The door opens. A guard peeks around the corner and looks suspicious at me. With some hesitation I say: “Uhh.. hello.. I talked to Peter.. (Pjotr, does the name even matter?).. he told me I could get in?” Nervously the guard looks behind me. A big group of tourists just walked to the main entrance and they see me now getting in through the back door. Quickly he opens the door and lets me. He yells at the group of tourists: “Go away! We are closed!”. And with a bang he closes the door. Yes, I am in. I am at the courtyard of the former KGB prison of Tallinn. The guard puts his hand up. This is the moment I have to make the deal. Just like we agreed in advance I give him 5 euros. I am afraid he wants more, but fortunately it is good enough for him and he puts it in his pocket. He starts walking towards the gate doors. I quickly follow him, because I don’t want to lose him. Not here. He opens a big rusty iron gate and tells me to go in. Then he walks away. This is it. I am at the entrance gate of the Patarei prison. The gate where more than 50 years ago hundreds of inmates passed through every week. What a strange place to be: it is dark, abandoned, creepy and at the same time so exciting.
Bribe, there is a first for everything
But how did I get here? Well, I read about the Patarei prison before I got to Tallinn. It is an abandoned Soviet prison that is now a museum you could visit. With my interest in Soviet history and my upcoming plan to visit Tallinn in March I knew I had to go there. In the summer months the museum is daily opened, but in the winter you can only visit it on a tour. So of course I booked a tour a day ahead and arrived at the meeting point right on time. Sadly, the guide and I were the only ones there, the other tour participants decided not to show up. The guide refused to the give the tour to only one person and went home. You can imagine how upset I was. I had fulfilled my duties: I signed up and arrived on time, but now the guide ditched me. That evening I wrote an angry email to the tour company about the situation. Luckily, they responded quickly and offered a solution: the next day I could visit the Patarei prison without a guide. The only thing I had to do is to give the guard some money. Five euros to be exact. My first bribe in my life, and it happened in Estonia. Well, there is a first for everything.
Horror operation rooms and lots of graffiti
The Patarei prison closed not that long ago. Until 2004 it functioned as a prison. After that it seems like the prison was abandoned. Everything was left behind and stayed the way it was. You still see mugs, papers, chairs and pillows on the bed. The most impressive room is for sure the operation rooms. It looks like a scene of a creepy horror movie. It gave me a cold chill knowing all the suffering that took place in this room. The thing that did change in the prison are the walls: they are full with graffiti. Some works are really good and relate to the horror that took place here, and others are just shameless. For instance, I saw several messages about Obama and Trump. For me this shows a lack of respect people have for a tragic place like this.
Would you visit to the Patarei prison? Have you been to Tallinn?
I do not encourage people to bribe the guards of the Patarei prison. This article shows the situation I was in. There are good tours available and I encourage you to sign up for this because you learn so much more with a professional guide. The English tour in the winter is 8 euros. In summer the entrance is 2 euros. There is no tour available, you can explore the prison by yourself.