A stone throw from the busy road that ferries millions of tourists from the Dubrovnik Airport to the city of Dubrovnik every year is a tiny seaside village that still bears the scars of the darker times in Croatia’s history. Kupari, just another sign post that flashes by coaches and cars, is a former military resort built for the elite of the then Yugoslav army. In its prime the resort in the borough of Zupa was busy with thousands upon thousands of officers and their families, those heady times are long gone. It is now a resort in ruins.
In the 1960s a resort on a sandy bay was constructed, including five hotels, a camp site and many villas. In fact the Kupari was one of the pioneers of Dubrovnik’s tourism industry. Between the two world wars the Grand Hotel was constructed by a Czech investor. Grand by name and certainly grand by nature, the hotel was the height of elegance. Around this centrepiece four more hotels were added, less attractive more functional.
In the height of its former glory
The resort with its long sandy beach and pleasing nature was a hit from the 1960s onwards, up until 1991 when the Homeland War broke out and the Yugoslav army bombarded and burned their former holiday spot. In the early 1990s, when the Yugoslav army left the resort was almost unrecognisable. 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.
Scars of war - Photo Selma Shah
When in 1998 the Croatian Army set up base in the resort they stayed in three of the hotels. In 2001 they left and the process of privatising the resort began. The shells of the hotels of this once great resort were left standing as monuments to darker days. Anything left in the shells, from tiles to copper piping, was then stripped and “liberated” by locals. What is left is a ghostly reminder. Over time nature has started to claim back the five hotels. In cavernous halls that once held fancy balls now grows ivy and weeds. Trees have sprouted up in former reception areas and lounge bars are now home to stray cats. And in a strange twist of irony one of the old hotels is now used by a local paint ball club as a battle ground. In between the wounds of shrapnel you can see the bright flashes of paint. In fact the old hotel that is used wouldn’t look out of place in a Call of Duty video game.
Like a scene from Call of Duty
The beach, stretching out in front of the former hotels, has brought people back to Kupari. Swimming in the crystal clear Adriatic Sea with a background of facades peppered with shrapnel and missile holes, the concrete blocks have become something of a tourist attraction. “I heard about this place and the chance to see the effects of war and I just had to come,” exclaimed Janet, a tourist from the UK. “This might be the last chance I have to experience the horrors of war and I want to take a many photos as possible,” she added. She isn’t the only one. Kupari resort has become a reminder of another time, a time of the last war on the European continent.
The Grand Hotel is now not so grand - Photo Selma Shah
And now might be your last chance to see it. The resort has finally been privatised after waiting patiently since 2001. Bulldozers and diggers will soon be moving in and flattening what is left. The old monsters are to be replaced by a shining new five-star Marriot resort. Only the Grand Hotel will remain, as it is protected as a building of historical interest. Some might argue that the whole resort is of historical interest, but times and the face of Kupari is about to change. If you have the chance to visit Kupari this summer season grab it.