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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 10:46 GMT
Germany's euro frustrations and worries
Ticket machine at German railway station
Some, but not all, train ticket machines are euro-compatible
As Germans are getting used to the euro, BBC News Online's Tim Weber discovers that it is not as easy to pay for a beer as it used to be, and that many pensioners want to get rid of their Deutschmarks as quickly as possible.

It's a chaotic day at the Sparkasse in the centre of Munich just off the historic city hall.

Hundreds of people crowd the counters to convert their Deutschmarks in euros and cents.

Stephan Keicher needs to renew his debit card, and the queues at the Sparkasse, a regional savings bank , are just endless.

Queue at Munich's Sparkasse
Hundreds queued at Munich's Sparkasse bank

Many of the queuers are pensioners, clutching bundles of bank notes, mainly 100 Deutschmark notes. Others are holding savings books, to have them redenominated in euros.

All this could wait until next week, until the end of February, in fact, but they don't want to wait. A whiff of "Waehrungsreform", the introduction of Deutschmarks after World War II is in the air.

Third machine

Heidi Gabler is frustrated. She wants to buy a ticket for Munich's public transport network, but one ticket machine is just being upgraded to accept euros, and the other one takes Deutschmarks only.

"I haven't enough Deutschmarks left," she says, having just arrived by train in Munich, visiting a friend.

German train ticket machine
Some ticket machines were still taking Deutschmarks

Weighed down by a huge backpack, she hunts through her pockets for some more marks and pfennigs, until she discovers that just around the corner a third machine will take her new euro notes.

It's the first working day for Europe's new single currency, but at least in Munich most of the chaos predicted by eurosceptics has failed to materialise.

There are no long queues for monthly season tickets, most commuters appear to have heeded the advice and bought theirs well in advance.

Euro stress

For a brief moment, Liane Kriebler worries that she might be stuck. She wants a train ticket to go to Deggendorf, but when she reaches the counter after five minutes of queuing, a large sign asks her to pay by debit card, credit card or euros - if at all possible.

But Ms Kriebler has not picked up any euros yet. The woman behind the counter quickly allays her fears. She can pay in Deutschmarks, gets her ticket and the change in euros.


Thirsty Munich citizens and tourists find that it can take ages to order a beer, a pretzel and a pair of Munich's famous veal sausages.

"It didn't take longer than usual," says a beaming Ms Kriebler.

At the Augustiner Bierhalle, one of Munich's venerable beer halls, things are not as easy.

The gruff waitress - far too busy to give her name - is under stress.

She does not have to deal with two currencies - the beer hall manager has taken care of that. At a specially set up "Wechseltisch", or money changing desk, customers are offered to swap 20, 50 or 100 Deutschmark notes for pre-packed euro starter packs for beer drinkers.

The waitresses deal in euros only. There is just one problem: Not all have learned the new euro prices by heart yet, which causes huge delays in sorting out the bills.

Thirsty Munich citizens and tourists find that it can take ages to order a beer, a pretzel and a pair of Munich's famous veal sausages.

Euro queues

There are euro bottlenecks. Wherever a large number of people wants the same thing at the same time, it takes a while to sort the euros from the Deutschmarks.

On Tuesday afternoon, a long queue snakes from the Gloria Palast cinema well into the Karlsplatz, one of Munich's central squares.

"If only everybody would be using euros already," moans one of the students staffing one of the two ticket counters.

Euro worries

As they grapple with the euro, Germans are only slowly warming to the new currency.

A survey published by Forsa, a polling firm, suggests that 50% fear that the euro will be "less stable" than the Deutschmark.

A majority also worries about fraud and higher prices.

Some may have used the euro introduction to hide price rises. The third phase of the government's "eco tax", for example, has pushed up petrol prices by about three cents. But only a few car users really notice the extra burden as it gets lost in the euro conversion.

Others, however, promise euro price cuts. Aldi, the discount chain, famous for its "attractive" pricing, has said it will bring down prices by 2% on average.

A pack of cornflakes, for example, used to cost 3.99 Deutschmarks. But 2.04 euros is not an attractive price. Aldi had to shave a few cents off to reach the magical 1.99.

And even Germany's sceptical public manages to see some silver lining on the euro horizon. According to the Forsa survey, nearly two-thirds expect the euro to bring "economic benefits in the long-term".


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01 Jan 02 | Business
01 Jan 02 | Business
31 Dec 01 | Business
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