It was a nice walk through a relatively quiet neighbourhood to get to Patarei Prison, up along the harbour. It didn’t look open – you go through the gate and there’s nothing recognisable as a ticket office, it looks abandoned until you see a little room with a woman who speaks no English at all.
She sold me a ticket for €2, and tried to explain something to me in Estonian – waving her hands and pointing to places, I figured she was trying to tell me where not to go. Still, as I really didn’t understand a word I decided that I’d wander around everywhere that I could get into. I think I found the places she was trying to tell me not to go – the places where there was no lighting and it was black as night [not an Estonian summer night].
The first place I visited was the hanging room – a creatively named little room where, you guessed it, they used to hang people. Criminals of some persuasion I assume, although the definition of ‘criminal’ could be a little loose under the Soviets compared to what we might imagine.
Next I wandered the exercise yards, and climbed up the rusty metal steps to get a lovely view of the prison.
I ended up spending almost three hours wandering around the prison. It was quite creepy, as it has literally been left as it was when it was abandoned in 2005 – it didn’t meet the standards required by the European Union.
Pictures of women, ripped out of mens’ magazines, are peeling off the walls.
In one room, it appears that someone went a little mental with the prison’s entire collection of ancient dial telephones and typewriters.
There’s a medical wing of the prison, with a surgery full of medical equipment. It must be broken, if not when the prison closed then by now. Surprisingly though, there was a box of test tubes that were dusty but whole.
A lot of the walls are covered in graffiti – no doubt some from the prison’s operation and some added since closing.
I saw one other person exploring the prison while I was there. It felt a little eerie, walking around by myself, sometimes in the dark. I couldn’t help thinking that it would be pretty cool to spend the night, or have a party there. Neither are allowed, of course.
I must admit that my fascination with doors and locks, especially prison doors, continues. There’s just something about them…
I don’t think it would be a particularly comfortable place to sleep…
Armed with a camera alone in a prison…who could resist taking some stupid photos?