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ATHENS - The glorious voyage through the 2,500-year history of the drachma that the director of the numismatic museum in Athens organises for school groups ends with a warning: fight to keep the euro.
"I tell these children who have only known the euro that they have to do everything to keep it," George Kakavas said, as he led a tour around the mansion once owned by German businessman and archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.
He said he had a personal passion for the drachma -- a "magnificent" currency once used in an empire stretching from Egypt to India under Alexander the Great -- although he admits its more recent history has been less than glorious.
"When I was in London studying archaeology I remember I had drachmas in my pocket and I couldn't go far," Kakavas told AFP in an interview.
And he admitted that with the recent round of austerity cuts that have hit Greece's cultural heritage "the drachma museum is short of euros."
The museum charts the history of the drachma from antiquity to when it was re-introduced in the 19th century following Greek independence to when it was finally phased out in 2001 in favour of the euro, a currency that an overwhelming majority of Greeks want to hold on to whatever the result of Sunday's election.
The prospect of a Greek exit is an extreme but real one, and the global economic community has not excluded the possibility if the radical left wins power and tears up a widely-hated bailout agreement for Greece as promised.
At the market in Monasteraki at the foot of the Acropolis, Fanny Persitsa tries to make some money selling off old drachmas after the Bank of Greece ended all exchanges of the old currency with euros in March.
"We can't find money any more. Banks no longer lend. Friends and family are as broke as we are so we are selling everything we can," the mother of two, who lost her job as a personal trainer in a gym during the crisis, told AFP.
"If we didn't have two children, I would have left Greece just like all the young people want to do," she said, adding: "Life was cheaper before (the euro) but if we go back it will be worse. We would be stuck in this country."
"We definitely have to make an effort to keep the euro," she said.
She takes out a handful of old banknotes and coins -- 10,000 drachmas, or 30 euros at the former exchange rate. A merchant casts a quick glance and says: "That'll be five euros. Not a euro more."
At a stall nearby, Yiannis Psaltis is also trying to sell drachmas to tourists from his little folding table.
"It's not going very well, maybe it's too hot," he said.
A set of seven coins -- the last drachmas to be minted in 2000 -- are on sale for five euros in a scuffed plastic folder.
He also shows a green banknote printed during the German occupation in World War II with a face value of five million drachmas.
During hyper-inflation at the time there was even a 100-billion drachma note.
Psaltis's prize sale item is a 19th-century drachma note printed in Paris -- part of the first issue of the "modern" drachma minted in Paris and Munich in 1832 to replace multiple currencies in use at the time after the war of independence.
As he leads his tour, museum director Kakavas cannot resist a wry smile as he stops to ponder the new role that the two eurozone powers will now play in mapping out its uncertain future.
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