Ian took me to the one day trip on Island Krk, Croatia. The island itself is nice and green with some beautiful beaches and small old towns. Near town Malinska we saw some big structure looking out of the forest. When we were approaching the main building, it looked scary. Wild greenery had already started to take over the path that was leading to the hotel. However, there is something beautiful when nature takes over the buildings that are forgotten by mankind. To me, all that broken glass and devastated interior looked haunted. When we were walking along the hollow corridors that lead to the hotel rooms I felt unease. My heartbeat speeded up when I heard a noise from the other part of the building, even though I knew that it was probably the bird, wind, or maybe another curious soul like us. The main hall was completely opposite to those dark hallways. There, nature performed its magic. The open design let in sunshine and when the wind blew it brought life into the building along. This lobby is my favorite part of ruins.
Hotel Haludovo Palace used to be the most luxurious hotel in Southeastern Europe almost five decades ago. The playground for the rich and famous where the guests were some of the most influential people in the world. But not anymore! Now it’s an empty space that is forgotten by many. The silent witness to the changes that occurred by events owners didn’t count on.
The founder Bob Guccione planned that hotel as one of the most ambitious ones in the 20th century and it was also compared to the best casinos in Las Vegas. It’s also possible that it was a kind of a socialist answer to Monte Carlo that was located in a buffer zone between the eastern and the western part of the cold war and at that time the hedonistic way of living just started to unveil its philosophy. The vision what should become of this place hit Bob on his cruise around the Adriatic Sea and the Malinska bay impressed him deeply.
Back then in 1972, the investment cost the Penthouse Magazine magnate a vertiginous 45 million dollars, which were worth much more back in those days. However, before the building took place he met with the dictator Tito, to whom he explained the vision and handed over a few demands. To make sure that the guests would be able to reach the renowned hotel, he needed an airport close to it and a bridge that would connect the island with the mainland. The benevolent and hedonistic dictator even made a small change in the constitution to make sure the project will be successful. He allowed the casinos that were accessible only to foreigners to run. Native working class people had no permission to enter casinos and it’s thought that in a protective father like manner he wanted to protect them from themselves.
The opening day wasn’t as they were hoping as a storm chase away the first guests. After that, the place ran off electricity for a short period of time. However, nothing unfixable and despite the inconveniences, it was a cover news in world newspapers and they all wrote about it in superlatives. The Penthouse magazine dedicated the entire issue to the Haludovo hotel. They sure had a lot to write about as the Adriatic Club Casino offered much more than loose bets and refreshing cocktails by the pool. There was a rich offer for the sports enthusiasts and they were able to choose from seventeen tennis courts, a mini-golf course, and a bowling alley. After intense activities, they could refresh themselves in a sports bar. They covered even beauty treatments in a center with masseuses ready along with pools, saunas, medical center, and, of course, well-maintained beaches. There is a legend that in this place guests were dining with golden cutlery and that one of the swimming pools was filled with champagne instead of water. However, that and many other rumors stay hidden in a veil of secrets. A well-established truth is that guests here were pampered with delicious food. The guests ate 100 kg of lobster and 5 kg caviar a day and all that was flushed down with gallons of Champagne. For a year, the island Krk was the smoking hot spot of the European coast where uniforms of the long-haired Penthouse Pets were in style of French maids. They sure made a great first impression with sleek smiles and lean legs. On the second impression, I bet that the guests were instant fans as ladies spoke three foreign languages.
Sadly, only a year after this deluxe place opened its doors it declared bankruptcy. The constraints on foreign investment prevented Guccione to become the owner of this real estate and the hotel was owned by a public Rijeka-based company Brodokomerc instead. The place was struggling for another 20 years but it never reached the glory nor Guccione’s expectations of bringing peace to the area. The closest thing to bringing peace to the area was during Yugoslav Wars when the hotel became a shelter for Refugees. A few years after the war the notorious privatization took place and most public companies were sold off for shamefully low prices. The future of this place still doesn’t seem bright as the Armenian-Russian businessman doesn’t seem to find the common language with the authorities. It is also possible that he has some radical ideas of this place and the community just isn’t ready for them to come true.