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TOP FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE FERNSEHTURM
IT WAS ALL ABOUT IMPRESSING THE WEST BERLINERS
    The first idea for a big TV tower in East Berlin was to erect a massive 430-foot structure on a hill near a lake outside Berlin.  As The New York Times  noted in 1955 in reporting on the plans, "This will give the East a slight edge over the television antennae on West Berlin's Funkturm." The sense of competition between East and West, a cliché of modern life until 1989 but now almost a quaint anachronism, was brought alive in a Sy Pearlman column in the Times from the week the tower opened in 1969.  "Come Tuesday … Berlin will unofficially begin its 20th year as the most schizophrenic city in the world," he wrote.  "Schizophrenic?  Well, how else can one describe the condition of a city that is emotionally split by conflicting ideologies (Communism and capitalism) and physically divided by barbed wire, tank traps and a 10-foot-high wall of concrete slabs."  The Fernsehturm had the advantage of being easily visible over the Wall.

THE DAY IN 1969 THE TOWER WAS OPENED, COLOR ARRIVED IN EAST GERMANY
    East German Communist Party leader Walter Ulbricht had a big day on October 3, 1969.  As part of the festivities in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the East German state, Ulbricht marked the opening of the Fernsehturm that morning and then, that night, threw a switch to bring color television to the residents of the German Democratic Republic.  To be precise, Ulbricht brought color television to approximately three hundred individuals, since only three hundred had actually decided to purchase the East German-made color TVS, which cost more than five times as much to buy as the monthly salary for the average East German.

IT'S A CHRISTIAN SYMBOL 

    Oh, you'll notice for yourself sooner or later that on many a sunny day the Fernsehturm, or TV Tower, gleams down on Berlin making the sign of the cross.  It seems pretty obvious that the stainless steel panels of the dome would catch the light this way, once you've seen it, but apparently the Fernsehturm's designers were caught by surprise.  Hence the good laugh Berliners had when the tower first went up in 1969, calling it Rache des Papstes, or "Pope's Revenge." Religion was of course proscribed in the German Democratic Republic.

IT'S THE TALLEST STRUCTURE IN GERMANY
    As compliments go, this one is backhanded.  Germany is not known for its skyscrapers and few cities have any sort of skyline.  Still, it's remarkable to think that no work of man or woman erected in Hamburg or Frankfurt or Munich is as high as this Berlin landmark sprouting up from Alexanderplatz.  In one hell of an effective advertising move, the phone company Deutsche Telekom paid to have the globe of the Fernsehturm done over as a magenta soccer ball during the 2006 World Cup hosted by Germany, turning it into in effect the world's largest soccer ball.

THE FERNSEHTURM IS HIGHER THAN THE STRATOSPHERE TOWER IN LAS VEGAS
    If the Fernsehturm were on U.S.  soil, at 368 meters (1,207 feet) it would be the fourth-tallest structure in the United States, behind only the Willis Tower in Chicago (1,451 feet), the Trump Tower in Chicago (1,389 feet) and the Empire State Building (1,250 feet).  That puts it above such landmark buildings as the John Hancock Center in Chicago (1,127 feet) and the Chrysler Building in New York (1,046 feet).  As for the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas, with its gut-wrenching amusement-park-rides high above the Nevada desert, it rises to a height of 1,149 feet.

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