You’ve finally done it. You’ve come all the way to Germany from points all over the globe. You’re excited to see its rich culture and museums, its festivals even. Oh, look, a church spire somewhere off in the distance!
Wait, that’s not a tower from a medieval church, it’s an, um, television tower… Huh? What’s going on?
Today’s society may not realize that television is a relatively new invention, not even a hundred years old. There isn’t “magic” involved in that little (or big) box you have sitting in your living rooms, bedrooms, or dens back home (or your hotel room, for that matter); it’s science.
The history of German television (and German radio) broadcasting is little different from what you’ll find in the United States, Asia, or the rest of the world. It was all about broadcasting over the airwaves to your home from the tops of huge towers, all designed to get out the programming.
Told you it was science. ;-)
And while television has changed over the decades (now everything appears to be cable or satellite), old-time regular channels do still exist, emitting their signal from atop these gigantic TV Towers found throughout Germany, called Fernsehturm or Fernmeldeturm.
Many of Germany’s TV Towers are a feat of remarkable German engineering designed from tons of concrete and steel; and some are more than just your run-of-the-mill single-purpose use.
What? There’s more to Germany’s television towers than just television?
Yeah, believe it or not. ;-)
Throughout Germany there are seventy-seven or so television towers, six of which offer folks the chance to climb high above the ground to their observation decks, maybe grab a bite to eat, or plunge excitedly to the ground. Yes, it’s very, very sad… only six remain open to the public today (it used to be many more).
Over in Stuttgart it’s not some Baroque church or medieval castle that’s the city’s landmark. Nope, it’s the Stuttgart TV Tower. Now, what’s that tell you? The power of the pen? The power of the historic? No way, it’s the power of the airwaves. ;-)
Well yes, it’s also the power of the historic as the Stuttgart Television Tower was the first of its kind worldwide and has been the model for many other TV Towers afterwards.
Mannheim also has its own Mannheim TV Tower including the revolving Restaurant Skyline Mannheim, with views of the Palatinate Forest and Odenwald. I know this is about television towers, but give me a view of a German forest over just about anything any day of the week.
Sorry, currently no restaurant in the Florian Tower or Florianturm (the TV Tower of Dortmund); they’re looking for a new tenant though. What the Florian (as it’s also called lovely) does have is two observation decks (and it used to have a bungee jumping platform).
More than a quarter of a million people visit the Rhine Tower or Rheinturm (Düsseldorf’s TV Tower) every year. This concrete and steel tower is one of the landmarks of Düsseldorf, as it should be — since it’s also the largest digital clock in the world (according to the Guinness Book of World Records).
I saved the Munich Olympic Tower in Munich, Bavaria for last. This amazing tower has its own restaurant, a photo studio, and a Rock-n-Roll museum. It’s even been honored on a German stamp. You know you’re famous when you’re immortalized forever on postage.
Again, not all of Germany’s TV Towers are accessible to the public; and you’ll find them strewn across the country in big cities like Dresden, Cologne, and Frankfurt am Main; as well as many other smaller towns and villages.
I know, what’s the point if you can’t climb hundreds of meters above the street to see the countryside?
Well, they’re a marvel of the countless engineers, architects, and construction workers who built each Fernsehturm for our entertainment and enjoyment. So, the least you could do is snap a few photos of them. Keep these guys in mind the next time you click on the TV.
Today German television has the largest market in all of Europe. Not too bad considering when these towers first started broadcasting it was for 90 minutes a day, three days a week.
Whew, aren’t you glad there’s 24-hour, 7-day a week programming now? But, c’mon you can watch TV anytime now — wouldn’t you rather have a birds-eye view of a German forest, or bungee jump hurling yourself helplessly towards the ground?
Forgive me if I don’t come along… I just ate. ;-)