American in Spain

The sun sets late in Spain

June 24, 2014

If you've ever been to Spain in the summer, you'll know that the sun sets very late, which suits Spaniards, who like to have dinner as late as 10 or 11 at night, very well. It's not just because of the tilt of the Earth at the summer solstice, or the fact that all our days are getting longer. Tonight, for example, in late June, the sun will set at 9:58 PM, one minute later than it will set as far north as Copenhagen! What sense does that make?

I blame the Nazis.

Spain is in the wrong time zone

If I hadn't moved here from England, I may never have noticed this oddity, but when I moved from England to Spain, I moved west, yet I had to set my watch forward an hour. As you, dear educated reader, already know, the standard for worldwide time and definition of the eastern and western hemispheres is set in Greenwich, England, just east of London, but the majority of Spain is in the western hemisphere! Behold how the Prime Meridian cuts across Iberia:

Spain and the Prime Meridian

I'm sure the folks in Catalunya wouldn't mind just splitting the country along that line.

So what gives? How did this happen? As I said above: Nazis.

Hitler Franco Handshake 1940

It dates back to October, 1940, when Hitler took a train down to the French-Spanish border to meet with Franco, in Hendaye, France. Hitler was seeking Franco's support in the Second World War. Spain, however, was still in tatters from its own civil war, but Franco did agree to ban all Spaniards from fighting against Hitler, and allowing Spaniards to volunteer to fight with Nazi Germany. Franco also offered, in one of the most minimal demonstrations of solidarity ever, the fascist dictator equivalent of changing your Twitter avatar color, to change Spain's timezone to match Nazi Germany's.

I'm not sure what, if anything, was accomplished by this, but the result, now almost 75 years later, is that it's really hard for me to convince my kids it's time for bed in the summer.