The single currency and why wasn't I taught Czech in school ?
29.06.2013 - 29.06.2013 19 °C
Don't you think the Euro is really useful ? You can travel vast areas of Europe and know that the unleaded petrol in Holland is expensive, compared with Germany. You know instantly that the coffee and cakes you bought in Belgium are cheaper than in France. And, when you go to another Euro country you don't have to get rid of all those annoying little coins that you collect, whose value you have no idea about.
Equally useful is all the languages you know. Ah! you might think, I don't know any languages other than English and even that may be in doubt. You, like me, may have day dreamed your way through four years of French and or German, avoiding the teachers eye in case you were asked to speak the language and therefore face instant ridicule from classmates. The result was a useful ability to ask in French, the name of someone's cat, or in German, to state that the bell is ringing and the teacher is coming into the classroom. But no, don't despair, you might know more than you think. For instance, I don't giggle any more when I see the word ausfahrt . I know it's not rude and means exit. I can even manage Bonjour and Merci in French. I know numbers and days and the difference between the words for butcher and baker. I know more than I think and perhaps you do as well.
The reason I mention all this, is perhaps I didn't appreciate how much foreign language I knew until we followed the River Elbe into the Czech Republic. It immediately became clear that I could not read and that I couldn't understand anything said to me. April and I were bemused to say the least.
We had realised rather late that the usefulness of the Euro was going to be denied to us and that we were going to have to do the old exchange thing. We stopped in a small border town trying to find somewhere to exchange money. Within two seconds of stopping we were approached by a young woman, dressed very casually who may have been begging or was a car park attendant. We have no idea which, because no meaningful conversation could take place. We hadn't a clue about any of the signs or shop names. Nothing was recognisable, even to make a reasonable guess as to what it meant.
Eventually we did find a bank in another larger town, but this was thanks to "The Bitch" otherwise known as the Sat Nav. Again, our lack of planning was exposed. April worked the ATM machine perfectly and got it to give us 400 Czech sheckles. Of course, what we didn't know was, how much is 400 Czech sheckles worth ? It sounds a lot, but when April looked in a shop window and saw that a tube of toothpaste was 59 sheckles it dawned on us that we may have to revisit the bank, before our time in the Czech Republic was over. It turned out we had withdrawn the grand amount of £13.06. Then there is the problem of what to do with all those little Euro coins we've collected !
( I know I said I didn't giggle at ausfahrt anymore but I may have lied judging by this photo I couldn't resist taking. And yes I know it's childish!)