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Tinkering with Time: Daylight savings time in Europe

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The clock on the Swiss Centre, in London's Leicester Square. Photo: Mharrsch
The clock on the Swiss Centre, in London's Leicester Square. Photo: Mharrsch

It’s that time of year when we are apt to meddle with time. Most European countries adopt daylight saving time (DST).  All those that do favor seasonal DST will thus set their clocks back by an hour early next Sunday morning, October 30.

This means that overnight trains in Europe next Saturday night will pause on their journeys for an hour to avoid arriving too early at their final destination.

Transatlantic differences

There are many issues on which Europeans differ from their North American cousins. One is the question of time. Europe shifts its clocks to winter time a week prior to those areas in North America which favor daylight saving time in summer. So look out for a little confusion in transatlantic airline schedules in the brief period when New York and Toronto are temporarily an hour closer to Paris and London.

Seasonal changes

Iceland long ago gave up on the notion of the seasonal adjustment of clocks. Since 1968, Icelanders have stuck to the same time all year round.

And this year the entire Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus are following Iceland’s example. They put their clocks forward last spring and there they will stay this fall.

Ukraine’s dilemma

Russia’s move created much debate in Ukraine, a country famously split between pro-Russia and pro-European Union factions. “Of course, we’ll follow Russia’s lead,” announced President Viktor Yanukovych, who last year staged a remarkable political comeback to regain the Ukrainian presidency.

Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions has followed a broad pro-Russia agenda. The debate has swayed this way and that, with successive votes in the Kiev Parliament making and then reversing decisions on clocks — a fine piece of political farce. As it stands now, Yanukovych’s view has NOT prevailed and Ukraine looks set to follow EU-practice of putting clocks back by one hour next Sunday morning.

European time zones

Europe spans several time zones. After next weekend’s festival of fiddling with clocks, the difference between Europe’s westernmost and easternmost communities will be seven hours. Here’s how European time will look next week:

When it’s noon in Ponta Delgada (in the Azores), it will be 1 p.m. in London, 2 p.m. in Paris and Warsaw, 3 p.m. in Helsinki, 4 p.m. in Minsk (Belarus) and 5 p.m. in Moscow. In the easternmost communities of European Russia (such as Perm) it will be 7 p.m..

And, for those with an eye for the fine details of these things, under the new order that will prevail from next week, the biggest time zone change in Europe will be on the border between Russia and Norway. The communities of Boris Gleb (Russia) and Kirkenes (Norway) are just a dozen kilometers from each other. From next Sunday, their clocks will be set three hours apart.

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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