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Fernsehturm (Stuttgart, Germany)

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TV tower in Stuttgart, Germany.

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      22.05.2012 14:05
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      the first TV Tower ever

      In the world of architecture the only superlative worth its salt is *the first*. An edifice can remain the highest, longest, most expensive one only until a higher, longer, more expensive one has been built. But the first will always remain indisputably the first. Many reviews have been written on the 553-m-high giant in Toronto which was No 1 for a long time (but has now moved down to No 3). Today I'm going to tell you about the first TV tower ever which you can find in Stuttgart in the south of Germany.

      In the early 1950s the Süddeutscher Rundfunk (South German broadcast corporation) intended to install its antennae on a 200-m-high iron structure for better transmission of TV and FM radio broadcasts. It was to be secured with wire ropes as it was done then. Enter Dr. Fritz Leonhardt, an engineer from Stuttgart. He had the idea of combining the useful with the beautiful. He proposed to erect an elegant concrete needle in the forests high above the city instead of an ugly iron structure. It should have a basket like casing in the upper part for tourists to go up and look down on the city and also a restaurant in order to earn the money back which was spent building the tower. His idea was accepted enthusiastically by the people in charge and the tower was built between 1954 and 1956. Within five years hundreds of thousands of visitors helped to reach the sum of 4.1 million Deutsche Mark the tower had cost.

      There's a twin in Johannesburg, but I've read that the similarity is difficult to discern because a giant ad is fastened onto it. German engineers helped build the TV Tower in Moscow (over 500 m high). Over the years the Stuttgart TV Tower 'fathered' many more sons. Considering the shape you'll agree that the term is correct and that nobody could think of a mother here.

      It's easy to find the TV Tower, it's visible from all points in the city. Stuttgart lies in a bowl so-to-speak and is surrounded by a range of hills on one of which the TV Tower is located. The part of the city is called Degerloch. If a tourist comes by car, they'll find road signs with the emblem and the word 'Fernsehturm' directing them to the attraction. You can also take U-Bahn No 15 (an underground line which, interestingly, runs above ground most of the time). Get off at the final stop Ruhbank and then walk for about 10 minutes through the woods following the signs. In summer a beer garden is open at the foot of the TV Tower. Inside on the ground floor there are a restaurant, a gift shop, toilets and the ticket counter. At the time of writing the entrance fee is 5 Euro/concession 3 Euro. It's open from 9 am to 11 pm from Sunday to Wednesday and from 9 am to 2 pm from Thursday to Saturday.

      I've been there several times with visitors and with pupils on the annual day out. Excitement starts in the lift. I always had handouts ready with tricky questions to occupy their minds. Whatever they were, the answers were always wrong or rather completely off the point. How can anyone guess the weight of a tower? One should make people guess before entering the building because there's a lot of information on the walls and in the lift. Who'd guess that a hole was excavated to begin with, 30 m wide and 8 m deep which was filled with concrete? The tower stands in it like a pencil with its sharpened end at the bottom. It was assumed that a hurricane can reach a velocity of 170 km/h. That would mean 172 t pressing against the tower. The whole weight of the fundament (1500 t) and the tower (3000 t) is 4500 t, however, so a hurricane would have a lot of pressing to do to do any damage. Impressive figures, but how much is a ton? I once saw a bull whose owner proudly declared that the animal weighed one ton. I always remember that when the measurement is mentioned. Quite a lot of bulls necessary to counteract the TV Tower in Stuttgart!

      The tower is 217 m tall, but the lift goes up only to the platform at 150 m, so the ride doesn't take long. 36 seconds to be precise at a speed of 5 m per second. The German student Thomas Dold, however, prefers the stairs (which normally aren't open to the public). He's the world champion in running up staircases in skyscrapers. After winning the race up the Empire State Building, The Main Tower in Frankfurt and the Basel Fair Tower he also won it in Stuttgart in June 2006. He needed 4:44 minutes for the 850 steps. (Btw, he also holds several records in the 'running backward' discipline)

      I never enjoy riding in a lift. Being high up and looking down is another thing I don't like much. I can promise people with the same problem that doing this here is not so bad. After getting out of the lift one steps into the open air. A chest high wall runs around the platform with metal spikes on top which are bent inwards. I really don't know how anyone could climb over them and jump down. I feel safe there and can also look down. When it is windy at the bottom of the TV Tower, then it's stormy at the top. The shaft of the TV Tower becomes slimmer and slimmer the higher it gets. The concrete walls are 60 cm thick at the bottom but only 19 cm at the top. This makes the tower look elegant but, more importantly, also flexible meaning that the platform can move up to 30 cm sideways in a hurricane. A reason to stay away from it for some, a reason to go up for others and enjoy the sensation. The small restaurant offers nice views of Stuttgart, the Swabian Alb and, weather permitting, even of the Black Forest.

      Our visitors have always liked the trip to the TV Tower. Maybe you'd also like to visit it, maybe as a change after doing the Mercedes and Porsche museums.

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