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Zlatá cesta- Golden Way

Czech Republic, Plzeň
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The Golden way, or Zlata cesta drives a path through Bohemia, a blessed land that had been cultivated for years by the locals until it was torn to pieces in the Nationalist uprising of the 1930’s and 40’s. Villages and towns were raised to the ground and all that remains are mere traces that might be stumbled upon by the more adventurous of ramblers.
GALLERY

The old road passed through Pavluv Studenec, of which only a few walls remain. Of the 1200 inhabitants of Milire only 200 survived. Many houses fell into disrepair and many of the residents were banished to East Slovakia. Myto is only half as big as it was in 1945.

The last stop before Tachov, not far from the little hamlet of Svetec are the romantic ruins of the old Minim Abbey which is being slowly won back by nature. The overgrown remains stand next to the walls of an unfinished castle whose construction had been started by the Duke of Windischgrätz. Since its renovation in 2000 the old riding school is used for concerts and theatre producutions.
Plana

Tachov


During the time in which other towns and villages were drastically reduced in size, or disappeared altogether, the town of Tachov has tripled in size since 1945. The town, founded in c.1100 AD was given its first boost by Charles IV having the parish church built wit hits pretty acanthus altar. The Hussites conquered the town in 1427 and were thus able to maintain their power over Bohemia for a long time.


After Tachov partook in the protestant rebellion at the beginning of the 30 Years War it lost its charter and all privileges and was demoted to the status of a provincial town.

The town defenses make a powerful impression with towers dating from the 14th Century, which dominate the entrance to the town centre. The houses and buildings in the centre of the town around the marketplace are very colourful, the square itself has a fountain, and the roof of the Maria Himmelsfahrtskirche reminds us of the influence Peter Parler (responsible for the Charles Bridge and the Vitus Cathedral in Prague) had in its conception. The town council is now housed in the classical castle originally built by the von Windisch-Graetz Ducal dynasty.

Musical Riding School
The Tachov Cultural Centre hosts an annual concert series ‘Open Day at the Riding Schools’, a string of concerts for orchestras and chamber groups alike. The venue is the Windischgrätzer Riding School in Svetce, the second largest in central Europe after that in Vienna. Hornicka 1695, Tel. (00420) 374 721 624.

The local museum can be found in the old Franciscan monastery (Trida Miru 447). The cloisters are hung with oil paintings and the abbey church dedicated to Maria Magdalena and Elisabeth is decorated in a rococo style. The frescos in the convent are by Christoph Maurus Fuchs and the mother of pearl industry that had been so vital to the town before the war was moved to Bärnau in 1945.


Plana


One can hardly imagine that the humble town of c 5000 residents was a prospering mining town with its own mint. During the 20th Century it was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times but is now well on the road to recovery. Many town houses such as the baroque town hall on the marketplace with its sandstone figures have been restored to their former glory, and the roman/gothic St Peter and St Paul church with frescos from the 13th Century has been renovated and is open to visitors. The main town church is the baroque Maria-Himmelfahrtskirche.


To the west of the town a gothic castle grew and grew from its beginnings in the 13th Century to a formidable baroque complex in which the Wallensteins also resided. The large English park is lovely for walks and the old mining museum reminds of the time the silver ore industry played such a large part in town life here. The old mine of Ondrej Slik is open for viewings by appointment. (00420) 374 792 177.

Chodova Plana


Many a beer fan will recognise the name Chodovar, a private brewery whose home is in Chodova. The name of the town and the word for boiling ‘-var’ had been combined to give this unique beer its unique name. The original owners of the brewery were recorded as the noble family von Schlick (16th Century).

Today the grounds are an all round hop experience- with brewery museum and an excellent restaurant. The baroque castle with its double keep from 1736 is also worth viewing with its gardens and many giant and ancient trees.












Kladruby


This little town of c.1500 residents would not be worth much of a mention without its Benedictine Abbey consecrated in 1212 by King Wenceslas. The original Abbey chapel, Maria Himmelfahrt was destroyed but later rebuilt by Jan Blazej Santini-Aichel in a baroque gothic style. This description is justified by the opulent decoration of the original gothic buildings.

Stribro


This town was named after the precious metal that shaped its dreams, silver. Wenceslas I granted the town a charter to become a Royal Town due to its importance in the silver mining industry. The infamous Hussite general Jan Zizka conquered the town in 1427. The town’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when it was taken over by the Habsburger family after the Protestants were defeated in the battle of White Mountain in 1620 and the following centuries under the Germans’ rule were christened ‘Temno’ (the darkness) by the Czechs. The town’s royal charter and importance of old can be seen in the renaissance town hall and the plague column on the market square. The All Saints Church, the Minorite Monastery and the stone bridge with tower should not be missed.

Mesto Touskov


The remains of the old walls still stand around the town with its one time largely Jewish community. The mighty baroque façade Salomon-Löbl House is the last remaining sign of its Semitic past. The parish church of St John the Baptist still stands and is one of the trademarks of the town of c 2000 inhabitants.

Plzen

This town with the most holy name in the beer world is the third biggest town on the Golden Road after Prague and Nuremberg. It is built at the confluence of 4 rivers, the Mze, Radbuza, Uhlava and the Uslava. Since the middle ages Plzeň has been at the centre of trade in the area, and was also a place of high strategic importance. In addition to the east-west tangent used by tradesmen on their way to Prague, the town gates were also passed by the merchants traveling between Italy and the north.

The riches of the town drew of course not only tradesmen to the city, but people with not quite such good intentions, and was therefore very heavily fortified, so successfully that the Hussite General Jan Zizka failed even after 5 attempts to conquer the town. These fortifications are still a deterrent today for people traveling past the town but in a rather different way. The grey industrial ‘ramparts’ which surround the modern university town do no justice to the treasures within, and most travelers see no reason to pay Plzeň a visit.
Josef-Kayetan-Tyl Theatre
The Divadlo J.K.Tyla theatre is host to c.500 performances of ballet, opera, operetta and plays each year. The standard is high and the productions are often performed elsewhere, with invitations from as far afield as the USA and Japan. If your Czech is not up to scratch it is still worth trying to see one of the many classical concerts or musical productions here in this wonderful building from the turn of the last century. The annual theatre festival is one of the biggest and most visited in the republic. Program and tickets can be found at www.djkt-plzen.cz

If the size of the market place has anything to do with the bank balance of the town council, Plzeň was probably a town of Cow Billionaires! Cattle were the most important currency at the time and they of course needed a little more space than the coins and notes of today.

I triumphant sign of the wealth of the townspeople was the 58m long and 30m wide Cathedral of St Bartholomäus (built around 1300AD). The north tower is at 103m the highest in the republic, but then the money ran out. Inside the cathedral the Plzeňer Madonna on the New Gothic altar and the Sternbergkappelle are real eye-catchers.

Plzeň reached the peak of its financial wealth in the 16th Century when even the butchers were putting up great renaissance buildings to house their shops (today the West Bohemian Galery, Gothic Art, Prazska 18, www.zpc-galerie.cz ). One fabulous example on the Square of the Republic is the town hall (nr.1 built by Giovanni de Statia) and the Chotesov House (nr. 13) with its Ethnographic Museum with exhibitions of everyday life from the 14th Century to the present day.

Plzeň’s reputation was so good that even Kaiser Rudolf II came here during the plague of Prague and made it to the temporary seat of his kingdom. The Kaiser’s House was refurbished for him but he never moved in.

After the 30 Years War the Catholic Church took over the control of the city. The monasteries of Plasy, Tepla and Chotesov were in the best of keeping. In an obvious bid to make the town ‘more Catholic’ the baroque church of St Anna was built, as part of the Dominican Monastery from 1714. The seat of the ‘Bistum’ or diocese is also a mighty building standing on the marketplace (Platz der Republik 35) built in the baroque style.

Charles IV spoke out against the ever-present anti-Semitism in 1338, decreeing; “The beating of Jews resident in the town should not be practiced and those who undertake such action should be punished severely”. The rhetorical shield protected the Jewish community until 1504 when the Jews were supposed to be banished forever.


The second largest Jewish community in the country had indeed disappeared by 1643 and it took until the 19th Century before the Jews could reestablish themselves in the town when they built the 3rd largest synagogue in the world. Max Fleischer designed the New-Romantic building with Moorish nuances in the Sady Petatricatniku 11, and in 1892 it was consecrated. www.zoplzen.cz

There are some lovely examples architecture from the turn of the last century, for instance the ‘Haus zum Ritter’ (Knight’s House) in the Halekova and there are also many pretty residential houses in Klatovska. The opulent main station was designed by Rudolf Stech in 1907 and is a kind of neo-renaissance palace. Between the two World Wars Plzeň developed into a very important industrial centre, the principal examples of which being the factory of Emil Ritter Skoda (groups of 10+ can view the facilities by appointment www.skoda.cz) and the world famous Plzeňer brewery. The complex is a town in itself that is approached through a triumphant gate. There is a restaurant in the old fermenting rooms and an exhibition. U Prazdroje 7, Tel. (00420) 377 062 888. www.pilsner-urquell.de

Delicate Discoveries
Kozolupy: Baroque St Stephan’s church and a Nepomuk statue. 5 km east of the Hracholusky dam near Tuschkau.
Krimice: baroque castle with an empire façade built by the Lobkoviczer. 5 km eats of Kozolupy.
Holysov: Baroque church of Peter and Paul and ruins of the old castle on the Trny. 3.6 km east of Neumer.
Cecovice: rare example of a gothic Cathedral in brick. The baroque castle was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1990 and since then a massive project to reconstruct the original buildings has been taking place. 6.9 km southwest of Holysov.
Vsekary: Castle 2.8 km northeast of Cecovice.
Neumer: A castle in need of renovation. 4.8 km east of Vsekary.

Plzeň’s Wild South

If you are here anyway, you should take the time to look around the region to the south of Plzeň. You might feel a little like a pioneer, and there really are one or two pearls to be found here, although it might not seem so at first glance. Just dig them out and shine them up a little.
To begin with there is Old Plzeň, or Starý Plzenec, where there are several points of interest for the determined visitor. It has c. 4500 residents and lies about 10 km south of Plzeň. The church of Holy John the Baptist on the Masaryk Square stands opposite the baroque town hall. On the other side of the river the originally Roman church to the Birth of the Virgin Mary stands waiting for its refurbishment to be completed. The rotunda dedicated to St Peter and St Paul on a meadow behind the church is actually all that remains of the fortress built in the early Middle Ages.


In order to view the impressive Königsburg Karlskrone on Radyne mountain 4 km south of Plzeň return to the Masaryk Square and leave through a rather run-down part of town built around the turn of the last Century. When you reach the Radyne you will see the castle, which was probably built to oversee the Golden Road under orders of Charles IV by Peter Parler between 1356-61. There are exhibitions from April to October. If you are looking for something with a little more class 6 km to the east lies Zamek and Kozel Castle. The single storey four-winged complex from the end of the 18th Century with rococo and classical furnishings also has a beautiful library. The beer of the same name (Bier Kozel- named after a billy-goat) does not come from here. It is a product of Velke Popovice near Prague, which is in turn a part of the Plzeňer Urquell empire.

A renaissance castle with new-gothic tower (museum and college), the gothic St Nilokaus church, several pretty houses and a Jewish cemetery make Spalene Porici a worthy place to visit. High above on a hill in Prestice 24 km to the west Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer built another mighty church Maria Himmelfahrt, which does its best to distract from the modern prefab settlement built in its shadow. 11.7 km northeast we visit Nebilovy, a tiny village with a baroque castle with 4 wings, French garden, fountains, pavilions and several classical works by Antonin Tuvora.

High north of Plzeň:
Kacerov: Renaissance castle (1539) built by Florian Grysperks von Grysbach from a design by Paolo de Stella. One off defense complex with deep trenches and four-cornered artillery bastions. 21 km north of Plzeň.
Radnice: Baroque Wenceslas Church and a synagogue 18 km west of Kacerov.
Brasy (Stupno): The mining town was home to the father of MacDonald’s founder ray Kroc. The Sternberks family tomb is also situated here. 14 km southeast of Kacerov.
In Dolne Lukavice Duke Morzin built a three-winged baroque castle in 1708 to replace the original gothic fortress. Joseph Haydn appeared to like it here, as he was cantor here around 1760. Today the run-down façade would probably not appeal so much to him. The sweet little village with baroque houses, farmhouses, Jewish cemetery, Nepomuk statue and the Church of St Peter needs a little polish.

A small but perfect baroque castle (built in 1723 by Plzeňer architect Jakub Auguston) can be found in Stenovice 11km to the north, and the complex can be hired for parties and functions.



Rokycany


This is a town with a history typical of many a town along the Golden Road. This particular town was home to the bishop of Prague and it flourished with the trade brought by the route passing through. In 1406 it was awarded its charter and in 1584 was even promoted to a royal town. Then its fortune took a turn for the worse and due to its status and location it became caught up in the wrangle of the Hussite revolution, and during the 30 Years’ War it was stripped of its privileges and was burnt to the ground in 1784. The modern town is the result of a mix of the baroque reconstruction with several lovely facades around the Masaryk Square, the Maria Snow church, a new baroque town hall, the Maria Column and the industrialization which took place during the 19th and 20th Century.

Myto v Čechach

The name of this town means toll and it was so named after John of Luxembourg, Charles’ IV’s father awarded the residents the right to levy tolls on the tradesmen using the route. In return the lord of the town, Peter von Rosenberg I was responsible for the protection of the travelers and policing the traderoute. With the profits of this lucrative tax the inhabitants financed the building of the John the Baptist Church (1350- rebuilt in 1680) on the marketplace and the Nepomuk statue. In a hamlet on the outskirts, Svaty Stepan there is the gothic Stefans Church and a baroque parish hall.

Holoubkov has been an industrial town since the 15th Century and has never paid much attention to its aesthetic appeal. During Rudolf II’s reign there was a huge blast furnace here that was in use up to the 1900’s. The factory owners built the only building in the town that is worth closer inspection, the Art Nouveau Villa made from plans by the Czech architect Jan Kotera.

Cerhovice

The next stop off the motorway is a medieval market village of which only the St Martin’s church and the Nepomuk statue remains. The old brewery played a very important part in history. The owner set up and broadcast illegal radio programs during WWII and after being wounded and nearly caught by the Gestapo he committed suicide rather than fall into their hands. In 1968 it was again the scene of dramatic events as the Warsaw Pact tanks rolled along the Praguer Street to crush the uprising.
Terrible History
Mirolov: Jakob Auguston refurbished the renaissance castle (built between 1719-1723), which was later bought by a mining company. After the occupation the owner Max Maendl was forced to sell it to the politician Ladislav Karle Feierabend, who then himself had to flee into exile. After the war over 300 members of the Waffen SS and other soldiers were put to death here. On the marketplace the baroque church of St Joseph, statues of Nepomuk, St Anthony of Padua, an angel and the Virgin Mary can be found.


Zbiroh

This town was awarded the most important of rights, namely to hold a weekly market and to brew beer. What more can one need? The rise and fall of this little town were closely linked to its castle. After the Battle of White Mountain the lord of the town Wilhelm von Lobkowitz was arrested and imprisoned and from then on the town’s fortunes took a turn for the worse. In 1634 Zbiroh was burnt to the ground by the Swedes. A reprieve in its fortunes was granted when the Kaiser ordered the building of the industrially important blast furnace in 1850. Alfons Mucha, the most important Czech exponent of Art Nouveau created the neo-renaissance castle beginning his well-known Slavic Epos.

Zebrak


King Wenceslas the Lazy granted beggars the rights of the town in 1396. Despite his rather unfortunate nickname he rebuilt the castle and was even responsible for the building of the Tocnik Castle.

Krivoklat

“Why has pleasure given way to slowness” asks Milan Kundera in his novel ‘Slowness’. “Where are the lazy men who sang folk songs and wandered from mill to mill sleeping under the stars? Have they disappeared with the footpaths, the meadows and clearings, with nature?”

 
A Czech saying goes “They look through the window at God’s paradise, and he who looks the window is not bored, but happy”. Let us imagine ourselves in the winter, when the snow lies all around and dampens our steps. This perfect picture is set and we can imagine the villagers skating on the little frozen pond or standing on the banks watching and laughing… in the background we can see the impressive castle of the Bohemian Emperor Hrad Krivoklat, whose palace was built by Premysl Ottokar II and Wenceslas II. It was renovated and refurbished by Wenceslas IV (the lazy one!) who appears to have done little to have earned himself the nickname.


Horovice


As the trade in the town was beginning around 1300 AD a little investment was necessary. A trade commune was founded, which increased in size and importance and was housed in the Old Castle. The ‘New’ Castle dating from 18th Century was built, and renovated in the 19th Century by Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm I. In the last century the baroque palace with the late classical interior grew even further. The new baroque town hall built in 1904 is also very impressive.

Christoph Schurer
Broumy: The glassmaker Christoph Schurer built a workshop, his house and a mill here in 1599. In the 1851 the building was revamped by the Waldsteiners. You can view the mill, the house of the master glassmaker, and the roman church of St John the Baptist on Veliz Hill. 15 km wets of Dvur.
Zdice

The people of Zdice did not have an easy time of it. The toll station belonged to the diocese of Prague until 1302 until King Wenceslas II annexed it with Beroun, the administrative centre of his realm. Charles IV had other plans and in 1357 the town became part of the Karlstein diocese. His son decided that it would be better to join the town to Tocnik. This of course taught the residents of the town to be flexible, and it must have been very satisfying to know that the peace treaty between the Catholics and the Hussites was signed in the town hall in 1424 sealing the peace between the warring factions. The gothic town hall with its vaulted cellars was given a classical facelift in 1750. The gothic parish church dedicated to Mary’s birth was refurbished in the baroque style between 1747-49.

Kraluv Dvur

The seed of this medieval town was planted by Wenceslas I in the 13th Century in the parish of Pocaply. Wenceslas IV, (the lazy one again), was arrested here by members of his own guard. The Lobkowitzes built a renaissance castle here in 1585 and on a hill overlooking Pocaply Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer built the Maria Himmelfahrt church.
Town and Castle
Rozmital: Ulrich von Rosental built a fortress high above the boggy terrain upon the Tremsin Hill between 1230-50, around which the town of c 500 residents now stands. In 1565 the castle was renovated and was extended to include a large garden, a chapel, bakery and a brewery. Today the castle is in private hands and cannot be viewed. Despite this the Church of the Holy Cross is worth a visit (1230-40), the baroque Nepomuk church and the Iron Virgin from 1880. 17 km southwest of Pribram.

Pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain

Parallel to the golden road there is tangent running 30km to the south with exciting castles, churches and monasteries that it would be a shame to miss.

Why not join the pilgrims who have been making their way to Svata Hora abbey since the 18th Century. The Chapel of Mary from the 13th Century with the sacred picture of Mary given to the church by the Archbishop of Prague Ernst von Pardubitz in 1348 as the centre piece of the pilgrimage church built much later by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer and Carlo Lurago.

Pribram


Since the Middle Ages this town has been the scene of silver and lead mining. The bishops of Prague settled here and were able to establish themselves in a magnificent residence during the reign of Charles IV that now forms the core of the palace, which still stands today. In the 20th Century the mines provided the USSR with Uranium. Today, the town is trying to follow the lead of the old industrial towns in the west of Germany, and to reinvent itself while still remaining true to its history. An academics centre studies the history of the mining industry in the town. Náměstí Hynka Klicka 293, www.muzeum-pribram.cz

Dobris

King John of Luxembourg hunted here, and built Vargac Castle, which Charles IV and Wenceslas IV also used as a hunting lodge. In 1630 the Mansfelds bought the property and it was rebuilt as a baroque castle. The main church in the town is the Holy Trinity Church built between 1791-97.

Karlstejn

The castle at Karlstejn is the most impressive and most well known of all along the Golden Road. Here the standard is set for all of those that followed. Charles IV ordered the building of this important high gothic fortress to house his Imperial Regalia and his immense treasures in 1348. In 1421 the regalia was then evacuated to Prague during the war against the Hussites.

It took 10 years for just the outer walls to be built, and it is worth taking time to discover and explore every corner and crevice at leisure. The fountain tower and the Ducal house were built next, then the Kaiser Palace over which the Marien Tower stands guard. Finally the Great Tower with the Chapel of the Holy Cross was constructed in which the Imperial Regalia was kept.

In the Chapel of the Holy Cross the artists and craftsmen of the time spent the most time and let their creative talents run free. Master Theodoricus, the court portraitist of Charles IV produced the world’s largest gothic catalogue with 129 works. The walls and ceilings were fitted with golden ornaments, and semi-precious stones and glass pearls were used in an attempt to recreate the night sky in the vaulted ceilings. Several refurbishments followed, including one led by the court architect of Rudolf II, Ulrico Aostalli constantly changed the look of the castle. Josef Mocker then tried to recreate the original look of the fortress with a further refurbishment in the 19th Century.

Hearty Meals for Travelers and Hunters
Restaurace a pension Pod Draci skalou: is a restaurant and inn that will not burn a hole in your pocket. It lies at the foot of the Drachenstein below the castle. The food is good and filling and the restaurant is decorated with the trophies of many a hunting party of days gone by. The garden is lovely in summer, with shady trees and cold beer. Double room with breakfast cost c €50. Karlstejn 130, Tel (00420) 311 681 177. Reservations under www.poddraciskalou.eu
Beroun

The town at the mouth of the River Litavka with around 18000 residents is a Royal town and has been since 1295. It suffered a setback in 1421 when it was plundered by Jan Zizka, the reformist rebel, and in 1547 it had all its treasures confiscated. In the 19th Century the town was able to regain a foot holding as its fortunes took a turn for the better with the chalkstone, iron ore mining and textile industries.

Town life takes place between the Praguer and the Plzeňer Gates, both built originally in the 14th Century, although the latter burnt to the ground and was rebuilt around 1735. The wide open Jan Hus Square lies at the centre with a Nepomuk statue as the centre-piece of the fountain. The new baroque town hall was originally part of of a gothic courthouse dating from 1302. The Jenstejn House nr 87 now houses a geological museum and sections of the ancient town walls and defenses can be viewed near the old town gates. The town gallery is in the Villa Dusl, a neo-renaissance palace built in 1890 in the Politickych veznu 203-9. The main church is the St Jakob Basilica wit its baroque bell tower. On top of the biggest hill the forest park can be explored with its viewing tower and a small café. Three brown bears have also been living here since 2000, Jakub, Matey and Vojta, descendants of the bears that used to be kept at Cesky Krumlov. There is a large enclosure with swimming pool, climbing frames and pyramids to keep the bears busy. The Czech name for bear is medved, which means honey seeker.

Ceramics and Glass
Ceramics Fair: Every second weekend in September the best pot makers from all over Europe gather here to show their best wares. A jury judges the works of art and awards prizes. Information under (00420) 311 654 321.
Nizbor: A renaissance castle houses a museum a the glass makers Rueckl, where one can view the factory and perhaps pick up a bargain in the works shop. 9:6 km north of Beroun.

Suchomasty

The 450 residents of this village would be very happy to welcome you in their renaissance castle, the small Nikolaus Church, or to take you on a tour of the caves (Konepruske jeskyne) that lie 2km outside the village on the plateau Zlaty kun (Golden Steed). The 3-layered system is the longest in the Czech Republic.

Svaty Jan pod Skalou


The location of this abbey in the national park of Cesky Kras is fantastic. The Lodenice valley cuts through this rocky region. The architects of the monastery also used the natural advantages of the area and built the Marien Church (1657) the Crypt (1717) and the Church of John the Baptist with frescos from the 18th Century. The church was altered according to plans by Carlo Luragos between 1656-61 and was reworked by Cristoph Dientzenhofer who added a vaulted ceiling. Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer then drew up plans for the cloister complex. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is built to mark the spot where St Ivan met St John the Baptist.

Lodenice

The tradesmen en route did not need much, just a bed to sleep in, a restaurant to eat in, a marketplace to trade in and a pretty church for the soul. This little town can offer all that every traveler needed then, and still needs today.
More Castles
Dobrichovice: Wenceslas I handed control of the town to the Crusaders of the Red Star. In 1505 the brothers replaced their basic fortress with a grand renaissance palace. After several fires the building has remained relatively unchanged since 1779 next to the parish church of St Judas Thaddeus.
Rúdna u Prahy: This town is actually a combination of two settlements, Horelice and Dusniky. In 1700 the fortress at Horelice was replaced with a renaissance castle.

This Article is part of the tour "The Golden Road"
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