Remember to set clocks back

Summer Time draws to an end on Oct. 30

It will be time to set clocks back an hour in the Czech Republic (and much of Europe) on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 3 am, as Summer Time comes to an end and Winter Time begins. While commonly called Daylight Saving Time, that phrase is not the official designation in Europe.

The change affects not only watches and clocks. It also causes a nightmare for bus and train travel. Regional trains from Czech Railways all manage to miss the time window, but some of its international trains and some privately run buses and trains are affected. The buses and trains will have to stop and wait for an hour to get back on schedule, much to the annoyance or people in a hurry.

Czech train operator České dráhy suggests that people planning to take its night trains should call its information lines or use its smartphone application if they have any questions. Likewise, travelers can contact private transportation operators to confirm overnight schedules on those routes.

Changing clocks back is not the difficult task it used to be, as now most computers, phones and other electronic devices now take care of it automatically.

One clock in Prague that will not be changing back is the Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square. While its complicated-to-read face shows several different times including Old Bohemian time based on the sunset as well as Central European Time, the clock cannot be made to show Summer Time and Winter Time. The clock tracks the movements of the sun and moon, linking them to the time, and this can't be pushed back or forward without redesigning the entire clock mechanism. The Astronomical Clock was designed in 1410, and the practice of moving the clock back and forth an hour according to the seasons started in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany in 1916 to save energy during World War I.

Summer Time in Europe fell out of use after World War I ended and was reintroduced during World War II, only to fall out of favor again until the power shortages of the 1960s. The European Community, a precursor of the European Union, issued a directive in 1981 for all of its members regarding the starting date of Summer Time, but there were still differences in the ending date. In 1998, the end of Summer Time (and start of Winter Time) was adjusted to be the last Sunday in October for all EU member states.

The practice has been increasingly called into question as there is no longer a big savings in energy due to much more efficient light bulbs and heating. Some retailers would also prefer an extra hour of sunlight in the evening to lengthen the sales day.

In any event, remember the simple maxim “spring ahead, fall back” to remember which way to move the clock hands.

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