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pen·i·ten·tia·ry. noun.

June 4, 2012


some time in january i had decided to go on a vacation between spring and summer semesters. the plan was to fly to los angeles and drive to san francisco. the whole trip would take about a week.

instead, i went to philadelphia. for a day.

this time there was only one thing i had planned in advance: a visit to eastern state penitentiary (a word i cannot seem to spell correctly). you take the train from penn station to trenton and then another one to philadelphia 30th street station. the penitentiary is about half an hour walk from there. the weather was nice and i really wasn’t in the mood for more public transport.

i must have been to philadelphia more than twenty times by now, but i didn’t even know about the penitentiary until a couple of days ago. and i’m happy i wasn’t tempted by the idea of going to philadelphia museum of art, or having lunch first. the penitentiary turned out to be one of the most impressive things i’ve seen in the states. it’s almost impossible for me to believe that this whole thing actually existed, with inmates and guards and all. it looks as if it was built for a hollywood movie and it’s beautiful in a very strange way.

the audio tour (narrated by steve buscemi, accompanied by some gloomy tunes) is pretty informative. you learn about the history of the building (it was built in 1829, and had central heating and running water even before the white house), about the popular inmates (including al capone) and life in prison in general. this is what one of the cells looked like:

the penitentiary was apparently designed to provide minimum interaction between the inmates. the idea was not only to punish the criminal but also to make him a better person. the building definitely has a church feeling to it and the only light in the cells comes through a small skylight (hinting to the fact that “God is watching”).

that reminds me:

“the third planet is sure they’re being watched / by an eye in the sky that can’t be stopped

when you get to the promise land / you’re gonna shake that eye’s hand”

i don’t want to repeat everything i read on the brochure or heard during the audio tour. if you happen to go to philadelphia, imho, this is *the* thing you should do.

the rest of the trip was pretty random and it included a walk to the rocky steps, watching wedding photo-shoots, more walking, hanging out on south street, and missing the train! when eventually on the train, i fell asleep right away and had a dream about the penitentiary, which wasn’t at all as eerie as i would expect.


From → Dear diary, Listen, Stare

One Comment
  1. Hey, you are back! 🙂 In keeping up this blog you are even worse than I am in keeping up mine… That’s a great picture, and as always I enjoyed reading the story behind the still! Keep them coming, please!

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