Posts Tagged ‘Alexanderplatz’

Berlin Television Tower

Monday, July 20th, 2015

At 1,207 feet, the Berlin Television Tower (Fernsehturm) is the tallest structure in Germany. With a million visitors a year, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Berlin. The Berlin Television Tower is located at the Alexanderplatz in the city’s center. An exhibition center and restaurant surround its base. The Neptune fountain, which used to stand in front of the Berlin City Palace, adorns the large plaza in front of it. The fountain’s four cascades represent Prussia’s main rivers at the time of the fountain’s construction: the Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Weichsel.

Berlin Television Tower Photo © J. Elke Ertle

Berlin Television Tower
Photo © J. Elke Ertle

History of the Berlin Television Tower

The Berlin Television Tower was constructed between 1965 and 1969. In 1964, Walter Ulbricht, then leader of East Germany until 1971, decided that East Berlin needed its own television broadcasting system. He decided to build it right in the center of the city. To this day, the Berlin Television Tower remains the only city television tower in Europe. Its dome is modeled after Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite. It is said that Walter Ulbricht wanted the Berlin Television Tower to be exactly 365 meters (1,197 feet) in height so that even a child would remember its height – as many meters as there are days in a year.

Indeed, the original Fernsehturm was 365 meters high. But in 1990, an antenna was added increasing its height to 368 meters.

God’s Revenge

The Berlin Television Tower’s design had an unexpected consequence. When the sun shines on its tiled stainless steel dome, the reflection looks like a cross. Since East Germany’s secular had aimed at removing crucifixes from churches, Berliners quickly nicknamed the cross “Gottes Rache” (God’s Revenge). And they nicknamed the tower “St. Walter”, after East Germany’s former leader, Walter Ulbricht.

Telecafé and observation deck

Similar to the Berlin Radio Tower, the Berlin Television Tower includes an observation deck and a restaurant. On a clear day, the view from the deck can extend 26 miles into surrounding Brandenburg. The observation deck is located 666 feet above ground. Just a few feet higher, the restaurant – Telecafé – rotates once every 30 minutes and offers coffee, snacks and full meals.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

Coelln and Berlin

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

During the 13th century, itinerant merchants founded two trading posts, on opposite sites of the Spree River, Coelln and Berlin. Coelln was first cited in a 1237 deed. The date is commonly regarded as the origin of Berlin, although the city is not mentioned until 1244.

Cölln is first cited in 1237, Berlin in 1244

Berlin (red), Coelln (yellow) Two settlements on opposite sides of the River Spree

The twin settlements were located between the already established towns of Spandau to the northwest and Koepenick to the southeast. Since Coelln and Berlin were on the trading route between Madgeburg and Frankfurt/Oder, they grew quickly. Initially, the Muehlendamm – Mill Dam – that crossed the River Spree served as the only connection between them. Each settlement had its own town hall and mayor. Relations were often tense. When a fire swallowed up a large part of Coelln, the people of Berlin declined to help. But they begged Coelln for assistance only two years later when their own town was burning. An outbreak of the Bubonic plague in Coelln caused Berlin to block the Mill Dam in order to keep the contagions in check. But when a Berlin woman spotted a dead body on the far side of the causeway to Cölln, she climbed over the barriers to steal his jacket. By doing so, she spread the epidemic to Berlin.

In 1307 Coelln and Berlin merged into a single town to improve the inhabitants’ prospects for defending against the sovereign. They constructed a second crossing, the Lange Bruecke – Long Bridge which was later renamed the Rathausbruecke -Town Hall Bridge. It still exists today and is Berlin’s second oldest bridge. A bridge was also constructed to replace the Mill Dam. It was called the Muehlendammbruecke and is now Berlin’s oldest bridge, located between Gertraudenstrasse and Molkenmarkt.

The original two settlements were situated just southwest of today’s Alexanderplatz and the Nikolai section. While Berlin grew into a cosmopolitan city, Coelln became part of its historic core. Its northern peak has become known as Museum Island and its southern part as Fischerinsel – Fishermen’s Island. Coelln’s name survives only in Berlin’s southeastern borough of Neukoelln.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.