Patarei prison, Tallinn
UPDATE 2018: the site has been closed to the public, so all guided tours are no longer running. Unless this changes, I guess I'll have to move the chapter below into the 'lost places' section. For now I'll let it stand, though, but be aware that you can now only view the place from the outside.
A prime dark site in Estonia
's capital city Tallinn
, namely a disused prison from the 19th century that continued to be used as place of incarceration right through the Soviet
era and up to the early 2000s. It consists of a main wing that forms a semi-crescent along the coastline and a triangular block of buildings behind it.
The interior has basically been left unaltered as it was when the prison closed. Allegedly it looks like the place has only just been vacated in a hurry. In the medical station, cotton wool balls from an operation are still in place, and in some cells the inmates' reading material is said to be still there too. You can even walk on the guards' walkway above the open-air cage “cells”. Overall, it is frequently described as an extremely eerie, gloomy, even scary place. Sounds so cool, eh?!
Alas, I was not able to check this place out myself when I was in Tallinn in spring 2014. The prison would only have been open to the public again for guided tours from mid-May. I was there too early. I tried to negotiate, but they insisted that the only way they'd let me in would be on a private tour for 80 EUR, i.e. ten times what the regular tour would have cost. I declined. But I still regret not having seen this – other than from the outside (see photos below). Oh well, gives me a reason to return to Tallinn
UPDATE: please note that all tours are now suspended.
Normal guided tours of one hour cost 8 EUR. In addition there are various special programmes, including a three-hour “theatrical” one with taking fingerprints, photographs and even a prison meal for 40 EUR per person. There are also combination packages with walks in the area (the Seaplane Harbour
is right next door), the Old Town of Tallinn
and its KGB
-related buildings (cf. Soviet Tallinn
) as well as with the Viru KGB Museum
right next door to the Seaplane Harbour Museum
along the “cultural kilometre” that leads along the former military area on the harbour shoreline all the way to Linnahall just outside the northern end of Tallinn
's Old Town, from where it is a ca. 15-20 minutes' walk.
- Patarei prison 1 - front facing the sea
- Patarei prison 2 - rear
- Patarei prison 3 - watchtower
- Patarei prison 4 - plaques on the wall
- Patarei prison 5 - northern wing
- Patarei prison 6 - main entrance
- Patarei prison 7 - schematic plan
- Patarei prison 8 - harbour view
- Patarei prison 9 - Seaplane Harbour next door to the prison