The first famous tower I ascended was Eiffel’s masterpiece in Paris and a couple of years later came the CN and the Empire State. To continue the tradition in Moscow I took the initiative to go to Europe’s tallest tower: Ostankino.
The Ostankino Media Tower was built in honor of the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution and was completed in 1967. Taking 5 years to build, the tower was the tallest in the world when built and stands at 540 meters. Ostankino is named after the district in Moscow where it is located and broadcasts TV and Radio signals over the whole city.
To some the tower may seem a little rough around the edges, and in fact it is with all the antennas and broadcasting arms poking out. It may be one of my favorite buildings in Moscow however. What I see when I look up at Ostankino is a magnificent tower that could be the cover art for a great sci-fi or steam punk novel. The surrounding grounds melt away and my mind washes up nautical, magical, and even post-Armageddon worlds trying to find where this spire fits best. The tower itself seems to have a dark mysterious quality and the area around the tower felt like you were walking into the headquarters of an evil organization.
The situation isn’t helped by Russia’s love of red tape. Usually when one arrives to a famous tower they purchase tickets and line up for the breath taking view. As they wait flashing cameras, people milling about excitedly and flashy presentations about the tower surrounds them. There is fervor in the air. The experience at Ostankino on the other hand goes a little like this: you must first sign up online or at the tower for an appointment to go up the tower (maximum of 30 at a time), on arrival your name is checked on the list at security and then you must go to a check in. Arriving 30 minutes early at the check in you must then give over your passport and once it in scrutinized you are printed an official entrance card.
Your group is brought together and given an entrance briefing in Russian, taken on a path to a security check point where you are scanned for metals and have your ID checked again. Finally you use your entrance card to scan you into the tower doors and you have time to look at the exhibit at the tower base. A security briefing is issued next and then you can finally board the elevator. Once up stairs you are free to roam and observe for half an hour before you must leave with the group and reverse the security process while on the way out. Moscow may be modernized but it certainly has that on its own terms
I felt the procedure of mounting the tower just added to the Russian charm and that the experience wouldn’t have been complete without it. Now when I see Ostankino from the ground it still gives me a spark of magic.