Berlin TV Tower

Berlin TV Tower – Wombats Hostels

I waited months to visit Berlin’s TV Tower because it sounded like a tourist trap. Finally decided it was worth a visit for the view alone. Indeed it is a tourist trap, but glad I experienced the bird’s-eye perspective of Berlin from the top! The view is amazing even on a cloudy day with snow flurries. Wish I’d done it earlier in sunny weather – a great way to get a fix on the lay of the land.

Berliner Dom from TV Tower

The TV Tower (Fernsehturm in German) is Berlin’s most recognizable landmark. It’s in Alexanderplatz, a public square in Mitte District, and visible from almost any angle in the city. After four years of construction, the Tower opened in 1969. It celebrates a 50th anniversary next year!

Berlin TV Tower – Wikimedia Commons

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When the sun shines on the TV Tower’s round dome, a cross shape reflects on it. West Berliners call this the “Pope’s revenge”.

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Sunshine on Berlin’s TV Tower – Photocase

Walter Ulbricht German Communist Leader with Khrushchev

Professor Hermann Henselmann – erratanaturae.com

TV Tower History and Significance

East Germany’s socialist leader – Walter Ulbricht – hired architects from a state-owned engineering company “to create a Sputnik satellite-like building showing off the technological advancement and power of East Berliners”. Hermann Henselmann and fellow German Democratic Republic (GDR) architects Fritz Dieter, Günter Franke, and Werner Neumann designed the tower.

River Spree from TV Tower

The Berlin TV Tower is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. Other members include Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, Sydney Tower, Collserola in Barcelona, and the Eiffel Tower. In 1997, the addition of an extra antenna made the TV Tower the highest building in Germany. The tower has rotating Sphere Restaurant and Panorama Bar. In 30 minutes it rotates 360 degrees!

Berlin TV Tower – Bianca Baker

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“After reunification, the TV Tower had new significance. No longer a symbol of East Germany, it was an integral element of Berlin’s new cityscape symbolizing the city – both nationally and internationally.”

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Owned by Deutsche Telekom the Berlin TV Tower antenna broadcasts over 60 TV and radio programs. The 986 step staircase to the tower isn’t used. A high-speed elevator transports visitors to the observation deck in an unbelievable 38 seconds.

Berlin TV Tower – Michael Bednarek

Exploring Berlin

New Synagogue

Learning to navigate a large city requires patience and perseverance – ha… Berlin’s heated pace is both daunting and exhilarating. I’ve gone from being hopelessly lost to feeling ecstatic while blending with locals and making successful transport connections!

French Cathedral

Navigating Berlin

As a point of comparison, Istanbul’s 14+ million population makes Berlin’s 4 million seem small, but to me, Istanbul’s public transit system is easier to learn. Switching between the U-Bahn (subway) and S-Bahn (suburban train) is confusing. My U-Bahn station is Gneisenaustraße – still trying to pronounce it correctly. During my first subway outing a Berliner helped by providing directions involving a U-Bahn to S-Bahn transfer. There are various transfer options and this one turned out to be complicated (for a tourist), somehow leaving me in the middle of nowhere at night, terrified!

Wilhelminian Style Architecture

When will I learn the lesson about not asking locals for directions – a basic rule that continues to elude my travels? Essential elements of getting around seamlessly and independently in foreign countries include MapsMe or Google Maps and a power charger for your smartphone. In Berlin, speaking German is also helpful…

Gendarmenmarkt – Deutscher Dom, Französischer Dom, Berlin Konzerthaus

Berlin Opera House St. Hedwig’s Episcopal Cathedral

Berlin Tours

I’ve booked some interesting tours and decided to make “dry runs”, to eliminate 11th hour drama reaching the starting point on time. Berlin is a city of striking images, but I haven’t taken many photos – dangerous while still getting your bearings.

German Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Yesterday I joined a six-hour walking tour led by Berlin Like A Local. As with most of these outings, there was too much detailed information provided. The tour lasted most of the day – with a 30-minute lunch break and a few moving caffeine stops. We walked at a fast pace with little time for photos or chit-chat. Since then, I’ve downloaded self-guided tours to my smartphone. The next walking tour will be at my pace, and I can replay the commentary as many times as necessary :o).

Jewish Cemetery

Holocaust Survivors

Checkpoint Charlie – Getty Images

The group included tourists from Amsterdam, Zürich, London, and New York City. They were in their 20s – 30s and good fun. Most of them were visiting Berlin to experience its vibrant techno nightlife scene. The Londoner shared pointers about Albania – possibly my next stop. One young couple was on their way to Prague.

German Museum

Berliner Dome During the Festival of Lights – Shutterstock

Our Australian guide from Melbourne has lived in Berlin for over 4 years while attending university. He majored in subjects which make him an expert on European history and a powerhouse of information. His commentary was funny at times, e.g., he told us “you can take a dog or a beer anywhere in Berlin”…

German Bakery

Attractions and Landmarks

Some of the sites we saw are listed below – more for my benefit than readers of this blog post. Each site has its own unique history and compelling story. We began in the east near River Spree at the Tränenpalast Museum (Tears Palace) and ended at Brandenburg Gate in the west.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The stark Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe designed by Peter Eisenman is graphic and impressive. It consists of 2,711 cuboid concrete stelae (slabs) and encompasses an entire block near Brandenburg Gate. We walked respectfully through the controversial memorial. It’s difficult to describe the feelings of isolation and helplessness as the concrete blocks grow taller and a slanted pavement adds to the disorientation. Eisenman’s brilliant work gets your attention and makes its brutal point.

Retro look Unter den Linden, Berlin

Unter den Linden Boulevard – 123RF

Brandenburg Gate

We took a break on top of Hitler’s underground air-raid bunker where he and Eva Braun committed suicide. It’s now blended with the landscaping of a modern apartment complex. Another interesting spot was the exterior of Angela Merkel’s flat in Prenzlauer Berg where she no longer stays. Trendy Prenzlauer Berg has old Wilhelminian-style buildings and fashionable cafés and shops. The apartment rents for € 65 per night.

River Spree

During the 1990s, the fall of the Berlin Wall brought extreme euphoria, wild partying, and a “chaotic, anarchistic mood”. Since then, Berlin has experienced major change! This was a cursory tour. Over the next few months I will look deeper and gain a better understanding of Berlin’s fascinating past and bright future. Although not always immediately obvious, Berlin’s dark past and present intertwine.

Bebelplatz

Memorial to George Elser – Hitler’s Would Be Assassin

Mitte Side Street

Memorial to Nazi Burning of Books Bebelplatz

Clear autumn weather in the 70s is to continue this week. I’m besotted with Berlin and the adventures so far. Happy to be staying in the Kreuzberg / Neukölln area, a vibrant community rich in diversity and character.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Mehr später…