Have you ever wondered how many spy-related movies are actually out there? From the classic James Bond flicks to silly action comedies like Spy, cold war dramas like Deutschland 83 or the hacker drama You Are Wanted … Spy Films have become a huge thing and often tell the stories of real-life events and fates.
If you want to look behind the iron curtain of the incredibly secretive world of spies, there is no better place than the German Spy Museum, located rather fittingly in the former “capital of spies” Berlin.
What is it all about?
You can either walk around on your own or take part in one of the public tours, which the museum regularly offers in both German and English (plus other languages on request). I was shown around by Florian Schimikowski, one of the research associates at the museum, who provided me with a lot of background information about the museum.
The German Spy Museum is a relatively new museum that opened its doors in September 2015 and is still undergoing continuous improvements. As Schimikowski revelead, the museum’s movie section (see What’s there to see?) is going to get a lot “bigger and better” in the upcoming months.
The interactive exhibition offers a lot of “hands-on” experiments. You can, for example, test the safety of your own password or try to get out of the “laser maze” without touching the laser beams – perhaps the most popular “hands on” activity in the museum.
So what else is there to see?
Well, let’s start in the first of the three exhibition halls. Here, you will go back in history by reading all about Julius Caesar’s or Napoleon’s spying methods on the panels at the wall. Look up and you might spot something you wouldn’t expect to see here.
Next, you will walk up the stairs to the first floor. Here, you will come across the famous encryption machine Enigma. The Nazis used this machine during the Second World War to encode their messages. In the recent British biopic The Imitation Game (2014), Alan Turing (portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) famously tried to break these codes.
You will also get a glimpse at the “gun glove” that was seen in Inglorious Basterds (2009) as well as the “surviving kit” of a cold war spy. This included things like a “tie camera”, a “lipstick handgun” or a “poisonous umbrella”.
The panels on the wall tell the stories of real-life spies, such as that of the former GDR spy Rainer Rupp. By working “undercover” in the NATO headquarters in Bruxelles, Rupp possibly prevented the outbreak of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia at the height of the cold war period in 1983.
Some people like to think that the fictional character of Martin Rauch (alias Moritz Stamm) in Deutschland 83 was inspired by Rainer Rupp. However, Rupp himself doesn’t like this comparison and says that the story of the internationally acclaimed TV series is not based on him.
Next up is the “spy movie section”, which features film posters from classic spy movies as well as some original props from the James Bond movie series. Scenes from various modern and classic spy movies are shown on a cinema-like screen.
From here, you will walk down the stairs to the lower ground to reach the last hall of the exhibition. As you leave this area, take a closer look at the library to the left. It may contain more than just books…
This last part of the exhibition is all about modern-day spying: Themes include the NSA, Edward Snowden, online hacking and data collection from websites such as Facebook.
End your visit with a stroll through the Spy Shop or at the Spy Coffee café.
Ticket Prices: Entry is 12 euros for adults. A public guided tour (available in different languages upon request) costs 8 euros.
Reduced ticket prices are available for students, trainees, visitors with severely handicapped pass, (school) groups and families.
Opening Times: The museum is open every day of the year except for Christmas Eve (24th of December) from 10 am to 8 pm.
Location: The German Spy Museum is centrally located just a few steps away from Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, so you can easily get there via Berlin’s U- or S-Bahn as well as several bus lines.
Ready to go undercover?
For more info on the museum and to buy your tickets, check out the official website of the German Spy Museum.
More spy stories in Film and TV:
Other spy films include:
All James Bond movies (1960s-ongoing)
Austin Powers (1997-2002)
Spy Game (2001)
The Bourne Trilogy (2002-2012)
Johnny English (2003-2011)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
The Lives of Others (2006)
Inglorious Basterds (2009)
The Tourist (2010)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
The Fifth Estate (2013)
The Imitation Game (2014)
Bridge of Spies (2015)
Looking for more things to do in Berlin? You might like:
All photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket and tour inside the museum. The views expressed in this blog post, however, are entirely my own and reflect my personal, unbiased experience.