12 December 2010

The Last Days of the Kroon

It's easy to assume that, with the introduction of the euro banknote, Europe moved to one, homogenous currency. Far from it. In fact, only sixteen of the fifty countries that we'll be visiting currently use the Euro (though its use isn't uncommon elsewhere). We haven't been in the "Eurozone" since we left Germany, four countries ago, and we won't return to it until Italy, four countries hence. In Estonia, the currency is the kroon, or "crown - but this is an unusual time for the official note. On January 1st, Estonia will become the seventeenth country to use the euro. So, here we are, in the last days of the kroon.
It is a pretty money, with pictures of national figures and of nature. It is a uniform size - unlike the euro and other monies that range in size - but it does come in a variety of colors, which makes sorting easier. Estonia has been trying to meet the European central bank's guidelines for economic stability and strength for a while now, and is very excited to be joining its more southern Eurozone brethren. One person, however, has reservations: prime minister, Andrus Ansip said that he is regretful about the change because the Estonian "banknotes are more beautiful than euro banknotes."
It is an interesting time to be here, especially because of uncertainty regarding exchange rates and the changeover. The current rate is about 11.8 kroons to the dollar, (making the hundred kroon bill, above, worth about $8.50, and the five hundred about $42) but that is by no means steady. Officially, businesses are not supposed to accept euros yet, but people have been asking us if we'd like to pay that way. All prices are listed in both currencies, at the moment, and even our stamps have the value printed in euros and kroons (a philatelist's dream!).
I have to say that I'm sad when a currency gets phased out. It is something unique about a place, something that other nationalities don't share and may not even be able to name or recognize. Changing money and looking at new coins is one of the small pleasures of traveling. While it's certainly understandable that Estonia would want to join the Eurozone, I'm glad that we got here before it did.

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