robertisenberg

The International Spy Museum: 2

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Photo taken in Sosua, Dominican Republic.

When you peruse the sections on World War II and the Cold War, the good humor melts entirely, and a serious schooling takes over. Exhibits on German crytography and the legendary Windjammers are awe-inspiring; it becomes apparent that spies aren’t just men who try to strangle each other in Parisian hotel rooms. Real spies have changed the course of history – intercepting telegrams, breaking codes, planting bombs in Cuban cigars. The fates of nations have hinged on the spy’s behind-the-scenes toil. And as the Cold War demonstrated, the spy’s world can become a labyrinth of loathing and self-doubt; it’s one thing to put on a persona in the name of king and country, but once you pretend to be your enemy, it’s easy to forget your friends. The chapter on Berlin is claustrophobic and heart-breaking – we see spouses betraying each other, coffee shop massacres, sweaty payphone conversations, all in the name of vague ideologies. In the end, the Spy Museum triumphs because it does more than stimulate our excitement; it sobers us up, reminding us that James Bond is fantasy and nuclear proliferation is profoundly real.

Unlike most museums in D.C., the Spy Museum is independent, snipping all ties to the Smithsonian megalith. This means the museum has an hefty entry fee ($12.50), but the expansive exhibits, top-notch cafeteria and adorable souvenir shop make it well worth the ticket price. And when you leave, one alarming fact keeps the adrenaline pumping throughout your day: Washington, D.C. has the highest concentration of spies in the world.

Just goes to show: Paranoia can be fun.

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