“The name’s Museum, Spy Museum”. You don’t need to be a double-o agent in order to get a glimpse of the secret world of KGB, CIA, Stasi, and MI6. The German Spy Museum introduces you to the fascinating history of secret intelligence with informative technology, interactive design and lots of oddities from centuries of spy history. The location is not a coincidence, Leipziger Platz is right where the Berlin wall used to be – the place where the world was divided between East and West and where there was more intelligence activity than anywhere else on this planet. Sounds interesting? Here’s why the German Spy Museum is a great place to visit – not only for Bond fans.
When thinking about spies and secret agents, many think of the Cold War, of James Bond and gritty double agents, and of conspiracies reaching into the highest ranks of governments. The history of spying is actually a lot older though, stretching back at least 4,000 years to ancient egypt where scouts delivered secret messages of military importance. Thus, the German Spy Museum is telling a long history of espionage around the globe, with a specific focus on the German context, obviously. One of the most significant exhibits is one of the very few remaining Enigma coding machine, used by the German Wehrmacht during world war II for encrypted communication.
The cold war is central to the exhibition, for it was then that intelligence agencies around the world flourished. While there was no big-scale military outbreak of the cold war, an intelligence war was indeed going on underneath the surface. Historic events such as the exchange of spies on Glienicker Bridge in 1986 and relics like the US listening station on Teufelsberg illustrate, why Berlin was often considered the capital of spies. The inventiveness of the agencies in real life was just as limitless as that of James Bond’s Q – among the oddities on display at the exhibition are tiny cameras hidden in bras, poison syringes hidden in walking canes, and lipstick-revolvers.
The real quality of the German Spy Museum lies not in the extensive collection of objects but rather in the style of display: There’s always something to be touched or tested, and the 200 high-definition screens spread across the exhibition let you dig through an infinite pool of digital information. And there are some really fun things to do, like hacking secret passwords or decoding encrypted messages – if that won’t make you feel like 007, nothing will. Highlight: a real-life laser parkour, where you have to acrobatically cross a hallway full of laser traps like a hollywood master thief without triggering an alarm. These days, intelligence agencies are doing their thing to a large extend in the digital world, hacking their way to massive piles of information. The museum dedicates part of the exhibition to these new developments, in particular the futuristic “big data hall” with its interactive gesture controlled design.
Quite the experience
All in all, a visit at the German Spy Museum Berlin makes for an exceptional trip to the arcane world of intelligence agencies. Berlin, the city of spies, is the perfect location for a museum dedicated to the history of espionage, and large parts of the exhibition reference the history of Berlin during the cold war. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm. Admission is 12 € (reduced fare: 8 €), but there are special deals for groups, families, and school trips. Special events such as birthday parties can be organized, too.
From Industriepalast Hostel simply take subway line U1 to Gleisdreieck and from there line U2 directly to Potsdamer Platz. The museum is just a short walk from here on Leipziger Platz.
Picture: © Deutsches Spionagemuseum Berlin
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.