Karostas Cietums is the only military prison in Europe open to tourists. It’s been described as being more impressive than Alcatraz, and acts almost like a terrifying interactive reality show. In reality it’s more like a cross between a prison, hotel and museum.
It was once a prison for nearly 100 years, holding everyone from revolutionaries to deserters and rioters. Now you can visit the prison and pay to become a prisoner yourself, learning about Soviet history as you do so.
Photo by karostas cietums
The prison remains exactly the same as it was when it was in use; it’s like stepping in a time machine when you enter the prison. It holds an impressive collection of original artefacts and souvenirs; you can try on a gas mask and see some clothing from a young prisoner.
For those who like to really experience their history first hand, you are able to stay overnight. If you choose to be treated as a criminal you can be handcuffed, have all your belongings removed, and be locked in a prison cell. The bunks are made out of wood; the mattresses are made out of iron. Meals are only stale bread and water, and some guests are forced into the labyrinths underneath the prison by torchlight.
With rumours that the prison is haunted by the ghosts of previous prisoners, this is certainly not one for wimps. If you like your history lessons to be more on the “extreme” side, however, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere better.