Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Show Me the Money

My recent discovery of sgazetti's money posts prompted this post. On our trip to Croatia back in 1993, it took some time to get used to the foreign currency, such as it was. The economy was very depressed and the exchange rate improved in our favor on a daily basis, meaning that, for the locals, it was getting worse on a daily basis. We arrived in Croatia by way of the train. Or was it a bus? Well, at any rate, we arrived empty handed in the land of new currency and went first to a little bank kiosk, got some local currency and then headed straight for some coffee, not yet grasping the exchange rate. My husband ordered the first cup. "That will be 2,500 dinaras." My husband gasped and began pulling out bills, handing them over to the barista. Understand that when he left his country, the dinara was roughly the equivalent of a dollar. Heh. Not any more. Every bill he handed over elicted a look of "are you going to pay for the coffee, or what?" By the time my husband finished paying for his teensy cup of coffee, he was most discouraged. "I can't believe how expensive things are now!" He pulled out the rest of the money in his pocket, which was by now, a big wad of bills and stared at it in disbelief. "How much money did that bank give us anyway? I've got hundreds of thousands of 'dollars' here."

The exchange was about 5,500 dinaras per dollar. In our pockets were many 1, 5, 10, and 25 dinara notes, as you see above. Sadly, I gave away my only remaining 1 dinara note as a souvenir (imagine needing 5,500 of these to purchase a soda!), so I don't have any of those to show you. But I do still have all of the above, the sum total of which is 1,665 dinaras, or 30 cents! All of that...really! The ink and paper alone are worth more.

So we carried around wads and wads of money and used it to buy many, many pastries, cakes, sausages and cones piled high with the most wonderful gelato ice cream in the world. For everyone...family, friends, neighbors, tortes for everyone! Beers were 1,500 dinara each...a quarter, and that was before you returned the glass bottle to get your deposit back. We were gluttons for the duration of our stay, for the sake of cleaning out our bulging wallets. When the vendors opened their cash register drawers, wads of money would spring out of the drawer like a wound up Jack-In-the-Box clown. Gone was any sense of control...there was not room for a separate slot for each denomination; there were no cash register tapes to reconcile at the end of the day; many just left their drawers open and pawed around in the pile of cash until they found the right change. This was an auditor's worst nightmare.

Nowadays, they are slowly being pulled into the age of the Euro, although they still have their own currency, but it is much less volatile and more reasonably denominated, much more sane. But the other was so much more fun.


At 6:32 AM, October 18, 2006, Blogger beth said...

When we visited Italy in the mid-80s I seem to recall their currency being similar - walking around with hundreds of thousands of lire all because we exchanged $200. (But it was also shocking to pay 5000 lire for ...well, anything.) :)

I'm glad their currency is stabilizing.

At 10:37 AM, October 18, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

We went to Italy on that trip also, but at least the lire were more proportionately denominated. The smallest bill I brought home with me was a 1,000 lire note. We learned the value of traveling with a calculator, to be sure! ;-)

At 9:50 AM, October 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my gosh, get some big coins already or just use large bills....what a strange deal.


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