Patarei Prison

Patarei Prison – One of the Strangest Tourist Sites I’ve Visited

The entrance sign to the prison.

The entrance sign to the prison.

Just a 15-20 minute walk from the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia is Patarei Prison, which was in use from 1920 to 2002. After paying a small entrance fee (about 3 euros), you can wander the dark (and I mean dark) hallways, decrepit cells, infirmary, library, offices, execution rooms and other areas.

My wife and son near the entrance to Patarei Prison.

My wife and son near the entrance to Patarei Prison.

Another view of the prison grounds and buildings.

Another view of the prison grounds and buildings.

One of the prison's hallways, Notice how it's curved, this was a feature of the original fortress from the 1800's, so a shot could not be fired straight a long distance.

One of the prison’s hallways, Notice how it’s curved, this was a feature of the original fortress from the 1800’s, so a shot could not be fired straight a long distance.

A cell door with a small opening for sliding food to the prisoner.

A cell door with a small opening for sliding food to the prisoner.

This is the courtyard and up until World War II the prisoners could walk in open space here. After the start of the Soviet occupation, the open-roof cells to the left were built. Prisoners would be crammed in these small "boxes" for an hour of fresh air.

This is the courtyard and up until World War II the prisoners could walk in open space here. After the start of the Soviet occupation, the open-roof cells to the left were built. Prisoners would be crammed in these small “boxes” for an hour of fresh air.

As can be seen from the images below, it’s as though the prisoners just up and left everything where it was, in its “natural” state. The fact that a visitor can wander through these buildings (which have no light other than the daylight coming through the windows) with no escorts is quite unusual.

One of the cell blocks with a lot of left over clothes and other items.

One of the cell blocks with a lot of left over clothes and other items.

The library - a number of books still on the shelves.

The library – a number of books still on the shelves.

The infirmary - I think I'll keep my own doctor and medical plan!

The infirmary – I think I’ll keep my own doctor and medical plan!

A small guidebook is available at the entrance, and a few rooms are sign posted, but for the most part you’re left with your imagination.

Toilet area - comfy!

Toilet area – comfy!

One of the cell areas - note the bedding and pillows still in place.

One of the cell areas – note the bedding and pillows still in place.

Many prisoners were held here while awaiting trial. Hundreds of people were also executed at the prison, the last execution taking place in 1991. One of the rooms used for shooting people was later painted over in brown paint to hide the blood stains.

One of the execution rooms. Hangings and poisonings took place here. Note the floorboards in the center of the picture, these would allow for the person to fall enough distance to complete the hanging.

One of the execution rooms. Hangings and poisonings took place here. Note the floorboards in the center of the picture, these would allow for the person to fall enough distance to complete the hanging.

The prison faces the sea, and was originally a fortress built to protect the city of Tallinn in 1840. It’s been open as a Cultural Park since 2007 to preserve the memory of what life was like for some unfortunate people during the Soviet occupation.

One of the guard's quarters.

One of the guard’s quarters.

For more information, visit: http://www.patarei.org.