Stooping to the steep

Berliners: don’t get too high and mighty about the TV Tower

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Family resemblance?

After spending a total of 17 months in the city, I finally condescended to do the number one Berlin tourist activity: I went up the TV Tower.

There are more reasons that Berliners could give you for not going up the TV Tower than there are steps in the oversized thing: expensive ticket prices, expensive restaurant and bar menu, constantly busy with all the wrong people, you have to book miles in advance, there are so many other cheaper places to get a panorama of the city, it’s always there anyway so what’s the rush, etc. etc. with a few more snobby remarks for an extra bit of Berlin-born-and-bred superiority. Even Berliners-by-choice like me are so keen to be a part of the ‘authentic’ Berlin club, we’ll start saying these things without having ever set foot inside.

What started to crack my resolve was the fact that my Berlin-born boyfriend had been at least four times. FOUR times. How could someone who was (vaguely) normal, who only splashed out on things worth his money, and who had the most practical mind I knew go up that hyped-up vantage point four times in the short span of his life so far?

I consulted him, and he confirmed: yes, the menu and the tickets were pricey, but not as crazy as I’d thought for a one-off – 13 euros for the pleasure of entering, and the food being a couple of euros more than what you’d expect, but still decent. Yes, booking was a necessary and potentially impossible task with short notice. But his tip for avoiding the queues (and which worked well for us with barely a couple of weeks’ notice) was booking a table in the restaurant. Stingy students/graduates that we were, we booked a mid-afternoon slot when you could get away with just ordering drinks. Plus this gave us a licence to stay for a decent amount of time, whilst being swivelled slowly around high above the cityscape.

Yes, swivelled. After a fancy lift ride with a chatty guide, you’ll enter the swanky restaurant area, romantically low-lit with an oddly charming sci-fi twist. But I didn’t even notice the really impressive feature of the restaurant until I realised that my glorious, sparkling view of Berlin had somehow managed to slip away behind me. All the tables are on a round platform that slowly rotates at a speed which you hardly notice, but which means that you can take in the city full-circle without deigning to get up.

But eventually – after luxuriously savouring your expensive piece of cake – you might want to get up and mingle with the tourists downstairs (that’s a big might). And actually, they weren’t squeezed against the window panes like I’d imagined, despite it being full-on German Christmas market season. We casually strolled around, and although it was a dark winter’s afternoon (so… dark…) we managed to spot the sights quite clearly thanks to the unobtrusive pictures on the windows, which are also on the windows in the restaurant. And of course there were the obligatory info-boards, which were surprisingly informative.

The moral of the story is: just when you think you know everything about Berlin, it throws something else your way. And it doesn’t always take the niche form of a Viking bar or a cat café (more on those later), but can be hidden in plain sight. This tourist-trap cynic is now a convert to doing what was never such a bad idea after all.

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Even out on the city’s edge in Weissensee, you can still advertise your flat as having a ‘view of the TV Tower’.

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