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TURM With a View
Fernsehturm (Berlin, Germany)
Member Name: proxam
Fernsehturm (Berlin, Germany)
Date: 13/05/05, updated on 30/08/11 (78 review reads)
Advantages: Great panoramas of the city
Disadvantages: It's busy
Ask a Berliner where you can get the best possible view of the city, and it's said you'll be told to go to the top of the Fernshturm.
Apparently, it's the only place where you can't see the thing itself!
Personally, I didn't think it looked any worse than any other TV tower. Let's face it, TV transmitters are not generally known for their aesthetic qualities, and in the case of these sorts of structures, it's definitely about 'size being everything'.
The Fersehturm owes its very existence to the division of Germany into East and West. The GDR needed to build a powerful transmitter in the East Berlin, the fact that it towered over the capitalist West in a show of architectural might was a bonus.
It stands an impressive 368m tall, although the observation deck is at 203m. The tower is a 250m-high concrete shaft which is topped by a stainless steel sphere, consisting of seven stories. One of these floors is the Telecafé, takes 30 minutes to complete a full circuit, rotating on its own axis. The pinnacle of the tower consists of a 118m TV antenna.
It was decided to construct the tower in the centre of Alerxanderplatz and, some 53 months later, in October 1969, it was operational. In 1995/96 the interior of the tower was renovated and it attracts over a million visitors annually.
This was our first port-of-call in Berlin and, as we were arriving at Alexanderplatz Bahnhof first thing in the morning when it would (hopefully) be less crowded, it seemed the smart thing to do.
Stepping out from the station, you'd expect the Fernsehturm to be easy to find, after all, it's slap-bang in the middle of the square. The trouble is, it's SO huge, that unless you look straight up, you don't really notice it, strangely enough.
TIP: it's the tall thing with the souvenir shops surrounding it and the snaking lines of gawping tourists.
I'm glad we decided to go there first thing to beat the crowds...not that we beat the crowds, but I'm sure the queues would have been horrendous come late morning/early afternoon. As it was, we had to wait quite a while. It's understandable, I suppose. The capacity at the top has a finite limit, and not a very large one, and the elevators can only take so many people at one time. I did think about asking if we could climb the 986 stairs, but not out loud.
We were trapped in the elevator with an extended family of Indians and the kids were noisily excited but luckily, the pressure sealed my ears a little and it was almost bearable - it only takes 40 seconds or so anyway. But oh how I longed for the quiet and solitude of the viewing deck. If anything, it was more crowded and noisier than on the journey up.
This is the real downside. Although the views are stunning and encompass the whole city (weather permitting), actually getting a clear view can be rather tricky. Now I'm not the type to shuffle around meekly and let all the other plebs use my space, but it was just a little chaotic and spoiled the experience a little. Still, it's not as if you ever get these sort of places to yourself, is it?
As I said, the views are stunning. Whether you look to the east and the totalitarian image of rank upon rank of massive concrete blocks standing as if soldiers on parade; or look down below to the magnificent Berliner Dom; or west along Unter den Linden through the Brandenburger Tor and on to the Tiergarten, each panorama opens up spectacularly, if you can shove your way in for a decent look, that is!
OK, I'm exagerrating a little. It was very busy, but a little patience was soon rewarded with those marvelous vistas. After all, it's only a tiny minority of people who think it's fun to stand looking at the same view for an eternity, most have a quick look, take a photo, then move on.
Of course, if it all gets a bit much for you, there's the possibility of retiring to the Telecafé for a light refreshment. However, if, like us, you're there before 10am the possibility is not just remote, but im. Yep, although visitors are allowed in from 9am, the café doesn't open until 10am. Nice bit of planning there.
So, after a wander around and a look in all the directions, there's not really an awful lot more to do, so it was time to take the second quickest way down, and see what the shop had to offer in the way of souvenirs. naturally, there are all manner of Fernsehturm replicas in many shapes and sizes, but what struck me was the proliferation of Russian dolls, red star badges and all things CCCP. Anyone would think there used to be some sort of Soviet influence here in the past. My advice? Save your pfennigs. There are stalls and shops all over berlin selling the same stuff, only cheaper.
In conclusion, I enjoyed my trip up the Fernsehturm. It was a little crowded, and the fact that the café wasn't open was a little disappointing, but the views were stupendous and it was a nice introduction to Berlin. We could look down on the city, consult our map, and pick out where we would be visiting next.
Daily Opening Hours:
March - October: 9.00 am - midnight
November - February: 10.00 am - midnight
Adults - Euro 7.50
Concessions - Euro 3.50
* For safety reasons wheelchair access is not possible.