Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The ultimate Berlin city guide for eco-conscious travelers

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
After my second trip to Berlin, my first thought was: "How on earth am I going to sum up everything I've seen and experienced?!"

This Berlin city guide is my attempt of summing up the good places in one of the world's greenest cities, from a sustainable perspective. It covers pretty much everything; from accommodation to green events in Berlin :-)
The ultimate guide to Berlin for eco-conscious travelers

This guide is extensive, so use these quick links if you don't want to read the whole guide:
1. Eco-friendly accommodation
2. Traveling around in Berlin
3. Vegetarian- and vegan-friendly cafés and restaurants in East Berlin
4. Explore the greenery
5. Green tours in Berlin
6. Sustainable shopping
7. Green events in Berlin

All outbound links in this post are non-commercial.

1. Eco-friendly accommodation

Here are a couple of ideas for green accommodation in Berlin. None of these have been tested by me, but they're surely recommended by others! :-)

Almodovar Hotel

Several elements make this hotel eco-friendly: the furniture in their rooms that are made from sustainably sourced rosewood, treated only using natural oils. In the room, you'll also find an organic mini bar, certified natural cosmetics and even a frigging yoga mat :-) According to their site, they only serve vegetarian and organic food at their restaurant Bistro Bardot. 
Standard room. Photo courtesy of Almodovar Hotel.
Standard room. Photo courtesy of Almodovar Hotel.

Another huge bonus is the location. 

The hotel is located in Friedrichshain, where lots of good stuff are happening a few minutes from your doorstep; the flea market at Boxhagener Platz on Sundays, countless cafes and restaurants, Ladenkino - a small cinema showing independent films (also in English), vintage and second-hand stores, and about 15 minute walk to the artsy and relaxed RAW-complex in Revaler strasse 99. 

The closest attractions are the East Side Gallery, Molecule Man and the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park. 

Where: Boxhagener strasse 83 (S8/S9/S41/S42 to Ostkreuz, trams 21 and M13 to Boxhagener strasse/Holteistrasse). 

Hotel Hüttenpalast

Wanna go "glamping" in Berlin? :-) I just love this concept by Hüttenpalast where you can spend the night in one of their luxurious indoor camping wagons or small cabins :-)
Glamping in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Hüttenpalast.
Glamping in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Hüttenpalast.

This place is located in a promising district, namely Neukölln. Here you'll have access to several restaurants that are worthy the foodporn hashtag, art galleries, boutiques and the large event - The Green Market.

A colleague and friend of mine, Kirsten, spent time here a couple of years ago, and her reaction was: "Crazy and wonderful". She would recommend the hotel for people with an open mind and who wants to try something entirely new :-) An extra plus for the modern, shared bathrooms but a minus for the loudness. Bring your earplugs or come in a group and occupy several camping wagons together ;-)

Where: Hobrechtstrasse 65/66 (U8 to Schönleinstrasse or Hermannplatz).

Read reviews of Hüttenpalast on Tripadvisor.

Essentis Biohotel

Get away from the hustle and bustle in downtown Berlin and stay at Essentis. A solar-powered hotel and the perfect place for yogis and meditation practitioners! Overlooking the river Spree, you get spacious rooms and have access to yoga and meditation workshops.
A room at Essentis Biohotel in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Essentis.
A room at Essentis Biohotel in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Essentis. 

In the morning, they serve vegetarian/vegan buffet at Amaranth located inside the hotel. Sundays is brunch time and vegan bonanza for the visitors. The restaurant serves only international vegan cuisine and is 100% organic.

Where: Weiskopffstrasse 16 in east Berlin (trams 27/60/67 to Parkstrasse, S-bahn to Oberspree).

Read reviews of Essentis Biohotel on Booking.com.

2. Berlin City Guide - Traveling around in Berlin

The extensive public transport network covers all districts in Berlin. If a local area is not covered by the u-bahn (metro) or s-bahn, then it's normally covered by tram or bus.

You can get a single ticket, day pass, 7-day card or a monthly pass. A ticket can be used on all public transport: S-bahn, U-bahn, trams, buses and ferries. Tickets can be bought at ticket machines on the platforms, inside the trams or ticket counters at larger stations. Beware that the ticket machines only accept € 5 or 10 bills.

For more information on the public transport, click here.

It took me a while to get a complete picture of the public transport network, but I can sum things up this way:

The S-bahn ring: 

S41 and S42 travels in a ring around Berlin, covering the outer areas of Prenzlauer Berg (Schönhauser Allee), Friedrichshain (Frankfurter Alle and Ostkreuz), Treptow and Neukölln (Sonnenallee, Neukölln and Hermannstrasse) in the east. In the west, the S-bahn covers Gesundbrunnen, Wedding, Charlottenburg and Schöneberg.

S42 travels towards west and S41 travels towards east. 

S-bahn passing the city center:

There are also three S-bahn lines that pass the city center, covering Mitte (Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt and Friedrichsstrasse) and Charlottenburg (Tiergarten, Zoologischer Garten, Savignyplatz and Charlottenburg). These lines are S3, S7 and S75.


Taking the u-bahn is very easy. All you need to know beforehand is where you're going, which line the destination is on and the end station - to be sure that you're traveling in the right direction ;-)

Download the U-bahn and S-bahn map right here.
Schönhauser Allee u-bahn station

Trams and buses:

The trams in Berlin cover mostly downtown, the northern and eastern part of the city, including Mitte, Moabit, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain. As you can see on the map, there are no trams covering the west, Kreuzberg and Neukölln. But there are buses that drive through these districts.

Click to read about the tram and bus lines.
Map of tram lines in Berlin. Photo courtesy of BerlinMap360.

Bike rental:

If you're confident enough to bike around Berlin, you can rent a bicycle at a rental shop, the guesthouse or hotel if they provide this service, or at public hire stations.

You might want to try Call a Bike (solar-powered hire station), administered by Deutsche Bahn. You need to register only once and you need to give them a credit card. Once you're registered, you can hire a bike from the sidewalk or track one with the help of this interactive map.

Otherwise, there are plenty of bike rental shops scattered around the city; from west to east, in Charlottenburg, Mitte, Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedricshain.

Day rental costs around € 10. Be sure to get to know relevant traffic rules and regulations before you get on the bike ;-) Check out this Cycling in Berlin guide by Exberliner.

German law does not require cyclists to wear a helmet in Berlin. During the three weeks I spent in Berlin, I saw maybe a handful of cyclists wearing a helmet... Do what feels right for you!
Solar-powered bicycle hire station in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
Solar-powered bicycle hire station in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin

3. Vegetarian- and vegan-friendly cafés and restaurants in East Berlin

I tried lots of restaurants and cafes around east Berlin, and practically none of them were an disappointment. But these are the ones that pop into mind.

Prenzlauer Berg

For breakfast or brunch, head for Cafe Anna Blume in Kollwitzplatz (U2 Eberswalder strasse, M10 Husemannsstrasse or Prenzlauer Allee/Danziger strasse). They have something-something for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans. The three-tier breakfast is very popular and can be made vegetarian.

Mind though, that it gets packed during lunch hours. You might have to wait a little to get seated, but the food at Anna Blume is worth the wait!
Vegan breakfast plate at Cafe Anna Blume in Berlin
Vegan breakfast plate at Cafe Anna Blume in Berlin

Another breakfast/brunch place to check out is Cafe Morgenrot on Kastanienallee (tram M1 or U2 to Eberswalder strasse). From Friday to Sunday between 11-15 they serve vegetarian buffets. Some of the best pretzels I've tasted are found inside Schönhauser Arcaden, at Ditsch (tram M1 or U2 to Schönhauser Allee). It's still warm when you buy one! :-)

If you happen to be around Rosa-Luxembourg Platz, you might want to try the unbelievably delicious vegetarian dumplings at Momos in Fehrbelliner strasse. You know, for a quick snack :-)

In the afternoon, you won't regret having the veggie burger at Schiller Burger (Kastanienallee) or the Libanese platter at Babel (Kastanienallee). The veggie burgers at Vego Foodworld in Lychener strasse are also very crunchy and delicious.

If you're into raw food or want to try it, you should check out Rawtastic in Danziger strasse. Have a taste of everything they have, and order the Tasting Plate :-) The South Indian thali dishes at Chutnify in Sredzkistrasse are also pretty good.
1. Vegan burger at Schiller 2. Libanese vegetarian platter at Babel in Berlin
1. Vegan burger at Schiller 2. Libanese vegetarian platter at Babel in Berlin

If you get cravings in the evening, try the Edamame snack at Takumi Nine (Raumerstrasse). If you're hungry enough, try their Ramen (a Japanese noodle soup). Maria Bonita in Danzigerstrasse is open until 23.00 and here you'll definitely find authentic Mexican food (also lacto-vegetarian).


For breakfast or brunch, try the amazing sandwiches at ORA in Oranienplatz (U1/U8 to Kottbusser Tor). ORA is located in an old and gorgeous pharmacy, with old-looking interior and vintage details to look at :-) Another breakfast place worth visiting is Charlie's Vegan & Coffee in Oranienstrasse. You can order the breakfast plate with home-made vegan spreads or have a slice of their raw chocolate cake.
1. Vegan breakfast at Charlie's  2. Vegetarian pasta at Mani in Pasta (Markthalle Neun)
1. Vegan breakfast at Charlie's  2. Vegetarian pasta at Mani in Pasta (Markthalle Neun)

If you're hungry enough and happen to be in the neighborhood on a Thursday, I would strongly recommend Markthalle Neun (food hall in Eisenbahnstrasse), where they have regular street food Thursday. The closest U-bahn is Görlitzer Bahnof.
Korean bibimbap at Angry Chicken in Kreuzberg, Berlin
Korean bibimbap at Angry Chicken in Kreuzberg, Berlin

Try the 3 Schwestern at Mariannenplatz for dinner in a stunning old church. It's about a 10 minutes walk from the metro station Kottbusser Tor. They have an international menu, and the food is just delicious. For exotic fast food, try the Korean place at Angry Chicken. We had the ovo-vegetarian bibimbap with tofu, which blew us away.


A great Sunday brunch place is Macondo (U5 to Samariterstrasse), located next right to Boxhagener park and the flea market. During buffet hours, they serve Colombian dishes and for € 9 you can eat as much as you like. Sundays in general is buffet time in Berlin :-)

Another viable breakfast option is Malja und Schäfa in Sonntagsstrasse (S41/S42/S8/S9 to Ostkreuz). Try their breakfast plates with home-made spreads.

If the weather is too hot, cool yourself down with vegan ice-cream or iced matcha chai latte with soy milk at Eiscafe Caramello (Wühlischsstrasse, tram M13 to Libauer strasse).
'Bun Tron' - Vietnamese dish at New Day in Friedrichshain, Berlin
'Bun Tron' - Vietnamese dish at New Day in Friedrichshain, Berlin

In the afternoon or evening, stop by New Day in Niederbarnimstrasse for appetizing Vietnamese dishes (U5 to Samariterstrasse or tram M10 to Frankfurter Tor). Reading a whole page of vegetarian options at a Vietnamese restaurant, is to me a rare experience. I tried the vegetarian Bun Tron, and it was absolutely amazing :-)


I spent some time in Neukölln, but only tried a few good spots to eat. If you're in a hurry, grab some pretzels at Brezel Company in Lenaustrasse (U8 to Schönleinstrasse). Eating a pretzel in Berlin as mandatory, and you can get them buttered or with various dips ;-)

For vegetarian bowls that will leave you craving for more, head for Holy Flat! in Lenaustrasse (U8 to Hermannplatz). Their bowls are seriously worth the trip to Neukölln.
Viva Mexican Bowl at Holy Flat! in Neukölln, Berlin
Viva Mexican Bowl at Holy Flat! in Neukölln, Berlin

Some of the best burgers are in Neukölln, more specifically at Berlin Burger International in Pannierstrasse (U7/U8 to Hermannplatz). It's a tiny place where hipsters like to eat their burgers and play old-school Nintendo. I tried the vegetarian burger with sweet potato fries. One bite of the veggie burger and the taste explodes in your mouth ;-)


Having breakfast at House of Small Wonder in Johannisstrasse is a good start to your day (U6 to Oranienburger Tor, S1/S2 to Oranienburger strasse). If you're not hungry, at least grab a coffee here and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Entrance to House of Small Wonder, Berlin
Entrance to House of Small Wonder, Berlin

Many people say that you've never been to Berlin if you haven't tried a currywurst. I'm not a sausage person, but the taste of vegetarian bratwurst really stuck with me. A quick, delicious snack on the road when you have a tight schedule :-) Try the Curry61 in Oranienburgerstrasse or basically any currywurst shop in Berlin.

If you're around Hackescher Markt or Rosenthaler, head for District Môt and eat some of the best Vietnamese food in town. And you won't regret ordering the 'Xin Chao', if you want a cold, refreshing drink with fresh-pressed lime juice, peppermint and strawberries on the rocks.

Read: When your friends eat meat and you don't.
Bun Bao burger at District Môt in Mitte, Berlin
Bun Bao burger at District Môt in Mitte, Berlin

If you're traveling to Berlin with friends or your better half, I highly recommend the vegan restaurant Kopps. I brought my sister here for fine dining, despite that neither of us are vegans.

We chose the four-course menu, and the food was surprisingly delicious and filling. The closest U-bahn station is Rosenthaler Platz (U8).
4 course menu at vegan restaurant Kopps, Berlin
4 course menu at vegan restaurant Kopps, Berlin

Another fine dining option is Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz - the restaurant at the TV-tower. Bring your loved one and have dinner at a height of 207 meters above the ground! :-)

I always get amazed when I get to eat vegetarian or vegan food at a fine dining restaurant. I chose the three-course menu and the food was delicious, but not extraordinary. The dessert on the other hand, was a funky, not-so-delightful experience. The basil sorbet was maybe OK.

The highlight for me was the location and dining with one of my good friends. While you're eating, you'll barely notice that the restaurant is rotating 360 degrees. Day and night, you'll get an amazing view of Berlin which you'll only get from the TV tower :-)
Vegan and vegetarian three-course menu at Fernsehturm, Berlin
Vegan and vegetarian three-course menu at Fernsehturm, Berlin

A hot tip is to purchase fast track tickets in advance to avoid the queue!

4. Berlin City Guide - Explore the greenery in Berlin

Prinzessinnengarten is Kreuzberg's green pearl. Well, technically speaking, it is a volunteer-based community garden.

Here you can sit down in the cafe and have a vegetarian lunch in relaxed surroundings, or you can pay 4 euros for an informative tour around the garden (booking necessary). I did the tour, and it was remarkable to hear about the background story, the re-use workshops and how they generally pushed the envelope to realize the garden complex.

Where: U8 to Moritzplatz.
Entrance to Prinzessinnengarten in Kreuzberg, Berlin
Entrance to Prinzessinnengarten in Kreuzberg, Berlin

If you have 3-4 hours available and want to take a break from the hustle and bustle, I recommend the Botanischer Garten (Botanical Garden), approx. 40 minutes from Mitte. Visiting the main greenhouse is in my opinion, the garden's highlight especially the cactus and succulent department.

Where: Bus M48 or S1 to Botanischer Garten. The bus leaves Alexanderplatz and stops right outside the entrance, while with the S-bahn you need to walk about 800 meters to reach the garden.
Get lost in Botanical garden in Berlin / Botanischer Garten
Get lost in Botanical garden in Berlin / Botanischer Garten

If there's one thing I don't regret experiencing, it must be the Freiluftskino in Kreuzberg. What's better than watching an independent movie with a cold beer in your hand and the Berlin wind brushing your skin when it's all hot and humid :-)

Where and when: The outdoor cinema is right next to the restaurant 3 Schwestern in Mariannenplatz, and the season lasts from May to September.

Check out the program here. Be sure to arrive early if you want to sit in a comfy deck chair. In the photo below you see rows with plastic chairs, but on the front there are a few rows with deck chairs.
Preparing for 'Colonia Dignidad' at the Freiluftskino in Kreuzberg, Berlin
Preparing for 'Colonia Dignidad' at the Freiluftskino in Kreuzberg, Berlin

5. Green tours in Berlin

There are countless tours in Berlin, and a few targets green travelers. If you want to learn more about green fashion, be sure to check out the unique Green Fashion Tour, which runs monthly (€ 25 per person). Each tour focuses on one-two neighborhoods, where you'll get introduced to upcycling and otherwise sustainable fashion.

You might also look into the Green Tour run by Alternative Tours Berlin. You'll get to know sustainable projects in Berlin which includes community gardens. This tour costs €15 per person.

A third option is to go off-the-beaten track and go foraging in Berlin-Brandenburg area (€ 25 per person).

Food tours are also provided for vegan travelers. Visit Vegan Tours Berlin and see if there's any date available during your stay. It is a donation based tour that runs every Saturday at 13.00. I did the Bite Berlin tour, and it wasn't a problem being a vegetarian. I just got my own food :-) Sam's an adorable, passionate and knowledgeable guide, who will take you to some of her favorite food spots in Berlin.

6. Sustainable shopping

Did anyone say shopping? ;-) Berlin is the mecca for organic and fair trade fashion, vintage and second-hand. The limitation lies in your budget and not in the selection :-)

Second-hand and vintage

On Sundays, I would head for the flea markets. Mauer park (09.00-18.00) is the largest flea market in Berlin, where you'll find pretty much everything you need, if you have the patience to look for it. Ceramics? Yep. Second-hand clothing? Yep. Old telephones and old photographs. Yep, yep.

Be sure to grab a vegan kebab and lemonade while you're enjoying shopping, especially in the summer. It can get hot and overwhelmingly packed ;-)
Vegan kebab at Mauer flea market in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
Vegan kebab at Mauer flea market in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin

You should also check out the Boxhagener flea market (10.00-18.00) in Friedrichshain. It's a considerably smaller market than the one by Mauer park, but there's a lot of good stuff in here :-) I found vintage frames and some old ceramic serving platters.

A tip is to start the flea market shopping in Friedrichshain, and from there you can take the M10 tram directly to outside Mauer park in Prenzlauer Berg.

Other weekend flea markets in Berlin:
- Arkonaplatz (10.00-16.00) in Prenzlauer Berg - close to Mauer park.
- Arena indoor flea market in Eichenstrasse, Kreuzberg (Saturday and Sunday from 10.00-16.00). Take the S-bahn to Treptower Park.
Inside Pira-X vintage store in Friedrichshain, Berlin
Inside Pira-X vintage store in Friedrichshain, Berlin

Another shop in Friedrichshain worth visiting is named Pira-X. The name of the shop might sound like a bad sci-fi movie, but it's actually a vintage furniture and interior shop located in Niederbarnimstrasse. It's a great place to admire vintage wooden furniture, and it doesn't feel cluttered like it would at a flea market.

Further down the street you'll find Anziehend Second-hand where you can shop for carefully selected second-hand clothing. I visited too many vintage and second-hand shops in Berlin, and this one is in my Top five!
Outside Anziehand Second-hand in Friedrichshain, Berlin
Outside Anziehand Second-hand in Friedrichshain, Berlin.

If you're around Mitte, you should visit the popular Made in Berlin in Neue Schönhauser strasse and see if you can get your hands on a pair of 501 Levi's or maybe a vintage dress. More second-hand shops are found in the neighbor street Alte Schönhauser strasse, including luxurious brands at Isobel Gowdie and cool vintage clothing at PicknWeight. 

If you're on the west side, stop by Garage in Ahornstrasse in the Schöneberg district (U1/U2/U3/U4 to Nollendorfplatz). I probably spent one hour here browsing through second-hand leather jackets, skirts, pull-overs and dresses. The genious part is that you pay by the weight! I bought a second-hand wool cardigan at around € 7.

Sustainable living and sustainable fashion stores

Not so keen on used stuff?

Then visit the fairtrade shops Loveco in Sonntagsstrasse (Friedrichshain) or Supermarchè Fairtrade Streetwear in Wienerstrasse (Kreuzberg).

I was determined to find clothes from Armed Angels and was thrilled when I found a decent selection at Loveco. A bright, spacious store and an attentive staff who was eager to help me with the birthday present for my boyfriend. When I got back to Norway, my boyfriend was excited about his fairtrade t-shirts made from mainly bamboo. He practically wears them all the time now :-)

Loveco has an online shop as well and they ship internationally!

Read: 20 useful clothing care tips for the conscious fashionista.
Inside Loveco in Friedrichshain - sustainable clothing and accessories
Inside Loveco in Friedrichshain - sustainable clothing and accessories

At Supermarché, you can find plenty of basic clothing under € 20, but also cute patterned skirts, tops and dresses at decent prices. You should also check out their fairtrade underwear from the German brand Comazo.

A few meters from the Supermarché, you'll find Berlin's first zero-packaging supermarket, named Original Unverpackt. If you haven't been to one before, this place is going to blow your mind!

Think zero-waste and just bulk products. Not only will you find numerous bulk dry food, but also candy, soap, laundry detergent and even bulk wine.

Read: 7 easy ways on how to minimize food waste.
Bulk wine at Original Unverpackt, Berlin
Bulk wine at Original Unverpackt, Berlin

Another great spot to shop for sustainable wear is Un Autre Voodoo in Neukölln.

A French couple owns this small shop and offers clothing from various sustainable fashion designers. I bought beautiful underwear from Anekdot, promoting itself as an upcycle brand - all hand-crafted in Berlin. These are the most expensive underwear I've ever bought (€ 35). I'm not going to throw them around, if you know what I mean ;-)
Outside Un Autre Voodoo in Neukölln in Berlin - sustainable fashion
Outside Un Autre Voodoo in Neukölln in Berlin - shop for sustainable fashion

In the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg, you might want to visit DearGoods in Schivelbeiner strasse that features brands like Wunderwerk, Komodo, Lanius and Armed Angels. Next door you'll find vegan shoes at Avesu. You've maybe heard about or seen the Veja snickers, that are made from recycled plastic bottles? Well, check out Avesu! :-)

The Veganz supermarket is also next door to DearGoods and a small café called Goodies. The supermarket is vegan heaven, and you can stock dry food and bathroom products pretty cheap.

In Mitte, I have a favorite shop in Oranienburger strasse called Grüne Erde (= translated to Green Earth). Here you'll get sustainable goods for the home, including home textiles, furniture, candles and lamps. I stocked up on essential oils which I'm going to use for my DIY foaming hand soaps :-)

7. Green events in Berlin

The Green Market

The Green Market Berlin claims to be the city's first vegetarian lifestyle market, founded in 2014 by Berliner Stephanie Witt. Imagine DJs, street food, workshops, clothing, cosmetics and hand-made gifts - all of these in a vibrant market :-)

Next dates:
- September 17-18, 2016
- December 17-18, 2016

Where: in the corner of Neckarstrasse and Isarstrasse (U7 to Rathaus Neukölln or U8 to Boddinstrasse).

Vegan Summer Festival / Veganes Sommerfest

Organized by Vegetarierbund Deutschland, Berlin-Vegan and Albert Schweitzer Foundation, the Vegan Summer Festival in Berlin is supposed to be Europe's largest vegan summer festival.
Vegan summer festival in Berlin
Vegan summer festival in Berlin - Berlin city guide

It reminds me of the Vegetarian Festival here in Oslo, but probably 10 times bigger with a compelling program and an abundance of vegan food. Be sure to arrive hungry! :-) You can also win prizes on Saturday and Sunday, including books, food and vouchers. 

Next dates: August 19-21, 2016

Where: Alexanderplatz.

GreenBuzz Berlin

If you want to try something new, you should try subscribing for events through GreenBuzz. You've maybe heard about Sustainability Drinks or Sustainability Panels?

Well, you get to learn more about sustainability through lectures and discussions over a couple of green drinks :-) While I was in Berlin in July, the theme was "Will Veganism Save the World?"

International Green Week

As one of the oldest fairs in Berlin, the International Green Week claims to be the world's biggest fair for food, agriculture and horticulture. A wide range of food products, beer, wine, champagne, teas, herbs and spices are displayed by the exhibitors.

Next dates: January 20-29, 2017

Where: Messedamm 22 (S3/S75 to Messe Süd). Ticket price starts at € 10. Visit their website to learn more about International Green Week.

Continue to read:
Travel report: day trip to Copenhagen.

Earth-friendly and non-toxic alternatives for your dental care.

How to deal with environmental guilt.

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