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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 03:58 GMT 04:58 UK
Greece learns to love the euro
Euro banknotes being held up
The euros come into circulation in January 2002
By Humphrey Hawksley on Rhodes

With the changeover to the euro only weeks away, efforts are being made to explain the new currency in many European countries.

In Greece, cash registers and bank accounts automatically give euro and drachma prices, but government officials admit their own campaign might have fallen short.

So private individuals have taken it upon themselves to do the explaining.

Religion, culture and language still bind people in the remote Greek village of Salako on the island of Rhodes.

Collection

But soon the church collection box will be taking in euros, and not drachma.

Head of athlete from Greek banknote
The Greek drachma will disappear
Retired banker Eugene Kandaris spends his days in the villages of the region, telling people there is nothing to be afraid of.

Most are old enough to remember the lira during the Italian occupation half a century ago, so a new currency is no big deal at all.

"My eyes are so bad, I can't see how much it's worth", says one elderly villager.

"This is 100 euros," says Mr Kandaris. "It's about 40,000 drachma. So this is your whole monthly pension."

"Pass it round to let everyone see."

Radio aid

On chat show radio, euro queries are coming in thick and fast.

The government's own publicity machine seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

"They ask about salaries, pensions, banking conversion," says Maria Vala, an FM radio host.

This part of Greece - on the very outer edge of Europe - has a history of change and shifting influence, whether through invasion or tourism.

"The euro will be no problem at all. Everything will be fine," says Dr Savvas Karayannis, Governor of the Dodecanese.

"We've had visitors spending different money here for centuries, and now we're lucky because we have tourists coming here all the time."

Crusaders

Speeding away from a harbour first built by European crusaders, we are meant to be on a floating medical clinic, but the crew have another mission in mind.

New Greek euro coin
A new Greek euro coin
A deckhand shows the sample notes to a patient.

She has only seen them on TV before.

He even uses his bi-lingual skills to a not-so-certain British tourist.

"I've not seen them before," she says. "I don't think we're getting euromoney."

There are some euro-sceptics here too.

For 84-year old shopkeeper Aglaiai Giorgara it is all too much: "How will I know what to charge?" she says. "I can't even read.

"I'm closing shop."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley
"Greece is embracing it"
See also:

30 Aug 01 | Business
Countdown to euro cash
30 Aug 01 | Europe
The politics of the euro
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