Looks are often deceiving; history is sentenced to lay dormant in the history books; and television shows glorify violence in an area once devastated by one of the last major wars in Europe. The Dubrovnik Riviera hasn’t always been a thriving tourist hot spot. Less than 30 years ago, Croatia was little more than a coastal region of Yugoslavia.
As a dinosaur I have been lucky enough to avoid conflict, except maybe over something menial like food (don’t get in between me and a slice of watermelon). I do not understand it, nor can I cope with the emotion that goes alongside these events. Before my flight to Croatia I finished reading the Book Thief (SPOILER ALERT), it ended with a single quote.
I am haunted by humans
I really didn’t understand this quote until I arrived in Kupari. The best way to get there is along a dusty path with beautiful views of the Župa Bay which passes through Mlini and Sbreno on the way. My guidebook had only given me minimal information about my destination; there was a nice sandy cove and turquoise waters. So I made a quick pit stop at Alf in Sbreno for a sandwich to add to my picnic.
The walk from Sbreno was slightly up hill but only took 15 minutes, I chose the high path. That turned out to be a mistake as a few snakes were enjoying the sunshine up there. Making it through the giant thistles and sightly overgrown greenery, I had my first view of Kupari.
Looks beautiful right? My guide book was spot on with the beautiful cove. I’ll go back to the first sentence of this post. Looks can be deceiving. One important fact had been missed from my guidebook. I had stumbled into an abandoned Yugoslavian Military Holiday Resort. It must have been very posh because the beach is sandy, rather than shingle like most beaches in Croatia.
4th October 1991 the first bullet was fired. I’m not really sure what happened but the Yugoslavian army ended up looting their own hotels and destroying them with bombs made of phosphorus. The Bohemian Blog has a great detailed post about an urbex of Kupari. It saddens me to think something that brought so much joy to thousands of people is now being reclaimed by the land it stands on.
My first view of the five abandoned hotels is something I will never forget. As an adventursaurus, I do like to challenge myself and do things which scare me. After flip flops, abandoned buildings definitely comes in second on my list of fears. Nothing can prepare you for the sight of a former warzone which includes President Tito’s holiday home. The hotels once had room for 1600 humans with a nearby campsite that could hold 4000 more (one popular holiday destination!).
The Pelegrin, Goričina, Goričine II and Kupari Hotels are rather imposing on the landscape, concrete high rises built to accommodate the masses. I peeped into a couple of them, but was scared to go too far because it was dark and I wasn’t sure about how sturdy the buildings were. Hotel Goričina and Hotel Pelegrin are both situated on the seafront, covered in graffiti and broken glass. I didn’t even try to look inside these as the buildings were so damaged.
Set back from the coastline is the Hotel Kupari, it’s nothing special but is the largest hotel in the area. In my eyes it was by far the most impressive. I love how nature will reclaim an area which once belonged to her. Ivy growing up the walls, trees peeping over the balcony but leaving structures like the spiral staircase to stand out amidst the greenery.
Heading to the back of the complex was a guards box, sadly I couldn’t see inside as the windows were very dirty. So I headed back towards the beach to see the Grand Hotel, the oldest and first hotel to be built in the area.
I had a rather upsetting first view of the hotel, watching two Serbian men tearfully laying flowers outside the hotel. Ghosts of a terrible war can be felt everywhere, it may have been 25 degrees but I had goosebumps. Raw emotion is present throughout a once regal hotel. It is covered in graffiti but I found most of it to be very artistic. Inside of the hotel gives snapshots of a time gone by. I really enjoyed seeing the old tiles and corridors. I was nervous to look through some of the windows incase of ghosts.
Rather than visiting the rebuilt walled city of Dubrovnik, with endless Game of Thrones shops and walking tours. Humans should visit Kupari for a real insight into Croatia’s tragic past. Not many places leave skeletons of a once opulent seaside resort open to explore. It has been said the area was sold to investors who will build a new luxury resort. I hope they don’t, history shouldn’t be hidden. Humans will always haunt me, I love spending time with them but the small few capable of such destruction will always haunt my nightmares.
Whenever there is a war started by humans, only one thing is guaranteed …
Nature always wins.
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