It was the day I went to jail for the first time.
But it wasn't for long as I was released the next day – when I really didn't want to be let out, writes features editor, John Newton.
I'd just spent 'time' in a former mixed prison with a record dating back more than 100 years and is now one of Helsinki's most popular 'escapes'.
What was the historic Katajanokka prison is now Finland's oldest hotel building - with the same prison name - where 166 cells, including six isolation cells - have been meticulously converted into 106 hotel rooms with stylish design and a touch of Nordic flair.
The four-star Hotel Katajanokka, which opened 10 years ago, is a far cry from the cold, depressing jail where the last prisoners – ranging from murderers to sugar smuggler, and even politicians – were moved in 2002. One stone floor cell held 40 inmates.
“The prison church was the only place where inmates could meet. They even ate in their cells,” said hotel general manager, Eerika Rinne, who's a full bottle on the historical prison/hotel.
“There's no history of any prisoner escapes by tunnelling, but some male prisoners tried to tunnel their way to the women's section,” she said.
Exposed in 1946, an interesting tunnel construction shows the creativity of prisoners. The wall between the men's common space on the third floor and women's cell number 13 was broken through.
The name Katajanokka derives from its geographic location on Helsinki's Skalan Cape. The first prison of Katajanokka was built as early as 1749. Called the Helsinki Crown Prison, it was a wooden building with just five rooms and a vestibule. A new prison building, made out of stone, was built on the site in 1800 with accommodation for 20 inmates.
In 1837, it became the Helsinki County Prison with 12 rooms for prisoners, two rooms for guards and a chapel. Later on, the jail was extended with the former prison building being converted into an administrative area with new prison wings.
In 1888, a new county jail was built on Katajanokka and was reconstructed and modernised thoroughly after being damaged in two wars. The facade was not altered much until the prison was closed down.
Privately-owned by three men who were in the construction business, Hotel Katajanokka took two years to convert at a cost of twenty million euros. Its open central corridor, red brick outer walls and the surrounding high perimeter wall are protected by the National Board of Antiquities in Finland and remain as a reminder of the building's long and colourful history.
The hotel,which can accommodate 250 guests, has four 'cell' categories – Classic Queen, Classic Twin, Superior and Junior Suite, with prices ranging from 100-200 euros a night.
Linnankellari - its trendy restaurant – offers dishes such as Prison's Club Sandwich, JB 'Jail' Burger and Reindeer & Chocolate (charcoal grilled reindeer sirloin with semolina, chocolate and black pudding).
The menu points out that “The heart of Linnankellari is an authentic 'Milbrasa' wood-fired grill that brings out the soul of real cooking”.
And to shed a few kilos after a hearty Finnish meal, guests can hop in the hotel's sauna or work out in the gym – something ex-prisoners could only dream about when doing their time.
The prison church – the second oldest in Helsinki – is now used for meetings, dinners and even weddings for up to 130 people. The hotel also has five conference rooms for six to 30 people.
In 1967, Helsinki County Prison started organising tours for groups, who wanted to see what life in jail was like. Visitors included schoolchildren and students. According to sources, this had a positive impact on the atmosphere in the prison.
In 2016, the Hotel Katajanokka's occupancy was 80 per cent, which it hopes to increase to 85 per cent this year.
Authorities are considering another plan to convert a former prison into a hotel – this time at the south-west coastal city of Turku, the one-time capital of Finland. A decision has yet to be made.
For more details, go to www.hotelkatajanokka.fi