Welcome to the Rock

It’s a strange place to visit, old Alcatraz. Given what it was, it really shouldn’t be a tourist destination. And yet, millions of people go there every year to ooh and aah at the former homes of murderers, rapists and hardcore criminals. Hell, if you’re “lucky”, you can even have a chat with a former inmate while you’re there.

It’s  truly strange place and while there, I could never really get a feel for what it must have been like. The audio tour they give you inside the main jailhouse is really interesting and gives a pretty thorough breakdown of the history of Alcatraz, without having to stop at all those signs and posters that so many tourist attractions have. I don’t know about you, but I always ignore those things and prefer to just look at what’s on display.

I think what I found most difficult to grasp was the emptiness of the place, it is abandoned after all and there really shouldn’t be anyone there. Yet to try and get a sense of that in the jailhouse is almost impossible as there’s a constant throng of people wandering up and down the cell blocks or scrambling for a photo of a cell.

I love abandoned places, and I mean ABANDONED places, with nobody around to care for them. I was supposed to visit Chernobyl a few years ago with a friend from Poland but they closed the zone just before we were scheduled to travel and that was the end of that (sadface).

What really interested me on Alcatraz was finding those areas that did look forgotten. The ruins of the Officer’s Club and the Model Industries building looked like so much fun to explore but alas they were fenced off. On the side of the island facing the city there’s more ruins of buildings, long since destroyed, but remnants of them remain.

Speaking of facing the city, it really isn’t far away when you’re outside looking over at San Francisco. You can imagine the prisoners hearing the sounds and smelling the aromas wafting over the bay when they were incarcerated here. That must have been tough, but then again they were criminals so……..

Would Alcatraz be more fun to visit if it was abandoned completely and it was illegal to go there? Hell yes it would. I think you’d get a better appreciation for the place and its isolation, whereas in its current form with the special tours and the loud drone of tourists crawling all over it, I think some of that atmosphere is lost in a way.

It’s still a very interesting visit and despite the nastiness of its past, I’d still include it in my itinerary if I was planning a trip to San Francisco.

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