It is not every day that I am very excited about a PR and marketing campaign in Germany. The one for thel launch of the Spy Museum is one of them, and from the middle of the summer the city was invaded by attention grabbing billboards announcing the event. Although I wanted to be among the first to check the fantastic spy adventures announced, I had to wait till the beginning of November until the visit was possible.
The building in Potsdamer Platz is offering two full floors of historical installations, presenting more or less recent historical spy stories. The lengthy presentations are available in video and written format, in English and German.The visit starts with an introduction in the history of intelligence, from the old Egypt to Rome and Joshua.
Most part of the exhibition is dedicated though to the Cold War times, that made Berlin one of the European capitals of spies. Touch screens are providing interviews about the various genesis of intelligence services in the East and in the West of Germany.
Old stories are presented into a creative interior design ambiance with special effects of lights and shadows.
When the historical introductions are too long - although very interesting, especially with former Stasi operatives, the famous East German secret police - there are some practical example set toexplain to yo how the operative work can be practised. Special secret messages can be hidden in nuts.
After you see the section dedicated to different gifts that can instantly kill everyone only by smelling, you may need a rehab. The famous umbrella that killed the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in Central London in 1978 is there, still waiting for a full reconstruction of facts, many years after the crime was commited with a simple touch.
True is that at the end of the long visit I really felt overwhelmed about too much information, like I was at the end of a long class in the history of intelligence. Some colourful covers of James Bond movies brought everything back to the entertainment work.
I had a different impression about what a spy museum should be, expecting more action and intelligence challenges, also for the visitor. But I am sure also that the usual glamour we associate with this kind of work is rather the result of wishful thinking. The Spy Museum in Berlin provides lessons of history and for now, it might be enough.