We have spilt an ocean of blood for the brotherhood and unity of our peoples and we shall not allow anyone to touch or destroy it from within.
-Josip Broz Tito, former president of Yugoslavia
Does Croatia have an exceptionally high proportion of abandoned sites??
One can wander the country for years, combing through abandoned hotels, schools, hospitals, government facilities, and more, and still not see all of the country's lost places. Considering Croatia's recent history, its violent fight for independence in the early 1990s and contested departure from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, it's understandable why so many derelict buildings dot the landscape: no one knows what to do with these former state-owned relics, obsolete objects of dinosaur proportions with no clear owner, future, or Scrooge McDuck pool of gold to finance extensive repairs.
During my month in Split, I took a bus three hours up the coast to Zadar, a charming seaside city known for its peninsular Old Town and Roman and Venetian ruins tucked within its thick limestone walls. I was especially curious to see Zadar's sea organ, although I had read about a nearby abandoned military training base and naturally made that the focus of my day trip. So, upon arriving at Zadar's bus station, I scrambled to find a wifi signal to call an Uber that would take me to the site twenty-five minutes northeast of the city. My driver, Toni, rolled up and after some initial confusion as to why I wanted to visit the base first and not Zadar's Old Town (I'm not your typical tourist, guilty as charged), he was more than happy to take me to the ruins of Šepurine for a quick tour. Toni turned out to be a really nice, fun guy, although he kept stepping into my photos...
Described as "a million square feet of space located on one of the most attractive locations on the Adriatic coast," Šepurine was a military training base known for creating one of the world's most elite military through rigorous, demanding, and often extreme training. Parachuting, snipers, mine explosives, Šepurine taught it all. One source says the base "was built by Yugoslav National Army (JNA) as an anti-aircraft training base but, when it was taken by Croatian forces, it became a center for education of special forces" and in 1995, "the 1160 meters long air strip was constructed in record time and the base was used by Croatian and US forces in planning operation Storm that liberated the occupied parts of Croatia in August that same year."
Today, there is very little left of Šepurine. But this is nothing new, as soon after the base's completion, it was declared irrelevant by the Croatian government and looters stripped metal and other valuable materials from the buildings (yes, these vandals took entire aircraft hangars without so much an acknowledgement from the government, it's quite unbelievable). The large and heavily-forested area is littered with corpses of buildings and hangar-less concrete pads, and a cluster of once-important buildings is in especially bad shape (they are still worth a visit, though, just for colorful graffiti from Austrian artist Perkup and lovely herringbone parquet floors). The abandoned airstrip, no longer vital to the future of Croatia, remains in excellent shape and fairly active, attracting local drag racers and crews filming car commercials; Toni got a kick out of speeding down the runway, something that would have resulted in a 1-star review if I hadn't also found the whole thing bizarrely thrilling.
Which brings me back to my question, does Croatia have an exceptionally high proportion of abandoned sites? I'd say yes, but that's just an educated guess, as I still have much of the world to explore.
Entrance & runway
Some sort of mess hall