Did you ever thought of going to prison? Knowing how scaping from dogs and soviet officers feel? And even paying for spending a night in a haunted prison? I'm going to tell you how in this post!
This time I'm going to write about two of the coolest "museums" (I think it doesn't fit either in that category) that I have ever been. And as probably you guessed, yes, they ARE prisons. And you will say... but a working prison? Well... kinda yes in one case. Althought it can look dangerous, weird, creepy or simply stupid, visiting this places will be an experience you will never forget!
Karosta prison, Liepaja (Latvia)
First we will speak about what, for me is the coolest activity of Latvia: Karosta Prison. It's located in the southern coastal city of Liepaja , close to the border with Lithuania. It's located in the northern district which in fact used to be one of Russian Empire most important harbours (water didn't froze in winter) and thats why the whole Karosta district is a military-navy one, with soldier homes, a huge naval cathedral (worth seeing) and even coastal bunkers, the district is separated from the city, but reachable by tram or bus, and actually is one of the most derelict districts of Latvia, occupied by Russian soldiers until 1994. (DONT BE SCARED BY PICTURE, THE REST OF THE CITY ROCKS!!)
So after you walk the forest-like streets you will come across the red brick prison, which was built in the XIX century firstly as a naval hospital (you can see some bricks with cross shape), but soon and probably due to the bad actitude of sailors, it became a military prison (for the own Russian Empire sailors). As history advanced it has been a prison for other nations, used by Germans and Russians in WWI, Nazi prison camp in WWII and becoming one of the scariest prisons of that part of the USSR later, after 1994 (when the Russians completely withdrew from Latvia) was used for a few years by the Latvian authorities, until they abandoned it... but then... some people had the amazing idea of restoring it and make it an attraction to the public!!
So... after all this history... you will be asking: But ok, what the hell is the prison about? Well, the thing is that you can visit this place in 4 ways, the calmer one is just going there as a visitor and do a normal tour like if it was a museum, it's also cool since that when you enter the compound everybody is dressed as 1980s USSR and will speak like that (every worker is an actor, they wont break they role, and its a prison so yep, they can seem rude, and will be on porpouse). Even the canteen is traveling on time. In the museum you can see a lot of weapons and material from the WWII as well as visiting the cells. But now it comes the funny part: There are other 3 different ways to visit this place (but you will need to arrange it in advance).
The best option for a newcomer will be to take the hardcore tour (Behind the Bars tour), where you will be taken out your things and clothes and be given some prisioner ones, and for 2-3 hours you will "live" the prison, with officers telling you to exercise, being in cell, registering for prison... and if you want to go to toilet, you need to use the prison ones... and just few minutes for it! (Obviously if it's getting too intense for you, you can quit, but as people is doing their best acting is ok to "suffer" for two hours, and in fact you dont get any kind of harm). The next way is to do their Scape from USSR game, where you need to literally scape the district from soldiers, dogs, smoke grenades... and make it to the beach, where your freedom awaits.
And finally the last way is to spend a night there, surprise! it's also a hotel. You spend the night in the cold cells, but thats not all, since this building is also one of the most haunted places of Latvia... they say there are also ghosts in there, so be ready to spend a night that you will remember forever!!
As far as I remember, prices were pretty cheap, so there is no money excuse for having a lifetime experience!
You can check all the information in their website!
Patarei prison, Tallin (Estonia)
If you keep looking for adventures in prisons, I bring another one to you! This time in Estonia. In Tallin, the capital, there is an abandoned XIX prison about 10 minutes walking from city center, and you can visit it all! You need to pay a little fee (it was 2 euro when I last went in 2012) to a grandma standing in the security post inside the prison (you need to enter the main door first), and you can also get a flashlight with a 5 euro deposit.
There is plenty to explore here, and since it has some kind of anti-theft security, most metal structures and machines are still there, but there is almost no light, thankfully is very close to the sea so there is plenty of light coming from the windows, but for many rooms you will need the light. Inside you can see reinforced cells, libraries, control room, a lot of dark and scary corridors, execution room (did I say it was creepy already?) and the medical ward (looks like an abandoned madhouse) which ends in the surgical room where guess what, they also executed people...
Apart from the 2 big parts of the building that are open for visit, there is also the courtyard, the place where the inmates were able to exercise, as personal advice I tell you to walk softly and not step into the barbed wire that is all over the place, or you will damage your shoes or your legs.
In my opinion, except for the barbed wire there is no danger at all, no rats, no bats... just dont lean to heavily on the stairs or try to force something, and seat carefully in the chairs, since they are wood rotten, and a very important rule is not to take anything with you!!! (it's a museum after all) Learn more about Patarei here!
I hope you liked reading about these unusual museums and I hope you have a great time when visiting them!
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