IN THE summer, Spaniards enjoy their long evenings, having a drink at a pavement terraza before dining at 10pm or later. Yet the evenings are far longer than they should be: by local clocks, the sun sets an hour and 20 minutes later in Madrid than in New York City, though both are on the same latitude. That is because Spain (except the Canary Islands) is in the wrong time zone. Madrid is on a similar line of longitude to Swansea in Wales. Its clocks are set to Central European Time, the same as Warsaw or Tirana, some 24 degrees or 2,000kms (1,200 miles) to the east.
Spanish time is a historical anomaly. When Franco drew close to Hitler in the second world war, he changed his country’s clocks to mimic those of Berlin. Nobody ever changed them back. The result is that Spaniards live out of sync with the sun. A “breakfast” meeting tends to be at 9am. At this time of year those hoping for a stroll in the cool of evening at 8pm face an oven-like wall of heat.A second anomaly compounds the problem—the long lunch break. This dates from when cities were small enough to permit an afternoon siesta at home and when,...Continue reading