Kupari, Croatia: Modern-Day Ruins

Kupari, Croatia: Modern-Day Ruins
The more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.
-Theodore Roosevelt


One of the best things about traveling to different countries is connecting with the outside world and events.  Take Dubrovnik, for example.  

In late 1991 as I counted down the days to my tenth birthday, the Croatian War of Independence was underway.  Although Croatian forces fiercely defended Dubrovnik from the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), on December 6 (my birthday) JNA's bombing of the small city culminated.  The UNESCO site of Old Town was badly damaged, causing an international outcry.  The Croatian Army fought back and eventually regained Dubrovnik, but not without major casualties: 16,000 refugees, 500 deaths (civilian and military), 11,425 damaged buildings (55.9% of the total stock).  Twenty-five years later, the Siege of Dubrovnik remains a emotional topic to most locals.  Damaged buildings have been mostly repaired or rebuilt and the tourists have returned, with one exception: Kupari.


Kupari is a small seaside town about 15-minutes south of Dubrovnik that "still bears the scars of the darker times in Croatia’s history."  This former military resort complex once catered to thousands of Yugoslav army elites and their families until 1991 when the Yugoslav army themselves destroyed the site: "Almost all of the valuables from the five hotels were looted and then phosphorous bombs were used to systematically burn the hotels, floor by floor."  The Hotel Grand was built in 1919 and six larger hotels were added in the 1960s and 70s (Kupari, Pelegrin, Goricina, now-demolished Orlando, functioning Astarea, and Plat), when the resort spot was in its prime.  Fast forward to 2001, when anything left in the buildings was stripped in hopes of impending redevelopment plans.  Fifteen years have passed and now Marriott's Ritz-Carlton has entered into a 99-year contract where they will (unfortunately) demolish everything but the historic Hotel Grand and invest more than $100 million in a luxury venue.

With demolition day looming for this historically-significant site, I was fortunate enough to catch a local bus to visit and take photos.  I was surprised that all of the buildings were unsecured (not like there were doors and windows to lock up, though).  With most of the stairways destroyed and dark, detritus-filled halls, it was a bit dangerous to explore.  I spent three hours in the Kupari hotels, wandering around and taking photos.  Meanwhile, there were many locals by the beach, taking a stroll, fishing, walking their dogs, or dropping off their kids at the paintball facility housed in part of the former Kupari hotel.  

As a historic preservationist, I liked the Hotel Grand the best.  However, I did really like the Mid-Century Modern style of the Pelegrin: traces of fine marble floors and stairways remained, detailed brickwork in the lobby stood intact, and clean lines paired well with the amazing views (I do admit that I think the exterior design is not so attractive).  As for the Goricina and Kupari hotels, I thought they were pretty "meh" although the Kupari did really creep me out (it was probably the abundance of cold, boring concrete; concrete awnings, really?).


Hotel Grand:












So this wraps up my day in Kupari, and I am glad to have experienced this bit of history before it is demolished within the year.  Although I don't remember much about the Croatian battle from when I was a child, I probably did hear about it at some point so it's nice to have a connection to history.  Hopefully the Ritz-Carlton will keep Croatia's history in mind as they bring Kupari back to its former glory.