Exploring Ruin Porn in Yugoslavia – Dim The Lights, Shut the Door

abandoned buildings belgrade

 

I

n January 1994, the monthly inflation rate of Yugoslavia was 313 million percent. Notes with a face value of 500 billion Dinar were printed, and then became worthless within two weeks as the financial system continued to spiral out of control. Simultaneously devastated by war and total economic collapse, the 1990’s may have been inexplicably kind to The Backstreet Boys, but the post-Tito era was a devastating time to be in Yugoslavia. These days, tourists can purchase billions of dollars of old Dinar notes for a couple of Euros. Others choose to collect a different souvenir from the dark times of the former Yugoslavia – photographs of the many abandoned factories, hotels, petrol stations, houses, and bank towers that litter Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro. With enough abandoned sites to make Detroit blush, this is ruin porn – Yugoslavia style.

After almost two years of continuous travel, I’m currently based in Belgrade. Largest city in the region, former capital of Yugoslavia, today the “white city” is the capital of Serbia. Using Belgrade as a base, I’ve travelled extensively around the nations that once made up Yugoslavia, checking out some of the more impressive abandoned sites on offer. It may seem a strange hobby. I know, many people have normal hobbies, that don’t involve trespassing through dark and dangerous environments. Like chess, soap carving, or building tiny Boehm-Stirling machines. But urbex – or urban exploration – is an increasingly popular past-time, all around the world. Why is that?

 

abandoned hotel fjord kotor
Hotel Fjord, perhaps the most scenic views from any abandoned building on earth. Kotor, Montenegro.
abandoned sugar factory belgrade beograd
Darmon sets up for a photo, inside an abandoned sugar factory in Belgrade, Serbia.
Haludovo Palace Hotel
Haludovo Palace Hotel, on the island of Krk, Croatia. Founded by Bob Guccione, owner of Penthouse Magazine.
sniper tower mostar abandoned bank
View from the abandoned bank tower in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Used as a snipers-nest during the war of the 1990’s.
mount Trebevic bobsled track sarajevo
Sarajevo bobsled track, Mount Trebivic. Built for the 1984 Winter Olympics, now abandoned.
tito abandoned yugoslavia
A calendar inside an abandoned building, featuring Marshal Josip Broz Tito, former leader of Yugoslavia. His death in 1980 was the catalyst for the Yugoslavian breakup and economic collapse.
belgrade abandoned factory
Although all sorts of objects are left behind in abandoned buildings, the unwritten code among urban explorers is to not take anything.
The photo was taken in
The photo was taken in 2013, in the indoor swimming pool room of the abandoned Hotel Fjord, in Kotor, Montenegro. I returned a few weeks ago (June 2014) – the arcade machines and pinball games have now been thrown into the pool.
abandoned hotel croatia
Spectacular mid-century architecture of the abandoned Haludovo Palace Hotel. On the island of Krk, Croatia.
Abandoned building in Belgrade, Serbia.
Abandoned building in Belgrade, Serbia.
abandoned bunker ohrid macedonia
A scenic location for an abandoned military bunker. Lake Ohrid, Macedonia.
Typical Balkans urban explorers. Belgrade, Serbia.
Urban explorers, Belgrade, Serbia.
A homeless friend of mine who lives
A homeless friend of mine who lives in Mostar. I’ve been toured through the abandoned bank tower/sniper nest three different times by this guy.

 

The attraction of beautiful decay is an obvious target for rock bands and fashion labels searching for an edgy photo-shoot location. Collections of urbex photos are perennial favourites of click-bait web sites the world over, with countless articles designed specifically for Ken down in accounts to kill a few minutes in-between filing TPS reports. But there’s more to the adulation of urbex than just photogenic backdrops. The mysterious appeal of surreal abandoned environments, which in a perfect world wouldn’t exist, is a strong drawcard for many reasons. Personally,  being a gen-x’er, I was raised on the exploits of Snake Plisken, Terminator, Mad Max, and video games set in post-apocalyptic cities. But, the phenomenal popularity of ruin porn goes well beyond generational boundaries, and attracts a wide variety of fans.

Recently, I joined a multi-generational, multi-national gang to explore some of the sites that aren’t mentioned in the glossy brochures. Local urbex’ers “Urbano Istraživanje Beograd”, offered their services as our tour-guides for a day, as friend and fellow trespasser Darmon Richter rolled in to town. On their Facebook page, photos showed an intriguing team of staunch Balkans explorers, donned with vintage gas-masks, posing in various abandoned locations around Serbia. Due to the disguises, I had no idea who to look for when we arranged to meet at a predesignated time and location in the center of Belgrade. Darmon and I waited, until we were spotted by a fascinating group of guys, one who had near perfect English.

Our English speaking Serbian contact, prepared for a day of toxic environments, was decked out in pristine white shorts, tucked in tailored shirt, and boat shoes. He was carrying a small leather man-bag, and had an upper class British accent. We soon discovered that apart from being a voracious urban explorer, he’s an actor, fashion model, and has spent a decent amount of time in Rhode Island country clubs. This is probably not the image you had in mind for urban explorers. However, any stereotypes I once held about urbex’ers are long gone. Inside abandoned buildings across the world, I’ve spoken with urban explorers who are young, old, male, and female. There’s been father and son teams, and whole families –  spending quality time together traipsing over rusty floors and traversing dank basements. Photographers with an excess of expensive camera gear, mix with homeless people looking for a cigarette or a little spare change. There is no “typical” urban explorer.

Most people are searching for a little adventure in their lives, and urban exploration is one way to scratch that itch. In the former Yugoslavia, you will be spoilt for choice. But, if you decide to take part in urbex, remember -it’s dangerous, and it’s mostly illegal. Don’t go alone, bring a flash light, and consider asking for permission before you enter any abandoned building. Bad things can, and do, happen.

It may sound scary, but not as scary as the new Yomadic readers who have stumbled across this page, nostalgically searching the internet for pornography from the era of Yugoslavia.

Sorry to disappoint you.

Nate

 

PS, on September the 5th, I’m taking a group of like-minded souls on a journey through Macedonia and Albania – taking in the best cities, towns, mountains, beaches, lakes, and attractions that the region has to offer. There are just two seats left on the private van we have organised (with onboard wifi) for the third trip of 2014 – a very special untour through the region of the Balkans most poised to explode with tourism. If you want to see the “before” version of Skopje, Lake Ohrid, Tirana, Berat, the Albanian Riviera, and more, this is for you. Ask for the PDF by contacting me here – the PDF includes the itinerary, price, and all the information you will need to know. 

PPS, I dedicate this article to Ken down in accounts. Now get back to those TPS reports.

 

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35 thoughts on “Exploring Ruin Porn in Yugoslavia – Dim The Lights, Shut the Door

  1. as always – I’m loving this post and I’d love to explore every single one of these places!

    btw, you should google “Dolni oblast Vitkovice”, it’s one of the places I think you’d like. Yesterday I came back from the music festival there and I’m still impressed how amazing this former steel factory is. It’s not really abandoned but still a great place to visit!

    btw2, I remember stories told by my good friend from Serbia when in the 1990s the inflation was so huge his parents received the salary daily and each day it was a huge pile of bancnotes worth nothing a week later…

    1. Hey Kami! Thanks for passing on the story about your Serbian friend. I’ve been told so many stories – in general, it was a really bad time for everyone…but, some people managed to take advantage of the situation – one person told me about how they purchased a flight to Australia, with a cheque, and by the time the cheque cleared it was like they got the flight almost for free!

      And yes, old factories are amazing places to see bands – I think I saw one of your photos showing Metallica? Very jealous!

      1. ah yes, I saw Metallica less than 2 weeks ago but it was at the stadium here in Warsaw so the location wasn’t as awesome as in Ostrava. But who cares, it was Metallica, they were amazing as always!

  2. Brilliant! Such amazing pictures.

    Not sure if Ken is real, but it’s 2.50pm on a Tuesday here in the Melbourne office, and I could definitely be Ken at the moment.

    1. Hey Peter! Nice to hear from you. Ken is totally real… he’s already contacted me about a couple of grammar mistakes I made in this piece. Recently, Ken came along on one of the YoGYpsy trips – and we took a few “side trips” to explore abandoned buildings – like the Hotel in Kotor (the pinballs/sailing ship photos). Not so long ago, I was Ken and I was Peter ;)

    1. That’s the thing Nick, they all have a back-story, and most of the stories are a bit sad. As I said – in a perfect world, these abandoned places wouldn’t exist.

      1. you could check out old Belgrade power plant that was shut down 30-40y ago https://www.google.rs/search?biw=1684&bih=794&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=stara+termoelektrana+u+beogradu&oq=stara+termoelektrana+u+beogradu&gs_l=img.3…47198.54347.0.54574.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0….0…1c.1.64.img..0.0.0.idSwjCIVU5I#imgrc=lUyCWb4ZxQdtCM%3A inside looks f’king creepy like from doom 3.. not to mention ”closed for public” tunnels underground Belgrade fort of Kalemegdan only 1-1,5km of tunnels is open to public and explored, other 9-10 km is not explored and potentialy dangerous since many of them are from 16-17th century some even from 14th..

  3. Hi Nate, great post and amazing pictures! I am a fellow urban explorer and I love Balkans too, so… you really inspired me! :)
    If you don’t know it yet, I would suggest you to add to this list Kupari in Croatia (south of Dubrivnik), a former military complex which has been used as a touristic village for Tito & friends… Here some pictures I took last summer: http://www.blocal-travel.com/2013/11/croatia-on-road-part-3-split-brela.html
    The seaside just in front of this ex-village is pretty impressive too!

  4. I just love your pictures and I would like to visit every single one of this places, because I am a sucker for abandoned places. They just have some special energy about them – scary, but totally appealing at the same time.

    From the places from the above pictures, I’ve had the honour to visit hotel Palace and I have to say it’s hands down one of the coolest and magnificent places I’ve ever been to and I just can’t get enough of it (Krk is my go to place for vacations, so I have the opportunity to visit it every year). I’ve also published some photos of it if you would like to check http://mestosanj.blogspot.com/2014/07/hotelski-fotosuting.html

  5. Nate,

    Does this mean a dual citizenship in the realm of possibilities for you? Ready to start a small studio setup also? Seems that some how this was what you were destined to do. I know when the cold comes in you will hit the warm shores of Perth.

    Be well,

    Hello to Phillipa and Blondie…

    Laurence

    1. Hey Laurence! No dual citizenship at the moment – but I have spent some time looking into such matters. It seems like Europe will be a base for me for some time to come – and it will most likely be Eastern/South Eastern Europe. But, travel awaits. You’ll see – the second half of this year is looking very crazy. But maybe 2015 will be the “settling down” year. I can’t think of a better city than Belgrade!

  6. I absolutely loved this post! Travel and Urbex is the perfect combination!
    This place looks absolutely amazing and I’ve put it on my must see places.
    I’ve only been to a couple of abandoned places in Belgium, but I was addicted straight from the beginning.
    Thank you so much for sharing this post, you’ve got me all excited to start looking for abandoned places again!

  7. Great post! We’ve been in Albania for a few weeks and now in Macedonia, some of the buildings you pass that are totally empty are stunning. Looking forward to reading a lot more of your blog.

    1. Cheers Jonas! Enjoy Macedonia, I’ll be there myself in just a few weeks from now (hopefully I’ll spot a few “new” abandoned buildings). I checked out your blog, looks like you guys are on quite the adventure, so enjoy wherever you may end up, and take this advice: don’t rush back ;)

  8. wow this is a pretty cool hobby! loving all your photos..some them look chilling and creepy but still really liking the perspective of it all. great post!

    styleandchocolates.blogspot.com

  9. Wow Nate! These places are simply amazing, how do you always manage to find the best and coolest sites possible? Stunning photography as usual :)

  10. You and people of your ilk need to stop blowing these spots up for the original “urban explorers”: Graffiti Artists.
    Since this “Urban Exploration” fad started few years back, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught a bored yuppie loudly, conspicuously “exploring: these “dark and dangerous” spots that we have used for years. Fuck you squares. Keep it hush, at the very least keep the goddamned locations to your self you snitches. Jesus.

      1. “You’re an idiot.” haha, that is the most perfect response to a troll ever! lol!

        Love the photos. We happened upon the same “Hotel Fjord” in Mostar about a month ago. I tried to snag some photos but none quite as good as yours. Do you mind if I ask you what you use to edit your photos?

  11. I’m traveling to Macedonia the first week of November. Staying in Skopje.
    I want to explore and photograph places that are dangerous and illegal.
    Any recommendations?
    Thank you.

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