Too early for breakfast

An aspect of Galicia that I forgot to mention is time.


Scanned from my copy of Map Link’s “Time Zones of the World.”

When the Sun passes over the 0 line of longitude in England, it’s 12 noon there by natural Sun time and the clock says 12. Except that if it’s summer, then by the distorted “Daylight Summer Time” (better called Daylight Shifting Time) clocks instead call it 13 (1 PM).

Those are strictly true only of places on the central line of longitude of their time zones, such as Greenwich on the 0 line; only approximately true for other places in their zones. Thus for Land’s End, England’s westernmost point, at longitude about 6 degrees west, when the Sun time is 12 clocks call it 6/15 of an hour later: 12:24. (Or 13:24 in summer.)

Time zones are ideally 15 degrees wide, but are adapted to political boundaries. France and Spain, roughly south of Britain, might be in the same time zone. Instead they, along with Germany, Italy, and most other countries of Western Europe, join in a sort of common-European time zone, one hour later than Greenwich. So, for them, clock time 12 means a natural time of about 11 in France and Spain, 12 in Germany and Italy, 13 in Sweden. (An hour later in summer.)

The exception is Portugal, sometimes called “England’s oldest ally.” Though it lies between longitudes about 9.5 and 6 west, which should put more than half of it just into the time zone centered on 15 west, it stays with Britain in the time zone centered on 0. So when its clocks say 12 the natural time is around half an hour earlier, like Land’s End but a bit more so or like Ireland. (An hour later in summer.)

Portugal politically includes Madeira and the Azores, at longitudes about 17 and 30 degrees west. Madeira opts for Portugal’s time zone (0), the Azores the 15-west (not 30-west) one. When Madeira clocks say 12, the natural time is about 11; when Azores clocks say 12, the natural time is also 11. (An hour later in summer.)

What about Galicia, Spain’s westernmost part, lying north of Portugal but in Spain and Germany and Sweden’s time-zone? Santiago de Compostela’s longitude is 8.5 west. It should be in the time zone centered on 15 west, but instead is in that centered on 15 east. When a clock there says 12, the natural time is an hour and 34 minutes earlier: 10:26. In summer, 11:26. (Clocks down the road in Portugal are saying an hour earlier.)

Is all that clear? Not very, because I’ve had a hard time choosing which way – “When the natural time is X the clock calls it Y” or “When the clock says Y the natural time is X” – to handle each of these wretched facts.

At any rate it explains (or does it?) why activities in Galicia seem pushed to extraordinarily late clock times. At home I go out for a ride at times like 4 or 6, then have to wait till 9 for a morning coffee. In Galicia the streets are deserted at such times and you’re lucky if you can get a “continental” (minimal) breakfast as early as 10. Lunch might be toward 4; 9 is the grudging earliest you can get supper; and people are still thronging the streets at (clock) midnight.

Yet the pilgrims used to start walking long before dawn so as to avoid the heat of the day.

I also uncharacteristically forgot to find out the origin of pilgrim and its many related forms, so interestingly displayed in those inscriptions in the sidewalk at Santiago. The meaning of Latin peregrinus was “foreigner” and it seems to be from per, “across,” and ager, “the field.”

3 thoughts on “Too early for breakfast”

  1. I surmise that those late times in Galicia might be more common in summer but surely not during the rest of the normal working months! And the same would be valid for the rest of Spain. Although in summer or holidays it isn’t rare to have luch at 3 pm (or later). This also has to do with the fact that office hours are commonly rearranged so that you can avoid the hottest hours of the afternoon –and perhaps enjoy the swimming pools or beaches with the rest of the family (my own quitting time is 3:15 in July-August instead of the usual 6:30 pm).

  2. I am thoroughly enjoying your blog, Guy and especially you and Tilly’s travels everywhere . Have been doing much ‘Googling’ with maps, etc. and such to keep up with your blog and learning so much. Of course, passing it all on to Davis! Keep a’ goin’!

    1. Lovely to hear from you, Kathleen! I have traveled more than enough. Tilly is now visiting a friend at Verona in Italy.

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