Walking along the Seine during my recent holiday in Paris, I was struck by the sight of that most famous national landmark. Before then, I had intended to avoid the Eiffel Tower. I had always considered it to be somewhat overrated, agreeing with those 19th-century Parisians who thought it a bit of an eyesore. But after catching a glimpse of La Dame de Fer glimmering in the summer evening light, I, like so many before me, immediately fell for it. Giving in, I decided to visit it the next day.
After a long queue, I finally got through the newly erected security gates to step foot underneath that most splendid of structures. Looking up, what I saw was utter majesty. It was much larger than any of the movies or pictures had shown. It towers over that beautiful city and climbs high into the bright blue sky. Made up of 18,000 pieces of latticed wrought iron, it weighs 10,100 tonnes, and requires 60 tonnes of paint just to protect it from the elements. Extraordinarily complex, it surely is among the world’s most striking examples of human ingenuity. Remembering that it was completed almost 130 years ago and that it took only 26 months to build only adds to the sense of achievement. Standing at 324 metres, it was once the tallest man-made structure in the world and remained so until the completion in 1930 of New York’s Chrysler Building, that other testament to engineering brilliance.
The Eiffel Tower, which was completed in 1889, was built at a time when mankind was really getting into its stride, having cast off so many of the chains that had held it back for centuries. It is just one representation of the tenacity of the human race, of our ability to conquer any challenge that is presented to us. The Eiffel Tower, like so many feats before it, and countless since, has proven our habit not only of survival, but of intrepidity.