San Francisco’s Darkest: Alcatraz


One early Friday morning a few weeks ago, it was time to board a plane, with coffee in hands, to fly up north to San Francisco. 

We had a long weekend ahead of us and were planning to spend the day in San Fran, before taking our rental car down to California's capital Sacramento. 

One thing I’d always wanted to do (even though it’s a prime tourist attraction but who cares?) was visit haunted Alcatraz. The prison in the U.S. everyone knew (and most of us have heard of it) and hardcore criminals were locked up in. 

We flew in to San Fran during breakfast hour, got our rental car and headed over to the pier where we should come to realize pretty quickly that winter up in the bay are is a frosty affair. Bundled up as much as possible, we joined other visitors on the small ferry and started our travel back in time. 

Alcatraz,”the prison of American prisons”, was in sight. 

The weather forecast said rain and indeed, it did sprinkle here and there, but the times we were actually outside we were lucky and not getting soaked. 

The city skyline was getting smaller, as Alcatraz unfolded in front of us. 

One more “dreamy” shot (I played with my camera settings, by far a lot to learn here)…

…and we arrived. It was about a 10 minute ride over the rough waters. 

We made it to “the rock”, as mostly prisoners used to call Alcatraz. 

“The real Alcatraz” – we were about to discover its history and darkest secrets (man, that sounds dramatic). 

We all had to gather by the pier, where we were given a few instructions; then, we were free to go and explore. They offered guided tours every hour or so, but we decided to roam around on our own and eventually chose the audio guide tour. This was actually pretty good, I have to say. 

Never in my life would I have survive only a week at this place. It was cold, damp, windy. Not really the most comfortable place on earth. Well, it wasn’t supposed to be. 

We wandered around and tried to imagine what it must have been like centuries ago. 

This gave me chills. 

What a horrible place. I was already freezing my butt off as we were walking around. 

Can you imagine that Alcatraz, when active and in “full use”, had its own little community? There was a school, a few small shops, and the families of the people working at and overseeing this prison were living on “the rock”. 

So strange to think about that. 

Nowadays, there is nothing but tourists on this “island”. It’s a run down place. 

There was an art exhibition consisting of jerseys. The numbers and also colors of the jerseys were related to inmates, escape attempts etc. I can’t really recall what it was all about, unfortunately. A ranger was kind enough to explain everything to us but I guess I only understood half of it, even though I remember that the idea behind this installation was/is brilliant. 

Let me out! Someone almost forgot about me. Just kidding. 

After having explored the place for a while, we headed over to the main building with all the prison cells. 

You do NOT want to be in one of those. No privacy but apparently, those “single” cells should prevent violence among the inmates. Smart. 

We had out audio guide talk us through everything. Then, we ended up in block D – considered the most disliked one. I see why. 

The cells were dark, specifically the ones on the bottom. C. and I had talked about this being a haunted place and read stories about visitors specifically feeling uncomfortable in cell 14 D. They experienced it as way colder than the other ones, for instance. 

Well, this whole place was freezing, so I couldn’t really tell a difference but what I can tell you is that I would not have wanted to be locked up there. 

After a good two and a half hours, it was time to leave this place behind. The impressions stuck with me, however. It is undoubtedly super interesting to learn more about the history of this former prison. 

Lucky as we were, the sun peaked up on the short ride back over the bay. 

We even got a good view on the Golden Gate Bride. 

After returning to the dock, we were seeking something hot to drink, and a hearty lunch. Guess this is what we got. 

We then drove around a little bit, stopped at Lombard Street (SO steep!), and then it started raining. 

Good timing. 

We actually had to go over the bridge on our way out. 

It is impressive, no doubt. 

We stopped on the other side for a few pictures but quickly jumped back in the car as the rain was only getting heavier and the wind stronger. 

There is something about San Francisco, the fog, the Golden Gate bridge, the gloominess all too often – just like that day. But I have to be honest and say this city hasn’t really convinced me yet. Not sure how to feel about it. I cannot be as enthusiastic about it as other people might be. Maybe I should give it another shot – a third time?