Fish Money (Day 21)

So, we went down to Basel in Switzerland for funsies yesterday. Basel is a nice city, but everything is so goddamned expensive, it’s not really feasible to visit there often.

But before I talk about that, I should probably explain our difficulties with money conversion. First of all, Euros can be a real pain in the ass with no less than 8 circulating coins in the following denominations: 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro and 2 euros, and then four common bank notes: 5, 10, 20 and 50 euros (not so common are 100, 200 and 500 euro notes). Compare that with U.S. currency, which has 4 commonly used coins (5 if you’ve ever foolishly put a 20 dollar bill in the ticket machine at a T station and received handfuls of dollar coins in return, and 6 if you’ve done that and also like to gamble, in which case you may see a dealer crack open a roll of half-dollars, but for argument’s sake, we’ll stick to 4 coins) which are of course the 1 cent (penny), 5 cent (nickel), 10 cent (dime) and 25 cent (quarter) pieces. We also see 5 common banknotes in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 dollar amounts. Less common are 100 dollars bills (so-called “Benjamins”) and just about mythical are the 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 dollar notes. Yes, those are real- Mr. Salmon P. Chase is on the $10,000 dollar bill- he was the Secretary of the Treasury immediately following the Civil War and was responsible for creating the modern system of banknotes. But we’re off-topic. Converting amounts between dollars and euros is child’s play compared to figuring out all these silly coins. And then, try juggling all those silly, foreign coins while attempting to pay with correct change (which Germans apparently love to do), all the while bagging your own groceries, because Germans haven’t learned to utilize the mentally disabled to perform simple work (it’s merely logical to do so; that’s not intended to be an insult. Everyone deserves to get paid for honest work). Anyway, the moral of the story is, the money thing can be tricky.

So back to Switzerland. After all the shenanigans with dollars and euros, visitors to Switzerland will quickly come to realize that they are not a member of the European Union, and thus, do not use euros at all. In our formula for money confusion, Swiss francs are now the variable X. We came to refer to them as “fish money” after story that Catherine shared about being in Iceland. During a layover in Iceland, she decided to purchase something in Euros and received their “stupid fish-money” in return.

We didn’t really know the dollar-euro conversion rate (only that the the euro is stronger than the dollar), and we didn’t know the euro-franc conversion rate (only that the franc is weaker than the euro), so we super didn’t know the dollar-franc conversion rate. Judging by the prices, I sort of assumed that the dollar was significantly stronger than the franc. I was wrong- they are roughly equivalent. This means that that 16 Fr. plate of spaghetti I ordered was really a $16 plate of spaghetti, and we ate at the cheap place. This also means that I payed about $15 for a small bag of so-so chocolate truffles.

Like I said before, Basel is a really lovely city, but it wasn’t exactly super-fun, and I was less than enthused about the cost of doing things there. The highlight of the trip was probably visiting an old church. It wasn’t really the church part that was cool (because let’s be honest- if you’ve see one old church, you’ve seen most of them) but we got to climb up the crazy, windy, medieval stairs to the tower (for a fee, of course, and fat people need not apply). The view of the Rhine was really nice.

After that we went back to Catherine’s new room to watch Watchmen. I didn’t think it really worked as a film, but I’ve been assured that the graphic novel is far more fulfilling, so I may read that.

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