I remember the moment I first saw the Eiffel Tower.
I had just got off a train departed that from Milan.
It was 12:00 a.m., pitch dark, pouring with rain.
I got in a taxi – hair soaked and body exhausted.
I needed to get to a bed.
I gave the taxi driver the address to my hostel.
He didn’t seem to recognize the area.
I didn’t know where I was going.
I started to panic –
I’m going to die here, I’m going to be sold into the black market, I’m going to die in damp sweaty underwear…
Then out the window, I saw it.
The beacon of iron and flashing lights that I had envisioned for so long – the Eiffel Tower.
I wish I could say it was everything I hoped it would be. But because I was still half freaked, half exhausted, I wasn’t of able mind or body to fully appreciate what was in front of me. I do remember thinking it was beautiful, albeit a little underwhelming.
I did eventually find my hostel and more importantly a bed (the taxi driver was nice enough to stop the fare toll after a while, and even waited a couple minutes after I went in to make sure I was in the right place).
I went to go see the Eiffel Tower the next day – in daylight, in dry clothes, with food.
Temporary to Permanence
-In 1889 – Paris hosts an Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) to mark the 100-year
anniversary of the French Revolution. The Eiffel et Compagnie (a consulting
and construction firm owned by the acclaimed bridge builder architect and metals expert Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel) is commissioned to build a monument on the Champ-de-Mars, located in central Paris, and serve as the exposition’s entrance. Design called for more than 18,000 pieces of puddle iron, and 2.5 million rivets.
-In 1889 – Tower is complete, standing nearly 1,000 feet high. At the time, it was considered the tallest structure in the world. Fact: many Parisians either feared it was structurally unsound or considered it an eyesore.
-In 1909 – Originally intended to be dismantled after 20 years, city officials opts to save it after recognizing its value as a radiotelegraph station.
(During World War I, the Eiffel Tower intercepted enemy radio communications, relayed zeppelin alerts and was used to dispatch emergency troop reinforcements).
(During during World War II, Hitler initially ordered its demolition but the command was never carried out).
-In 1957 – An antenna was added that increased the structure’s height by 65 feet
-In 1986 – Eiffel Tower undergoes reconstruction and is repainted every seven years.
-Present – Welcomes an estimated 7 million visitors per year.
(Check out History.com for a more detailed history on the Eiffel Tower!)
A symbol of Paris, a symbol of hope
The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris. It’s the first thing that people – at least people who aren’t from France – think of when they hear Paris. But more than being a national monument, I wonder what this 300 metre iron statue represents to every individual who looks at it?
Does it represent a faraway dream destination? The moment your partner proposed? A drunken night? A fading memory?
For me, the Eiffel Tower symbolizes a time when I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do for so long – travel. It represents a time of complete independence and contentment.
In it’s early days, the Eiffel Tower symbolized the idea of liberty, fraternity and freedom as it was originally built in commemoration of the French Revolution. Today, the Eiffel Tower still symbolizes all those values along with something much needed in these times – hope.
After the 13 November attacks, when terrorists killed 130 people, the city’s motto in Latin: Fluctuat nec mergitur (She is tossed by waves but does not sink) was projected on the celebrated Dame de Fer. For the following three days, as the mayor, Anne Hidalgo defiantly declared that despite its grief “Paris is still standing”, the tower was lit in the colours of the tricolour: red, white and blue. An image of the tower in the form of the international peace symbol quickly caught on in social media among those wishing to show solidarity with the bruised but unbeaten city. – Kim Willsher, The Guardian
The Tower has lit up Parisian nights many times over the years. With every colour it shines, I’m sure it represents something unique for all those who look to it.
Learn more about the architecture of the Eiffel Tower!