How Not to Take yet another Photo of That Berlin T.V. TowerWhen people get lost in a city, they tend to gravitate towards the nearest phallic symbol.

“Paris is always Paris and Berlin is never Berlin!” — Jack Lang

There’s a Radio /T.V. tower in Berlin at Alexander Platz. It has been photographed about one billion times.

People can’t resist its towering might and priapic pull. There are so many photos of it that the internet groans under the pixellated-weight of the Berlin T.V. Tower photos.

It is so popular, such a favourite shot for tourists and street photographers, that someone started an Instagram feed called, “Not that T.V. Tower again”.

This only encourages people to take more and more photos of it. They post them in the hope that they might have found the perfect angle, or a novel colour scheme that till now has not been thought of.

It might happen, somebody might just find that original angle, the moment in time that nobody has seen and experienced. It’s a tall order.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I have a camera or notebook in my hand and I can stop and examine a scene, I can photograph it.

Sometimes, it’s such a complex event involving people, objects, interactions, and all sorts of occurrences that create a story, I’ll sit and make written notes about what I saw.

Like the time I watched an old lady and her chihuahua get tangled up around a lamppost, the dog snapping at passers-by, pulling at the leash and barking. The lady in the fur coat red faced, trying to get out of her predicament.

I love a good story.

The last place I want to visit in Berlin is Alexander Platz. The place where that prominent tower dominates your thoughts, it demands that you at least take one photo. Have a go at something original, maybe you’ll be the one who gets the shot.

I can’t seem to make head nor tale of Alexander platz.

The camera captures the moment. The written word captures a story, and the writer creates a narrative. Narrative occurs when humans interact. A tower simply looms from above.

I always think that if I go to “Alex”, as Berliners call Alexander Platz, I’ll have to put up with the grotty side of Berlin. It’s a troublesome place.

Too many chancers it seems. You build the impression that Alex is a place for scallywags. Not a place for photographers and visitors to view the full moon over the platz.

Recently, the Berlin Polizei placed a mobile police station on the platz. 24 hour watch, and police on hand in the event of a problem.

Berlin is a safe city. I walk at night, with the freedom and presence of mind to look at all the lovely things, no worry that someone is following me or about to leap from the darkness; but a city is a city, you stay aware. The animal instinct kicks in and the street is what it is. If darkness falls, then our minds become more vigilant.

This T.V. Tower, which dominates the landscape around Alexander Platz, was built between 1965 and 1969, it’s 368 metres high and has a viewing gallery at the top. The silver ball at the top serves as a rotating bar/restaurant, with an outer walkway for tourists to view every aspect of Berlin’s city.

You can experience the view at about 20 euros a go.

It also houses several radio and T.V. stations. It’s business name is “Fernmeldungturm 32”, “Telecommunications tower 32”.

When the Berlin Wall fell, Helmut Kohl, still Chancellor of Germany, said, “I want to have breakfast on Alex, tomorrow morning!” an old saying that harks back to the roaring twenties of flamboyant Berlin.

Out all night on the tiles, then breakfast at Alex, then home and fall into your bed, on a Sunday morning. Berliners hammer it at night. So much to see and do in this city. There’s little time for sleep.

When the city was divided by the Wall, Alexander Platz became a part of East Berlin.

I have memories of all-nighters followed by breakfast. My wild days were the 1980s Berlin scene. Jam sessions galore. I’d walk into a bar full of Americans playing the blues, or jazz. Later that night, a bar at Nollendorf Platz where post-punk, New Wave, and anything-goes-people would imitate Bowie, or Iggy Pop, or just try something wild and new — so long as it was high energy, and loud enough to drag music away from the love songs of the 1970s. It was edgy.

There are legendary bars and clubs in Berlin. They’re just not found on Alexander platz. Try Kreuzberg, and fall into the beat of whatever the latest rhythms are.

Club Goer making heart sign
Photo by Alfonso Scarpa on Unsplash

The West part of the city used another T.V. tower in Charlottenburg. I went to the top several times, and enjoyed taking visitors up there too, on a windy day its structure swayed and rocked like a small boat at sea.

Some days, it had a sign hanging on the gate, “No Visitors today because of Weather Conditions.” That particular tower was built in the 1920s, and was always known as the Funkturm. Today, it’s locked up and rusting.

Funkturm Berlin

A freshly turned out tourist will see The Fernseheturm at Alex from kilometres away, and gravitate towards it to satisfy their curiosity. As they do, they come across all manner of Berlin’s wonders. Impressive churches, classical structures, the Berliner Dom. Rivers and canals that wind through the city. Museums and Government buildings that tower above the River Spree. The opera houses — there are two in Berlin. One West and one East.

I have never understood the desire to see Alexander Platz and the T.V. Tower. What makes a tall building that sends signals so interesting? I don’t know.

On the other hand, there are many bars and restaurants in Berlin that people flock to.

Word of mouth drives customers to stand and wait for a table. Come rain or shine. In the street where I live, in the Bergmannkiez, there is a Thai restaurant that enjoys popularity. Customers wait in line for a nod and wink from a busy waiter to indicate that they can now follow, sit, and get fed. People will wait, and wait. They want this particular restaurant.

I imagine if you ask a customer why they would wait for food at this particular restaurant, when there are numerous other restaurants close by, also Thai, they would answer that it’s the best in town. How do they know this? Somebody told them so.

Somebody said that Alexander Platz and the Fernsehturm is a wonderful sight to behold. Then others said it, too. Word of mouth is a powerful medium.

It causes a flow of people to tread their way across the city. To walk past great monuments and historical sites until they arrive at Alex, and take a photo. The ‘millionth’ photo taken this week.

The internet will groan deeply as more T.V. Tower photos cause the Instagram feed “Not that Tower Again” to creak under the weight.

I will take another photo of the tower, at some point. I always get caught off guard.

I could be in Schöneberg, minding my own business. Then, That Tower appears between two buildings, looking comely, a cloud bank around its mast, red and white stripes vaguely ripple along its pole, and the blue Berlin sky hangs like a drape behind it. Irresistible. Click.