The Berlin TV-tower, more commonly known as Fernsehturm, was constructed between 1965 -1969 in the former East Berlin. However, the planning for a TV-tower started much earlier. During the 1950ies the East German government, also known as DDR, had plans to construct a new TV-tower outside of Berlin to do all their transmitting.
The place chosen for Fernsehturm was the Müggelberg Mountains. However, it would become evident that planning wasn’t their greatest strength. After having constructed several neighboring buildings by the mountain, they realized that placing the tower at that spot would cause problems for the planned nearby airport. Instead, the idea of building Fernsehturm inside Berlin was born.
The DDR saw this opportunity to create both a useful transmitter and at the same time create an architectural symbol. The 1950ies was the decade when the race to space started. The competitors in this race were the US on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. With the Soviets launch of the first satellite, the “Sputnik”, DDR got inspiration for their TV-towers design.
The leader of the Socialist Unity Party, Walter Ulbricht, ordered Fernsehturm to be built on Alexanderplatz. Fernsehturm was designed by Hermann Henselmann and the result is the lean, tall, rocket-like building we see today. The sphere itself resembles very much how the soviet satellite looked. The end result was a fully functional TV-tower but also a status symbol for East Germany.
Why visit Fernsehturm ?
Fernsehturm is not surprisingly Germany’s tallest building with its 368m and the second tallest building in Europe, only beaten by Moscows Ostankino Tower. Needless to say, a visit to this unique building should be on everyone’s list when visiting Berlin.
Fernsehturm itself consist of three main parts; the base, the sphere and the antenna. The 118m tall antenna is transmitting a vast number of radio- and TV channels on a daily basis. The 4800t heavy sphere covers seven stories – two of which are open to the public.
On one levels is the Tele-Café; a café and restaurant while the other level holds an observation platform.
The reigning space-craze at that time also shows in the interior of Fernsehturm. Visitors generally say the inferior is very “Sixties sci-fi”. When inside the sphere, visitors will be between 203 and 207m above the ground. The view from the platform is simply outstanding.
Fernsehturm provides a view of more or less the whole city. On a clear day, the view is over 40km. Not only does it provide a great view by putting its visitors over 200m above the ground, the sphere is also moving. The sphere is slowly rotating around its own axel, making it the best observation point possible. The sphere rotates 2 laps every hour. Inside the rocket-like base of the tower, there are two elevators. A ride up takes around 40 seconds. A long time one might say, but it’s certainly faster than taking the 986-step staircase!
Due to its sphere shape and the material used on the outside of the sphere, an interesting phenomenon occurs when the sun shines. When the sunrays hit the sphere, a crucifix-like symbol will appear on the pinnacle of Fernsehturm.
This is known as “the Pope’s revenge”. The name was given by West Berlins, as the DDR and the Soviet Union in particular, was a secular state with no preferred religion. During the DDR era, many church institutions were under suppression. While the phenomenon “the Pope’s Revenge” was amusing to the West Berliners, it was certainly an embarrassment for the DDR government.
A Berlin trademark
Fernsehturm has many unofficial names. One of them is “St.Walter”, based on the man who gave order to build the tower and “the Pope’s revenge” phenomenon.
Due to its special design, the tower has gotten many other names such as; “The toothpick” and “The TV-Asparagus”. After the German reunification, Fernsehturm became a symbol of not only the east side, but for the entire country. Today, around one million people visit Fernsehturm every year.
Brandenburger Tor is located in Berlin, Germany. The tower is situated in central parts of the city, close to one of the largest meeting points in Berlin; Alexanderplatz. An easy way of accessing Fernsehturm is by taking the metro and getting off at Alexanderplatz.
For the exact location of Brandenburger Tor, check out the location map to the right.