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Euro launch brings bucks to beggars

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BERLIN — The euro's launch may be causing headaches for cashiers and heartache for nationalists around Europe, but the single currency has dumped windfall profits into the laps of an unsuspecting group: beggars.

Many of the continent's homeless and penniless have discovered that Europeans are surprisingly eager to empty their pockets of their old coins to make room for the shiny new euros. Beggars report a sharp upturn in donations to their tin cups.

"Everyone loves the euro now, and they all want to get rid of their German marks as fast as they can," said Kai Twealing, 20. "It's been great."

Twealing, a wandering craftsman who relies on the generosity of strangers, said he got more than 50 marks ($22) in handouts from people while hitch-hiking across Germany on Sunday — about 10 times the usual amount for such a journey.

"A couple of people came up to me, handed me 10 mark notes and said 'Here, take this. I don't need it anymore,' " Twealing said. "It's money they don't want to carry around any more."

The euro was introduced in 12 European countries on Jan. 1 amid grand celebrations.

It is gradually replacing national currencies such as the German mark, French franc, Italian lira and Spanish peseta as legal tender in a process expected to take two months.