We drive into Philly, drop Sully for servicing in Chinatown and head to the old town. I have the “Streets of Philadelphia” song in my head, and it will last all day long. The Independence Hall admissions are already sold out for the day so we decide to keep the visit of the old town for tomorrow. Instead we walk to the Italian Market and get a Philly cheesesteak at the famous Geno’s. Then we head to downtown and all the way to the steps where Rocky Balboa was running. It doesn’t sound like much but we spent the full day walking (about 6 hours + breaks). Philly has kind of a New York look, with this mix of Georgian red brick buildings, Victorian and Greek revival architecture and old and new skyscrapers. The city was laid out in 1682, it was the state capital until 1799 and the US capital until 1800.
On day 2 we can visit the Independence Hall where the Declaration was signed and the Constitution created. For 10 years, from 1790 to 1800, the Federal government was occupying the old city hall and the state capitol before moving to the newly created Capital of Washington. We walk around the old city, go back to downtown to see the Reading Terminal Market and head to the Eastern State Penitentiary. It was the world’s first penitentiary, opened in 1829, it operated until 1971. It remained closed for twenty years before the ruins were open to the public. When it was built, it was the biggest and the most expensive public structure ever built. It was designed to inspire true regret in the heart of the prisoners. They were totally isolated, never seeing each other, and kept silent. Each cell had its own tiny yard between walls, so prisoners are always separate even in the only hour of the day they could breathe fresh air. This model inspired hundreds of prisons around the world especially in Europe. It was the Pennsylvania penitentiary model. But it was criticised, inmates were going crazy. The New York model, the same as today, was estimated better and eventually the Eastern State Penitentiary was upgraded to match it. Al Capone spent time in it, but we didn’t get to see his cell, we ran out of time! Being in those ruins felt like time had stopped, but it hadn’t. We spent time in the exhibition in the penitentiary which challenges the criminal system of today. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, costing billions to the taxpayers. But the flaws in the system make it ineffective, 45% of the prisoners are back after three years. They are just put between bars, not rehabilitated. In my opinion, so much of the money spent on prisons should be injected in education. Most criminals come from poor families and had no chances in getting good education. Some poor neighborhoods are called the “million dollars blocks” because of the cost of keeping residents in prison. If that money was spent in giving the kids there a better education, wouldn’t it lower criminality?