Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Hidden Dalmatia: Baško Polje - Forgotten Paradise of Yugoslavia Holidays

October 19, 2021 – TCN was taken on a tour of Camp Resort Baško Polje, the Children's Village near Promajna and Krvavica Military Children's Health Resort – each of these intriguing places had vastly different former lives in Yugoslavia.

In the days of Yugoslavia, some of the very best locations on the country's Adriatic coast were reserved for military hotels, resorts and other state-run enterprises. Among the best known are perhaps Brijuni, now site of a National Park and the vast Kupari near Dubrovnik, which was damaged in the war, looted and abandoned. But, they are not the only ones.

dfvgbDJI_0561.jpgFrom above, Camp Resort Baško Polje © Vice Rudan Photography

In a very short stretch of central Dalmatia - just three and a half kilometres, between Krvavica and Baško Polje - lie three of the most intriguing. They are former military resort, Camp Baško Polje, the Children's Village near Promajna and Krvavica Military Children's Health Resort.

Today, each of these places has a very different future prospect. But, they each share incredibly different former lives. They remain fixed within the memory of many thousands of people. And they are ready to be discovered by a whole new generation.

244317044_6302459256491472_9155132798305481358_n.jpgThe pine forest in Baško Polje stretches from the sea to Biokovo mountain © Marc Rowlands

Total Croatia News took a tour of these unique places in the company of Makarska-based creatives and travel bloggers Ela and Olya of Nifty Nomads (here). One of the recurring themes on their multi-platform excursions is the exploration of hidden or abandoned places in Croatia.

“I am primarily a product designer, so I'm quite invested in architecture and aesthetics,” says Olya. “Abandoned places always give you different stories. When something is finished, wholly functional, it already has its narrative. It is complete. But, with abandoned or unknown places, you have so much more mystery – to find out what came before, or simply to let your imagination run free.”

Children's Village near Promajna

244340530_6302472593156805_4449837595264122857_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

Built in 1958, the Children's Village near Promajna was something of an international project. Since 1949, rivaling factions within the Communist system of neighbouring Hungary produced a building momentum of unrest. Then, in 1956, revolution broke out. Many people were displaced.

Partially built with aid from the Swedish government, the Children's Village near Promajna was initially designed for the needs of Hungarian refugee children. But, by the time the project was completed, the Soviet Union had brutally quashed Hungary's revolutionary government and installed a regime that was loyal to Moscow. That was that. With the crisis unequivocally concluded, it was decided the village would instead serve the needs of children from across the socialist federation of Yugoslavia. Among its first residents were children from Vojvodina and Slovenia.


Section of a TV documentary, showing how the Children's Village once looked

The capacity of the village was designated as 500 children in the summer months. In the winter period, 120 full-time child residents were accommodated. In keeping with its original international intentions, besides domestic children, children from other countries like Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Germany were accepted.

243484531_6302466476490750_7975241710804030776_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

The Mediterranean climate here is warm year-round, with many sunny days, even in winter. Forceful winds regularly clear the sea air. The scent of pines is overwhelming. Even in the village's current state of abandonment, you can tell how such a place would be restorative for children.

244158106_6302482826489115_5167061946917374282_n.jpg"Listen to your mother and punk" © Marc Rowlands

The village welcomed child residents for over 30 years. But, with the outbreak of war in 1991, it was repurposed. The village was used to house refugees, largely from Bosnia and Slavonia. “My mother worked here during that time,” says Ela. “She remembers refugees being here until 2006.” Thereafter, the Children's Village near Promajna was left abandoned.

243824450_6302479879822743_8427807802315501981_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

The 68 thousand square metre site is currently for sale.

Krvavica Military Children's Health Resort

12719262_910411305702999_3103125290541724730_o-1024x540dfgvbh.jpgFrom above, the Military Children's Health Resort in Krvavica © Slumbering Concrete series (produced by Hulahop for Croatian Radiotelevision)

The Military Children's Health Resort in Krvavica is visible from the Adriatic highway. It is a striking sight, a unique piece of architecture. Sitting just above the treetops, it looks like a flying saucer has just landed atop the pine forest.

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Built in 1964 to the design of Split architect Rikard Marasović, the building is actually much more functional than its sci-fi appearance might suggest. Yes, the design is uncompromisingly modern. But, as with most Socialist architecture, it is functional. The building specifically 'floats' in the trees. It was designed for the treatment and rehabilitation of children with respiratory diseases who had families in the military.

Betonski-spavaci_02-before-afterdfgvbnm.jpg© Slumbering Concrete series (produced by Hulahop for Croatian Radiotelevision)

After around a decade, the site was repurposed. In summer months, it functioned more like a military tourist resort. Outside of the tourist season, it reverted somewhat nearer to its original intent. It welcomed people with special needs, low-income workers and elementary school students in recreational classes. It existed in such a way until war broke out.

At the time of the Yugoslav People's Army departure from the site in 1991, the building was undamaged. Indeed, during the war, 1991-1995, it was used to accommodate refugees, the wounded, and to train special military units. In the early 2000s, the building was demilitarised and passed from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence into the hands of an alternate state entity. They held a large portfolio of property that was intended to be purposed for tourism. However, this proved to be a difficult task and some sections of the property portfolio were simply ignored and left to rot. Sadly, Rikard Marasović's floating masterpiece was among them.

243424791_6302511093152955_118510885960291257_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

Though lamentable, the building's demise is perhaps understandable. As a stand-alone piece of architecture, Krvavica Military Children's Health Resort is undeniably remarkable. But, as previously noted, it was designed for a very specific purpose. Finding an alternate, modern and commercial use for such a building might not be the easiest of tasks. At least, not without compromising some of the building's integrity.

244345832_6302503413153723_3136523279464009317_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

There is general agreement that the building's continuing decomposition is a bad thing. Previously, it had been suggested the building be torn down to make way for a viable tourist project. However, local design and architect enthusiasts remain incredibly protective of the building. In 2012, the Conservation Department of the Ministry of Culture in Split succeeded in designating the building as a cultural asset, thus affording it some protection. Although, that doesn't actually safeguard the space from further decay.

244334296_6302508756486522_8237790978817832154_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

“Sometimes we use this as a background for photo shoots, in particular for fashion editorials,” says Ela. Certainly, the graffiti that covers the walls is eye-catching and colourful. “It has also been used as a background for dance choreography. But, for the most part, when people come here now, it's just to explore and maybe take photographs.”

Baško Polje Military Resort

frfghbnDJI_0537.jpgFormerly a military resort, now Camp Resort Baško Polje © Vice Rudan Photography

Of the three sites, the camp at Baško Polje is the most spectacular and optimistic to visit. Formerly a military resort, the camp has functioned continuously for over four decades and thus avoided the sad, forgotten fate of the other two. On the contrary, the pine forest of Baško Polje is full of life.

rfgbhIMG_3166.jpgIncredibly clear waters of the beach at Camp Resort Baško Polje © Vice Rudan Photography

Yugoslavia's military resorts sound like a great opportunity for affordable holidays. Well, if you were in the military, that is. However, the reality is frequently remembered differently to the ideal. Military personnel had to apply for vacations in such resorts. Former servicemen recall holiday places at Baško Polje Military Resort being very difficult to get. Unless you were well connected.

DJI_0554dfgbhn.jpgFrom above, the shoreline at Baško Polje © Vice Rudan Photography

The resort was accessible to non-military visitors. Although, there was a two-tiered pricing system. By showing their identification, military guests would get a discount on coffee, ice cream or beer. During and after the last war, the popular resort hosted refugees from Bosnia and Slavonia. After fulfilling that obligation, it once again began welcoming guests.

fghnjmkIMG_3168.jpgContemporary guests rediscovering Baško Polje © Vice Rudan Photography

But, for many years, Baško Polje remained under the control of the same state entity that held the Military Children's Health Resort in Krvavica. It incurred a huge amount of debt and its management was complicated and outdated. Baško Polje also suffered from a serious lack of investment and modernisation. However, that story begins to change with the resort sale in 2018.

244046474_6302450849825646_5774094669685340811_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

“What's so amazing about Baško Polje is the space,” says Olya. “It's totally the opposite of anything that gets built on the coast now.” She's right.

243460837_6302451726492225_1053023991475877785_n.jpgSo much space © Marc Rowlands

The Baško Polje resort is spread generously over roughly 270 thousand square metres (27 hectares) of pine forest. This thick, dense forest stretches all the way from the foothills of Biokovo mountain – specifically, the southern portal of the St. Elijah tunnel - to the sea. It is vast.

fgbhnDJI_0580.jpgCamp Resort Baško Polje is dwarfed by the surrounding pine forest © Vice Rudan Photography

Hidden within the forest is the Hotel Alem. Holding 612 beds, it currently has two stars. The main hotel building has 99 double rooms and 9 double suites over 3 floors. A further 99 renovated rooms are found in 3 annexe buildings. Each are named after an area of natural beauty in Croatia.

AnyConv.com__IMG_4336fvgbnmmkjnhb.jpgVisiting cyclists, parked in front of the superior mobile homes of Kamp Adria village Baško Polje (here) © Marc Rowlands

Away from the main accommodation, reception and administration buildings, there are villas, a beach restaurant, a small bakery and a store. There are 600 campsite pitches stretching into the forest. And, there you can find many modern mobile homes.

243863101_6302438539826877_119559823193809698_n.jpgOutdoor cinema © Marc Rowlands

The old outdoor cinema that used to entertain guests here is long since abandoned. And the indoor pool is currently not in use. But, that may change in the near future.

241466533_6302444663159598_2653965628601783339_n.jpg© Marc Rowlands

New owners Jadran Hotels and Camps envisage something very different here. Following years of underinvestment, they plan a gradual but complete overhaul of the site. Eventually, their hotel here will hold 5-stars. It will replace some of the existing structures, so as not to damage the site's number one asset – the incredible pine forest.

244017014_6302742956463102_4495608928721280474_n.jpgA cycling extravaganza - the shoreline path runs almost 10 kilometres, from Krvavica to Brela © Marc Rowlands

Truly, the scent of pines here is overwhelming. As is the silence. At night, no sound other than insects in the trees is discernable. By day, guests make their way down to the generous beach area. There's so much of it, room enough for everyone.

rftghbnjIMG_3171.jpgA huge expanse of beach at Camp Resort Baško Polje, with room enough for everyone © Vice Rudan Photography

Well into autumn you'll find visitors here. The forest is ideal for walking. The gentle slope from the foothills to the sea is also perfect for mountain bikes or off-road motorbikes. The shoreline path runs all the way from Brela to Krvavica. To those who already come, it is already a pristine paradise. In forthcoming years, it may attain a fame comparable to the one it held in Yugoslavia.

IMG_20210927_162856_1iuygfdf.jpgOff-road motorbikes, by the beach in Baško Polje © Marc Rowlands

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to thank Vice Rudan Photography (here) for the kind permission to use their photography.

On these links you can read the other features in our Hidden Dalmatia series:

Drniš - Drniški Pršut and Meštrović Roots

Soparnik - 100% Authentic Croatian Food

The Fantastic Food of the Cetina River

Incredible and Mysterious 10 Rajcica Wells near Klis

Wild Rides on the Cetina River

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

16 Super Reasons to Visit Croatia Now: September October 2021

September 22, 2021 – The sun is shining and we'll still be swimming in the sea for some time yet, although the weather and warm Adriatic are far from the only reasons to visit Croatia now

Here are a full 16 reasons to visit Croatia now, in September and October 2021
The weather is fantastic and the forecast is great!

Screenshot_205.pngVisit Croatia now: screenshot © Marc Rowlands

Screenshot_204.pngVisit Croatia now: screenshot

The sea is still warm enough for swimming

242336077_6243047692432629_2508322542701942610_n.jpgSwimming in very late September 2021 on the Omiš riviera, one of the best reasons to visit Croatia now © Marc Rowlands

The very best Croatian food

241480915_6170941186309947_1327304007351009063_n.jpgDomestic bacon and prosciutto, a classic Croatian 'tapas' served at the last surviving inn on Biokovo mountain, Vrata Biokovo © Marc Rowlands

There's no shortage of the finest fresh fish and seafood now the rush have tourists have gone. Want to cook them for yourself? Buy straight from the fishermen on the beach. You can't do that in peak season – it all goes to the restaurants. Also, Croatia's fruit and vegetables are ripe and at their best right now.

241126505_6138144742922925_8968400606881277475_n.jpgUnique, miniature squid, served in ink, with a medley of fresh, roasted vegetables at the restaurant of Camping Labadusa on the island of Čiovo, 2021. Yes, this is how amazing food is at some campsites in Croatia © Marc Rowlands

From figs, melons, mushrooms and truffles to salad greens, pumpkins and mandarins, Croatia is currently the land of plenty. And, the lunchtime specials – Marenda (Dalmatia), Gablets (Zagreb) are outstanding and super cheap right now. Looking for an amazing 50 kuna lunch in Dalmatia right now? Try Konoba Marenda in Šibenik, Konoba Joskan in Omiš or Gastro Diva or Konoba Kalalarga in Makarska?

242356626_6243046882432710_3401854122891850972_n.jpgRoast beef and beetroot risotto with sour cream, pomegranate and apple. Marenda of Konoba Joskan in Omiš © Marc Rowlands

Sports, activity and recreation

242223445_6222414447829287_952918838844562246_n.jpgCycling in Šibenik © Marc Rowlands

Now the temperature have grown more gentle, it's the perfect time to get sporty or active in Croatia. Why not try cycling and hiking in and around Šibenik? Or how about golfing in Zagreb? Inland Dalmatia is a great place for quad biking. Try it in Drniš, Knin, near Vrlika or in Imotski. If you want to try a range of activities and sports, then maybe head for Omiš. You can try canyoning, white water rafting, diving, mountain biking, hiking and a thrilling zip line in Omiš.

Peace, quiet, relaxation

IMG_3328defcvbnjuhgfcv.JPGThe peaceful beach at Kamp Adria Village Baško Polje, pictured in late September 2021 © Marc Rowlands

The kids are mostly back at school, the students have finished partying and are returned to university. Right now, Croatia's campsites, beaches and lunchtime restaurants are quiet and chilled. Romantic couples walk undisturbed across the sands or sip wine as they watch the sunset. The only sound you often hear is the lapping of the waves against the shore.

Idyllic camping

IMG_3321edrfghjnk.JPGRelaxing and peaceful, individual terraces of each glamping unit in Kamp Adria Village Baško Polje © Marc Rowlands

If you want to get up close to nature, camping in Croatia is one of the best ways to do this. And, right now, the country's campsites are at their best. Incredibly peaceful and way under full capacity, there are no more children, families or teenagers. You can bring your own mobile home or even tent – it's cool enough to sleep under canvas now (tents are too hot during the height of a Croatian summer).

241130404_6149405168463549_8737034291319710149_n.jpgUnforgettable sunset views at Camping Rožac, Trogir © Marc Rowlands

Looking for a brilliant Croatian campsite for late September / early October 2021? Camping Rožac, Trogir here has incredible sunset views, whereas the beach at nearby Camping Labadusa here on Čiovo island's other side is a faultless slice of paradise. Further south, the glamping offer of Kamp Adria Village Baško Polje here is also among the finest in Croatia. All three sites are nestled under strongly scented pine trees, just metres from the shore.

IMG_2401dfvgbhnjkiuyhgb.JPGIncredible paradise beach at Camping Labadusa on the island of Čiovo © Marc Rowlands

Discover some of Europe's greatest white and sparkling wine in continental Croatia

AnyConv.com__IMG_2044fgvbnmjnhg.jpgVineyards of Koprivnica-Križevci County winemakers © Marc Rowlands

Been to the Croatian coast before? Then no doubt you've tried some of Dalmatia's famous red wines. Unlike other places, where white wines usually accompany the lighter seafood, pasta and fish dishes of the seaside and summer, on the Croatian coast it's the red wines that rule. Big, gutsy red wines like Plavac mali and Syrah are found by the Croatian Adriatic.

IMG_1802wsdfgh.JPGWinemakers of Koprivnica-Križevci County © Marc Rowlands

Less well known are Croatian white wines Even more hidden are Croatia's sparkling wines. Because, if you want to find them, you have to move away from the sea and come inland. For the best sparkling wines, look to Zagreb County.

IMG_2122.JPGWinemakers of south Koprivnica-Križevci County © Marc Rowlands

For brilliant white wines, there's a thick strip of continental Croatia you simply must get to know. Its north is the Drava river and the sandy soil runs along its length from Koprivnica and Đurđevac to the start of Baranja. Up into the hills of Baranja and to the border with Hungary the vineyards stretch. To the east, Aljmas and Erdut, to the south Ilok, then west through Kutjevo and back to Zagreb County. Now is the time of the newest wines, of harvest celebrations. Now is the best time to walk the wine roads and trails of this massive white wine super-region.

It's the perfect time for a city break

AnyConv.com__ETugIXoWoAA2NmI_1.jpgVisit Croatia now: Zagreb © Alan Grubelić

Nobody wants to be trapped in a bustling city in summertime's 40-degree heat. The high temperatures never subside. The concrete retains it. When things really heat up in Croatia, you need the cooler mountain air or the sea, which at night absorbs the heat of the day. But, right now is the perfect time to go exploring Croatia's bigger cities.

Why not try Osijek, with its kilometres of cycle routes and parks, epic riverside promenades and the best-preserved complex of baroque buildings in Croatia? Certainly, Osijek's Tvrda and its Secession architecture should be seen by everyone once.

croatia_slavonija_osijek_0001.jpgVisit Croatia now: Osijek © Romulić & Stojcic

Or, how about Zagreb, the country's social, cultural and economic capital? There are different happenings in Zagreb streets and parks almost every day. And the atmosphere is second to none.

In Istria, you can linger for much longer on the Roman Forum at this time of year. No need now for running urgently between shadows. You can instead afford to take your time as you wander around the epic Roman architecture here. You'll find more unmissable Roman architecture in Croatia's second city of Split, by way of Diocletian's Palace.

A packed events calendar

_MG_9181fgvbnh.JPGEvents of Zagreb parks 2021, captured by © Marc Rowlands

Croatia's event calendar explodes at this time of year. In Zagreb and Dubrovnik, famous music festivals fill the parks and streets. Elsewhere, this is one of the most important times of the year for food and drink festivals...

Harvest time

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It's harvest time, and when the local produce is collected from the trees or fields, usually there's an accompanying celebration. The party always extends well beyond championing the local produce. These are some of the best events in Croatia – accessible to all ages and appealing especially to gastro fans.

For example, Ivanić-Grad's pumpkin festival - Bučijada - always has a great music and entertainment programme attached. Held on October 1, 2 and 3 in 2021, it draws folks from far and wide to the pretty Zagreb County town. You won't have to look hard to find fun events like this all across Croatia at this time of year, celebrating everything from walnuts and almonds to grapes, olives and mushrooms.

Budget flights are still available

d75218b48e994601038e90bf5fc21f51_XL.jpgVisit Croatia now: Budget flights from Ryanair

Not only are budget flights still available, but the summertime routes to all Croatian airports are also still in play. Everywhere in Croatia is easily accessible right now. And for very little cost.

Last minute deals and inexpensive accommodation

AnyConv.com__IMG_3340edrfghjnmkjhgfd.jpgPrivate pool of the 4-star Boutique Hotel Noemia, Baška Voda © Marc Rowlands

It's no secret that prices plummet on Croatia's coast at this time of year. Smart operators do their best to extend the season by dropping prices. You can pick up incredible deals at this time of year everywhere from restaurant dining to luxury resorts, villas, apartments and hotels with full or half board.

Sailing in Croatia

AnyConv.com__IMG_3354ertyhujhgfd.jpgA regular visitor to Brela, Baska Voda and Split returned again in September 2021 © Marc Rowlands

The season for sailing Croatia is nowhere near as short as that enjoyed by most sunbathers. You only need look at the daily newspapers to read about the latest luxury yacht to sail into Croatian Adriatic waters. But, you don't need to be a Russian oligarch to enjoy the beautiful bays, beaches and islands of Croatia. Charter yachts in Croatia can be found at reasonable rates – especially in late September and early October!

Volunteering

IMG_20210915_165305139_HDR.jpg2021 volunteer divers at Calypso Diving in Omiš © Marc Rowlands

Late summer, early autumn and spring are the best time to come volunteer in Croatia. In late summer and early autumn, it's the Adriatic that needs a little love. Volunteer divers undertake ecological missions to clean the seabed around the coast. It's surprising just how much trash falls into the seas after a summer season.

IMG_2818edcvbnhgf.JPGExperienced divers, pictured in 2021 at Trogir Diving Centre © Marc Rowlands

If you're a qualified diver, why not come and help out? Try Trogir Diving Centre here, the oldest diving school in Croatia. Or try Calypso Diving in Omiš here. There, you don't even need to be qualified - beginners can learn from scratch and earn their first diving certificates in return for their volunteering!

242151424_6227553893982009_4396189167021449696_n.jpgVolunteer divers at Calypso Diving in Omiš, 2021 © Marc Rowlands

It's the best time to explore Croatia's National Parks and Nature Parks

241316764_6170947642975968_6841343418900551668_n.jpgThe famous Skywalk of Biokovo Nature Park on the Makarska riviera in Dalmatia, 2021 © Marc Rowlands

In the preserved and protected wilderness of Croatian National Parks and Nature Parks, there's sometimes very little shelter from the sun. They can be tough to explore at the height of summer. Mountainous parks like Paklenica, Velebit and Biokovo have incredible hiking trails that are best enjoyed at this time.

241631995_6170951239642275_3522302139938915487_n.jpgBiokovo Nature Park peaks in 2021 © Marc Rowlands

Elsewhere, you can trace the waterways and waterfalls of Krka National Park, Kopački rit, Plitvice lakes and Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje in relative calm right now. No long lines of queueing tourists spoiling your photos. The island parks like Mljet, Kornati and Brijuni are all the more idyllic when there's nobody else around.

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There are much worse places you could be working remotely

Working.JPGVisit Croatia now: September October 2021 © Marc Rowlands

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

450 Million Kuna Investment for Istria's Campsites

A wad of cash for some of Istria's campsites.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Croatia Third Favourite on List for German Campers

Croatia is among the favourites for the Germans!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Camp Sites With 12% More Overnights Expect Best Year So Far!

The increase in overall quality in Croatian camp sites has naturally resulted in higher prices, but in comparison with other countries, they're still competitive.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Despite the Bad Weather, Camps Recorded Growth in 2016

In February, the final camping data for 2016 was delivered by the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (DZS). Despite the bad start due to rainy weather in 2016, camps in Croatia still recorded growth.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Take a Tour of Our Favourite 10 Campsites in Croatia

From Istria, through Plitvice Lakes, all the way down to Dubrovnik, Croatia is well known for its excellent campsites offering everything from luxurious glamping to tipi tents.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Sound & Vision Season Opener at Robinson Camp!

Sound & Vision is opening their season this Saturday, June 11 at Robinson camp on the Mrežnica river!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A 3 Day Camping Event under Kamešnica

We received a wonderful invitation from the Trilj tourist board for their first "Camping under Kamešnica" event.

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