The Iron Lady of France

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Eiffel Tower is the backbone of Paris.  It is a permanent feature of the Paris skyline. The Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars was completed on March 31, 1889. It was the tallest man-made structure for 41 years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York, in 1930. Dr. Paramita tells us about the Tower, exclusively for Different Truths.

May 2016. That was the month I got obsessed with the 324 metres tall tower. Yes, we were vacationing in Paris and our lovely service apartment was just next to the tower.  Imagine having breakfast looking at the tower from our 24th floor! Feel the thrill of documenting our trips on my laptop in the evening enjoying the lighted up tower with an assortment of cheese and French wine to accompany.

I am talking about the Eiffel tower, the backbone of Paris.  It is a permanent feature of the Paris skyline. The Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars was completed on March 31, 1889. It was the tallest man-made structure for 41 years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York, in 1930. It was obviously the tallest structure in France till 1973 when a military transmitter taller than the Tower came up in the town of Saissac.

Just at the foot of the Tower, there is a golden coloured bust of Alexander Gustave Eiffel, the engineer whose company designed and built the Eiffel Tower. He also designed the interior elements of the Statue of Liberty of America. The Tower was the main exhibit at the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World Fair) held to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution.

Did you know that the Tower has 1665 steps to reach the highest point? It is possible to walk up although most people prefer the lift. The wrought iron lattice tower has three levels, the first and second levels having restaurants. There are lifts to go to even the uppermost platform which is 276m (906 ft.) above the ground –  the highest observation deck accessible to the public in the European Union.  We weren’t lucky enough to go to the third level when we had gone as it was closed for renovation but we did have a panoramic view of the City of Lights.

Paris, the fashion capital of the world, has to have a trendy Tower as well. So Eiffel Tower had many colour changes over the years. In 1889, when it was first constructed it was reddish brown. A decade later it was coated in yellow colour. It was also yellow-brown and chestnut brown before the adoption of the current specially mixed ‘Eiffel Tower Brown’ in 1968. Every seven years after that the Eiffel Tower is repainted with 60 tonnes of paint. It is painted in three shades, progressively lighter with elevation. The Eiffel sparkles in the night due to 20,000 light bulbs. In very cold weather the Eiffel shrinks about six inches. You will be scared to know that it can sway five inches in strong winds.

What a lovely way to thank people who helped in the construction of Eiffel! The names of 72 engineers, scientists and mathematicians are engraved on the sides of the Tower who contributed to its construction.

Various scientific experiments have been conducted on the Tower. One such was by the German physicist Theodor Wulf, who used an electrometer to detect higher levels of radiation at its top than at its base observing the effects of what is now called cosmic rays.

There are some trivia associated with the great structure. It’s said that a con artist named Victor Lustig “sold” the Tower for scrap metal on two separate occasions. An American woman married the Eiffel Tower, in 2008, changing her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel.

In the initial years, many Parisians protested and were against the huge structure which they thought was an eyesore. One story runs that the famous novelist Guy de Maupassant hated the tower so much that he ate lunch in the restaurant at the base of the Tower, the only vantage point from which he could completely avoid the looming giant.

During World War II, Hitler ordered the demolition of Eiffel but the command was not carried out. On German occupation, the Tower’s lift cable was cut and the Tower was closed to the public. The German soldiers tried to put a Swastika at the top of the Tower but due to its size it blew off and they put a smaller one.

Since it’s opening, 250 million people have visited the Tower. It is the most visited paid-for monument in the whole world. It has been estimated that about 7 million people visit it per year. The Eiffel Tower has inspired 30 replicas and similar structures in various cities of the world. I have seen one such replica in Las Vegas.

No wonder that the Eiffel Tower share the same nickname as Margaret Thatcher — La Dame de Fer, which means ‘The Iron Lady of France’.

©Dr. Paramita Mukherjee Mullick

Photos by the author

#Paris #EiffelTower #MargaretThatcher #Vegas #WorldWarII #Hitler #Travelogue #DifferentTruths

 

Dr. Paramita is a scientist with a doctorate in Genetic Toxicology, an educationist by profession, associated with NABET, GoI organisation, helping in the quality management of schools all over India. An author and poet by passion, she has published four books. She has had numerous book events around the world. Presently a series of competitions of her poems are being held in some schools in Mumbai, where she lives with her husband and daughter.