In the last century, if one aspired to the profession of spying, being posted to Berlin must have been the epitome of success. It said you made it, that you were truly good at your job, ready to compete with the big boys. And there were lots of them.
While I have a passion for the literature of spying, I always knew it was not the job for me. I would have had to walk around with lists of who was a single agent, a double agent, a triple agent…no way I could have remembered who was who and which side they were on.
This being the capital of spying, there is naturally a museum dedicated to the industry. Of course, spying is hardly a modern invention. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar didn’t make it on looks alone, and they borrowed from those who came before them. No country or culture can claim credit for its creation, and – as with so many things – it’s only the technology that has changed.
We saw lots of samples today, including the shoe phone, spy camera bra, the famous Bulgarian umbrella, the Enigma machine, and lots of tools from both sides. Some of it seems a bit silly in this electronic age, but most of it seemed to work. The Germans are very honest about the cold war spying that that they did on each other, as well as the superiority of some other countries’ tools and methods.
The whole subject continues to fascinate, as evidenced by the hordes of young boys sharing the museum with us. The next generation!
But we did explore more traditional art forms today too. We started with the Gemäldegalerie, which is where the Old Masters are kept. The museum itself is very modern and new, uniting art collections from the East and West after reunification. But they do indeed have some lovely things, with the Dutch being particularly well-represented. (It still looks like the entrance of a bowling alley to me.)
Lunch today was another mundane event, as the cafeteria in the museum had to suffice. We each had a thing with sauce on rice. Not bad, but we didn’t ask for the recipes. Lovely ambiance, too.
Next, and just adjacent is the Kunstgewerbemuseum, which features decorative arts, in a very un-decorated museum. (We just don’t get this poured concrete look, and think the use of large typography is just a bit off-putting.) But the contents were lovely, with some great design icons.
Our special focus was on the chair display, partly because our feet are rather worn out today. We looked longingly at many, and wished they had had benches nearby to admire them more fully. A painting from the Gemäldegalerie particularly spoke to us.
But we have soldiered on, trying to get a good sense of this very complicated city.