Iron is so last century—at least in the eyes of the engineering company that has proposed turning the Eiffel Tower into a massive hanging garden covered in thousands of baskets of plants. Since the plan was announced in the French newspaper Le Figaro last week, the story has generated a swirl of controversy for obvious reasons, including the iconic status of the monument as it stands and the enormous expense involved in turning la Tour Eiffel into the green lung of Paris.
The bottom line seems to be: not gonna happen. But as an oddball idea, it follows in a grand tradition most tourists posing next to the Parisian landmark may not fully appreciate. In fact, the Eiffel Tower has long been a locus of formidable eccentricity. Here are just a few of my favorite weird things that have happened over the 122-year history of the tower:
- In 1891, an ambitious baker climbed the 347 steps to the first level on stilts.
- In 1912, an Austrian tailor with a lot of faith in his seams tried to fly from the Eiffel Tower using his homemade "parachute garment." (The suit failed and he died of fright before hitting the ground.)
- In 1948, a circus director gave the oldest elephant in the world a tour of the tower. The elephant, wisely, refused to go beyond the first level.
Find more fun facts on the Eiffel Tower website.
Even though this particular scheme seems unlikely to happen, I'm still hoping it spurs a grand wave of monument one-upsmanship. How about a giant daisy-chain necklace on the Statue of Liberty? Or a tea cozy atop Big Ben? Maybe hair extensions on the Great Sphinx of Giza? Any other ideas out there?
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