Slovaks spend last korunas on Christmas market before euro switch

24th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Days before Christmas, the market looks ready for the currency switch, which will make Slovakia the 16th member of the eurozone.

Bratislava -- The Christmas market in Bratislava's main square has become a popular meeting point for Slovaks who want to spend their last korunas before the country switches to the euro on January 1, 2009.

"We are getting rid of our last korunas here before we start using euros as of New Year," a teenage boy with his friends said while drinking hot wine and hiding from rain under a big red umbrella.

Locals as well as tourists, crammed between wooden stands, enjoy traditional Slovak delicacies like the potato pancakes called "lokse," hot wine, or "hriato" -- an alcoholic drink containing fried bacon bits.

"I was here a year ago and returned this year," said Michael Georg from Germany. "When I come next year I won't have to exchange money, we'll be all paying with euros."

"There are several Christmas markets in Germany but none of them has this kind of atmosphere," said the tall young man who had come directly from the train station, carrying his backpack.

Days before Christmas, the market looks ready for the currency switch, which will make Slovakia the 16th member of the eurozone.

Prices are displayed in both korunas and euros at the exchange rate of 30.126 korunas per euro. Some sellers already give change back in euros.

"I'm looking forward to the new currency, I will feel more international using the euro," said Stefan who has been selling roasted chestnuts and baked potatoes for 18 years now.

Most of the tourists already pay with euros because they usually come for a day-trip from Vienna, the Austrian capital, which is only 40-kilometers away.

"We see many tourists here but only a few know that Slovakia will join the euro soon," said 20-year-old Zuzana who works in a stand selling hot wine and "ciganska" -- local hamburgers containing pork meat and roast onions.

Fifty-two-year-old doctor Martin, who stopped on the market to grab a quick dinner, says he is "perfectly happy with the new currency."

"I'm just a little confused by all those different coins -- I wish there were more euro banknotes than coins," he frowned.

Euro coins have much higher denomination than Slovak koruna coins. A two-euro coin equals three banknotes worth 20-koruna each.

From January, companies will need only two-euro notes -- 500 and 200 euros -- to pay out the average salary worth 21,042 korunas.

Tatiana Bednarikova/AFP/Expatica

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