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Some tourists finding strong dollar to their advantage

July 16, 1997

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ The dollar was so high against the German mark this week that even students could splurge. But for American tourists in Paris, the greenback bonanza wasn’t enough to counter high French prices.

The dollar reached a six-year high of 1.79 German marks this week: good news for tourists, who found more affordable vacations _ from souvenirs to hotel accommodations _ because of the strong dollar.

Peggy Custer, from Corvallis, Ore., originally planned to tour Germany and Italy with just her husband and children. But at the last minute, she invited her parents. They could afford it with the favorable exchange rate.

In Frankfurt, Custer and her mother, Arlys Benson, took advantage of the weak mark to add teapots and espresso cups to their Villeroy and Boch dish collections.

In a department store on Frankfurt’s shopping mile, the Zeil, Custer purchased two sturdy, made-in-Germany jam jars with glass tops.

``Here, these cost 32 marks (nearly $18),″ she said. ``In the States, you would have to special order them and it would cost twice as much.″

For shoppers, the dilemma is trying to figure out how to get their treasures home. But Robert Petrosky, an engineer in the steel industry from Glenshaw, Pa., worried more about the long-term effects of a strong dollar.

``I don’t like the idea of the dollar going up because that affects our industry,″ he said.

Shirley Santora was herding a group of students from Chesapeake High School in Annapolis, Md., to the Frankfurt airport to catch a plane home.

``Two years ago we were really hurtin’,″ said Santora. ``This year I’m going home with extra money.″

``I had enough money to dye my hair!″ yelled one student. Hurrying away with the group, he pulled off a baseball cap to reveal a bright blue head.

Tourists in Paris didn’t seem to be nearly as enthusiastic, even though the dollar surpassed six French francs this week.

Bryan Pass of Los Angeles is gets one franc more his buck than he did on his last visit to Paris. But he’s not overwhelmed, having to pay $4.16 for a beer.

``It doesn’t really make a difference,″ he said. ``Everything is a few dollars more expensive here.″

Josh Briwia of Seattle, visiting the Eiffel Tower, also didn’t see any deals in Paris.

``Even McDonald’s costs more here,″ he said.

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