in front of Villa Milocer, which sits in the cove on the left of the image below.

Villa Milocer contains numerous rooms and is open year round, unlike Sveti Stefan island, which is only open during the warmer months of the year.

Although the Villa building is beautiful, my recommendation would always be to go for a room on the island, unless your party suffers from restricted mobility. There are numerous hotels around Europe located in former palaces, but there is nothing that compares to Sveti Stefan island.

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Back to our arrival: our vehicle stopped at a guard post at the mainland side of the causeway, and here we were greeted by the husband and wife team who were running the property: Tapa and Jane.

Tapa and Jane have since moved on to manage the COMO Parrot Cay resort in Turks and Caicos, and spoiler alert: the fact that they’re there is reason enough for me to want to visit.

From the moment that we first met on the causeway, they treated us as if we were old friends staying at their home.

We enjoyed a leisurely walk up to the main door of the property, as Tapa and Jane explained to us all the information that we might ever need about our stay.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – main entrance.

As soon as we entered the property, we were immediately removed from the modern world and transported into a medieval fairytale.

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From the plant covered buildings, to the lanterns and numerous miniature churches – everything looked at once pristine and ancient.

The views from the island were also stunning. Not only did we enjoy spectacular ocean panoramas; the towering mountains of the mainland were equally impressive, as we caught glimpses of them between the island’s buildings.

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Aman Sveti Stefan Cottage


Since all the rooms on Sveti Stefan island are housed within old buildings, each one is completely unique. Although we booked the standard ‘Village Room’, we received a fantastic upgrade to a Cottage.

Variety within the room categories can be huge; just within the Cottage category, the rooms run from 45m² all the way up to 90m².

Some have large balconies, others have great views, some have separate living rooms; it really helps to communicate your preferences in advance, to ensure that you get the best possible room to suit your tastes.

We really lucked out with one of the largest available cottages: Cottage #11 (the fact that it was my birthday during this stay probably helped!).

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Map.

IGTV Room Tour

 

As soon as we entered our Cottage, I came to the realisation that the pictures on the hotel website really only tell half the story. It is hard to articulate quite how pristine everything looked. There was not a single mark or scuff to be seen. Despite there being an abundance of white, everything was absolutely spotless.

The entrance to the cottage featured a coat rack, a large wardrobe and a luggage rack (which we ended up moving into the bedroom). Rather unusually, this was the only wardrobe in the whole Cottage, so we ended up getting dressed by the front door most of the time!

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Also rather unusually, the front door actually opened onto the bathroom, which was the largest space within our cottage.

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Sitting Room

A fantastic feature of this cottage was the separate sitting room. I tend to always wake up before Kamara (who would sleep for 20 hours a day were it not for her alarm). As such, it’s always great to have somewhere to enjoy a coffee and catch up on emails in the morning.

Plenty of hotels have noisy coffee machines right next to the bed, but here I was able to make my morning coffee well out of earshot of the bedroom.

 

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cottage sitting room.

 

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cottage sitting room.

The sitting room featured both a large sofa and a small dining table – upon which was a welcome note from the team, alongside a bottle of local wine.

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The wine was delicious, but even better was the bottle of Dom Perignon that I was given on my birthday! This is by far the most generous gift that I’ve ever received from a property, I honestly can’t imagine many other hotels (even at this price point) doing something similar.

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In addition to the Nespresso machine, there was a chest filled with a selection of teas, as well as some complimentary snacks. Proper milk was also provided – free of charge – in the minibar.

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Bathroom

As I mentioned before, the bathroom was really the centrepiece of the Cottage. Despite being very large, it still felt warm and cosy, the combination of wood and stone was executed beautifully and the deep soaking tub was the perfect spot to unwind in the evenings.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cottage bathroom.

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The twin sinks offered ample space upon which to place toiletries, and they received lots of natural light from the adjacent window.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cottage bathroom.

The window by the sinks also featured a large makeup stand – a small detail that made perfect use of the space. Similarly, I loved the fact that a small console table had been placed beneath the window in order to frame it with foliage. (The fact that the table was a milimetrically perfect fit for the window frame was surely no accident.)

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cottage bathroom.

The shower and toilet were located in separate rooms on either side of the sinks, both were generous in their proportions.

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As with all Aman properties, toiletries were locally made and supplied in refillable containers.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – toiletries.

 

Bedroom

I really like that there was a clear separation between the bathroom and the bedroom, with a valet stand sitting in the small hallway between the two. I thought the placement of the oversized mirror was great too; it really succeeded in bringing more light into room.

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Much like at Amanoi, the bedside tables were dramatically oversized, although the thick stone walls meant that providing power sockets here was impossible.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – bedroom.

Although the mattress was comfortable, I was surprised to discover that the pillows were filled with synthetic fibre rather than feathers. This is the kind of thing that you’d expect at an airport Radisson, not at the most exclusive hotel chain in existence.

Incredibly, when I asked, I was told that no feather pillows were available on Sveti Stefan island. I’m sure that if I had pushed the issue they would have gone out and bought some… but I did find it very strange that these weren’t already in plentiful supply.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – bedroom.

Given the nature of these old buildings, I wasn’t expecting much natural light, but the small windows all provided beautiful views.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cottage view.

Opposite the bed was a cabinet containing a flat screen TV. The desk was a little on the small side, but at least it featured numerous (local) power sockets.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – bedroom.

 


A typical day at Aman Sveti Stefan


I’m going to deviate from my usual review style, because it wouldn’t really do much justice to the experience if I just gave a separate rundown of the food and the facilities.

My one enduring memory of this stay is the feeling that every day was filled with amazing moments.  When you stay at Aman Sveti Stefan, you have not only the island but also 3 private beaches, a palace and an extensive spa facility at your disposal.

This is facilitated by the fact that the hotel provides complimentary speedboat transfers between Sveti Stefan island and Villa Milocer.

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Morning

On our first morning, we thought we’d try breakfast on the island. Breakfast was served at The Piazza, a series of small ‘town squares’ with tables dotted around them. The setting was very picturesque and rather unique. It really drove home the feeling that guests had free reign over their own village.

However, it was very busy. All the tables in the area with the ocean view were taken, with tables only available in a shaded overflow area (the image of the ocean facing area is taken from the hotel website).

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We decided that we didn’t want to begin our first day at Sveti Stefan by settling for second best, so we decided to head over to Villa Milocer and see if it was more to our liking.

 

Boat Trip

We went back to our room to call for speedboat service and were told to head straight to the jetty, where it would be waiting for us.

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A couple of things to note here:

  1. There is no shade on the jetty – although the setting is absolutely beautiful (the water is crystal clear and filled with sea urchins), you don’t want to spend too long waiting, as it gets very hot in the direct sunlight.
  2. There is no way to call a boat from the jetty – they could have installed a phone or a button here to call the boat over, since the captain always preferred to wait on the Villa Milocer side (probably because there’s shade there). If you come here without pre booking the boat, you’ll either have to wait for a long time or take a steep uphill walk back to reception for assistance.

Aside from those two small points, the concept of having a speedboat on hand to ferry you back and forth between your private island resort and your seafront palace is about as amazing as it gets.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Villa Milocer Beach.

We felt like movie stars as we cut a path through the crystalline water, on our way to the secret cave entrance of Villa Milocer’s private beach.

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Breakfast at Villa Milocer

A row of shaded tables sat directly in front of Villa Milocer, affording all guests a wonderful view of both the Mediterranean and Sveti Stefan island. Comparing this to the ‘overflow plaza’ on the island, it was clear that we’d made the right choice in coming here.

We were warmly greeted by name as we approached the tables, a bit of typical Aman magic. You never give your name or room number here, staff just know.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Villa Milocer breakfast.

The menu was fairly extensive, and included all of the usual international hotel breakfast staples like eggs Benedict, bircher muesli and shakshuka. Of course, with this being Aman, you could ask for almost anything off-menu and they would accommodate your request.

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Breakfast started each morning with drinks and a basket of pastries. I’m generally pretty carb-phobic, and pastries need to be very fresh and flaky for me to be interested. The baked goods all looked like they had been shop bought, which is disappointing for a hotel of this level.

They were not a patch on the utterly spectacular pastries at the Ritz Carlton Kyoto, for example.

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We sampled a variety of breakfast dishes over the course of three days, all of which were good, but none were particularly special. This was much the same feeling that we had about the food at Amanoi: good but not great.

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After a leisurely breakfast, we then had the option to either head down to the private beach in front of the villa…

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Villa Milocer beach.

…or head over to the far more private Queen’s Beach area, which cannot be accessed or even seen by members of the public (unless they had a boat and some binoculars).

Afternoon

Queen’s Beach

Guests at Aman Sveti Stefan are given a key to an unmarked gate that leads from the main seafront promenade, through some secluded gardens, onto Queen’s Beach.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Queen’s Beach.

The beach is sheltered within a very private cove, and there is no public footpath nearby. The feeling of exclusivity here is palpable.

We spent the majority of every afternoon here, reading books in the shade and periodically dipping into the impossibly clear water.

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The only time that the air of serene tranquility was broken was when the occasional tourist vessel would stop at the barrier line, allowing passengers to quickly take pictures of our remarkable surroundings.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – onlookers.

Lunch at Queen’s Beach

As the afternoon wore on, we would typically move up to one of the cabana style daybeds that sat between the beach and the spa.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – daybeds.

The day beds provided us with plenty of space on which to spread out and enjoy lunch. Having already smelled the intense aroma of truffles when pizzas had been brought to other guests, we knew exactly what to order!

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By Montenegrin standards, the prices were outrageous, tuna tacos for €27 for example. The food quality was excellent though, a definite step up from breakfast.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Pork and Beef Cevapi.

The truffle pizza was outrageously good: a super thin and crisp base with light charring around the edges, and a very generous helping of freshly sliced black truffles to complement the truffle cream, spread across its entirety.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Piazza bianca with truffles.

The Aperol Spritzes were also pretty great.

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Spa and Indoor Pool

After lunch you could spend the late afternoon relaxing at the Spa, conveniently located a few metres behind the daybeds.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – spa.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – spa.

Although the buildings are brand new, Jean Michel Gathy did an amazing job here, integrating them seamlessly into the design style of the island and Villa Milocer. Of all the Aman architects, he is absolutely my favourite and I loved observing the design similarities between this and Amanoi, which he also designed.

The indoor pool didn’t get much use, since we were visiting when the weather was still very warm. In the winter months though, I can imagine that it is wonderful.

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The Gym

The upstairs of the spa building housed the resort’s gym, which featured a selection of LifeFitness machines, as well as a variety of cardio equipment.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – gym.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – gym.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – gym.

There was also a small free weight section, with a benchpress and various dumbbells, topping out at a rather meagre 20kg.

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Evening

We tended to head back to the island at around 4 or 5pm, having spent the majority of the day at Queen’s Beach. Being out on the open water, with these views, never got old…

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Villa Milocer.

Back on the island, there were a couple of pools where you could enjoy the last rays of sunshine as the sun set into the sea.

Cliff Pool

The cliff pool has one of the most amazingly picturesque settings of any pool I’ve seen. Entirely surrounded by dramatic rock faces and pine trees, with an uninterrupted sea view.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cliff Pool.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Cliff Pool.

Church Pool

The Church Pool was rather less private, since the main bar and restaurant looked over it. The view however was even more spectacular than at the Cliff Pool.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Church Pool.

Churches

Speaking of churches, there are a multitude of well preserved (and very small!) churches on the island, which are definitely worth visiting when you’re staying here.

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In fact, going on an impromptu church hopping tour really helped us to work up a thirst for sunset drinks!

 

The Bar

Most hotel guests gathered at the bar as the sun began to set: a transformative moment, where suddenly the sleepy tranquility of daytime gave way to the buzz of lively conversations and the clinking of glassware.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – The Bar.

Service was very prompt and efficient, with staff remembering our preferences after the first day. Prices for regular cocktails were in line with what you’d pay at a London hotel, although the champagne cocktails commanded a rather substantial premium.

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We were always offered complimentary snacks as we waited for our drinks, and didn’t usually wait more than 10 minutes for the drinks to follow.

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The cocktails were serviceable, but in no way memorable. The thick stemmed glassware and use of lollipop sticks definitely detracted from the overall experience.

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Despite the mediocre drinks, the sunsets never failed to impress.

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Dinner at Arva

As darkness fell over the island, we were drawn like moths to the lights of Arva restaurant, next door.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Arva bar and restaurant.

Arva also has an elegant indoor dining room, but I don’t imagine it ever sees much action, given the views outside.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Arva restaurant indoors.

Even forgetting the views for a second, the outdoor setting was truly magical. The warm glow of lanterns illuminated the ivy clad stone buildings, as a cool breeze swept in from the Mediterranean. This was the perfect setting for lingering over a leisurely dinner.

The staff were great too, very personable and proactive.

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Aman Sveti Stefan – Arva restaurant outdoors.

Many Aman hotels have an Italian restaurant called Arva, and the idea is that the menus will be somewhat similar across the chain. There were one or two locally inspired dishes, but Italian flavours were the dominant force.

The food was of an excellent quality and portions were on the generous side too. Starters were priced at around €18, pastas at €25 and main courses averaged €36.

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After dinner, we always enjoyed a quiet stroll around the island. What a magical feeling, knowing that this charming little enclave was our private domain.

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Conclusion


Basics Checklist

X Power sockets near the bed
☑︎ Easy to understand light switches
☑︎ Coffee machine
☑︎ Separate shower and bath
☑︎ Blackout blinds
☑︎ Stable, fast and free Wifi
X Feather pillows
☑︎ Quiet and powerful aircon

There’s nowhere on earth quite like Aman Sveti Stefan: a spectacular private island resort, sitting majestically in the sparkling waters of the Adriatic riviera.

This hotel is certainly not for everybody. Tranquility is the key focus here; if you’re looking to party, this is not the place for you, although there is a lively branch of Nobu right outside of the property’s causeway.

From the moment that you arrive here, you feel as if you have left the normal world completely behind. This isn’t just a resort, it feels like a completely different way of life.

Where else can you wander through the streets of a perfectly preserved medieval village, and then take a private speedboat to a palace for breakfast every morning?

This is not a hotel which is cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but there is clearly a lot of value in the offering. Aman Sveti Stefan is an utterly unique premise, delivered with aplomb.

Without question, my favourite hotel in the entire continent of Europe.


Book online with Virtuoso benefits


Virtuoso Partner Booking

Click the image to get the best available, flexible rate and also receive:

Guaranteed room upgrade at time of booking

Breakfast daily for up to two in room guests

$100 resort credit

Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.

 

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