Richly located on the idyllic island of Krk, a few miles south of Trieste and directly opposite Venice, this mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings will become for international cognoscenti a premier playground for summer and winter seasons alike.
-Unknown author (1972, June). The Penthouse Adriatic. Penthouse magazine, volume 3 number 10, pp. 66-69.
1972 was a big year for captivating news stories around the world, from the Watergate scandal in the U.S. to Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland to a terrorist attack at the Olympics in Germany. But it was one news story that was particularly scintillating, especially for citizens of Yugoslavia: the opening of the Socialist Federal Republic's most ambitious tourist attraction yet, The Penthouse Adriatic in Malinska, Croatia.
Using words like "penetrate", "climax", and "rendezvous", Penthouse magazine in June introduced their newest venture to the world and powerful, lusty men like Saddam Hussein and Silvio Berlusconi rushed to the island of Krk to get their fill of lobster, gambling, and Penthouse pets busting out of French maid costumes six sizes too small for their buxom figures. Champagne flowed as guests mingled under hanging gardens in the Great Lounge and threw dice in the world-class casino; it was a glorious time to be alive.
But the golden times didn't last long, and the hotel's fall was just as spectacular as its rise. When this glittering modernist Xanadu, designed by renowned Yugoslav architect Boris Magaš, opened, Yugoslavia's Tito had relaxed rules for foreign tourist visas and investors, presenting the perfect opportunity for Penthouse's founder Bob Guccione to dispel Western doubts and ignorance about communist Yugoslavia during the Cold War, one poolside cocktail at a time. (To think, Guccione started off on the other side of the confession booth, aspiring to be a priest; if only the house of God had bear skin rugs.) Guccione tit -- err, bit -- off more than he could chew, though, and the hotel faced bankruptcy a year after opening. To keep the wet dream alive, the enterprise changed hands and became cumbersome chattel for employee unions and shady investors. Then, civil war in the 1990s set the posh resort back even further but the hotel somehow managed to re-open, or at least until 2002 when it officially ceased operations and was abandoned. Today, the complex is a maze of beautiful ruins and whispers of better days.
Talk about ruin porn.
The life and death of Yugoslavia's "peace and porn hotel" is well documented: balkanist.net, sometimes-interesting.com, and yugoslavian.blogspot.com (great articles worth reading). It's a tale we know all too well by now, about the Yugoslav tourism boom in the 1960s and 70s that busted with the civil war in the 1990s, events that left behind dozens of abandoned mega resorts along Croatia's coast. And foreign investments like The Penthouse Adriatic were no exceptions.
After five years of construction and $45 million (that's $270 million in 2017 dollars), The Penthouse Adriatic opened its doors in 1972 to moneyed foreign tourists, only to face bankruptcy the next year due to lavish spending. Guccione spared no expense in his hotel, a fact that made headlines before he was forced to reign in the opulence and sell the complex to local investors, who in turn changed the hotel's name to Haludovo Palace Hotel and Penthouse Adriatic Club Casino.
Hotel Haludovo, née The Penthouse Adriatic, is a massive complex a mile in length and completely open to the elements, and public. I made the mistake of arriving late in the day and not allowing enough time to explore the grounds entirely, so I only saw the main building, sculpted pools, and part of the adjoining building (comprised solely of dark, damp hotel rooms, yawn). So if there's anything I regret in life, it's not seeing the gaming rooms, bowling alley, tennis courts, and "self-contained villas" hidden by overgrown brush because these sections appear to be rarely visited or photographed judging by the dearth such images online.
Below is the text from the Penthouse magazine June 1972 issue, because yes, I couldn't resist enlarging photos of the article for the pleasure of straining my eyes to read it, transcribe it, and share it with the world.
“The Penthouse Adriatic: Opening in Yugoslavia – a magical island playground, destined to become the luxury resort experience of all time”
Widening with one dramatic stroke the bounds of what is already the world’s fastest-growing publishing and entertainment enterprises, The Penthouse Adriatic, a breathtaking complex of luxury accommodations, gourmet restaurants, gaming rooms, swimming pools and vacation facilities, opens in Yugoslavia on June 15. Richly located on the idyllic island of Krk, a few miles south of Trieste and directly opposite Venice, this mile-long Xanadu of glittering buildings will become for international cognoscenti a premier playground for summer and winter seasons alike. As Yugoslavia’s most ambitious hotel-resort development ever, it took four years and the equivalent of $45 million (£ 18 million) to build. Its addition to the Penthouse chain is the climax not only to years of detailed recognition by Editor-Publisher Bob Guccione but to the magazine’s pioneering spirit as the first men’s glossy to penetrate the land of Tito. The entire project was shaped by Yugoslavia’s grand prix (twice awarded) architect, whose fundamental idea was to build a holiday retreat for lovers of all ages. This concept has conjured up in exquisite Malinska Bay a stirring atmosphere of deep romance, scintillating excitement and unbounded luxury. Crown of the complex is the Penthouse Palace, a gracefully colonnaded construction within whose elegant interiors is the Great Lounge, bedecked with hanging gardens, pools and fountains. This is the sumptuous setting for the Anglo-American Penthouse Casino, where sporting guests can choose between American dice, blackjack, French and American roulette, chamun-du-far and punto banco, with odds and stakes commensurate with the finest casinos in Las Vegas and other principal gaming centers. After play, epicures can indulge their appetites in the main dining room, where 500 pampered guests will enjoy superb cuisine – with first-class Yugoslav and imported wines – as they gaze through wide glass walls at the crystal-clear sea. Adjoining the restaurant is a terrace, shaded from the daytime sun by ornate trellis work, and at evening a focus for dancing and cocktails. Nearby is the sparkling sculptured swimming pool, which in turn connects with an indoor pool for winter visitors, and the Penthouse sauna baths. Guests can choose between magnificent suites and luxury double or single rooms in the main hotel. Or, if they prefer, they can stay in intimate self-contained villas, sleeping from two to seven people, around the manicured grounds and gardens. For those who appreciate the rigors of outdoor sports, there are water-skiing, fishing, riding, a US regulation length bowling alley, an 18-hole golf course, skin-diving and shooting, in an environment favored with 2,000 sun-hours a year, the beaches and water are totally free of pollution, and the air is fresh, clean, and invigorating. During the day, relaxing guests can explore the “fishing village”*, a brand-new reconstruction of a typical Adriatic old-world coastal community which thought it contained 34 luxury apartments with three to six beds each, has imaginatively captured the feeling of a long-ago Yugoslavia. The island of Krk has its own airport, just 12 minutes away from the main complex, yet capable of handling 707s and stretch DC9s from all major air centers. In sum, The Penthouse Adriatic is a more-than-rarified rendezvous for the sophisticated and appreciative traveler who demands the kind of cosseting that only Penthouse understands and provides.
[caption from first part of spread] From poolside on one of the many attractively sculptured terraces that descend to the sea, the Penthouse Plaza is seen at the center of the mile-long luxury resort complex. It consists of six magnificent suites of two beds each. 30 single and 184 double bedrooms, 54 of which can accommodate a third bed, giving 464 beds in all. Guests on the balconies (left) can gaze out over the crystal-clear Malinska Bay. The idyllic beaches (facing page) are great for trying your hand at a hair-raising sport of beach-buggying. All guests in these pictures are friends of staff and management, testing the facilities for the grand opening June 15.
[caption from second part of spread] Inside the palace (above) is the Great Lounge. Flanked by hanging gardens, pools and fountains, a unique setting for the complex Anglo-American Penthouse Casino, where sporting guests can use their skill on a wide variety of tables. The sophisticated buildings (right) were designed by Yugoslavia’s grand prix architect, and incorporates (far right, below) eye-catching swimming pool configurations. Another eye-catching configuration (far right, above) makes for the waves in a preliminary try-out of The Penthouse Adriatic beach.
*Note: The fishing village is still open today, functioning as a restaurant and small hotel, and the beaches nearby are popular spots in warmer months.